Just blame it on the Jeweler

Hello all:

Many on this forum are not Bench jewelers full time for their
living. If you are, I have a question. Does it bother you when the
counter person uses you as the reason why something isn’t done? I
mean when it isn’t your fault? It seems to slip right out of their
mouths. They think to themselves “Oh darn I forgot to give him that
job or darn I forgot to order that head or darn I don’t like writing
due dates on the job”, but what comes out is “The jeweler is still
working on it” or “The jeweler has been very busy and hasn’t had
time to do it yet”.

Saving face at your expense and you’re so busy doing the piles of
work that you only hear about 1 of every 10 times they use your hard
working butt as a scapegoat. All for the good of the business? Hey
what about the business I want to start down the road. It’s my
reputation that they hurt. I was just wondering if anyone else felt
that way or even if it doesn’t happen to you (that you know of) does
it seem right?

Michael R. Mathews, Sr.


Quite a few years ago I was working as a bench jeweler at a very
busy shop in the fashionable Napa Valley.

The shop owner had a rather bad habit of letting his bull dog mouth
over load his Chihuahua hind end when it came to promising repair or
custom order delivery, consequently I would quite often take work
home with me and do it in my shop at home.

One evening I was accosted by an irate customer as I was getting in
my vehicle to go home for the day, after a slight discussion about
the bulge in my jacket that I had my hand on, he explained why he was
so put out. I went back into the store, had the counter girl pull his
envelope and check it. The job had been promised over a week before
and the guy was getting married that Sunday, this was 5:30 Friday
afternoon and no one was on the bench Saturday.

All it required was set a stone in a mount no resize or any thing, a
10 minute job that nearly cost a man his life, seems he had been told
on several occasions that the job was on the jeweler’s bench but he
hadn’t finished it yet.

The following Monday I went to work in Benicia at a shop that took
care of it’s customers orders and have never had another experience
like that.

Kenneth Ferrell

Where do I start?!

Yes, it does irk me when I get blamed for something that is plainly
not my fault. (I’m not perfect, sometimes it is my fault) I’ve seen
salespeople do this alot and it’s not just in the jewelry trade.
Salespeople blame the warehouse guy, the delivery guys, anyone not
present so that they can shift the blame.

I think this happens for two reasons:

  1. Most people really cannot handle being blamed or yelled at for
    something that’s not satisfactory.

  2. Lack of sales training–most people can’t sell. If they could
    get past their egos and learn how to do their jobs more effectively,
    they would find that their customers more appreciate honesty about
    who made the mistake and are generally more receptive to corrective
    measures. Otherwise, it just sounds like passing the buck and not
    really caring about the customer. When customers think you don’t
    care, they usually don’t come back and they tell all their friends.
    The true professionals do not pass the buck and will work hard to
    resolve the issue and know that blaming the jeweler for things they
    did not do wrong is actually counterproductive and strains

Unfortunately, they are outnumbered by the ones that pass the buck.
I guess we just have to get used to being blamed for mistakes even
when it isn’t our fault.

My two cents,

I think most jewelers have felt the ‘‘boss’’ while in the
’‘position’’! You are often the scapegoat and when a customer says oh
what beautiful work, more often than not credit is taken by the
’‘boss’’ and doesn’t ever get referred back! One of the Reason I will
never work for another! With? Yes, but we are treated as the labor
class with the only reason for your existence is them! So I choose to
be self-employed no matter what the cost…peace of mind is better
than all the gold in fort knox!


Well, I’m not a full time bench jeweler, but I do recognize the
problem as it has happened to me in other endeavors. It’s just plain
wrong for someone who is at blame to put it on a co-worker’s
shoulders. Psychologists call it “Projection.” But no matter what
you call it, it is simply not a good thing. Unfortunately, there
isn’t much you can do about it other than catch it as it happens,
and point it out right then. If you do, prepare for an argument or
some far-out excuse from the transgressor. A person who would save
their own reputation this way at the expense of yours is an
out-and-out liar, and will likely come up with the craziest
rationale for their actions when caught red-handed.

