New approaches to security issues

If there is one aspect of the jewelry business that hasn’t had a new thought in 50 years, security for traveling sales personnel is it. The problem, which seems to get worse every year, should be addressed from a new point of view.

In JCK’s April “Notebook” column, Jim Cory related the upsetting tale of a salesperson who had a fear-filled confrontation with a robber. Anyone who has ever carried a jewelry sample line knows the danger is real. My son and my nephew represent jewelry manufacturers, and I worry about both of them when they’re on the road. It doesn’t matter how valuable the line is. The bad guys don’t know what you’re carrying. They assume it’s valuable and they want it. They can stalk you the moment you leave a jewelry store and follow you for days, waiting for you to drop your guard for just a minute.

The subject of Cory’s article made some serious errors of judgment. It’s worthwhile to identify them and highlight what the salesperson should have done differently. First, she had the feeling she was being followed and said nothing about it to her boss, who was traveling with her.

She dropped her boss off at the Four Seasons Hotel and went separately to her own, a cheaper motel on the outskirts of town. Second error: She was unsure of its location. A salesperson should always have specific directions when traveling to a new hotel.

(Any sales manager who lives high on the hog while his salesperson is staying in an isolated, low-priced motel should retake Sales Management 101. Sales managers should lead by example, not by their expense account!)

Third, when she arrived at the motel, she should have temporarily parked in the space provided for check-in. She should have retrieved only her sample line from the trunk and immediately gone to the lobby. Her distraction and indecision let the thief following her gain access to her line.

People become distracted. Thieves count on it. Yet the management approach to the problem is identical to what it was 20 years ago, perhaps even 50 years ago. The salesperson must have the line “in his/her grasp” to have coverage from insurance in the event of a loss. Insurance companies compound the problem by effectively refusing coverage of a sample line left in a well-secured car trunk by charging stiff premiums – if they offer coverage at all. The consequence is that traveling salespeople are highly visible to thieves and expose themselves to personal physical risk.

Technology exists today to more than adequately secure an automobile against jewelry thieves. The entire episode that Cory described could have been avoided if the salesperson had a well-secured trunk, various alarm systems, and appropriate back-ups. For many years several major manufacturers have successfully used such safeguards. With some technical help from the insurance world, these protective systems can be made even better.

Come on, you guys in the industry. Let’s get our traveling salespeople some help!