Those gangs of thugs and thieves who prey on every jewelry show had unusually rich pickings last June at the giant JCK Show in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for the industry, the Jewelers Security Alliance did its usual good job of communicating with local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, and members of the industry to help prevent the gangs from ripping off the ripe targets.

Security was tight. When the lights went down on Level One in the Convention Center on the first day, the security forces arrived with impressive speed. And though the presence of the Las Vegas Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) unnerved some attendees with their bristling guns and intimidating uniforms, having them on hand throughout the show was reassuring. After all, who knew when the lights first went out that it was just an electrical problem and not some huge heist in progress?

Nevertheless, the thieves in Las Vegas had an unusually vulnerable group of victims. The lapses in precautionary efforts were appalling. Every day at the show even a casual observer could see people going back and forth with sample cases in plain view. On the first day, for example, as my elevator stopped at a floor, a sales rep joined us with his sample line in tow! Just a year ago, a young member of the industry carrying nothing more than a briefcase filled with reports and papers was followed from the show to his motel, tricked into opening the door to his room, and pistol-whipped by a gang looking for an easy mark.

Who knows what stupid excuses these careless salespeople use to justify such risk-taking. Are they delivering product sold at the show? Are they cleaning and reorganizing their lines? Are they trying to avoid a wait in line when storing or retrieving their sample lines at the vault? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make sense.

The management of The JCK Show, working with JSA, invests a great deal of time, attention, and resources in providing a safe, secure venue for conducting business. Hotels that are part of the show block are briefed on security matters. At nominal cost, the show provides escort service to and from the airport with two armed security guards. Yet there are always a few who, in their disregard for reasonable safety precautions, justify doing it their way. Whether it is to see one more customer after hours or prior to the show the next morning, to deliver a sold piece, to save a few dollars, to save a few minutes, whatever, they have some justification. But there can be no justification for putting their safety, as well as the safety of others, at risk.

Years ago, when I first joined the industry, I worked with a group of true sales professionals at ArtCarved. Each of the men was security-conscious. It was just as much a part of their lives as returning phone calls promptly, being on time for appointments, and knowing their product line. One of the best of this group was Joe Buckley, who had a way of humorously describing a situation like these security breaches: “Beauty is only skin deep, but stupid is forever.” That about says it all.

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