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Repair & special order policies


#1

I’m having a chronic problem perhaps some of you can advise me on:

There is a particular gold jeweler I deal with who has great designs
and quality with pretty good prices. However, due to the type of
jewelry he makes, my customers often want to make changes to the
designs which requires me to make a special order with him for an
entirely new piece, or they need changes made to a piece they’ve
previously bought requiring me to mail the piece back to him for
repair.

I’ve been selling this person’s work for nearly two years now and it
sells well, and he promises me that he will return all special orders
and repairs within 2 weeks. So here’s the problem:

I tell customers their special order or repair will be returned to
them within 2 to 3 weeks. However, a lot of the time it takes a month
or even a little longer for him to get me the items. My customers get
understandably upset, so I spend a lot of time smoothing ruffled
feathers, offering future store credits, etc. Customer service is a
major priority with us, and I will bend over backwards to keep the
customer happy.

My supplier apologizes for the delays but nothing ever changes, and
I’m starting to not be so nice and understanding about the chronic
delays as it is costing me customer satisfaction. The easy answer is
for me to tell my customers that the waiting period will be 4 to 6
weeks, but I don’t think that will fly with them. I think the answer
is for my supplier and I to agree to some sort of "discount system"
where he is financially punished if he doesn’t live up to his
promises. For example, if the agreement is all work returned to me
within 2 weeks, anything received after 2 weeks I receive free
shipping. Anything after 3 weeks free shipping plus 10% discount, and
then 5% more every week after that.

I think the supplier is capable of getting the items back to me
within 2 weeks, but that he’s just deciding to work on new orders
from other customers first since he knows from past experience that
no matter how he treats me I’ll still re-order from him because his
stuff sells well!

Any suggestions besides simply stopping to buy from this person?

Doug


#2

Seems like you have already discarded the most reasonable suggestions
of taking your business elsewhere or giving customers realistic
promise dates. I would go with the realistic option myself. As
’instant gratification’ oriented as people are these days, I am
always surprised to see just how well they adjust to a longer wait,
IF, they are warned up front. I always try to get stuff out on
time, but often the day to day retail world of the store I work in
gets in the way of trade work and special project jobs. Most people
will wait a bit longer without a temper tantrum if they are warned up
front. They will get mad, though, when they keep getting put off. On
the other hand, if giving people a realistic time frame causes lost
sales, then you let the guy know that you aren’t ordering from him
because you aren’t getting the orders. People aren’t willing to
wait, so they aren’t buying, so you aren’t buying. He’ll perhaps
get the message. As for the financial ‘incentive’, I’d tell you where
to go if you tried it with me. I do my best, usually have things out
quickly, and I work on too little a margin to give it away. I don’t
know his situation, but in mine, I don’t always have a choice in how
I prioritize my work. Or maybe you are right, he just blows you off
because you keep coming back anyway. A friend once reminded me,
during a rocky time in my life, that people will treat you the way
you let them. If you are willing to be a doormat, they’ll wipe
their feet. If you make reasonable demands and stick to them, they
will respect the line you have drawn. Jim


#3

The easy answer is the “right” one. Tell your customers 4 to 6
weeks. You don’t know that “it won’t fly”. Unless you no longer
want to do business with this person financial penalties are not the
way to go. Two to three weeks seem an unreasonable amount of time if
you’re mailing thngs to this person and then they have to be returned
by mail. Your customers buy as you said because of " great designs
and quality with pretty good prices"; given that you ought to be more
patient with this person. Your customers will wait.


#4

Doug: Lette via USPS: a few cents Same letter overnighted via FedEx:
over ten dollars

Time is becomming a commodity. Charge accordingly so both you and
your supplier benefit fromthe arrangement (Win-Win).

Just one idea… Basic service (4-6 weeks): Nominal fee Priority 3-4
weeks: Nominal + premium fee Priority 2 weeks: Nominal + higher
premium

Now the choice/burden is on the client.

Hope this helps.
Regards,
Jerry Torrens


#5

Douglas, I know quite a number of jewelers like this. The problem
isn’t that they are maliciously holding back on work, but that they
are geared toward mass production and do not specialize in custom
work or repair. My suggestion is to find a really good and reliable
custom jeweler who can execute the changes needed and let your great
designer do what he does best. If you can’t find a really good and
reliable custom jeweler then perhaps you will begin to have some
compassion or empathy for your supplier. It’s not easy for every
jeweler to do really great, affordable production work and custom
work as well. And since you’re not willing to drop the supplier and
if you can’t find a custom jeweler, your going to have to make the
extra effort to sell the extra time to the customer. I think the
extra effort to sell the fact that a customer is getting a truly one
of a kind object made specially for them is a small price to pay for
lower blood pressure and less stress in your life.

Larry


#6

Hey Doug, For example, if the agreement is all work returned to me
within 2 weeks, anything received after 2 weeks I receive free
shipping. Anything after 3 weeks free shipping plus 10% discount, and
then 5% more every week after that.

This has to work both ways, if you want him to pay a penalty for
late orders then you in turn should pay him an agreed amount for
every day sooner he gets it to you. I have seen this on Building
Construction Contracts and there is always a reward for early
completion when there is a penalty for late completion.

Joe


#7

I think you should stick with telling your customer it will take
longer. The customer, if they really want the piece in the altered
state will go for it. They may decide to take it as is. You have
stated that his designs are great and all GREAT things ARE worth
waiting for. They can go to Wal-Mart for fast merch. If you have been
selling his work for two years you are obviously a good sales person
and you should be able to tell the customer that added work means
added time and cost and the pieces are one of a kind custom designs
not stamped out schlock. It sounds like you want a discount when the
answer as you have stated is right in front of your nose. You are
assuming the customer will not let it fly. Try it out at least and if
sales of his pieces slip tell him why and then work out a compromise.
Think of it as a commissioned painting it takes a LOOOOOONG time to
make good art.

Regards J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio


#8

Hi Doug, I think you need to communicate with your supplier and get
an understanding on a case by case basis how long a custom job will
take. You have several options.

  1. Get a local jeweler to do the custom changes and charge for them.

  2. Get a longer wait time for custom jobs.

  3. Don’t do the custom jobs, just sell his line.

  4. Find out how valuable your business is, cut him off, and find a
    new supplier.

I don’t think trying to enforce a penalty on your supplier will
result in a happy union for either of you.

I have been on both sides of this scenario: You want to be
reasonable with a customer for deliver times and your supplier wants
to give you a time frame you want. Jewelers are always under a time
deadline. Some jewelers are quicker than others but regardless of
their quickness those time deadlines seem to always get squeezed.
What may be happening is your supplier is continually getting
squeezed by other customers for modifications to his line too. A
frank discussion with him requiring his commitment to a quality due
date should be your first step. Don’t squeeze (if he needs 4 wks for
a certain job accept it)or it won’t work in the long run. Then make
him stick to HIS deadline or loose YOUR account.)

Mark


#9

I think you should just extend your promise date. Customers don’t
mind waiting longer, they just don’t like it when you tell them 2
weeks and do it in 4. If he is absolutely consistent in his time
frame just inform the customers of what you know to be the realistic
time frame and tell him that you still need it in two weeks.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#10

I think you stopped just short of even here. If the vendor is late
paying there should also be penalties. And perhaps a timely discout
such as 2/10 net 30 (that is a 2% discount if paid in10 days net due
in 30). I know that is a thing of the past , but perhaps it is time
to think about reviving it. Seems only fair to me. Frank Goss


#11
    I tell customers their special order or repair will be
returned to them within 2 to 3 weeks. However, a lot of the time it
takes a month or even a little longer for him to get me the items.
My customers get understandably upset, so I spend a lot of time
smoothing ruffled feathers, offering future store credits, etc.
Customer service is a major priority with us, and I will bend over
backwards to keep the customer happy. 

Doug, Even though we don’t know each other, this sounds as if you are
talking about me. I am sorry. I wish that I could figure out how to
make everyone happy all of the time.

The fact is that I don’t pull many parts off of the shelf, bag them
up and send them out. A full eigthy five percent of my work is custom
order. I am constantly looking for satisfactory ways to automate my
business or even send out my orders to Stuller or any other large
manufacturer to get the work done quicker and take a small
commission.

Business has changed drastically in the last thirty years. Now, any
common retailer can and will order from Stuller, fill those orders
and pay some weekend trained “Master Goldsmith on the Premises” a
minimal wage to set them. I am left with the job of filling orders
that require a lot of individual attention. If I hire these
"jewelers", I can’t seem to pay them, because I can’t sell you any
parts that they can make. I can’t afford to train them anymore,
either. Retailers seem perfectly willing to hire anyone that can get
the “wait job” done and then complain when they can’t seem to get
their special orders filled profitably.

I don’t know if you have an idea of what I do. I work alone. I start
my day by walking through my jobs and picking out the most time
sensitive jobs, sitting down and working. The special orders need an
individual strategy to execute. A small mistake in the beginning can
mean hours of recovery time redoing a job. Another kicker to the
process of presenting jobs in a timely manner. On my web page, there
is a photo of an enamel/diamond collar the required weeks of real
labor because I ignored a small change that the client made during
the design phase. I had incorporated the change, but production was
impossible. The retailer insisted on execution by the promised date
and with no more time to back up and redo the job I was forced to
move ahead to turn in a disastrous piece of work. I turned around and
supplied more gold and several weeks of free time to recover. That
mistake will not happen again. That was a bigger disaster for me than
any other.

Often, I will get a call and someone asks if some particular job
that was promised for three weeks from now can be fitted into
tomorrow’s schedule because their “client is leaving town and won’t
be back 'til Hell freezes over”. I try to accomodate these problems.
As soon as I do, Any scheduling that I have done becomes moot. This
is why I have to walk through the work first thing in the morning.
Everything gets rescheduled every day and often several times a day.

