Listening to Myself
Generally speaking, nobody pays any attention to me. My wife never listens, and my employees have learned to nod and smile at appropriate times – but they don't listen either.
When I talk to some customers, their eyes glaze over after 90 seconds, and often, one will doze off.
None of this deters me, however, as I no longer gauge success by the level of impact on the listener. I grade myself after each customer encounter.
("I was pretty good even if he didn't react to anything," I said. "How could I know the fellow spoke no English? I guess I'll have to brush up on my Cantonese," I muttered to myself.)
That was the start of a difficult day and the following actually happened. A new customer called with a challenge. He never really gave me a chance to present my views (another non-listener). I hope he reads what follows:
New Customer: "What would Camino Coin's price be for 20 ounces each American Eagles, Canadian Maples, and Krugerrands? I want the order prepaid and insured. Please fax me the net price and if you are low dealer, you've got the order."
Burt: "Sir, how many dealers will I be competing against?"
New Customer: "Let's see, you're the 6th or 7th and I'm calling one more."
I worked up some competitive prices and sent him a fax. A 60-ounce gold order is nothing to sneeze at.
I haven't heard from him yet, so I presume somebody beat my numbers. Being competitive is one thing, but if a dealer is always the cheapest, he could be courting disaster.
I agree with the New Customer that price is very important, but there are other things the buyer might want to consider:
1) Who is he dealing with on the phone? Is it a commission salesman? Whom does he talk with if there's a problem? Most dealers don't want to rip anybody off. It's when a problem comes up that you find out what kind of folks you're dealing with.
2) How does the company handle a lost shipment? Yes, all parcels are insured, but this is still a toughie. There's no standard industry policy I know of, but the customer can judge the dealership by their demeanor when it becomes clear the coins are lost.
3) What is company policy regarding payment? Do they require "good-funds?" If a personal check is OK, how long before merchandise is shipped?
4) Does the company maintain an inventory, or are all shipments coming from a 3rd party? (There is nothing necessarily wrong with 3rd party fulfillment, but the buyer should know it.)
5) What is the company's buy-back policy?
6) Is the company concerned with "Privacy Issues"? (This is a tough one to deal with by phone, but while chatting, you can get some feeling for the dealership's sensitivity to your privacy.)
7) Are they on your "wave-length"? Have they heard of Ron Paul or Harry Browne? The salesman doesn't need to be a supporter of the Mises Institute – it wouldn't hurt – but he should have some comprehension of "sound-money."
8) Are these fellows selling me bullion coins today at competitive prices only to get me in their file to pressure me over rare coins next time? Also, are they trading or selling my name to someone else?
Is this asking too many questions? Hell, no.
Let's see, 60 ounces of gold, that's about $22,000. You used to be able to buy a house for that. To the smaller buyer, one ounce of gold is a big deal.
Don't ask these questions after the fact.
Now that I'm on a roll, and you may still be listening, here are some other pearls. Actually, they are more like "No-No's."
When buying bullion gold, do not buy medallions (privately minted). Only a government can issue coins (money). I am not being a statist here. All I'm concerned with is liquidity for the customer. Coins have it, medallions don't.
Avoid any new government issues, even bullion coins. For example, the US Mint was considering a pure gold American coin to replace the 22-carat Eagle. If they do and it's as nice as it sounds, let the new item establish itself in the marketplace before you buy one. Liquidity again.
Avoid any proof or mints sets produced by any mint, especially the US Mint. These items are over-priced and can usually be bought a year or so later in the "after-market" for less than the original issue price.
Don't get suckered by special series of coins or medallions. I have a pal who loves antique automobiles and purchased a series of 100 medallions honoring these junkers. With what they cost him, he might have bought a real Mercedes.
When selecting a coin dealer, his reputation should always be top priority. But be sure you have the right dealer for the right occasion. You may have a terrific coin shop in your neighborhood, but he may not be the right fellow to sell you 10 Krugerrands. Division of labor.
Finally, never do any business by phone — unless you initiate the call.
Wait a sec: I think I already told you that last week. My apologies. Now I know why people stop listening.
February 21, 2003
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