My 10-year-old son, Zachary, and I just returned from an otherwise wonderful five-day trip to Seattle, which we took after spending three days in Colorado Springs at the ANA Summer Seminar. My son and I took courses in error coins, as well as grading paper money.
We had the wonderful opportunity to stop at coin stores whenever we were on the way to a Seattle attraction, so we got to visit with about four dealers in all different parts of the city. At age 52, I come from the era of “if you don’t have something good to say, then don’t say it.” However, I felt compelled to write about our experience with the coin dealers we encountered.
We both felt that all but one of the dealers appeared to be “disinterested” in us as customers. At the last dealer we visited, my son (who is interested in fractional currency) came to me and asked in a feeble voice, “Is it wrong for me to ask the shop owner to take out the currency so that I can see it and decide if I want it?” Having already felt in this shop that we were perhaps “burdening” the owner (we really were just perusing the merchandise), I explained that he should be able to ask as many times as he wanted to and that it was the only job that the dealer had – essentially that was his job, to show us his merchandise.
While he is only 10 years old and somewhat unsure of himself, he is extremely bright and insightful. What 10-year-old (who by the way was just elected vice president of our city’s local coin club) walks in and asks to see the “fractional currency” collection?
Wanting to check out my son’s perception, I walked over to the owner and asked about an error coin that I had picked out that was marked “counterfeit.” Having just come from the ANA error coin course and always wanting to learn more about the hobby, I asked about the coin, which had a clipped planchet. I asked in a very inquisitive and non-argumentative way why he thought it was counterfeit. His response shocked me: “If you don’t like the coin, you don’t have to buy it.”Needless to say our visit with that dealer was cut short and we left with a bad taste in our mouth. Our experience at one of the other dealers was similar, feeling once again that we were burdening the owners to ask to see anything.
Being a business owner myself, this gave me the unique opportunity to explain to my son the three “A’s” that make a business successful: affability, affordability and availability. He got it! If there is anything that I can thank those curmudgeon dealers for, it is the teaching opportunity that they gave me with my son on these basic principles of salesmanship and business.
Perhaps with the current recession, and given the fact that most coin shops are enjoying strong sales these days, these few dealers just could not be bothered by a young numismatist and his dad looking for some special treasures and information to add to our collections. Maybe when coin sales soften again, they will remember that good customer service is as important as a key date coin and that having a 10-year-old in the shop protects their future business because they will become future customers.
I want to reiterate that this was only two of the four shops. Our experience at the other two shops was much more benign. Yet, this still represents 50 percent of the shops that we visited and we have experienced this from occasional dealers at shows (though most dealers at shows have been very gracious).
If you are a coin dealer reading this (and especially if you are the specific dealer that we visited) or if you care for the customers that cross your door like this, please remember who ultimately signs your paycheck: the customer!
Andrew and Zachary Norris are coin collectors from Fort Collins, Colo.
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