Weapons of mass-destruction

So, as time marches on, we see our collective folly in it’s full
splendor. En-masse, we have supported and made powerful the giants
of retail, to the point at which they gulp away at our own
livelihood. Case in point:

I received an invitation, as did all Costco members in my market
area, to attend a “loose diamond road show” at one of the locations
in Edmonton. They promise to display and sell goods described as
fully-cut VS2 or better, from .49ct. to 1.25ct., and no lower than I
in colour. A “certified gemologist” will be there to facilitate
assurances of quality.

The fact that Costco has sold finished goods for some time never
really bothered me, personally…as my custom work stands up for
itself. My competitors may have been annoyed by it, but we don’t
really care that much about each other. And there, my friends, is
part of the problem.

I will now depend on my brethren in the industry to join me in a
boycott of Costco, on the grounds that they are now infringing on my
territory. I must assume that they are test-marketing loose diamonds
in my region to see what happens, and that they will judge the merit
of a larger move into the loose diamond market, depending on the
results of this experiment.

The fact that they, and Wal-Mart, and some of the lesser chains of
discounters and “wholesale” operations have been clobbering other
retail and service businesses for years never really makes an impact
until it directly affects me, or you, or someone close.

We demonstrate all of the theories of modern economics when we vote
for certain types of industries or services or retailers with our
dollars. We give them the weapons that they use to beat us to death.
When we stop supporting and feeding them, they wither and die.

I contacted Costco, and have yet to receive any sort of reply, but
the trade press is very interested in hearing more. The event is
scheduled to take place during the weekend of Feb. 7th and 8th.

What infuriates some of my associates here is that a major diamond
wholesaler is consigning goods for the sale. If Costco only collects
a “short spread” on the stones, they can still rake in a huge amount
of money, and undercut the local jewellers signific antly.

So, should we look at this as a problem? After all, isn’t that the
true nature of competition?

In this case, it is a serious problem.

The people who buy loose diamonds from Costco will then have to go
to a jeweller/goldsmith to have their prized purchase set into a
mounting, and Costco views this as a means by which to share their
marketing success!!

Imagine the client’s dismay when we have to tell them that we cannot
accept any liability, should the diamond not survive the perils of
the jewellery manufacturing process.

We establish ourselves as the bearers of bad news, the as$oles, the
greedy, uncooperative elitists who plague retail, the brick-and
-mortar morons who charge and arm and leg and deliver disappointment
with a massive markup.

To those who have had their pants kicked by Wal-Mart and Costco, I
am so sorry that you have been affected. They will never get another
one of my dollars. I have never spent a nickel at Wal-Mart, but
Costco? Everyone shops at Costco.

To those yet to be affected, wake up. It’s coming, and there will
never again be an opportunity like today to do something about it.
Let them know what you think… or better yet, leave them wondering
where they went wrong.

David Keeling

David -

There may be no “good” solution to this dilemma; “good” in the sense
of pleasing to people. We, my wife and I, made the decision not to
use the discounters for anything…period! If we expect to have folks
patronize our services and buy from us, then they need to be
comfortable paying what we ask for our goods and services. They
likely won’t be able to do that if they are trying to support a
family on one or two paychecks as sales clerks for a discounter,
which is increasingly the only available work as discounters drive
other businesses out of the marketplace…

I’m reasonably well-educated (PhD dropout), and well-traveled within
the United States. As Lee Einer and several others at Orchid have
noted very articulately, there is a major battle going on in the
world marketplace. You must make your own choices in Canada; we have
chosen to do business the old way, and try to keep some respect for
our concept of dignified labor.

Jim Small
Small Wonders Lapidary

Dear David, You may be over-reacting a bit. My personal experience
with selling loose stones is that it is extremely difficult to sell
them. It is very difficult for the general public to relate to
stones that are out of the mounting. I have had a large stock of
stones on display for many years and found that they rarely created
sales. This Christmas I decided to put the loose stones away and
mount some of them. Imagine my surprise when I saw those same stones
fly out the door after mounting, I have had a similar experience
with waxes. People just can’t visualize them in the finished
product. I really don’t think that Costco will have much luck with
the loose diamonds, but I will look forward to a postscript from you
should you be able to observe their results.

