A Professional Opinion

Doctors. Law enforcement officers. Judges. Manicurists. These professions require a range of qualifications, but to practice them ethically (and legally, minus the manicures) the chief requirement is the ability to tell the truth. Always. Regardless of a person’s feelings, other wants and needs, or how that truth may impact the lives of others.

But for many other professions, telling the (whole) truth can be a risky business practice indeed. I’m not talking basic factual information here — yes it’s cashmere, no it isn’t leather, yes, it comes in green, etc. — but the part of a business transaction that involves an opinion.

From your hair stylist to your jeweler (hi there!) to the people who run those fun little wine-and-painting parties, they’re all still in business now because they’re able to walk a fine line between truth and a bit of stretched, um, fiction. The proverbial little white lie can be incredibly useful, when deployed with tact, diplomacy, and integrity.

Wait — integrity, you ask? Isn’t a lie of any kind, by definition, totally devoid of such a thing? Allow me to use an example straight from a day in my life.

Customer: What do you think of this bracelet? I’d like something to wear on special occasions.

Me: I think that piece can certainly be dressed up. The gold accents and high polish finish already give it a more formal look.

Customer: Yes, I think so too. And I really love it. But… (she turns to face me straight on) I really want to know what you think about it. Does it look right? Isn’t it gorgeous?

You all know what I said here. You know I told her that she loves it, it fits her description of what she wanted, and it’s a versatile piece she’ll wear often. You also know that I uttered not one peep about whether I personally think it’s gorgeous, but that it’s gorgeous on her. And of course she purchased the item, because everything I said was true.

What I didn’t say was that I think the bracelet is gaudy and clunky, and that I’m so glad she loves it because it’s been in the store for what feels like forever and I’m sick of looking at it. That’s a personal opinion that is totally irrelevant to both my customers in general and that sale in particular, and it has no business getting in the way of… business.

The fine jewelry industry has long been plagued with what I’ll call the bad apples. There are still places and people who are only out for the buck, and would happily sell a professional rockclimber an emerald eternity band to wear as an “everyday ring” just because they could. This kind of practice has no place in this business because it only comes back to harm the integrity of the industry as a whole, and I categorically condemn any business that allows or encourages used-car-salesman tactics. Those bad apples are telling lies — harmful untruths that stem from laziness, a total lack of integrity or ethics, and that ultimately serve to undermine the trusting relationship the good apples work so hard to build.

Our job is to educate consumers and help them navigate a highly emotional, mostly blind purchase. My professional opinion gets time in the spotlight when asked if a ring is too big, a setting is loose, or a chain is too light. It stays tightly locked behind my teeth in most other situations.

Yes, those earrings are very pretty. No m’am, I don’t think those galoshes make your calves look too big. That will be an interesting 10-page-paper topic, Jimmy. Your engagement ring is beautiful. Honey, this chicken tastes great!

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