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Dealer War Stories
The above cartoon humorously illustrates an exchange many dealers encounter at almost every coin show or coin shop. This customer/dealer interaction is only one type of scenario that I refer to as a dealer “war story.” In the legal field, we used the phrase “war story” to describe dramatic or contentious courtroom experiences or particularly frustrating or funny situations with clients or opposing counsel, etc. I also found this apt definition on the internet:
A recounting of a memorable personal experience, especially one involving challenge, hardship, danger, or other interesting features.
I know many of you collectors have had uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences when buying coins from a dealer at a show or at your local coin shop. Sometimes it makes you question whether you should continue in this hobby since these experiences can bring frustrations and even anger that you might feel are just not worth it. Well, of course, let me say that I personally love coins and wouldn’t want to have to give them up, even for the (thankfully) far-and-few-between unpleasant people I encounter as a dealer – both collectors and other dealers!
So I’d like to relate some stories about my experiences with a few disagreeable customers that will perhaps let you to see things from the other side of the table and at the same time allow me an opportunity to “vent” just a little and perhaps even elicit a little sympathy!
When dealing with all my customers, I always keep in mind that I am offering a service to collectors and my goal is to maintain good relations by making sure they are satisfied with the coins they buy from me. And when I encounter a difficult customer, no matter how strongly I may want to tell them how I feel about their bad behavior, I bite my tongue and try to behave professionally and courteously at all times. However, there have been times when I seriously wanted to let lose a few unlady-like explicatives, lock up my cases, take my coins, and just go home! Or when dealing with someone by email, I have had to step away from my computer, go make a rum and coke, turn on some good ol rock and roll, and deal with the situation tomorrow when hopefully it won’t irk me so much. By the way, don’t worry, I will not disclose names and certain details so as to maintain anonymity.
So here’s my first war story – I’ll call this one:
Let me begin with a little historical background. Mr. Impatient had bought some coins from me over the past couple years with no issues at all. Then one day I happened to win a coin he was selling on an Ebay auction. I promptly sent my PayPal payment, received the coin a short time later, no problem. A couple days after I received the coin, Mr. Impatient sent me a message through Ebay asking me to leave feedback. I responded that I would be happy to do so, however, I explained that it was my practice to leave feedback in bulk a couple times a month and that it might take a week or two, but I would get to it.
Two days later out of the blue, he sent me another message informing me that, since I wouldn’t leave him immediate feedback, he had “blocked” me as a bidder on his future auctions. “Wow,” I thought, “this guy was pretty impatient and in my opinion was ‘cutting off his nose to spite his face.’” I could understand blocking a bidder because they didn’t send payment, or took too long to send payment, but I’d never heard of someone blocking a bidder just because they wouldn’t leave prompt feedback. “Oh well,” I said to myself, “he’s not the kind of guy I’d want to continue doing business with any way if that’s all it took to get him peeved.”
Ok, fast forward a year later. Mr. Impatient saw a coin on my website he wanted to buy and emailed me asking for my best price. Well, I am taken aback to hear from this guy. If it was me, and I felt strongly enough to actually bar someone from bidding on my coins, you can bet I wouldn’t want to do any kind of business with that person. But I thought, hey, let bygones be bygones, and decided to forget about the past incident and I gave him a reduced price for the coin.
He agreed to buy it, but then began asking for “extras” like wanting a larger photo of the coin, could I send the coin to Rick Snow to Photo Seal, and a couple other “requests.” I emailed him that he could enlarge and copy the photo off my website, and I also offered as a friendly courtesy, that since I would be seeing Rick at an upcoming show, I could hand the coin to Rick at the show, thereby saving Mr. Impatient the to/from shipping costs, however, he’d still have to pay Rick’s $15 Photo Seal fee. He said ok and mailed a check.
