Strictly business: Charged up at the jewelry counter

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

OMG.

That's text slang for "oh my . . . goodness," just in case you're a non-phone-texting reader.

Anyhoo, OMG was my under-the breath reaction after a recent experience in the jewelry department of a regional variety store. The transaction got off to a great start, with smiles exchanged all around when I first stopped by the jewelry counter. I'd come to ask about getting a replacement battery for my old wristwatch, even though I'd love to go out and buy a new one.

The sales associate's "Sure, no problem" response was the kind every consumer wants to hear in a world where we're often ignored.

And her next statement, "I can have your watch ready in about 10 minutes," sounded like a sweet melody to my ears. (I had a bascart filled with grocery bags and some perishable items, and wanted to make just a quick stop before heading home).

"That would be great," I said.

Alas, the meeting turned sour at the cost of the battery and its installation. Oh, the $14 price was quite reasonable for parts and labor. But when the sales associate next offered a free battery and repair if I opened the jewelry store's credit card, I was stunned.

SMH. That's text code for "shaking my head."

Well, before I knew it, the application form and pen were on the counter in front of me.

"Just fill this out while I fix your watch," she said, as if I had no choice.

For a moment, it made sense to me. After all, who would choose to pay $14 for a free service?

But I quickly realized that's how a credit debt -- often carrying interest rates as high as 20 percent -- starts, dear readers. And I had just finished paying off most of my holiday spending and was in no mood to start paying again.

Well, why not?

Still, I thought, I was going to get my watch fixed anyway. Why shouldn't I save $14?

According to investopedia.com, sometimes the discounts attached to credit card openings "can help you offset the cost of the purchase, as long as you don't use the discount as an excuse to buy more stuff."

That's what national retailers hope and think we will do. And my sales associate was doing her company's bidding.

The stores know store-based credit cards instill consumer loyalty and that we're likely to spend more where we have a credit line. In my case, I ended up eyeing the jewelry department's expensive watches, thinking about replacing my old Pulsar watch with its plain white face and silver and gold band. They might have suckered me in if that darned old watch didn't keep such good time.

So, I'll tell you proudly, I resisted the impulse and told the store clerk, "No thanks."

Suddenly, she was the astonished one. I guess that doesn't happen too often.

LOL. That's code for "laugh out loud."

Cami Joner: 360-735-4532, http://twitter.com/camijoner or cami.joner@columbian.com