    My supplier apologizes for the delays but nothing ever
changes, 

Maybe you should give up on changing the jeweler and make your own
changes.

    I'm starting to not be so nice and understanding about the
chronic delays as it is costing me customer satisfaction. The easy
answer is for me to tell my customers that the waiting period will
be 4 to 6 weeks, but I don't think that will fly with them. 

I recommend that you not tell your jeweler exactly how much time
that you have for the job’s completion and, instead, monitor the
progress within reason. Don’t call and ask for daily status on every
job. Call and let him know which jobs are imperative today and
tomorrow. If he is like me, he will get the easy jobs out early
anyway. They are the ones that he makes the most money on.

    I think the answer is for my supplier and I to agree to some
sort of "discount system" where he is financially punished if he
doesn't live up to his promises. For example, if the agreement is
all work returned to me within 2 weeks, anything received after 2
weeks I receive free shipping. Anything after 3 weeks free shipping
plus 10% discount, and then 5% more every week after that. 

I won’t buy into this system. As the example above shows, I am will
to take too much punishment already. After all, I have adjusted my
scheduling to help close your sales. I don’t add thousands of dollars
to my gross by accomodating these special services. Sometimes I give
myself a small bonus, but the retailer gets to close a good sale that
would otherwise go the way of the wind.You probably need to learn how
to accomodate my needs now.

    I think the supplier is capable of getting the items back to
me within 2 weeks, but that he's just deciding to work on new
orders from other customers first since he knows from past
experience that no matter how he treats me I'll still re-order from
him because his stuff sells well! 

It is a very competitive world out there. A lot of new businesses
start up because they entrepreneur sees a huge markup in jewelry
sales. What he doesn’t see is all of the hidden costs of those sales.
If you are low on the priority list, maybe you need to do something
that would put you a little higher in your jewelers sights. Trust me,
he is working as heard as he knows how and deserves everything that
he gets.

Do I sound a little jaded or resentful? I’m sorry about that as well
as the fact that your job is now a week late.

Bruce D. Holmgrain
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler
http://www.goldwerx.com


#12

I regularly tell customers 6-8 weeks for true custom jobs, and I’m
the man who does the work. If they are pushy, I probably don’t want
the job anyway. If your work is good enough, they will wait, thats
why they came to you in the 1st place. Don’t get a reputation as
being a pushover for job terms, make yourself a valuable
commodity,not a mass merchandise provider. I have been swamped with
more business that I can handle for literally years, and I didnt get
that way by promising the sun, moon, and stars. It happens by making
your customer realize that YOU ARE VALUABLE. Ed


#13

Hello,

I really like JMorley's response:
     I think you should stick with telling your customer it will
take longer. The customer, if they really want the piece in the
altered state will go for it. They may decide to take it as is. ...
Think of it as a commissioned painting it takes a LOOOOOONG time to
make good art." 

Have to admit, I’m guilty of procrastination sometimes; particularly
when someone can’t give me a clear idea of how they want the
finished piece to look. My “muse” is not always speedy. Most of
the time I ask the client if there is a specific time for
completion. If not or if the time is impossible to fit in, I warn
them not to expect it before (date two months in the future). No
one has been upset and all have agreed to be patient. Of course I
have a day job, so my bench time is limited, and they understand
that.

In your shoes, I'd emphasize that special orders or alterations are

indeed special, and it requires time to complete something made just
for one person. Comment on the artist’s great design and execution.
Excellence cannot be rushed, but flows best with patience. Add a
month to the expected turn-around time, and let the customer decide
if s/he can deal with it. Doesn’t hurt to again point out that the
completed piece will be uniquely theirs, and as such, is more time
intensive to produce.

Rather than a discount for longer turn-around times, suggest a

bonus for a prompt response. Factor the bonus into the initial
price for the work. I think a rush job should be tied to a higher
price for the jeweler - that is certainly an incentive to prioritize
the project.

Just my humble opinion - since it’s free, take it for what it’s worth
:wink:

Judy in Kansas, where we had the most wonderful rain last night and
cooler temps today. (sigh) First home football game tomorrow, so the
campus is jiving.


#14

Thanks to all who responded to my post!

I’m sure that I don’t know or understand everything that a jeweler
has to do in order to get jobs out in a timely manner, but I guess
what drives me nuts is when someone makes a specific
promise/agreement (i.e., all repairs and special orders mailed back
to me within 10 days of them receiving the item or order) and then
chronically takes on average 4 weeks.

Anyway, my supplier should probably do to me what I am now going to
do with my customers, which is to change our policy–all repairs and
special orders for this particular line will take 4 to 6 weeks!

Regarding someone’s post about discounts, i.e., if I was going to
put penalties or discounts in place for late repairs and special
orders then I should also be penalized for paying late–I absolutely
agree! But the truth of the matter is I never pay late (its the whole
"do unto others" thing here that keeps me from doing this . . . And I
would LOVE it if I could get my suppliers to give me a 2% discount
for paying within 10 days! Thats actually a significant savings.

Doug