Publisher’s Notes

THE DEAL OBSESSION OR GETTING WHAT YOU PAY FOR

A few years ago we had a young editor on the staff who had trouble with calculating percentages. So it was that one day he turned in a story in which he reported that such-and-such a company was selling goods at 110% off.

In the real world of mathematics, that’s impossible. You can only go down 100% and then you’re at zero. But sometimes it seems that a few very aggressive – or very scared – people in the jewelry business really are trying to make their price-off deals too good to be mathematically or economically possible. In some cases you think they might as well give the product away. After all, if it’s worth so little, why would anyone want it?

This price-off madness leads to distrust, ridicule and eventually contempt. And why not? If a company relentlessly discounts its published prices, this can mean that (1) the item was unrealistically high-priced to start with, (2) it’s not worth having if the company has to drop the price to get people to buy it and (3) no one really knows what the real price is.

That’s perhaps one of the trickiest issues and the one most likely to backfire on the price cutter. If Buyer A gets 20% off, what will Buyer B get if he bargains a little harder? 40%? And Buyer C. Is he just a dumb dodo if he pays list?

Probably the simplest thing for Buyers A, B, and C is to deal with a company which, rather than cutting prices, keeps a uniform fair price – and provides added value instead of some mythical deal.

Today, one of the industry’s greatest challenges is to sustain consumers’ confidence in those from whom they buy jewelry. Phony pricing at the jewelry counter, or in jewelry catalogs, is a major weakener of such confidence.

The rot of phony prices spreads through all levels of the industry. It seems that the obsession with getting a good deal withers the brain and good sense of normally intelligent people. These are people who wouldn’t dream of boarding an airplane that is known to have major shortcomings, yet they blithely buy a product known to have far less value than its maker claims.

What motivates people to buy something when they know in advance that it’s not going to meet their needs? Do they believe that in some mysterious way the product will all of a sudden become longer lasting or better made or more useful? Or are they just closing their eyes to the obvious in return for false savings?

Now, not all deals are phony. But a good many are. Those who are honest with themselves when they choose a deal ought to be honest enough to admit to themselves you get what you pay for. Too often in the world of deals, that’s not very much.