In early March, I decided it was time to choose rings for my May wedding. I knew I wanted white 14k gold flat bands for Jeff and me?4-mm for him and 2-mm for me. A simple enough order, so I went to the independent jewelry store where we purchased my engagement ring nine years earlier.
A long engagement, yes, but the point is that after nine years, I still thought of that store first because the salesman was excellent, the selection was good, and the price was fair. Our original salesman, Marc, was no longer there, but the same family still owned the place, so I asked to speak to the manager and waited for him on a busy Saturday.
As I looked at a case of pendants, a saleswoman approached and asked if I needed assistance. I said I wanted to see one of the crosses and told her I was thinking of buying a few as gifts for my bridesmaids as well as one for myself. Then I pointed to another selection?a crucifix?and asked her to remove it from the case. Her tone of voice as she made her reply??Oh, are you sure you want a cross, or do you want a crucifix???oozed with condescension.
I thought to myself: Maybe I want both. As I said, I haven?t made up my mind yet.
I responded: ?I haven?t decided. But I would like to see a wider variety of styles. Do you have a catalog I could order from??
I don?t know if she didn?t like the looks of the jeans I was wearing or just thought I was a dope, but I didn?t care. I was still fixated on her unpleasant tone of voice.
When she brought out the book, I was looking at a case of estate pieces. Her tone of voice as she asked, ?Do you want to see anything from that case?? had changed?to a bark. She might as well have said, ?You?re wasting my time. Will you please leave??
At that point I said no thanks and moved across the store to the diamond wedding bands. The clerk at that counter was busy with a couple, and as I looked at the merchandise, I saw a lot of diamond bands, with prices clearly marked, that were way out of my price range. The plain gold bands were fine, but I could get them just about anywhere. Meanwhile, my patience was slipping away. The store manager was still busy in the back?perfectly understandable for a Saturday?and the saleswoman didn?t like me. The security guard was the only person in the store who was nice to me, but he couldn?t help. So I left.
I tried two other independents, but none had what I wanted. So, reluctantly, I wound up at The Court shopping mall in King of Prussia, Pa. I had stopped in briefly on a lunch break two days before and returned that Saturday to register at one of the department stores.
During the previous trip, I?d peeked at jewelry in the Christian Bernard store. They had beautiful pieces, including a pavé diamond wedding band that I assumed was too expensive for me. A tall man in a dark suit approached and asked if I needed assistance. Sure, like I can afford anything here, I thought. I politely declined. But he smiled and continued rearranging a case of pearls a few feet away.
I don?t know why, but I felt comfortable. I asked him his name. ?Bob,? he said.
?Well, Bob, I?m getting married in a few months.?? I talked to him a bit about what I was interested in. He happily showed me the crosses and crucifixes and pulled out a catalog of other styles for me to peruse. He also took the pavé wedding band out of the case for me to try on. It was gorgeous! Now I had to know the price. ?Bob, uh, how much is this ring??
He flipped the tiny tag over and read, ?Hmm, 28 points on a 3-mm, 14k white gold band for ? (Gulp) ? ? $399.?
?That?s it? You?re kidding.?
?No,? he said, grinning. ?No, I?m not kidding.?
?Bob, I can afford this and it?s what I really want!?
It was a bittersweet moment as I realized I was close to buying a chain store?s merchandise when I knew I should have been having this experience in an independent store. I thanked Bob and quickly left.
But as I returned to the mall on Saturday, all I could think about was that pavé band. And the only thing keeping me from it was a five-minute walk from one end of The Court to the other. Oh, cursed temptation! What to do? With .28 ct. of dazzling diamonds screaming my name, I rationalized:
If I buy it now, then Jeff won?t have to upgrade my band later.
Three independents I trusted didn?t have any pavé bands.
Though all the independents will give me a better price on plain gold bands, what?s the point if I?m not crazy about the band? And so on.
I rationalized a path right down the middle of the mall until I found Bob. ?I came for the ring, Bob,? I said. ?And those earrings in the front. Oh, yeah, and a band for my beloved.?
Bob was delighted that I had sought him out. He was helpful but not pushy. He even gave me a coupon toward the purchase of the bands a month prior to the store?s scheduled promotion.
You know what else? I don?t feel so guilty. If the salesperson at the first store had done her job, I might have bought my rings there. But she didn?t?and Bob did.
My suggestion to readers: Make sure your salespeople aren?t driving away your customers. Watch how they interact with single women. Do they treat them graciously and try to help them? If not, others like me will walk out and head straight for a store that employs salespeople like Bob.