Last updateTue, 19 Jun 2018 9pm

Retailer Roundtable: What do you do when a customer breaks an important piece in your store?


Q:What do you do when a customer breaks an important piece in your store?

RR Moeller“We don’t have a set policy for this type of incident. Pretty much in all cases we’ll cover the cost of repairing the item to avoid any ill will with the client. This is especially true today with so many peer review websites. Imagine what kind of Google Review or Yelp rating we’d have if there was a ‘you break it, you buy it’ policy. It wouldn’t be good. If the incident happened and it caused significant damage to the piece, we’d file an insurance claim. The best way to avoid these problems is for the sales associates to not only handle the piece with care, but to know how to properly fasten the item. It’s not always as straightforward as people might think. Certain security clasps and findings may be unfamiliar to the client. The sales associate should show the client the way the piece works. Many people in this business handle very expensive and very rare pieces and need to know how to handle them with utmost care, especially in front of the customer. Always use trays - especially with watches. And, always wear gloves when handling jewelry and watches; with customers and when pulling or displaying the pieces.”

Nancy Moeller
R.F. Moeller Jewelers
St. Paul, MN (Three stores in Twin Cities area)


RR Godfrey“There’s no set policy in place for this sort of thing. It’s not an issue at this store. But accidents do happen. One time I was showing a customer what a white diamond would look like when using a gem tweezers over a tourmaline. I scratched the colored stone by accident and we had to re-polish it. If a customer breaks a piece while it’s being shown, we accept it as the cost of doing business. When working with customers we’re very hands on as we want the customer to assume a sense of ownership of the pieces of jewelry or watches they’re interested in. From the snap of a watch bracelet buckle to securing a clasp on a necklace, we let people try on items and play with them - even taking items outside to see pieces in natural daylight. This sort of handling of the jewelry and watches from our store gets people used to wearing and owning their purchases with confidence. We don’t want customers to think of these items as fragile things that have to be hidden away. Again, it’s the cost of doing business.”

Erika Godfrey, President
Hawthorne Jewelry
Kearney, NE


RR Thayer“We just opened our store so we don’t have too many polices set in place at this time. But one of the most basic responsibilities of a sales associate is the care and handling of a piece of jewelry when showing it to a customer. It’s the sales associate’s job to take care of the jewelry, not the customer’s job. The customer is always right and we don’t want the customer to feel bad about anything related to the store. This goes back to sales basics of handling jewelry carefully. Always use a jewelry tray when showing a piece of jewelry. If the jewelry items have clasps, locks or tricky findings, be sure you known how to open and close them. If the customer does break the piece we would repair the jewelry. If a salesperson damages a piece when showing it to a customer, we’d use it as a learning opportunity. If the sales associate does it over and over again, then disciplinary action would be taken - especially if it’s an important piece. But something tells me that wouldn’t be an issue for the average sales associate after the first such incident.”

Jeremy Thayer, owner
Thayer Jewelers
Sarasota, FL


RR Zibman“Windsor Fine Jewelers does not have a set policy for customer breakage. But yes, over the years this sort of thing has happened. There hasn’t been any real jaw-dropping incident, such as large important diamond and emerald necklace dropped with the center-set emerald cracked. Smaller incidents have happened such as a [diamond] Riviera necklace dropped and there’s a broken joint that needs fixing. We have jewelers in house, so we try to repair it on-site whenever possible. There are, however, some more complicated repairs that necessitated sending a piece back to the designer or manufacturer for repair. We hold the sales associate to be responsible for the handling of the jewelry during the sales presentation. If the customer is mishandling the piece, the sales associate needs to politely assist the customer in putting on the piece of jewelry, work to open or close a clasp, or even handling the piece better. If a piece of jewelry has a particularly tricky user function, we make sure staff are shown how to show how that function works. Like most jewelers, we’re not going to make the customer pay for damaging a piece of jewelry being shown. Again, it’s the sales associate’s job to make sure the piece being shown isn’t damaged and to control the presentation. The real trick in these situations is making the customer feel comfortable after the incident has happened and continue shopping. We certainly don’t want them leaving the store feeling bad and never coming back.”

Michael Zibman, General Manager
Windsor Fine Jewelers
Augusta, GA  


RR Rogers“One of the goals with every sales presentation is to not put the customer in a situation where they might drop or damage a piece. If it does happen for whatever reason, be it the customer’s fault or the sales associate’s fault, I’d eat the cost. If a customer intentionally breaks or damages a piece of jewelry, then I would seek some reimbursement for repairing the piece they broke. But in my 41 years of selling jewelry this have never happened nor have we ever had a situation where a customer accidentally breaks a piece of jewelry during a sales presentation. I guess we’ve been pretty lucky in that regard. But we are a small store with me, my wife and my son working. We don’t have a lot of employees so there’s no training sessions. But we do talk amongst ourselves on how to best handle certain pieces of jewelry in inventory. That’s about the extent of it.”

Tim Rogers, owner
(Pictured with Donna, Secretary/Treasurer)
Rogers Fine Jewelers
Sinton, TX