Another option, if you’re a patient person, is to say and do nothing
and wait for their karma to overtake them. From the tone of your
post, I’ll assume you’re not quite ready to strike out on your own,
but that’s obviously the only complete solution.

James in SoFl


It is not good business for anyone to blame an associate, even if it
is their fault, to a client.

First off I would suggest that everyone in the business learn to
under promise and over deliver. What I mean by this is if an item
will take 5 days to complete, tell the client it will take two
weeks. When the job is completed in 5 days you are a hero. If you
say it will take 5 days and it takes weeks before you even start it
you will set yourself up for failure with the client.

Actually the two comments you made regarding “the jeweler is still
working on it” and “The jeweler has been very busy and hasn’t had
time to do it yet” can be used as a positive by a good sales

Clients of Rolls Royce know that they are chosen as a client and
that once an order is placed it could be a year or two before the
car is delivered.

If your clients know that your workmanship is so honored that you
are very backed up with work they may understand the wait but they
must be educated of the time it will take in the beginning not after
several weeks.

Good Luck
Greg DeMark
email: greg@demarkjewelry.com
Website: www.demarkjewelry.com
Custom Jewelry - Handmade Jewelry - Antique Jewelry

Hello Michael,

As a recruiter in the jewelry industry I hear that complaint all the
time from jewelers. It seems that too many times those in sales
don’t know how to interface with the shop, aren’t trained properly
or whatever. Let’s face it, without the shop and those working hard
in it, the sales department would suffer greatly. I firmly believe
the technicians in the shop are the most important people in the
business, bar none!! Anyone else agree?

Vic Davis

I’m with ya, Michael… Been there, didn’t do it. I gave it all I

The benchies bear the weight of most of the failures to communicate,
and what should be the responsibility of the pathological
procrastinators who make sales and don’t process the orders within a
reasonable time frame, and worse…the benchies have to honour
the promises made by salespeople or company owners who are at home
enjoying the company of their families while the benchie works
through the night.

Who gets the commision?
Who takes the credit for a job well done?

Who does the client respect the most?
Who gets the bonuses following a profitable year?

The salespeople are the best drivers of business, and the least
respectful of those whose job it is to keep their promises.

I am so relieved to have left that all behind. Maybe it’s your turn,

David Keeling

I have been a member for years now and haven’t posted in a long time
but when I saw this one it really brought back memories. I have been
working from a home studio for about 4 years now. Before, I was a
full time bench jeweler for a LARGE chain store with many sales
people. When I got tired of their mistakes being explained to the
customer as my fault and stood up to them about it, they said I was
"being difficult". It made me miserable and I lost respect for the
sleazy liars. I just had to create my own world to work in! It’s
wonderful but I don’t make near the money I used to. EVERTHING has
it’s price. Patty

patty rios

 I firmly believe the technicians in the shop are the most
important people in the business, bar none!!  Anyone else agree? 

Hi Vic;

Boy, I almost want to agree with you, vigorously. But my ego is
already my biggest handicap by far. Of course, we’re critical, like a
chef in a fine restaurant. But that doesn’t help the sales people. I
was really fond of the sales people I worked with in the past,
probably because I did a lot of sales work myself and I could admire
how much easier it was for an accomplished salesperson to do what I
often felt so awkward doing. I think we need to address the entire
business culture of retail. I had formal sales training as well as
all the bench training I received. I don’t think there’s much of
that going on these days, just as there are so many jewelers flying
by the seat of their pants. We need to pass the responsibility back
up to where something can be done about it. Leadership and management
skills are missing. Poor business models or none. For a long time
now, as an outside observer, I’ve come to realize that so much of
jewelry retail is an amateur sport. Nobody has any training, not
sales, not bench help, not management, not businessmen. Just get a
bright idea to open up a jewelry store, take out a second mortgage,
and give it a whirl. I love to see a team effort at play. It feels
so great when everybody is looking out for each other’s success. I
don’t know, maybe start out with at least an occasional “ropes
course”. Then start cracking this nut with some research into all
this great new stuff being discovered about new and alternative
business and management models… and please, none of the “fish
philosophy” garbage please.