In the meantime, since Mr. Impatient knew who had taken the picture of my coin (I’ll call him “Mr. Photo Guy”), Mr. Impatient contacted him directly and asked Mr. Photo Guy to send him a larger image (even though Mr. Photo Guy did accommodate Mr. Impatient, I personally thought this was out of line since Mr. Impatient was asking Mr. Photo Guy (behind my back) to spend his time editing the photo to suit Mr. Impatient without even offering to compensate Mr. Photo Guy). “Hmmm,” I thought, as a little warning bell began to ring and I started to feel I should have declined to deal with this guy from the beginning.
Shortly after that, Mr. Impatient decided he didn’t want to wait for me to take the coin to Rick but instead requested that I mail it directly to him. Well, Mr. Photo Guy still had the coin in his possession and was going to bring it to the same show Rick and I were attending, so now I had to ask Mr. Photo Guy if he would ship the coin to Mr. Impatient for me and I would reimburse him. “No problem,” Mr. Photo Guy said so I gave him the address and he shipped the coin by insured first class to Mr. Impatient for me. I then contacted Mr. Impatient to advise him that Mr. Photo Guy would be shipping the coin to him directly.
A week later (on a Friday), Mr. Impatient (who lived across the country) emailed me that he had not yet received the coin. I was in my car driving to a coin show at the time I received his message on my Blackberry (my son read it to me), so I had to contact Mr. Photo Guy and ask him if he would respond to Mr. Impatient’s email with the shipping date and tracking information, which he promptly did letting Mr. Impatient know that no tracking information was available at that time.
The next day (Saturday) while I’m at the show, I got a very rude and condescending email from Mr. Impatient questioning my professional reputation, asking why I did not respond to him personally about the coin’s whereabouts, that even though Mr. Photo Guy contacted him, why didn’t I care enough about his concerns to reply myself, etc.
“Wow,” I thought, “This guy really did have some issues.” Ok, I’ll admit that I probably could have replied directly to Mr. Impatient letting him know Mr. Photo Guy would follow up with shipping status, but since I was driving at the time I thought asking Mr. Photo Guy to respond was the most expeditious way of handling his request.
So I bit my tongue, swallowed the unlady-like words I wanted to type, and responded professionally explaining to him that I was driving at the time I received his message, Mr. Photo Guy had the information, that the post office was pretty slow lately, that I was sure the coin would arrive within a couple days, but that the coin was insured and he should try and be a little patient. He replied the next day, without any apology for his nasty email, stating that he would wait and be hopeful. I was later informed the coin finally arrived two days later on Monday.
The icing on the cake of this story is that I later learned (not from Mr. Impatient, but from a third party) that on the SAME day Mr. Impatient sent me his ranting email (Saturday), he had received a pink slip from the post office letting him know they tried to deliver the coin but that no one was home, and they would try again on Monday! “OMG!” is all I could say when I learned this. After all the hubbub trying to track the coin -- the emails, my phone calls with Mr. Photo Guy, all of the worrying about the coin, etc. -- why didn’t Mr. Impatient send me (and Mr. Photo Guy) a message letting us know that the coin was waiting for him at HIS post office – not to mention an kind apology would have been appreciated!
And the story doesn’t quite end here. After Mr. Impatient got the coin, he sent me an email letting me know he was quite pleased with it but also wanted his $15 Photo Seal fee returned. (I had planned to use it to reimburse Mr. Photo Guy for the shipping fee.) Again, I was shaking my head that, after all this guy put me and Mr. Photo Guy through, he wasn’t through “badgering” me.
Of course, I could have simply just refunded him the $15 and avoided all further conflict and put an end to the whole deal, but I was finished bending over backwards and couldn’t let this pass. So I sent him an email reminding him that I had to reimburse Mr. Photo Guy for shipping the coin to him. He responding saying that he didn’t feel he had to pay any shipping fee since he felt the original (reduced) price I quoted him for the coin should have included the shipping fee. I reminded him that my website clearly states the buyer pays for all shipping costs, and besides, we had never even gotten to the point of discussing the amount of the shipping since I had (graciously I thought) offered to hand carry the coin to Rick. He said that I should do whatever I felt was fair, so I did! After paying Mr. Photo Guy what I owed him, I refunded Mr. Impatient a few dollars and, for my own sanity, I promptly ceased all further communication with him. Geese, some people…..