In the past I have had loose diamonds on display and the results
were not worthwhile inspite of the fact that they were large, high
quality, competitively priced and supported with GIA certs. I now
never put loose diamonds out…just putting them in a two dollar
stone holder in a ring box does the job. On the other hand, who is
buying high ticket nowadays ? I am putting all my effort into bread
and butter price oriented goods. After all, how much money are you
going to make on an occaisional ten percent margin? …yah gotta
have volume too ! Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA

If COSCO does what Walmart has done in many areas of the Midwestern
USA, they will move in, then drive all the smaller businesses out of
business, discover that there aren’t enough customers in the area to
support the store, close their doors and force customers to travel
50 to 75 miles to buy what they used to buy locally. Tough lesson
learned by folks who used to buy from neighbors who lived in these
towns and purchased goods from each other keeping everyone in
business and making an adequate profit to live on.

David, you really owe it to yourself to go to Wal-Mart and other
discounters, and look at the jewelry they offer. It will allay your
fears of competition.

While working at the bench for a jeweler last year, we had a lot of
this discount jewelry come in for repairs. Tables were pitted, there
were chips, diamonds that had been sold as SI were full of carbon
that was highly visible with the eye, cloudy, you name it. Then they
were set in settings that were porous (the reason for the repairs was
frequently a missing prong), the seats had not been cut properly, and
the castings had visible pits.

The owner would patiently educate them without trashing their
original purchase. He would pull out a diamond that was of
comparable quality and tell them the price of it (which was less than
what they had paid), and then put it next to a diamond that was VVS1
or 2 (same size), and the difference would be evident to the
uneducated at the very first look. He would reasonably explain that
they at least needed a new quality head. He would show them the pits
in their present head and how it would fail and lose the diamond, and
he didn’t want to be responsible for poor quality and have it reflect
on his work. He would take the time to fuse new metal in the pits (no
charge, but he sure took the credit for it), and generally made sure
the basic structure would hold up.

The result was they often returned to get their significant other a
ring, or at least a diamond, that was worthy of them and expressed
their true dedication. He would suggest that they save the inferior
diamond until the first anniversary, then buy another matching
diamond and have them set as earrings, where they would be less
noticeable and subjected to less stress. He got a lot of business
this way, and yes, people were bringing back their inferior diamonds
for earring sets for an anniversary present. He gained a lot of loyal
customers this way.

Go and see what they really have to offer, and my bet is that you
will be appalled at the trash they’re trying to get rid of. After
all, even poor quality diamonds have to find a market somewhere, yes?
If nothing else, if you have a storefront, put up 2 large pictures,
side by side, in your front window. One of a typical "discount"
diamond (labeled as such) and one of yours that you consider to be of
average quality that you sell. They’ll be coming in to at least find
out more, and that’s your opportunity to educate them and to make

I too have experienced the drive of discounters and importers of
inferior jewellery products which undermine the value of true
craftsmanship. I have worked for both supermarket jewellers and high
end producers but their bottom line is always the dollar cost to
them which can eat into their huge profits if any real care and time
is taken to produce a quality product. I myself have taken the bull
by the horns and located my own business deep in the suburbs, out of
the way it may seem but I think true craftsmanship, fair price and
tailoring a design to your customers needs are all important for
true client satisfaction. Some jobs I lose on through time spent and
some I win but client satisfaction is paramount to your business and
recommendation is far better than any advertising program. That is
just my opinion of course. I may not get rich but I am happy with my
craft and work and continue to strive for improvement in as many
aspects of my trade as I have time for. Terence M Dillon Chivali
Artisan Goldsmiths NT Australia

earring card dilemma

I have for years used earring 3x4 cards and stuck hangers or fish
hook style hangers on the back of the card (peal& sticks)for
displaying earrings… I like the big 3x4 look in displaying our
earrings, but recently have not been happy with the quality of the
card stock… In an attempt to upgrade I have been searching
(endlessly) for a big heavy earring card I have seen in the past
that is commercially made… but don’t know who or where to buy
them… I know they are not cheap but cheap isn’t everything… I
like the big , Heavy ,either laminated or ridged plastic style card
floxed ,textured or not but all I can find in my search are… these
2x2 black or clear etc cards… not what I want!

Can someone out there that has a really heavy , thick , laminated or
plastic 3x3 or 3x4 earring display card refer me to a source to buy
them wholesale by the 100’s ??? I want to print or hot stamp them
with a logo and “Handmade” aswell… and if they are available in
colors even better…I am looking for a card that is “really
rugged”… won’t curl, takes alot of handing…3x3 or 3x4… laminated
type surface to keep clean… with hanger "?"style back. I have all
but give up on looking on the Internet… I know they make them … I
have seen them …About the only way I am going to solve this
problem is from someone else’s experience …so I thought… What
better place to get advise than from other jewelry artists … I
like my earrings to be first rate and don’t want a second rate card
to hang them on… I feel if you are going to invest the time to make
quality you need to display them equally… I am open to other
suggestions. Most printers I have talked to don’t supply a heavy
enough card stock or one that won’t curl with heat and moisture, or
have the fish hook or hanger style card on the back… Other
problems I have encountered Bending thick card stock… Currently am
using a painted louvre door to hang cards on… Thought if I double
the lenght of the card and folded them over and pushed thru the
slot. But only printer I could find would only print on paper that
was to thin and they said they can’t bend thick card stock…Oh
well… If you can help me with this dilemma… Your help would
be appreciated… Email me with a subject line of " Earring card
Solution ".(so is don’t end up in the spam box)
TheMidas1@aol.com …Thank You…

FWIW, independent businesses in some states are forming
organizations to promote local shopping and local, non-chain,
independent businesses. Here in Arizona, we have the Arizona Chain


Those of you who wish to resist the McDonaldization of your towns
and businesses may wish to check for similar organizations in your
state, and join.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Does it really matter if Wal-Mart or Costco is selling diamonds!
The local druggist who used to be my customer was forced out of
business by their prices, as was the local grocer, his employees all
are now minimum wage workers for Wal-Mart. When we have no customers
the undercutting of our prices no longer matters does it! I don’t
have an answer. I find myself spending money at Home Depot &
Wal-Mart all while knowing that some locally owned store might have
that product for sale & they might be my customer tomorrow if they
are still in business.

Mark Chapman

 Does it really matter if Wal-Mart or Costco is selling diamonds!
The local druggist who used to be my customer was forced out of
business by their prices, as was the local grocer, his employees
all are now minimum wage workers for Wal-Mart.  When we have no
customers the undercutting of our prices no longer matters does it!
 I don't have an answer.  I find myself spending money at Home
Depot & Wal-Mart all while knowing that some locally owned store
might have that product for sale & they might be my customer
tomorrow if they are still in business. 

Dear Mark,

Capitalism is an agonizing system which, as both you and its most
famous critic have noted, contains the seeds of its own destruction.
Unfortunately, it will probably destroy a lot of us before it
destroys itself. (NB: to potential flamers: don’t bother. And, sorry,
capitalism isn’t synonymous with “trade.”)

Even though I still believe, as we said in the early women’s
liberation movement, that “there are no personal solutions,” I deal
with with this stuff by drawing arbitrary lines. If I have the energy
and money, I purposefully choose to patronize local businesses and
hope they will return the favor. If I’m really broke, etc., I go to
the mall. But, although I’ve been known to shop at Home Depot
(usually when the local Ace doesn’t have what I need), I never shop
at Costco or Walmart. Even if it does nothing else, this strategy
keeps me from falling into abject despair.

However, as Lee pointed out, there is the additional strategy
possible: organizing, rather than just agonizing. There are
municipalities and counties that have banned to Walmart. My parents
live in a little rural county in Nebraska, where some “outside
agitators” got the locals to agree, formally, to patronize each other
rather than drive to the nearest mall. And it worked.

I believe there is only one real “answer,” and I doubt it will
materialize in my lifetime. Meanwhile, the best we can do is support
each other, and organize, when we are able.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Benicia, CA

Lisa Orlando’s post is right on the money. Don’t agonize, organize!

