Whataya gonna do….sue? At least complain (Op-ed with Ted)

You just bought fine jewelry over the internet. You shopped several dealers offering diamonds certified by major laboratories and found a company with a much better deal than the others. Their diamonds were several grades better for the same money, in fact , their deals were “TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE”.
While the grading “labs” used weren’t the familiar GIA (Gemological institute of America – Gem Trade Laboratory) or AGS, (American Gemological Society Laboratories) they still had three initials and were represented as “independent’ so you made the purchase. Then, to acquire insurance, you visit NGL for an appraisal……only to have your bubble burst.
We, unfortunately do a lot of bubble-bursting i.e. informing the client the grading is way off, the diamond has been clarity-enhanced without proper disclosure, etc. But, what is surprising is that most of our clients in this scenario either make a polite return (if allowed) or keep the jewelry anyway! Because the “value” amount on our appraisal is usually similar to what was paid, the client GOT WHAT THEY PAID FOR. They were just mislead when the qualitative aspects were grossly inflated.
Do they have recourse? Since most courts view damages as the monetary discrepancy between what was paid and the appraisal value, many think no. But what if the approach were to gain “the benefit of the bargain” by demanding the promised quality? In the hundreds
of such cases we have had, only a couple clients have pressed the internet jeweler to send what they promised. Since only a very, very small percentage of consumers do this, it doesn’t hurt the jeweler if they occasionally make good on their promises. Of course, if all wronged consumers did that, the jeweler would be losing money and that is precisely how you change such practices.
Northwest consumers are fortunate in the fact that our local bricks and mortar jewelers are some of the most reputable in the country and quick to investigate an alleged discrepancy, which often tend to be minor or a matter of “professional opinion”.
There is a big difference, however when you can’t see the jeweler, handle their merchandise and personally confront them if a problem arises. So one needs to investigate virtual jewelers on how they represent themselves, their merchandise, and stand behind their promises – and don’t rely on the “positive feedback” section their web listing. Talk to a real person and tell them you are having your independent appraiser verify their grading. Tell them you expect the quality to be as promised, replacement with the stated quality if not, or a financial adjustment if the grading is off and you still want to keep the piece.
Since most reputable internet dealers tend to use only AGSL and GIA for diamond
grading reports, they won’t be the ones priced way under the rest of the market. And, while there are other respected laboratories out there, the consistency does drop off after the “big two”. The issue comes more into play when the “labs” are merely producing “paper” for the jeweler and their grading (see our last newsletter) seems to be significantly high relative to the asking price. That’s your red flag.
In a recent conversation with a consumer advocate personality I know, I brought up the prospect of a news feature on the prevalence of internet jewelry fraud. His response was “That isn’t news… ……..it’s assumed.” So, protect yourself and remember you have a friend in the diamond appraisal business (that would be us).
The rest is up to you.

Ted

P.S. The Accredited Gemologists Association (of which we are a Certified Lab) has produced a consumer complaint form to report fraud or deceptive practices. It can be procured from their website http://www.accreditedgemologists.org/. along with instructions and possible courses of action.

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