Why Clients Feel Comfortable Giving Retailer Van Alexander Their Jewelry in a Restaurant

Clients are so comfortable with Van Alexander they give him their jewelry in restaurants

1. What one advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response, and why do you think it worked?

Several years ago we did a series of TV commercials because cable was really affordable. We ran them consistently for 12 months, just saturating the network. It was amazing to me how much response we received. Customers would stop us in restaurants and say, “Aren’t you the Alexanders?” If we kind of knew them, they’d give us a repair to do on the spot. It was wonderful.

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

This is a sad story. We had a customer who lost three grandchildren in a fire. The lady’s jewelry was all ruined in the fire, too. She brought it in to us and we cleaned everything and repaired or replaced frosted and burnt stones. We went through every single piece. When she came in, we told her we weren’t charging her for the repairs. She cried. They have been clients since. We just love them—they’re our people.

3. What has been your most memorable sale?

In the early ’90s I had a customer who came in and said, “Hey, man, I’m looking for a large diamond for my wife—something maybe 7 or 8 carats.” A few days later, a diamond rep came through with an 11-carat pear-shape diamond with outstanding ratios and a ­beautiful shape. I called the customer and he bought it for $55,000. I appraised it about a year ago and it could sell for $250,000. It was the ­easiest sale I’ve ever had because he saw the value in it. And his wife just fell in love with it—she still wears it.

4. How do you differentiate your store from the competition?

By the lines we carry, for one. We try to carry the leader in every category. We have Rolex, Tacori bridal, John Hardy for silver. Then when people come in, you have to give excellent customer service. There are a lot of jewelry stores in my town; they are all nice, work hard, and are good at what they do. So I have to beat them when I can. My wife, Lara, and I are very [socially] involved. I was on the city council for 10 years. Getting out there and being a part of the community is like free advertising.

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

We had a customer who had bought a half-carat princess-cut diamond ring from us. And a few days later the stone came out. She came in upset and her boyfriend’s with her and you can tell he’s expecting a fight. He’s kind of bowed up and she’s kind of pooch-lipped. They start talking to the salesperson, and I could tell it wasn’t going very well. I stepped in and introduced myself. I told them, “This is definitely our fault; we’ll get this done today. And because this was a very important ring to you and you already had a nightmare with it, I’m going to replace the stone with a three-quarter carat ­princess-cut diamond.” She started crying even more because she was so happy, and the guy’s manner totally changed. When clients come in expecting a fight, you have to do graciously up front what you’re going to do in the end. Make it right, right away.