David L. Huffman

Hi again Jerry, and other Orchidians;

The blame game. I agree with your observations. I’d like to add what
I think is another reason the happens. A lot of traditional business
structures try to keep people compartmentalized. This can create
efficiency in some situations as people get good at their
specialties, but that also contributes to the sales people blaming
the shop, the shop blaming the sales staff, management blaming
accounting, etc. I think a lot of small business should periodically
have people do short little internships in different departments, so
they can get a feel for what the other guy has to deal with. I’ve
been a bench rat for 30 years, but I’ve also been on the sales floor
a lot during those years. For example, suppose you were a bench
jeweler, and you had to do a day or two on the sales floor, and you
were totally inept, but the regular sales staff guided you through
it without making you feel stupid. You’d have more sympathy and
respect for them after that, right?

David L. Huffman

Mr. Matthews,

I am a full time bench jeweler and the issue you bring up is soooo
common. I do not like it, noone would. I do not have an answer for
the problem, but it happens to me all the time, and there is not a
whole lot I can do about it. When it does happen, I find myself just
praying my name or business is not mentioned. So far, no solution to
this long on-going problem. I empathize. I believe it is in the
nature of the common saleperson to place blame on any other, whoever
it may be…in an attempt to make them look better/superior. These
days…for some reason, people do not like to stand up for
themselves after making mistakes. If I make a mistake I admit it and
face the consequences…unfortunately, that is not the norm these


Well, I’ve seen a few other responses on this, and as a bench
jeweler (and an opinionated one at times) I just have to give the
forum my 2 cents worth. In our shop, there are a bunch of actual
reasons why we get behind on jobs, which doesn’t really happen all
that often.

1- We are overloaded. This is the time of year that is most likely
to happen, and it is right now. So many after Christmas sizings,
alterations, minor fixes, whatever. I am so busy at the bench, I
often miss the opportune moments to pull a days work from the
incoming box, and heaven help trying to get the sales folks to have
the presence of mind to remind me or do it on their own. By leaving
it to me to monitor that incoming box exclusively, it is now my
fault (of course) when it is too full.

2- Sales staff that cannot, or will not, remember to pay attention
to separating out jobs that need parts ordered. Again, by leaving
the responsibility entirely to me to catch those jobs, it is my
fault when one slips by, meaning that the order is often not placed
until the job is already due. In both cases, the sales folks are
often looking for work to do between customers, spending time on
personal phone calls or just griping about the slow day while I can
barely take time to pee, but I am still supposed to find the time to
monitor and filter all the incoming work, AND stay caught up.

3- Sales staff cannot (will not?) consult with me on unusual jobs at
take in time, so some really peculiar or time intensive things are
promised in with normal work flow (2-3 days most of the year), and
now we have something that just cannot be done in the normal time
frame, or at least done well.

4- Manager/sales staff takes in special order jobs requiring parts
orders and doesn’t tell me about it. SURPRISE, just when I thought
I had a handle on the flow, several new jobs appear out of the ether
to occupy front and center on my bench.

5- Sometimes I just have a bad day, can’t get anything off the bench
first try to save my soul.

6- Manager decides not to place the parts order that day (not enough
of an order), forgets to get a job to me, files it in the done work,
or better yet, in the delivered envelope bin…

Well, you get the picture. Sometimes it’s my own fault. I’m having
a lazy day, slow day, day when I just can’t get it or keep it
together. More often, it is beyond my control, and I don’t have the
option of coming in early, staying late or working at home on most
things. Not sure I should have to, really, if they all did their
jobs to the standards they like to hold the bench guy to. And who
gets the blame? Either the bench guy, about 30-40% of the time or
that mystery culprit, “They”. Thats the guy who should really get
mad. Blamed for all sorts of stuff. Who is “They”. Stuller, Rio,
the wholesaler, Fedex, UPS, anyone outside the store who could
conceivably be to blame for a delay. But never, NEVER do I hear at
the counter ‘I screwed up and forgot to order that’, or ‘forgot to
get it to the jeweler’ or ‘I overloaded the jeweler with rush work
so he is behind’. NEVER put the blame on themselves.

