Last week, my interview with reporter Stacey Vanek Smith aired on NPR’s Morning Edition as part of a Planet Money story about jewelry store pricing practices. The piece was focused on what I believe is the interesting question of why jewelry stores hide their price tags.
The story generated hundreds of comments, on both the NPR site and Facebook. While I enjoyed discussing the practices of jewelry store owners with Smith, I did feel that the story that aired did not tell the whole picture of my store’s attitude towards pricing and transparency. As anyone who has experienced being part of a news story knows, editing shapes what one appears to say as much as what one actually says. Suffice to say that there was much more said in the hours of interviews than what made it into the five-minute long piece.
Smith likens my store practices to playing a game of The Price is Right. I would beg to differ. Unlike many other jewelry stores, we physically tag every single item, making it very easy to find out an item’s price. In many jewelry stores, where they do not have price tags, the salesperson must get the price sheet and figure out what the item costs. I personally find this practice annoying, because I believe that knowing the prices of what you are looking at is essential information.
So if I believe that you should know the price, why are the prices obscured? Because the nature of jewelry dictates this. Most of it is small and expensive, and needs to be behind locked glass. To have a price visible simultaneously on hundreds of pairs of dangling earrings would be close to impossible. They are all small sculptural mobiles, hanging in space. If it weren’t for the glass in between the customers and the merchandise this would be a non issue. In fact, once the cabinet is opened by a staff member we encourage people to look at the prices.
Our store is arranged in such a way that makes the price range of the merchandise very clear. We always direct shoppers to specific areas based on whatever budget they tell us they have. To make it easier for our customers we have an entire section which we call “Jewelry Island” where you can rummage and try things on without a sales person’s help. It’s a great way for a customer who is not comfortable with a lot of interaction to find out some of the prices before asking.
Lastly, in regards to the jewelry world’s practice of selling the story, we sell pieces that are handmade by craftspeople. The amount of time that goes into creating the work is as much a part of the cost as the material. As I pointed out in the interview the same way one car (a Tesla) costs one price and one (a Prius) costs another. Of course this was cut down to making it sound like I was likening Lisa Jenks’ jewelry to a Tesla, which was not the point. My point is you get what you pay for, and some people want to pay for the craftsmanship. As it stands, we have supported these small studio designers, complete with stories, since we opened in 1969. Give me a story, instead of a piece of crap off a container ship, any day.