Do You Practice Final Inspection?
inOctober 25, 2007 - 4:36pm
If you regularly buy on the Internet then undoubtedly you are aware of how irritating it can be to receive an item that was described as being in excellent or undamaged condition, only to receive it and discover the piece actually does have some damage. Perhaps the damage is very small, or in an out of the way area on the item, but as a collector you know that even this small imperfection devalues the object.
Other than the fact that you now know it isn't worth as much as you might have initially thought, either in monetary terms or in terms of being a purist collector who seeks only perfect examples to add to a collection, it will and you didn't notice, but sometimes damage can also occur just clinking things around on a shelf while they are in storage and after you examined it previously with the proverbial fine tooth comb. And, believe it or not, items like glass can spontaneously become damaged without any other outside influence stronger than a change in temperature if a microscopic flaw was already present. Jewelry cements can dry out in storage and stones may become loose or fall out, to remain behind in the storage area or in wrappings.
Because of these factors, giving a customer's purchase a final inspection prior to sending it is the 'best practice' activity of a professional. If you aren't already taking this final step, we urge you to consider doing so, and making 'final inspection' a habit.
Some Quick Inspection Tips & Comments
For dealers who may not sell a lot of glass and who don't already know this, it's a good idea to run your fingers around every part of the piece. A lot of times, especially with colored glass, a small chip will be overlooked with the eye, but it can easily be felt with the fingers. But do so with a light touch. If there is a damaged edge hidden somewhere, it can be sharp. You don't want to cut yourself!
Ladies nylon knee-high hose can be very handy for the purpose of helping you find hidden chips or flaked areas on glass. Just slip one over your hand and run it over the piece. Any chips or “fleabites” should snag the nylon identifying an area of damage that easily could be missed.
Checking a piece of glass visually by allowing a strong, bright light source to shine through it as you turn it 360 degrees is also good idea. In this way you can catch flaws in the glass like internal stress fractures that sometimes can only be clearly seen from one angle. Inclusions, bubbles, or so-called 'straw marks' (imperfections in the glass that look like wrinkles) that were created at time of manufacture might also be present. While not strictly considered damage, they may be something a collector would want to know about and may affect the collectors desire for the item.
Even if you think you have an ‘eagles eye’, invest in a good jewelers loupe. 10X is a good all around useful power. Then use it to check items for small damages like pecks and hairline fractures that probably aren't going to be easily seen or felt. You may think this is taking the examination process to an insane level of perfection, but if your customer is an advanced collector, they certainly won't feel the same and you can almost bet there will be a loupe inspection awaiting the item on the other end. This can be true of all manner of objects, from jewelry to pottery to fine art.
Doing a 'sniff' test on some types of items is recommended. Books, paper, wooden boxes, even furniture can harbor an odor offensive to many people. If you are a smoker, you might need to actually take the item outside of your house and into the fresh air to 'sniff' before you will even be able to notice that the item does actually smell like cigarette smoke. If you smoke you might also find that the item is in need of cleaning again, or in the case of an item made of paper, it may be completely ruined if it now has a layer of sticky residue on the surface because there is no good way to completely remove smoke residue from paper.
Another consideration where smell is concerned would be if what you are preparing to ship to a customer had been mildewed or moldy at one point in time, but you cleaned it and it looks fine now to the naked eye. If when you 'sniff' it on final inspection you can still detect evidence of its previous state, don't ship without first alerting the customer to this problem and asking if they still want the item. A heady aroma indicative of mildew or spores from mold drifting off of a piece is not a respectable, or 'to be expected', indication of age. It is damage.
There are steps that one can take to minimize and in some cases completely remove a cloud of mold or mildew 'pong' that has attached itself to an item, but shop owner's need to be sure to mention any and all mustiness to a customer prior to shipping. Seen or unseen, mold is bad news. And if a customer has a sensitivity or allergy to mold - it could even make them sick. Potentially sending a good, but allergic, customer into anaphylactic shock 5 minutes after they unwrap the item you sent them is pretty much asking them to pay way too high a price for whatever it is you're selling.
OK - I Found Damage not Mentioned in the Description Just Prior to Shipping - What Do I Do Now?
You should email your customer immediately and let them know that you found damage on final inspection that was previously unseen. You might consider offering them a discount on the price, if they still want the item, but this is up to you. Customers will often accept a small discount and are more likely to be happy with a slightly damaged piece once they have a chance to look it over, since the damage was acknowledged to them ahead of time. If they no longer want the item, or a mutually satisfactory reduction in price cannot be negotiated, an immediate refund and cancellation of their purchase would be in order.
Do keep copies of correspondence concerning any damage you discovered until you are sure the transaction is complete and the customer is satisfied. If you will be canceling the purchase order and keeping the item, you should be sure to add the new information about the damage to the item description, if you plan to keep it listed in your shop.
Nobody is perfect, and most people understand that. But everyone hates those nasty little undisclosed surprises, which can be avoided by practicing a final inspection prior to shipping an item to a customer. On the other hand everyone appreciates and values forthright honesty, something to keep in mind.