The ads are cheesy as all get out: “Buying Roadshow” “Instant Cash For All” “Will pay up to 1100%” in giant block letters and starbursts. And the crazy thing is that they’re really good at packing in suckers eager to sell their “scrap jewelry,” dreaming of riches, but eventually convinced to be happy walking away with a few bucks. Over at Harper’s Magazine, ex-jeweler Clancy Martin takes apart these ads piece by piece and reveals what really goes on behind the black curtain. For instance:
But the key phrase in this ad is “up to.” And indeed, once can pay “up to” almost any price for the right piece of jewelry; these characters would happily pay “up to three or four hundred thousand dollars for the Hope Diamond” (but they would start you off in the teens). Every piece they price is “up to,” and every evaluation is a “free verbal evaluation,” and every private room contains a person whose job it is to explain to you why your piece is only worth the value of the scrap metal.
“Your sterling silver is the most common type on the market, or an incomplete set: so we have to scrap it, and we pay the price of the scrap silver weight, less a percentage for the smelter.”
Your diamonds? “Look under the microscope and see all of the flaws. You wouldn’t even want to wear it, much less expect a lot of money for it.” Your jeweler’s appraisal, that you brought in your pocket? “Did he charge you anywhere near what he appraised it for? No. That’s one of their tricks. To make you think you got a bargain.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the thrill of living through Steinbeck’s The Pearl but don’t live near an ocean, a jewelry buying roadshow is your next best chance.
Stay tuned tomorrow when we run an advance excerpt of Clancy’s piece All That Glitters: An Ex-Jeweler Reveals the Art of the Swindle, from the June issue of Harper’s.
Buying Roadshows: The Pheromones of Cash [Harper’s]