What do you do? Dream of being on your own where you can make your
own rules, schedules, etc. Work toward that dream. Bite your
tongue in the meantime, maybe even watch for that opportunity of
payback, where you are at the counter and have the chance to pass
the blame on to one of the sales people. Careful, though. Watch
out for the backfire on that one.


You know, this is one of the things that has really dissappointed me
about the whole JA Certification program (which if my memory holds,
Michael you’re a Certified Master Bench Jeweler). One of the
primary goals, as told to me by the president of JA at the time, was
to elevate the bench jeweler in the same way that GIA had elevated
the gemologist. I think that the program, for all it’s benefits,
has failed in that respect. The master bench jeweler certificate
just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference on the whole. I
still get jewelers who are thinking about hiring me to do custom
work ask me what a certified master bench jeweler is, if I would
mind doing a bench test before they let me work on thier things or
dismiss the program as too much trouble to explain to retail

I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s a real waste of a great
concept. Maybe the problem is that there’s a fundimental mistrust
between owners/salespeople and the bench staff. The best run stores
I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching in action were ones where the
owners had bench experience; and not just best for bench jewelers,
but good for all staff members. I don’t think it helps that bench
jewelers can easily be tucked in the back of the store, as if that
square footage doesn’t cost them as much (or make them as much) as
the square footage out front. Maybe the master jeweler certificate
is just too easy to get and there are too many of us out there. I
always thought that there should be a section that tested for
special skills like sketching, design capability and/or
inventiveness; all needed skills by a master jeweler. Perhaps all
the CMBJs should form a guild and hold conferences, forums or
continuing education courses to bring an even higher level of
respect to the title.

Oh great, here I go, instead of holding to account those who make
our lives more difficult I suggest we make our own job more
difficult! Still, until the highly skilled take themselves most
seriously, I don’t think anyone else will.

Larry Seiger
JA-CMBJ since July 1997

I had a so called great job once I worked seven days a week I had
three days off in one year I averaged 80 hours a week one week I
managed to get in 104 hours I got full benefits for my whole family
real good benefits not cheesy half baked ones I got a 2000 dollar
chistmas bonus I was supposed to get 2 weeks paid vacation but was
just given two weeks extra pay instead then at the end of the year
you get a check for 15% of your gross pay that is put into a
retirement account you get one dollar per year pay raises and you
get time and a half and doulble time for all overtime I was also
paid 25 dollars an hour. I would have stayed if it wasnt for the
crazy hours, plus all the jewelery we worked on was awsome I did
only custom work and the average price was 20000 dollars and up. Due
to the extreme pressure and stress I had to start taking anti
anxiety medication and because I spent the whole day sitting lemme
tell you about hemroids holy cow I dont know what was worse the
panic attacks or the flare ups. Anyway I quit just walked out
leaving a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of unfinshed jobs on
my bench. No more panic attacks no more hemroids and a 70000 dollar
paycut I truly couldnt be happier honestly.

P.S. I still do thier work just at home and at my pace real slow.

The last store where I worked had a no bs policy you told the client
the truth no mater how bad or how embarasing you spoke plainly and
told the honest truth or the owner would crucify you. No one was
allowed to make excuses you admitted guilt and begged for you life.
The sales people were not on commision and were not allowed to
pressure anyone. The customers recieve full disclosure about
everthing and are treated like royalty.The owner was the most honest
person I have ever met and the cruelist as well. Their store has
been around 100 years and is wildly succesfull. The owner and his
son along with the bench jewelers work seven days a week he took his
first vacation in 30 years last month. If it werent for the great
pay the turnover would be incredable some of the new sales people
have left after a month or two in tears and some go out and buy big
houses so they are forced to stay so it seems like it is worth it.


