Professional Jeweler Archive: Avoid the Shakedown

September 2000

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Avoid the Shakedown

Put your service on the line to raise money for charity and treat customers as friends

If they believe in a charitable cause, jewelers want to raise money to support it and be seen as active in the community. But they must do it sensitively – customers shouldn’t feel they’ve been panhandled.

Jewelers Stan Pollack and Howard Hurwitz’s solution was to put themselves on the line. Both participate in the Jewelers Charity Fund, which uses in-store canisters to raise money for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The canister effort is a contribution of Jewelers of America to the Jewelers Charity Fund (though any jeweler can participate). At last count, about 8,500 stores had signed on.

Rather than put out the canisters and forget them, Pollack and Hurwitz suggest customers contribute instead of paying for services such as replacing watch batteries or sizing rings. “Customers love it, especially when you talk with them about the children who benefit,” says Pollack, CEO of G.M. Pollack, an 11-store chain based in Scarborough, ME. Pollack visited St. Jude’s and is so evangelical about its programs he persuaded 10 local non-jewelry companies to feature the canisters. “I’m not doing this for promotional reasons,” he says. “Ultimately, though, I think it’s also good for the stores. It shows we have a heart and aren’t always trying to sell something.”

Serving Friends and Charities at the Same Time

At Hurwitz’s store in Maple Heights, OH, the program served as a convenient excuse to phase out those small charges entirely. “We really don’t want to charge for those things anymore anyway,” he says. “If a friend came into the store, I wouldn’t want to charge him for a battery, and that’s how I want the community to see us – as a friend.”

Pollack raised about $1,000 and and Hurwitz $500 during recent limited introductions of the program. Pollack experimented with the canisters in three stores this past Christmas while Hurwitz introduced them in May.

“The most important thing is that employees buy into what the charities are for,” says Pollack, who introduced the program to his managers at training sessions that included playing videos from each of the three charities.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications