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Old customer repairs

Hello everyone,

I know that this will get different answers from country to country
and from state to state. At the shop we have a drawer that we call
lost and found. This is where old repairs or items dropped off for
estimate end up. There are maybe 12-14 items in the drawer. Some
items are three to four years old. I was told that there was no
longer a valid contact number or after repeated messages left for a
year no one calls back. Most of the items are not very expensive
($500 or less). I guess why I am asking this question is that a
Vacheron Constantin watch in now in the drawer. It will take $3k to
fix and the customer has never come back in more than a year and I
think the phone number we have is disconnected.

So here is the question. What do you do with these items and does it
legally become our property at some point? Is there a legal process
we have to go through. We are in Florida.


Do you have a policy posted, or noted on the slip they sign when
they leave an item? I know the dry cleaners here (SC) have a sign
prominently posted stating they will only keep items 60 days - then
they sell it.

I tried Googling, and checking the Florida government web site, but
really didn’t find anything. I would suggest starting by asking your
local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau - if they don’t
know the Florida law for this, they will be able to find it, or send
you in the correct direction. At the state level Florida apparently
simultaneously sells unclaimed items and has no statute of
limitations on when folks can claim their items - I really don’t
quite see how this works, but this is what I understand from my

If you don’t already have a sign and a form that will state how long
you will hold an item, and what you will do with it after that time,
I would suggest creating them for use from here on out. At least it
reminds folks they need to check back!

Good luck.
Beth in SC

Hi Rodney

I believe it’s the state attorney generals office can tell you the

Here in Georgia you have to hold it one year before you can keep it.
The LAW here is to “post on the sheriffs bulletin board for 10 days
that they items will be sold for charges.” That’s what it said

I sent a return receipt, certified mail letter after 1 year telling
them the state gave us the right to sell it for charges and they have
10 days from date of LETTER (not receipt) to get their stuff. After
about 2 weeks I’d get the letter back or they signed for it.
Sometimes this act gets them in but its cover your butt time.

In Georgia, after 1 year, if you sell a $1000 ring for $138 (the
shank charge you put on) you get to keep it, even if they come back
in 2 years. And by the way, in Georgia you have to keep records
forever. If they come back in 10 years and you sold the $1000 ring
for $500, you have to give THEM the difference between the $138 you
earned and the $500 you collected.

Most of our stuff was silver and crap.

We always got a $20 deposit in CASH on watch repairs and put the
twenty in the envelope. If they didn’t do the job they got the watch
and 420 back. Many times they’d come back in to get the $20 as the
watch to them was junk. If fixed, the $20 went against the job.

David Geller

Can not say @ Florida, but NY has some pretty strict rules, so old
repairs sit for a LONG time. Our laws say you must publish an
announcement of liquidation of such items, and then sell them at
auction open to the public, or some such nonsense. So old repairs
sit, and sit, and yes, sit. If you do dispose of an old repair you
take a risk that someday some litigious soul showing up with an old
claim check for “Aunt Tilly’s antique diamond ring”, and their
lawyer. When that happens (it has) you really need to be able to show
records tracking that claim check number. Their claim check is a
legal document. A good reason for disclaimers on claim checks, and
good take in procedures and record keeping!

I am not a lawyer so don’t take this as legal advice, but my
understanding is that after a certain point (and this may vary state
to state), if you make significant attempts to locate a customer
(advertisements in the newspapers I believe is what is usually
required) and you can’t find them that the material becomes yours.
Of course it helps to have some sort of statement about this on the
take in sheet that they sign. That way at least you have some small
amount of legal standing in that it is like signing a contract. But I
do believe these laws are all state laws so you need to do some
research wherever you are located about it. I think you could search
your state’s website under the heading “abandoned property”.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Did you give a receipt to the customer describing in detail what was
left, for what purpose, and on what date it was left and would be
picked up? In general, when a repair comes in, do you write on the
receipt “diamond” ring without a GIA or AGA certified gemologist’s
appraisal to at least determine if the stone even is a diamond? Is
this Vacheron watch genuine? How do you know? Did you write
"genuine" on the receipt? Or even the name brand?