No retailer should pass on the blame to the bench jeweller. Its the
retailers fault, plain and simple! He should never pass on the
retailers error in judgement to the skilled-craftsman. The client on
the other side of the counter doesn’t give a hoot, whose to blame.

If the job is not done on time, the story of blame should rest upon
the retailer and no one else, excuses don’t alter the fact. Poor
excuses mean, poor management calls! nuttin’ else! I’ve seen this all
to often, and I “burn” when I hear of this poor child-like excuse.

In closing, don’t blame “US” to help the retailer, and to cover-up
his negligence!..gerry!

Although very often the jewelry craftspeople are over worked and can
sometimes miss a due date. The problem is usually a poorly trained
sales clerk who is unfamiliar in processing orders and says whatever
to get themselves out of situations with unhappy customers. Be real
people, this is managments fault for not training these people and
not having clear procedures. Altough this is a problem as old as the
industry itself. The solution is training and a clear order of
procedures and firing the people who cannot uphold their end of the
business. It is the stores reputation that walks out that door
everyday make sure everyone sing your praises.

W. Taft Atkins, Jr.
Taft Design Studio

Hi Larry,

Maybe the master jeweler certificate is just too easy to get and
there are too many of us out there.  I always thought that there
should be a section that tested for special skills like sketching,
design capability and/or inventiveness; all needed skills by a
master jeweler.  Perhaps all the CMBJs should form a guild and hold
conferences, forums or continuing education courses to bring an
even higher level of respect to the title. 

There was a Bench Jewelers Conference held last year In the Chicago
area. It was attended by about 300 Bench Jewelers from around the US
& Canada. our own Gerry Lewy (Gerry, the Cyber Setter) gave one of
the seminars.

The 3 day conference consisted of seminars & demos on different
topics, exhibits by tool & metal suppliers & lots of good one on
one discussions with other folks who sit at the bench day after day
& make it happen.

This year the conference will be held April 22-25 in Atlanta at the
Atlanta Airport Marriott Hotel. The conference is organized by Brad
Simon, who’s a CMBJ. You can contact Brad at: www.BWSimon.com.

No connection with the Brad Simon organization, just a happy
attendee at the '04 conference.

As for the ‘standing’ of the CMBJ certificate, I think it’s a matter
of The jewelry field in general needs to be told of the
meaning & intent of the JA certification program. If you look at the
amount of advertising the GIA does promoting their programs
throughout the industry & compare that to what JA does, it’s easy to
see why GIA is ahead of name recognition game. They sell the
‘sizzle’ not the steak. A few monthly ads by JA or other ‘bench’
oriented concerns in the national trade pubs like JCK, Professional
Jeweler, etc. telling the story of the JA Bench Certification program
would help make the world in general aware of the CMBJ .


    One of the primary goals, as told to me by the president of JA
at the time, was to elevate the bench jeweler in the same way that
GIA had elevated the gemologist.  I think that the program, for all
it's benefits, has failed in that respect.  The master bench
jeweler certificate just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of
difference on the whole. I don't know what the answer is, but it's
a real waste of a great concept. 

While I’m not JA-certified, I am a GIA G.G., and my guess would be
that the problem you’re addressing is publicity. Practically
everyone outside the jewelry industry knows about GIA. They don’t
know a lot about them, but they do know that a GIA cert is worth
having. Most job ads cite “GIA Diamonds Graduate preferred” or GIA
G.G. preferred." Apparently, a lot of folks on the inside of the
industry don’t know about JA, much less the public. Sounds like JA
needs to spend some money on advertising and promotion for quite
some time before they become a “household name.” That’s too bad, as
they really do have great programs that distinguish their
certificate holders.

James in SoFl