Squirrel Spotting: The Case of the Pricey Repair

ColumnistsMay 23, 2023

Squirrel Spotting: The Case of the Pricey Repair

When it comes to pricing jewelry repairs, you should start by asking a simple question about the piece at hand, Peter Smith writes.

National Jeweler columnist and jewelry sales expert Peter Smith
Peter Smith is an industry consultant, speaker, sales trainer, and author. He can be reached via email at
After completing my sales “Masterclass” at a store recently, I had the good fortune of spending a few minutes with the gentleman who ran the repair shop for the company. 

Ray was curious, conflicted even, about the inexact science of pricing repairs for the store’s customers. 

As he explained it, he was constantly balancing competing interests each time he quoted a price for a repair. 

There seemed to be a prevailing assumption that the customer always wanted the lowest price that could be offered. 

The salespeople, more often than not, adopted the role of passionate advocates for the customer getting nothing less than the lowest price possible. 

After all, they reasoned, the customer would surely consider them and the store in a poor light if the repair quote was perceived as too expensive. 

On the other hand, and perhaps most poignantly, Ray believed that the customer’s best interests, and the store’s best interests, were better served by quoting a price that allowed the shop to deliver the finest repair possible. 

Not the bare minimum, not the obligatory repair, but the absolute best job a craftsman could do.

That inherent conflict is, of course, not exclusive to quoting repairs. It is often true for special orders, for custom work, or for any of the many essentials that pepper our days in a typical retail environment. 

In thinking about Ray’s pricing dilemma, it occurred to me that there are both practical and psychological factors at play. 

We assume customers have a clear sense of what they should pay for repairs when, in fact, the opposite is often true. More often than not, a customer has absolutely no idea what a given repair should cost. 

I recently engaged with an appliance repair man about what I perceived to be a small matter with my fridge and, when he let me know what was needed, I decided that it was time to invest in a new refrigerator, after 13 years of fine service. 

I didn’t go into the conversation with the appliance repair guy with any awareness of what a repair should cost, and I didn’t immediately conclude that I was being “ripped off” when he listed the possible remedies and the costs of said repair. 

The fridge conversation was very matter-of-fact. Certain things needed addressing, and if I wanted them done, it was going to cost me a few hundred dollars. 

There was no emotional component to the conversation about my fridge, unless you count its devilment of being too accessible whenever I got even a hint of a craving … darn you to hell, fridge! 

“Understanding what a given repair request really means is not a rationalization for overcharging the customer, but an indicator of the best course of action.” — Peter Smith 

When it comes to jewelry repairs, believing the customer always expects the lowest price is to assume they have no emotional involvement with the piece in question. 

We assume the exchange of payment for labor and materials is nothing more than pure economics just like my refrigerator, minus the edible goodies inside. 

Mercifully that is not how the cookie crumbles, at least not every time.

There obviously are occasions when a customer must decide whether a given piece of jewelry matters enough to them to invest their hard-earned money in fixing it. 

The condition of the piece may be such that the price of repair will determine whether they will have it fixed or return to whatever little drawer it was nestled in prior to the store visit. 

More often than not, however, the jewelry in question is extremely meaningful to the customer. They have a strong emotional bond with the piece, whether it is an important family heirloom or otherwise. 

It may have been something acquired or gifted that is imbued with meaning and symbolism. Its restoration might signal something much more profound than the sum total of labor hours and material costs. 

Psychological research has definitively established that we place considerable value on things we already own, far beyond what any rational assessment by others might conclude. That means anything we currently own always will be worth more to us than things we have yet to acquire. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Understanding what a given repair request really means is not a rationalization for overcharging the customer, but an indicator of the best course of action. 

If the sales or service person engages the customer and asks the right questions, they will have a better understanding of the customer’s emotional quotient. 

Ask a simple question such as, “That’s a lovely ring. What’s its story?”

A discovery question like this will result in one of two outcomes.

The first suggests keeping the work a bare minimum, and the price consistent with a lesser effort and fewer materials. And a second option that demands a much higher level of deliverable at a very different price.

The two prices can be offered to the customer (we all love to have choices and control) with a necessary proviso and a strong recommendation. 

“Look, we can do the repair for ‘x’ and it will get back to wearable condition. However, I fear that such a repair is a temporary fix and I worry you may have issues down the road.” 

That solution might be just what the doctor ordered for the customer, and the qualifier about future issues will have been delivered as a necessary note of caution. 

Depending on your conversation with the customer it might also warrant a very different recommendation, such as: “On the other hand, this is what we should do, and it will likely take care of those problems for years to come. 

“It is your decision, but I would strongly recommend the second option as I want you to have the absolute best outcome when you pick your ring up next week. What would you like to do?”

If the customer has minimal emotional investment in the ring, they may choose the least expensive option, the bare minimum to make the ring wearable.

If, however, they have a strong emotional investment in their ring, they will want and expect the absolute best repair and restoration possible. 

Do the work of engagement and discovery, stop spending from your own pocket, and remember, the very best value is always a satisfied customer. 

Happy selling!

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