This second installment of my “Dealer War Stories” has to do with a customer who could not make a decision and be satisfied with it – I’ll call him "Mr. Fickle." Mr. Fickle saw a beautiful PCGS MS65 RB two cent piece in my case, asked to see it, and thoroughly examined. This coin had beautiful luster with lots of eye appeal, but probably only about 30% red. Mr. Fickle said he was interested in the coin but wanted to think about it before making a final decision.
A few days later Mr. Fickle later called and said he wanted to go ahead and buy the coin and asked if we could meet, which I agreed to, no problem. He said he really liked the coin but wanted to cross it to NGC - I know, this is unusual and contrary to what most people usually do, but Mr. fickle said he was "anal retentive" and all his other coins were in NGC holders. (Looking back, I should have seen this first clue that this guy was a bit twisted!)
Mr. Fickle said he also wanted my guarantee that NGC would cross the coin. I told him I would give him a return privilege if it didn’t cross as MS65 but that I thought NGC might give it a brown designation and would not guarantee that NGC would give the coin the RB designation. He said he was ok with this and agreed to keep the coin as long as it crossed to MS65. So he went ahead and bought the coin,
The next week, Mr. Fickle called and told me, as I suspected, that NGC would cross the grade but not the color designation. And guess what? Mr. Fickle had the gonads to ignore our agreement and ask if I would again meet with him so he could return the coin. Wanting to keep my customer happy, I told Mr. Fickle that, even though he was reneging on our agreement, I would work something out with him and told him to just bring the coin to my next local show which was in a couple weeks.
So, of course, Mr. Fickle brought the coin to the show and, to keep him happy, I simply bought it back at the same price he had paid. But Mr. Fickle ended up staying at the show, wandering around looking at coins and began coming back to my table every hour or so to look at the coin which I had put back in my case for sale. Mr. Fickle finally asked if he could show the coin to another dealer which I had no problem with.
Another guess what? When Mr. Fickle brought the coin back, he said he wanted to keep it! WOW! (I later found out the other dealer told him it was a beautiful two cent piece, which it was, and that he was crazy not to keep the coin!) I stared at Mr. Fickle incredulously, asked him if he was in his right mind! He said he really liked the coin and didn’t think he could find a better example. After shaking my head, I eventually agreed to sell it back to him, but with the strictest caveat that this was it and I was COMPLETELY DONE dealing with him about this coin, that THIS TIME THE SALE WAS FINAL NO MATTER WHAT!
Well, a THIRD Guess What? A week later, Mr. Fickel had the gall to call me and ask to return the coin AGAIN! Geese, I couldn't believe it! I should have just hung up on him right then and there, but again trying to be professional and yet maintain good customer relations, I simply reminded him about our agreement, and that he agreed and understood the sale was final. Mr. Fickle responded that he really wanted to return it because now he felt he paid too much for it. OMG!
By now, I was pretty disgusted with this guy and can say I had never dealt with anyone like him ever! Yes, you can say I had a lot of patience with him (in spite of his fickleness and anal retentive ways, he was very nice and amenable). Well, as I mentioned, I strive hard to keep my customers satisfied even though it is extremely frustrating, so I was torn between telling him to get lost and not wanting him to walk away thinking he got ripped off. Yeah, I know, what a dummy I was!
I told him I would think about it, that I wasn't going out of my way to meet him, that he should bring the coin to my next show and I'd let him know whether I would take the coin back AGAIN! So I thought about it and decided that when he showed up at the show, I would charge him a $100 buy back fee for all the trouble and aggravation he caused me. He said he was ok with that.
Believe me, I know I was a sucker and let this guy play me like a fiddle, but I learned a lesson that sometimes you just can’t keep all your customers satisfied, and I will never go through this with anyone again!
A few months later, I saw Mr. Fickle at another show. He came up to my table and began looking at some coins in my case. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was just looking to buy some coins. I simply responded, "Not here, you're not." He looked up at me, saw I was serious, and meekly walked away.