Professional Jeweler Archive: Avoid Return Pitfalls

February 2000

For Your Staff/Selling Timepiece

Avoid Return Pitfalls

These simple strategies can help you and your store prepare for the occasional fussy timepiece and its possibly fussy new owner

Last month we addressed handling returns as they occur. By now you must realize returns happen to all retailers with timepieces and jewelry regardless of cost. No manufacturer is perfect. Now let’s see what can be done to make sure you see fewer returns. While you’ll never eliminate them, you can take prudent steps to reduce their severity and frequency.

Check the Inventory

First, keep tabs on your quartz watch inventory. Be sure all watches have working batteries. If you have an in-house watchmaker, use him or her to perform checks and the necessary replacements. If you use a service center, gather the watches and send them for battery replacement. If the watch is a higher-end model and doesn’t work when it arrives at your store, check with the manufacturer to make sure any work done will not void the manufacturer warranty. If it would void the warranty, send it back to the manufacturer. Better to check than void a warranty for a customer.

If your watch inventory is on a computer system, use it to find which pieces are the oldest. This will give you time to remove the problem watches before they have a chance to reach your customers’ wrists with old batteries in them.

We’ve developed a system where details of each piece are placed on an index card. We write the age of the piece and the battery on the card. Older batteries (more than two years old) are replaced prior to a sale so the customer has a new battery as he or she leaves with the watch.

Review Warranty

Make sure all sales associates understand the specifics of each manufacturer’s warranty and that they explain these points to the customers.

Most manufacturers cover the operation of the watch for at least one year, though many cover it longer. The customer needs to be completely aware of what is covered and what is not. They also need to know what they must do to maintain and care for the watch. Be certain to complete the warranty cards for your customer and explain how important it is to keep them somewhere safe at home.

Meet Buyer Expectations

Remember to recognize somewhat different return modes for jewelry customers and for watch customers. Buying jewelry is generally more emotional; watches, meanwhile, combine emotion with utility. A watch purchase is personal and functional. Each customer requires a different approach.

We’ve all bought new automobiles that have developed a rattle or an inoperative part or system. We take the car to a dealer for repair under warranty. Sure, we don’t like that something went awry with our expensive and exciting new car. But we generally are patient and let the dealer resolve things. We don’t usually request a new automobile.

Timepieces are brand-named, replete with heavy marketing and advertising images and reputations known to the consumer. So keep the customer’s perspective in mind when dealing with a non-operative watch and with a demand to replace it. For the relative few times these situations occur, take the non-combative approach. It will serve your store best.

Be the Hero

Satisfy the customer with that new watch and work out credit terms with your watch supplier. Your inconvenience will please the customer, probably generate good words about your fine service and restore faith the customer can work with you in the future for other items.

As noted last month, it’s possible to turn that repair request into a “high-service” opportunity for you and your store. When confronted with a watch that doesn’t measure up to the customer’s expectations, it’s worth it to take the time and turn the problem into a pleasure. You can be the hero.

–by Paul White, Watch Division Director, Reis-Nichols Jewelers, Indianapolis, IN

Each month Paul White fills this column with sales tips for retailers who want to sell more watches. If you have suggestions for topics, questions for Paul or specific examples from your store, send them to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or e-mail

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