Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler

March 6, 2000
A Camera, a Laptop, a Sale
To Wink Jones, the digital camera is more than an expensive toy – it's a way to make his customers happy

This ever happen to you? You go to a jewelry show, happen across something that you're sure – absolutely sure – one of your regular customers would love. You buy it, take it home and the customer doesn't love it. So you're stuck either adding the item to your inventory or, if you took it on memo, with the hassle of returning it to the vendor. Wink Jones of Winfield Jewelry in Boise, ID, has another way.

In February, Jones went to the Tucson gem and mineral shows looking to satisfy a client who wanted a diamond in the 1-4-ct. range, in just the right shade of brown. And he thought he found it. Previously a conventional jeweler with regular hours and employees, Jones hated the routine of running the store and felt he was losing money. Years ago, he closed the store and now makes more than a half-million dollars in sales annually selling on an appointment-only basis out of his safe in a small office. He doesn't own a display case.

Before cutting the deal for the brown diamond, Jones photographed the gem with his new Nikon digital camera, downloaded the image to his laptop, logged onto the Web and e-mailed the image to his client.

The client said thanks, but no. (Jones didn't mind. "The mere fact that I was looking for him establishes incredible rapport," he says. "I'm going to Antwerp in March and I know I'll find his heart's desire.")

Moving on, Jones saw another gem, a 1.2-ct. emerald, and thought of another client. This fellow was looking for such a stone to mount and present to his wife at the couple's upcoming 50th wedding anniversary. The client had mentioned wanting something larger, but this emerald had unusually good color.

Again, out came the camera and the laptop. Jones typed a quick e-mail note, attached the image and sent it off. This time, the client approved and Jones had a $7,800 sale.

"It more than paid for the camera," said Jones. He'd bought the $5,000 Nikon shortly before the show after a chat with his tax accountant. As it turned out, Winfield Jewelry hadn't purchased nearly as much equipment as federal tax law allowed it to deduct. Buying something for the business would cut his taxes.

"How many times do you see something and later say to people, 'Gee I wish I could describe it,'" he says. "Now you don't have to; you can show them." Even if you're in another state or country.

- by Mark E. Dixon