This link might prove useful on this subject

As will this one,

and this one for Florida residents:

In my state unclaimed goods are supposed to be turned into the
Secretary of the State. I think a distinction should be drawn
between unclaimed goods that you have no financial interest in (no
work done) and those that you do. If you have done work on the piece
but remain unpaid you MAY have the option of exercising a Mechanic’s
Lien. No doubt the workings of this vary from state to state. In the
case illustrated I might caution that since its a Vacheron its quite
possible the owner or his/her heir will show up at some point. From
experience with appraisals, most owners of very expensive things
document them so there is a paper trail to follow.

Once again a printing budget is an important part of the business"
Normally I have on repair folios in bold print:

items left over 90 Days become the property of the studio. I
have a space for the client to sign and date below the policy and
it is also printed on the recipt slip..which the customer gets
with the deposit they leave on the cost of materials for work (
though I generally outsource all extensive watch jobs- as they
don't nterest me in the least except as a source of parts 

Florida law says:
715.065 f.s.15.065

Jewelry stores; television or radio repair stores; disposition
of unclaimed articles.--If any person fails to claim any article
of jewelry or other article delivered to a jewelry store or
television or radio repair store for repair, cleaning, or
adjustment, for a period of 6 months after such delivery for a
television or radio repair store and 1 year after such delivery
for a jewelry store, the store shall have the right to dispose of
such jewelry or other article by whatever means it may choose,
without incurring liability or responsibility to the owner of
such jewelry or other article. However, before the jewelry store
or television or radio repair store may claim the benefits of
this section, it shall, at the time of receiving such jewelry or
other article, give to the individual delivering such jewelry or
other article notice in writing that the jewelry or other article
delivered may be disposed of by the jewelry store or television
or radio repair store unless the jewelry or other article is
reclaimed within the above-stated time periods. Notice by
certified mail shall be given to the person who deposits the
jewelry or other article of the intended disposition thereof 15
days prior to said disposition, or such time period that the
parties agree to in writing. Any value of the jewelry or other
articles sold or disposed of pursuant to this section which is in
excess of the costs and expenses incurred by the store shall be
tendered to the person who deposited the article, within 15 days
after the sale or other disposition of the article. 

Louisiana its 90 days past the date of delivery plus two weeks or
ten business days…


Hi Dan,

When I closed my retail operation, I had quite a few repair jobs
unclaimed, some going back twelve years. In WA state, at that time,
I was required to make two attempts to contact the client. certified
mail, at the last known address, and document that.

Thirty days after the last attempt, the goods become the property of
the state of Washington (not me). I was allowed to write off my

In many states, you can sell it to highest bidder and deduct your
costs, THEN the remainder of the money goes to the state.

As you say, it’s very wise to check with the “authorities”.

Wayne Emery

but remain unpaid you MAY have the option of exercising a
Mechanic's Lien. 

I know as little about this as most (Neil is the first to say actual
facts, that I’ve read). Speaking for myself - we have few instances
of this happening, and I’m sure that some people have a bigger
problem, but I find it impossible to consider abandoned items to be
mine. Recently I gave away two large picture jaspers that I had for
25 years that were just that situation. I know a guy who had a
professional relationship with Bing Crosby, who loved watches. He
dropped off two watches for service and then passed away before he
could pick them up. My friend contacted the estate, and was told to
just keep them - these are expensive watches. He’s keeping them, not
because of the souvenir factor or the value, but because he doesn’t
consider them his and he doesn’t know what else to do. Not a
solution, just a story…

That’s not a bad idea. I usually either charge upfront or get a
significant deposit if it looks like the labor will be more than the
item is worth. Once it’s paid for they usually come back and pick up
the finished repair. I did have an interesting one though a while
back. A heavy, heavy mens bracelet came in for 25-30 hinges. We drew
the wire, drilled out the old wires, put in new. The charge I think
was $500 (+/-). The bracelet could have been scrapped for $650
(+/-). My wife called after it lay completed for about 6-9 months.
The guy complained that we charged too much. She told him that he
had 48 hours to come and pick it up or it was going on ebay. He came

Stanley Bright
A&M Jewelers