Illinois Jeweler Bob Woolsey Makes Rest Stop Proposal Assist

Bob Woolsey wants to help 1 million men pull off the perfect proposal—one rest stop at a time

1. What has been your most memorable sale?

She came in wearing ripped jeans and a Ratt T-shirt. She had a $7,000 black opal that she wanted to mount in a pendant. She’d been to every store around us and no one had taken her seriously. One of our associates who was really into gems almost fell over when she saw the opal, saying it was the coolest one she’d ever seen. We made a pendant for it; it wasn’t a huge sale. Then the customer filled out a wish list and her husband came back and bought everything on it, and a bunch of Swiss watches for all the employees in his company. She continued to be a huge client. She came in one day before a cruise and bought a $50,000 necklace. It was a classic case of not judging a book by its cover. And I think in our industry, we tend to judge a book by its cover a lot.

2. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?

We have a lifetime guarantee that if any of our diamonds or stones fall out, we replace them with no questions asked. I had a guy call and say, “My wife lost her diamond.” I said, “That’s okay, come on in.” He was kind of shocked—it was a $5,000 or $6,000 diamond. He said, “Yeah, I knew that was your warranty, but I didn’t figure it would be that easy.” We’ve done that a handful of times for people. We’re a single store in Peoria, and Caterpillar tractors are based here. If you’re living in Singapore for Caterpillar and need a diamond replaced, we’ll get you taken care of.

3. What nightmare scenario did you turn around to save the day?

I have a philosophy on that. If you screw up with the customer and make it right, you’ll have a more loyal customer than one who you never screwed up with. There was a guy once who needed his engagement ring on a certain date and the supplier didn’t deliver it on time. To make it right, I drove 45 minutes to meet him in the potato chip aisle of a gas station, near where he was going to propose. I was sitting waiting for him on the side of the interstate forever; these things happen at rest stops.

4. What is your single-best money-saving initiative?

Setting a budget. We’ve had a budget for years, but as an owner, you’re not accountable to anyone. We’ve started to work with a consultant who holds [me] accountable. Now that we have someone on the outside looking at the budget, the cost savings have been huge.

5. What ambitious goal do you have for your store—and how will you achieve it?

I have a personal goal of ­assisting 1 million men in the proposal ­process—making sure they do it the right way. That doesn’t necessarily mean selling them the ring. I believe a lot of men need assistance recognizing that the woman they are going to spend the rest of their life with wants the ­storybook proposal. I believe with a little bit of help, most guys are ­capable of pulling off the magical moment.

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