In Taos, New Mexico, there were a little over 400 independent small
businesses when WalMart moved in several years ago. Today, roughly
half that number remain. If you can’t oppose (and boycott) the big
boxes for altruistic reasons, do it out of informed self-interest-
it will likely be your neck on the chopping block, if not today,
maybe tomorrow. If they don’t put you out of business directly, they
will at least lower the standard of living in your community enough
that fewer customers can afford your work. This is not
anti-capitalism. WalMart is to capitalism as cannibalism is to

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Oh dear, Wal-Martphobia rears its head. I’m an odd bird, I love
Wal-Mart and Home Depot. They carry wonderful, quality merchandise
and I get a great many supplies for my jewelry work from both each
year (I don’t work the traditional end of the field). Just because a
business is an “independent” doesn’t make it morally/ethically
superior. Both chains accept returns with no questions asked…many
independents will scalp their customers, charging exhorbitant markups
on stuff you can get for a fraction of the cost down the block. And
lastly, numerous economists have written about how both of these
major chains have had an important impact in keeping inflation down.
There is no perfect solution, and the independents who are smart are
the independents who adapt and find niche products (which will
always exist) for their customers.

Ironically, here in Canada I have had incredible personal service
from Wal-Mart employees who have gone out of their way to research
and track down items for me, and experienced a high rate of friendly
service. Big does not mean evil: I tried to buy a lighter here years
ago, and a friendly woman clerk said to me politely, “I’m sorry but
Wal-Mart does not carry any smoking paraphernalia, sir.” I was
thinking about the billions more they turned down…

Does it really matter if Wal-Mart or Costco is selling diamonds!
The local druggist who used to be my customer was forced out of
business by their prices, as was the local grocer, 

Mark and Lisa I live in an area that has been devistated by
Wal-Mart, Very few local businesses still remain open. While there is
one old time hardware store run by a very nice family that has been
in business over 50 years they are loosing ground to Wal-Mart as
there is no Home Depot or Lowes within 45 or 50 miles two area
“supermarkets” have closed down with in the past year, there are no
more local clothing stores but we haven’t lost our towns druggist
yet, I really dislike going to Wal-Mart but it’s about the only
choice left. there is one market left within a 15 mile radius but it
is so poorly stocked (gosh I wonder why) I still prefer to patronize
the local hardware store even though I may have to wait a few days
for something either that or I buy on line. I’ve also lived in an
area that wally world totaly screwed over, first they ran out most of
the local businesses then they determined that that location didn’t
earn as it should and closed up after three years leaving a small
texas town devoid of nearly all stores and nearly bankrupting the
entire economy of a farming community. Personally I think communitys
that ban together and say no to them should be applauded, and as far
as Home Depot and Lowes if you think they are so great try buying
atwo small brass wood screws or a few nails, good luck they won’t
let you buy a small quantity they make you buy more than you need,
Come to think of it so does Rio Grande, That’s another company I’ve
about had it with, once upon a time it was a pleasure to deal with
them, I was quite amazed when I ordered several gross of saw blades
and they send them to me each dozen individually bagged and tagged,
Now I wonder how much more that cost than just grabbing a tube of 12
one dozen bundles of Herkules blades and putting them in box cost me.
Same thing with buying 100 cratex wheels, they come factory packaged
in boxes of 100, but I get ten packages of 10 and them stuffed into
yet another ziplock bag. OK I can understand someone ordering 10
cratex wheels or 1 dozen sawblades but since I can get the same
items from another supplier in their factory packaging, tubes for the
blades which is much nicer than a bunch of zip lock bags littering up
my bench and Cratex in a box, not more stupid ziplock bags, Guess
what. I only order as little as possible from Rio any moreif it’s any
thing I can get any place else. My son won’t order from them at all.
Mass merchandising is a wonderful thing untill you run it into a
stone Wal-Mart.

Kenneth Ferrell

Marty, while you’re enjoying lower prices and quality customer
service Walmart has forced an American giant to close her last US
manufacturing plant. Levi Strauss is no small independent
organization. Walmart asked them to supply lower quality lower
priced jeans to them, which they did. Then they were asked to lower
their cost to Walmart another 5%, and they did. The demand was
great, and they tried to meet it. Over a 4 year span Walmart
generally “asks” their suppliers to lower the cost around 20%. What
company do you know of can continue hiring, raising salaries of
their already employed, continue decent benefits and still survive ?
I too need to save money wherever I can, but not at the cost of my
fellow countrymen losing their jobs in droves. American Icons are
being lost while we strive to save .59 cents on a pair of jeans…


I live an area where we have 2 Super Wallys within a short distance.
Well the people here are sort of fed up with the crowds and the
traffic. In two counties they have stopped I think 4 of those Super
Suckers from being built. I mean some of these communities have
gotten pretty extreme about keeping these guys out. My wife like to
shop there but I still like the grocer up the street. It is closer
and a heck of allot shorter walk to get in and get out. I also
support my local Ace Hardware. I needed 2 screws the other day for
the doorbell and they had it and was happy to sell me .22 in screws.
Again it is closer and the walk is allot shorter. We are lucky the
community supports that place very well. The parking lot is full on
a Sat but you can always find someone inside eager to help you.

