What Jewelry Would You Be Most Likely To Buy This Holiday Season

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fire Mountain Gems Responds

by Pippit Carlington
Well, this was predictable, but rather than to respond by saying that they are going to scale back its efforts to serve peddlers of lower-quality material in stone beads Fire Mountain Gems issued what appears to be a denial and self-justification for their move in that direction.

I encourage you to dispute their assertion that they do not offer less high quality items and more low-quality items than before. Doing so is one way you can affect positive change in the jewelry industry. If you feel they are not meeting your needs, that your products are being drowned out in the schlock and don't see what you want there then tell them about it and ask why it isn't offered.

Their letter is re-printed below;

Dear Pippit,

Thank you for your email. Your feedback is very important to us. Please be assured that your message will be brought to the attention of the appropriate departments. We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to write us and look forward to hearing from you again soon.
It is not our intent to influence the beading industry into excepting lower quality gemstones.

We offer a very broad range of low cost to high cost products to a very broad spectrum of consumers ranging from classes of small children to bead store owners. It is our goal to offer something for everyone. The 'promo beads' are an excellent way to introduce gemstones to new beaders who are generally hesitant to work with gemstones. In addition many customers prefer the natural and rough look of lower grade gemstones as opposed to the more uniform, polished look of A grade gemstones.

We have offered the promo beads on sale for nearly six months and they have by no means replaced our higher quality gemstones. We look at these beads as an opportunity to add more members to the steadily growing diverse beading community. We hope that this information assures you that we do not plan on lowering our standards or quality and only wish to add to our ever growing family of loyal beaders.

If you should have any further questions or comments, please feel free to reply to this email. You may also contact us via Live Chat by clicking the button below or contact one of our friendly Customer Service Representatives at 1-800-423-2319 during regular business hours.

Best Regards,

e-Service Contact CenterFire Mountain Gems and Beads

Many businesses' number one mistake is believing they can serve two masters (or be all things to all customers).

While Fire Mountain Gems says it is not their "intention" to influence the industry into accepting lower quality stone bead strands it has that effect anyway whether they want it to or not, and they are being short-sighted if they think that manufacturers and others who are less than scrupulous won't take advantage.

Besides, there is really no need to do this, as beads like agates and the pale green Serpentine commonly referred to as "New Jade" are very inexpensive and plentiful even when well-drilled with no flat spots and imperfections.

I believe there really is no justification for a supply company to recommend that buyers use defective stone beads by hiding them among bundles of others in hopes the eye won't notice. Let's be real; that really is trying to "get over". There's just no way to candy-coat it.

If in fact they want to encourage more people to start beading then the way to do that is to teach good core values of design and workmanship; not to say, "Good enough for government work" , "Don't and say you did", etc. There is a difference between taking creative license and just flat out cutting corners.

My grandmother had a saying. She used to say, "Do a thing right or don't do it at all." She came over from Russia at the age of 12 or 13 and when she met her husband the two of them worked their way out of the sweatshops and started a sewing business creating fancy, elegant clothes for people with lots of money. They didn't get there by using seconds to sew their garments or saying "Uh-oh there's a mistake; let's hide it and nobody will notice". They'd re-do it if necessary until it was up to par. They started with little money and their customers respected their work ethic and were willing to pay for it. They did not make clothes geared toward every market as that would have watered down their ability to create a niche market for themselves and would have scattered the little resources they had to start with.

At some point someone has to decide to be part of the solution or part of the problem and whatever it is you multiply and present to your customer will increase; be that quality or disposable product.

Yes, there are people out there who will buy crap but is that what you want to perpetuate or do you want them to appreciate quality? There are those who don't see the connection between beads and social responsability but there is one.

Like it or not; companies like Fire Mountain Gems are quickly turning into supply places for hobbyists and not for the serious business-owner. There is only so much room left when somebody divides their market between two demographics, especially when those demographics are at opposite (and competing) ends of the spectrum.

To give you an example; Do you know why extramarital affairs don't ever work? They don't work because there is only so much love, attention, time, etc. to devote in a day, and when it's divided between two lovers both of them get less. It is too much to juggle and often to financially afford. Things get neglected, key dates forgotten, and nobody involved really gets what they need out of it.

Can you see the parallel between that and choosing a market to focus on?

There are designers who also make this mistake and they spread themselves too thin, and run out of money, especially in this poor economy.

In a time in which many big companies are suffering financially, resorting to laying off employees, and even finding it necessary to close up shop, it is important for one to know what one is (and is not), and what one represents.

It just simply does not make sense to offer hot pink, cheesy plastic beads and fine gemstones. The money allocated for the hoaky pink beads does reduce what is left in the budget to purchase checker-cut lemon quartz, for instance, and it reduces the choices of checker-cut gemstone materials. They may have one or two but they will not likely have an entire page devoted to such high-end stones when they have spent money to fill up 2/3 of a catalogue with neon plastic hearts and second-rate gemstones they get by the Kilo.


jill Q said...

It seems that Fire Mountain Gems has been slipping in the eyes of many of their customers for quite awhile now. I read it often in pertinant messageboards and forums.

Personally, I haven't purchased from them in ages, and it doesn't appear that this will change anytime soon.

maryeb said...

Thanks for sharing their response. I haven't bought anything from them in a while either.

that's Headley! Jewelry Designs said...

Yep, the wallet has a pretty strong voice.

Giftbearer said...

Yes, me neither. After I stopped buying beads and findings from them I used to buy Art Clay Silver because they had the best price on it but that is no longer the case anymore, so now I buy nada! Even so, this fact seems to have escaped them that many have stopped buying (or else they're just "playing dumb)."

It could be that the real reason they're going after the hobbyist market is that they are losing customers like us in droves, so they're trying to make up the difference with low-cost/high-volume product.

It would be interesting to know how many customers have written them to tell them why they are no longer buying from them or to ask for specific items they are not stocking.

They can always attribute it to something else if people just quietly leave. I've seen alot of companies make statements like, "98% of our customers are very satisfied. We haven't gotten any complaints." They'll use the fact that many customers don't formally write them to twist the truth about customer satisfaction and to under-represent the number of dissatisfied customers who have stopped buying by chalking it up to the economy, etc.

I did check out the link to that woman's store who posted on the previous article, Beads and Pieces, and although they had some nice brass cubes, and a few other items that might be nice to buy sometime, they had nothing on my current priority list, and no really fine gemstone beads or stones for setting. Selection on many items was limited.

A Beaded Affair said...

I'm so happy to see someone bring up what I have been thinking for a long time and near and dear to my heart. My first experience purchasing beads from Fire Mountain a couple of years ago was also my last although until recently I did use them for sterling findings. Lovely pictures and descriptions followed by beads that don't live up to the pictures is a real pet peeve of mine and oddly, the reason I started selling online. I take the time to shoot the individual strands before posting.
I'm afraid Fire Mountain's response is typical of the attitude in business and really our country today. Quality, commitment and hard work are not valued the way they used to be. In our "throw away" world even jewelry isn't collected, valued, treasured and passed on. It's worn for a season and tossed in a land fill. Sad really and it only makes those of us that strive to acheive those values have to work all the harder to overcome the attitudes we are surrounded with. You will make it on shear determination. Good luck and keep writing. I look forward to more articles.

Dave Robertson said...

Pippit, thanks for this unique series of posts. This is recommended reading. I'm glad to see consumers insisting on quality and honesty from their suppliers. Not just with gemstones but with all beads & findings.

Keep up the fine work!

at Rings & Things