Pricescope: Friend or Foe?

For years, Pricescope.com has been a quiet, under-the-radar Web site that lets consumers comparison-shop diamond vendors by price. But since jewelers on the Polygon network began complaining about it, it’s become the site retailers love to hate.

At a forum held during The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas, Celia Feder of Jay Feder Jewelers in Denver touted jewelersnetwork.net, a site that lists wholesalers that do business with sites like Pricescope.

“We are going to boycott wholesalers that are doing this,” she said. She noted that many wholesalers drop-ship the diamonds themselves. “I am not going to be in competition with my wholesalers. They can’t have their cake and eat it too. We don’t have to roll over and play dead.”

“[Pricescope sellers] have a 2%-4% margin,” she added. “I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stay in business with a 2%-4% profit. We are up against people who don’t own the diamonds, who don’t charge sales tax, who are probably sitting in their pajamas. We don’t think that’s fair.”

Misconceptions. Pricescope founder Leonid Tcharnyi seemed taken aback by the controversy and says the industry has misconceptions about his site. “Yes, prices [on Pricescope] are competitive, but the margins are not 2%,” he said. “It is one of the myths that Internet buying is all about price. The cheapest person doesn’t always win. People will pay extra for a vendor that is older and more experienced. It’s the person who takes the consumers’ interests to heart who gets the sale.”

He says it’s wrong “to say there’s no connection between consumer and buyer on the Internet. Many customers pick up the phone and talk to their suppliers, the same as in a jewelry store. Some very strong relationships develop.”

Pricescope.com gets 100,000 unique visitors a month even though it does no outside advertising. Companies—including big names like Blue Nile and diamond.com—pay to be listed on the site.

Tcharnyi says jewelers should look at the site, which features forums with active diamond discussions, as a resource.

“One of the reasons consumers turn to the Internet is because they can’t find quality products or quality service offline,” he says. “We read many stories about people going to local retailers [and being] unhappy about the service. Jewelers can go to the site and see what customers are talking about, what questions they ask. The Internet is a powerful tool to reach consumers. Jewelers shouldn’t be afraid of it.”