The Hassles of Customer Picture Requests

Jeff R Graham shares his thoughts and insights on the hassles of customer picture requests and why most dealers do not bother to send them.

10 Minute Read

Common Sense Business - Want a picture?

People email me every once and a while wanting a picture. Sometimes it can be a problem. It maybe because these people are new, have no experience, or nobody has explained the facts to them. I am not trying to be rude or uncooperative with them but there are some facts of life that some one making this kind of request needs to know. Some pictures are just not worth the time and labor they will take. Some times things are just too busy to get a picture taken, and some times it just cannot be done practically from a time or business (financial) stand point.

Yes, I know some people take pictures of all their stones one at a time and post them for sale. These people are mostly smaller and do a lower volume business and are not moving very many stones. Also I would point out the pictures are often not very representative of the rough they are selling in many cases. In other words often the pictures are a poor and often manipulated to improve the looks of the rough they are trying to sell and not accurate. In my case and probably in most other larger dealers cases. I do not have the time because of my volume in general to take a picture of every stone. I sell a lot of rough. Taking a good accurate picture can be time consuming and on the inexpensive stones, it is just not practical.

My advice is if you really have to have a picture ask… but also be willing to except that the dealer (me or any other major dealer) maybe too busy or just feels it is not worth the time. In a case like this if you just have to have a picture, buy the stone from some one else that is less busy or willing to take a picture. Another way to handle this is to tell the dealer what you want specifically and what you want to cut. Most dealers can and will look at the rough in question and tell you if the rough will cut what you want. Also most dealers have a fair return policy so if there is any miss communication it is not a big deal.

Here is a typical letter of some one wanting a picture where it is not worth doing.


I saw a (you pick the stones, and it is almost always inexpensive under $100) on your site and would appreciate a photo or two if possible.

I'm looking to do a rectangle mixed cut (scissor/step) that would have a finished size of around 1ct .  Could the stone be color oriented to do something like this?

If you have other pieces that might work i'd be interested in seeing them.  If you have several pieces that might fit my needs I could purchase them and choose the most suitable when I have them in hand and return the others but would like to know what the restocking fees would be.  I'm looking for a stone for a friends' engagement ring and cannot find material locally.

OK so what are the problems here? Why do I not want to deal with this as a rough suppler? Here is how this letter comes across to me as a rough dealer.

1. This person is not very educated in gemstones, no matter what they may claim. No dealer wants to ship 4-6 stones and bill them, then have maybe all of them returned. Even if the person keeps one stone it is not worth the labor for the sale (less than $100?). The stone the guy was inquiring about was about $75. Think of the hassle and time involved. This maybe some one new, if new then understandable. In this case the guy claimed he had been in business 20 years, which I highly doubt, or he would know that it is just not practical for a rough dealer to do this. Truthfully it is not really practical for the customer either. Think of the hassle on his end, packaging and returning stones. Not even considering restocking fees which most dealers probably have.

2. This person is not a serious buyer. It is obvious. the stone in question was about $75. Buy one small piece and return 5-6 pieces? Most real cutters would say send the piece it is not much money and I think it will work. Especially if they ask and get some specifics about the rough in question either by email or if necessary on the phone before hand.

Note: If it is a good customer, I will try, but… this is still not a situation I would willing be involved in generally.

3. No customer service is not applicable here, the guy is not a customer he has never bought anything he is a looker asking for a very large favor.

4. There is such a thing as cost of doing business, if a business person cannot make a profit or at least see some future potential for good business then really it cannot be done and any good business person will not do it. Time is limited and whether it is me, or an employee I am paying there is just a certain amount of business that has to be done to make it even practical to fill a request like this. On a $75 dollar stone I am making $20 on? Well you see my point.

5. This person is telling me up front they want one little stone and they do not want to spend any money (send the rest back?). Re-stocking fees? The paper work alone (not counting, shipping and all the other things) would make me say… Sorry, no I cannot help you. I hate paper work.

6. There is a lot of work involved, pictures, billing, shipping, receiving, re-billing, crediting, re-posting and sorting the rough. Checking the rough, coming and going.

7. It is very obvious this person has no idea, or worse no respect for my labor and the effort this type of thing is going to entail.

