Experience Engagement Ring Shopping

For those of you zinging me about a lack of posts, I apologize. I've been a bit distracted lately -- I got engaged last weekend and I think my head is still spinning from it all! The best way to describe the feeling is that of dizzying joy. My current state of mind, however, is a bit "spaced out."

Over the past month... at the instruction of my fiancee, I looked for rings in an attempt to find a setting I liked. We're in the unfortunate position of being in different states which made coordination a challenge. After a few visits to some jewelers, I promised myself I'd write about the experience! Talk about an industry that could use some improvement! Let's use this as a parallel:
Imagine that you are interested in buying a car. You head into a dealership and find that the showroom is filled with a lineup of miniature models that are more economical to produce and save floor space. In the minature show room, you do get to see a 3D version of the car, but you can't sit in one because your butt won't fit in the seat. You can't drive it because some of the features aren't real. The salesman argues that the mini versions still give you the idea of what the car is like, but you don't know really how it fits you and you're left feeling dissatisfied.

While you're kicking the tires, you lift the hood of the car, but instead of an engine, there's either a gaping hole, a picture of an engine, or a cheap, plastic model of an engine in its place. You're asked to imagine the real thing - but you can't start it up and hear it purr yourself.

Say you're still interested in the car - but you want a different available model. In response, they show you a printed catalog with a photo. The dealership then proceeds to tell you that they'd be happy to order it for you at your expense, and if it doesn't work out, you can exchange it for another car. Uhhh. Yah.
If car shopping were like this, how much would it motivate you to purchase?

This is the equivilant of modern-day engagement ring shopping, for me. If you think about the parallel, it's really not too far off - especially considering the cost of the investment one makes when purchasing a ring.

Mini modeling.... Let me be clear: I don't have giganto man hands or chubby fingers. I'm a size 7, which I'm told is quite average. However, after visiting more than seven stores and being forced to cram rings over my throbbing knuckle ... after removing wedged on rings with windex (which actually became my best friend) and listening to every jeweler tell me "Yeah, I don't know why they don't send us larger sizes! People complain about this alot"... I find it ludicrous that the jewelry manufacturers send most sample rings in size six!

I was interested in how the ring felt on: Was it to chunky? Would it roll? Did it sit nicely on my finger... etc. You can't tell this when it's on your pinky finger. All tolled, the size of the ring had a decided impact on my comfort level with a setting. This is especially true when one considers that changing the size of a ring can also change look of the setting entirely, and may require stone size adjustments.

While the jewelers offered to order a display ring in my size - or any other ring in their print catalogs, their assumption was that my fiancee would pay for the special order. They explained that if we were dissatisfied with the setting, we could simply exchange the ring for another one. Frankly, that seemed like a ludicrous thing to ask, and I didn't want to be exchanging a ring my love had generously gotten for me!

As for the gaping hole and picture of the engine... Trying on a setting with no diamond in it just doesn't work, folks. Even if the jewler "tweezes" a stone and holds it over the setting for you. How can you possibly know if you like a ring unless all the stones are set and you look at it from multiple angles. Sticking a CZ or two in the ring is better than nothing - although it's not quite the same to the discering eye. In the end, it would seem to me that showing the rings with very good quality diamonds would be the place to start for selling the merchandise, but I suppose I'm being an idealist.

Departing from the car parallel, one other thing that irked me about the process- and that was the almost total disconnect between the web sites of these major (and minor) jewelers and the in-store experience. It would seem intuitive that the future bride would be able to select settings and have the jeweler email an "info sheet" (or link to a web page with pricing and options) to the future groom. It would seem intuitive that the jewelers would help facilitate the transaction in some way. But nooo. Half the rings that were displayed in the store weren't on the web site -- and vice versa. Some jewelers weren't willing to give me stock numbers and manufacturer information of the rings. EGAD!

Now, I'm sure there's some economics that go into these dynamics. For example, the practice of sending smaller samples into the stores. Obviously, the smaller the ring, the less metal there is - and the bigger the diamonds look. However, the economics at play may well be costing some jewelers very good sales, today.

The national and regional jewelers we visited lost my ever diligent and extremely patient fiancee's business because they made us jump through WAY too many hurdles. They showed us too many rings, overwhelmed us with a lot of detail, made us use our imagination to the point where our heads hurt, and made us want to go away - not stay and make a choice.

In the end, the jeweler we liked best was a small, family-owned high end jeweler that had about four cases full of beautiful, carefully selected rings. Every ring was displayed with stones - all of them were lovely. The staff was laid back and extremely friendly, and they were great about outlining pricing to my fiancee in a discrete manner. They didn't preach at us, but educated us when we asked about the rings and stones. They helped make us aware of many considerations of the purchase and gave us managable options that made us want to do business with them.

In the end, I picked my setting, he picked the stones and we got a lovely ring that he put on my finger the day before easter on a bridge over the Big Sioux river. I must say, as bad as engagement ring shopping can be, there's simply NOTHING that could rob me of the joy of doing this with soon-to-be husband. After all, I got the REAL prize when I met him... and that's kind of the point of it all. :-)

I just thought the experience of the ring shopping was worth mentioning. Maybe some smart jewelers will change things up a bit and see if store conversions rise as a result! As we plan our wedding, I'm sure there will be more fun stories emerging. But heck, maybe I'll avoid some of those pitfalls and just get married on a beach somewhere! Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS, Leigh! That's great news! I agree with you totally about engagement ring shopping - my wife and I went through the same thing. The entire process of getting married seemed like a racket, to me, and I didn't have to deal with half of it! Just keep focus on the true goal and your joy will stay intact.

Kelly said...

Pantie Free ring shopping! LOVE IT!! :-) This is a great post - I hope to experience it one day myself...

Anonymous said...

This long lost friend from Oregon just wants to say congatulations.
I'm wishing you every joy!

LivePath said...

Who is my long lost friend! Reveal yourself and contact me!

:-D - Leigh

JMM said...

Okay, so I am not the previous, long-lost poster above nor am I from Oregon but I have lost contact with you and I too would like to extend a hearty congratulation to you.

LivePath said...

John Mark Mitchell - is that you! Email me! I miss you!!!

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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