My father is a remodeling contractor and he hates both Lowes and HD.
They have put all his small supplies out of business where they take
care of the commercial guys. You go to HD and he end up in line with
every Yahoo around with a DYI project.

As for Rio I really don’t have any complaints unless they are out of
something I need. With the hellish system change over I found lots
of other suppliers that I can rely on if need be.

Thanks! That felt good to get out of my system and rant a bit

RC Gems

Glad to see I am not alone amongst the population who are, in
general, supporters of Wal-Mart and numerous other big chains which I
see to have ultimately benefited both consumers and economies in the
long run. The notion that all small independents are somehow more
ethical and treat employees better is a total myth in my experience.
Here in Victoria, B.C. I talk regularly to Wal-Mart employees who are
very happy in their jobs, feel they are paid sufficiently, and who
are always prepared to go out of their way to help. Identifiable
minority groups (who are hard to find in this neck of B.C.) are often
given high profile positions as customer greeters, customer service
representatives, etc.

I read and do research regularly, and have come across some
fascinating articles on those suppliers “squeezed to bring their
prices down” for Wal-Mart. Most have said that it greatly helped
their businesses by forcing them to retool or find more efficient
ways of operating their manufacturing without sacrificing quality.
Of course, not every business can do that, just as I, as the sole
maker of my work could not meet certain prices for particular
outlets. Also, Wal-Mart has recently opened in Mexico and is doing
of course a boom business–again, bringing low prices and quality to
commodities that people need. There is always room for the
independents who are innovative and creative who will bring in the
other products that people need and want–but who needs to pay double
for a bar of soap? Moreover, by reducing the price of so many
products that are used in the sale/manufacture of other goods, I
believe that ultimately this expands economies and allows more
smaller businesses (at least in the larger municipal areas) to
flourish–they can sell their products more reasonably.

Hi folks,

Just an FYI: the magazine Fast Company published a very interesting
look at Wal-Mart and its impact on suppliers in the December 2003
issue. (It was the cover story that issue: The Wal-Mart you Don’t

The article is available online at:


After following most of this discussion, it occurred to me you guys
might find it interesting reading!


Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

The Wal-Mart article was very interesting and really an eye-opener.
There have been several good links to articles on this subject in the
recent days. But I’ve noticed one thing - all of these articles are
found in business journals and trade-type journals. Many of us
business owners are aware of the serious problems ahead if things
don’t change. But unless this is written up in places
for the “general public” to see, what good is it doing? I want to
see the Wal-Mart article in the Sunday paper. It’s the consumers
that need to read this and judge for themselves whether
or not they want to continue doing business with Wal-Mart. Reading
an article like this may also make some people realize why they are
asked to pay more for items sold by people like “us”. Great
article… but does no good if the public and consumers are not
seeing it…

How much would change even if the average consumer did see the
articles? Even many of us who are aware are already caught in the
vicious spiral. I can’t afford $40 or more for a pair of jeans from
a local clothing store when I can get the Walmart store brand for
less than half, especially the way I chew through the darn things. I
do use independents when I can for a lot of things, but the truth is
I have to shop for price, too. And, this is another region where
many of the small guys have already gone under, leaving no place to
go other than Walmart for many products. I think increasingly, also,
that most consumers aren’t going to respond to that type of article
the way we would hope, even if it did make the Sunday paper. People
who shop for price will continue to shop there anyway. Those who
shop for value will shop where they find it. They are the ones who
understand that low price doesn’t necessarily mean high value. Jim

Suzanne, that was an excellent (albeit long) article. Thank you for
the link.

Organizations are organisms, and Corporations are entities. They
have an intense survival instinct, sometimes to their own detriment.
Companies “feel the greed” in the form of gross sales, and sell to
the whale of Wal-mart. It’s a choice.