8. What this person really is fishing for is for me to offer to memo rough to him. I do NOT memo. Even if I knew this person and had done business with him before, which I have not. Sending rough on memo is a hassle and as I have mentioned before a huge red flag for the IRS. No one needs or wants to deal with them. So do not ask.

9. The timing and how busy I am also have some effect. This particular person asked right on December 1. Christmas time is one of the busiest and most hectic times there is. In a slow period I may be more flexible, but in the busiest time of the year?

The customer is asking for multiple pictures of a stone that costs retail less than $75. On a more valuable stone maybe I could do this… Say at least $300 or more if the customer is not in a hurry and a past customer (so I know they are serious) I maybe able to take some pictures. It is understandable that on a large expensive stone they might want a picture. On some thing this small it is just not practical.

Note: I as well as most other rough dealers post pictures of larger valuable stones in the first place usually. Not always but most of the time. So often a picture is available.

But on a the stone that retails for less than $100 and I am probably making $20 or less on? I simply do not have the time or the interest to spend the time it would take to do this.

Here is what this will entail:

1. Pull the rough.
2. Photograph the rough from different angles and in various lighting. At least an hour, probably more.
3. Edit the photos of the rough, another hour maybe more. Anybody that has tried to take pictures of stones knows how difficult it can be to get a good picture.
4. Email the various finished pictures of the the rough.

Even if I did all the work of taking the pictures I probably am wasting my time with a guy that is not going to buy anything. Remember that this person has already told me they want to return stones. So I know going in he will be hard to please as well as not willing to keep a few stones that are inexpensive. Also remember this person is telling me up front they want to pick and select, which is fine. But more often than not a person like this should pick and select in person and save every one the time and trouble. Which means the odds are very high all my labor will be for nothing. The wording of his letter also tells me the odds of a sale are pretty poor. This guy is probably pulling this same routine on other rough dealers at the same time and going to send a lot of stones back (I am guessing). So the odds of even a very small sale for all this time and effort are slim to none.

What do you think my answer was? Correct. "Sorry I just do not have the time right now to take a picture and I really do not do business that way. I do not want all the returns." This is an honest up front answer. Of course the guy did not like the answer. This person immediately got nasty with me and said he would never do business with me and that he had never been treated so rudely in 20+ years of doing business. He also called me a few names and made statements about bad mouthing me publicly.

Well I was polite and just said sorry I cannot afford the time and declined doing it. I did answer him and I was polite. He was the person who got rude and then nasty. This of course confirmed my original decision to not do business with him in the first place. I really hope this guy goes to one of my competitors (one a I do not like, I like and get along with most of them) and does this whole time wasting and no profit routine with them. This is a case of I am much better off to just say "no thank you". This guy is a jerk and going to cause problems no matter what the rough dealer does, and even if a dealer managed to please him the first time this kind of guy with these types of requests will just get worse and sooner or later the rough dealer will have a serious problem with him. I have been there done that, I recognize the signs.

Now some people that want pictures just do not know really what they are asking for… Hopefully this article will help them realize that some times there is just no time and frankly no profit in filling a request like this. If a rough dealer does take a picture he is just being nice and trying to help a customer. But remember that most rough dealers just may not be able to take a picture. I or any other dealer that says sorry I do not have a picture, is not being rude or nasty. It is just being a practical and busy person in business. There is nothing personal, it is just not some thing that a lot of busy business people can do. If paying an employee, this type of request can be very expensive to do.

Note: I used to try to take photos when people asked and to tell the truth most of the people asking for a photo were not serious buyers in the first place and my effort and labor was almost always wasted.

So the point of this article is to think about what you are asking and when and how you are asking. Christmas time? Any business is likely to be very busy and just not have the time. During a slow time? Maybe. A small inexpensive stone? Well there is a point where the profit verse the labor just makes this request not doable. So keep in mind that even if a rough dealer is trying to help a customer, there is a limit. Remember that it is business, not personal. If you really want a picture and you are a good customer most rough dealers given some time will try. But if you have never done any business with them and asking for a look, do not expect too much.

Customer Multiple Orders and Returns - Here is an article that is of interest.

Jeff R. Graham

The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.

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