Q: I’ve been wondering about this for a while now and haven’t figured out how to handle it. I sell beaded jewelry and have my pieces on consignment at a number of shops. Occasionally, a show owner will call to tell me a customer has broken her piece of jewelry and she’s asking me to fix it. Am I responsible for these repairs for the life of my work? The breakage isn’t due to any manufacturing problem on my part. Part of me wants to do it for the PR. Where do I draw the line, or do I just suck it up and do it?
—Barb Lippert, via e-mail
A: In this situation, it is best not to draw the line too quickly—from time to time, jewelry breaks and needs repair. Of course, you’re not responsible for jewelry breaking or lost earrings, but you are the logical one to fix what you’ve made. However, you should be paid for this work. As you figure out what to charge for repairs, remember that you are providing a service to your accounts and their customers. You’ll want to be paid, but perhaps not as generously as for your production time. (On the other hand you might decide that the interruption in your production routine is expensive and charge accordingly.)
A lost earring is a bit different. If you’re still making the style in question, you could sell a single for half the cost of a pair plus a surcharge. Items you no longer produce present a more difficult decision, since it might be time-consuming to find the materials needed. In this case, it would be fine to say you’re no longer producing the style and can’t replace the lost piece.
Most shops have a system for dealing with repairs. In addition to contact information, each artist’s section of the system might include recommended care guidelines and the types of repairs available. Since you work on consignment, prepare a repair policy and forward it to your accounts so they know how to proceed should this happen again. Then when a customer shows up with a broken item, the transaction can be handled efficiently and professionally. Typically you will get a call or e-mail describing the work to be done. You can then provide a quote before any work begins. When the customer approves the repair and quote, the piece will be sent to you. Providing repair service builds the relationship between yourself and your retailers. A customer will be comforted knowing they can get a special piece repaired and may very well come back and purchase another as a result.