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Our Busiest Week, Ever
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(September 24, 2005) Record gold prices this week brought out record amounts of trading in physical gold holdings. Many long-time gold-holders sold at the highest prices seen in 17 years, thereby filling the demands of buyers who feel that we’re on the brink of the biggest gold bull market since the Carter years.
First of all, let me apologize for any phone calls or emails returned slowly this week, and just say that we were busy. As always, our priorities are to take care of existing trades, whether that means wrapping and shipping exactly as promised, or getting out payment checks and bank-wires for receipt of gold shipments to us. Our second priority is to always be available during business hours to new customers. And this week, we certainly had those, in spades.

A bit of background: When I came to work here nearly twenty years ago to serve what was essentially a five-year apprenticeship in all aspects of precious metals, bullion, and refining, I was taught that Rule #1 was to always get the gold out when it is owed, and get the payment for gold out just as quickly. You can know everything there is to know about gold in all its aspects, but the business of gold is based on the reliability of your word. Without absolutely reliable follow-through on your commitments, you simply won't last long in the bullion business.

So when things get really busy, we may miss returning a phone call, or sending an email in a timely fashion, but that is primarily because of our dedication to Rule #1 – keep the gold and money flowing to where it is owed without delay.

Short story: I had a potential new customer call me this week. He liked our website, its transparency, the information about gold, ease of ordering, and so forth. He had only one question, “Why should I choose to do business with your firm?”

I paused, sort of stammered a bit, and really didn’t have a good answer for him. Finally, I told him that the reason he should deal with us is that we will actually take his order, fill it, and ship it exactly as promised.

That probably sounds pretty lame, unless you've personally experienced the various ways that gold is marketed to investors in this country. For instance, I recall another conversation I had with a one-time customer much earlier this year. He had placed a good-sized five figure order, his first with us, paid via bankwire, we shipped in two days, he received it in three more days, and he was calling me again a month later.

But instead of getting an order from him this time, I heard a tale of woe. It seems that when he placed his first order with us, he placed the identical order with another firm out West with a big Web presence, wired them the funds also, and now, 30 days later, all that he had received from them was excuses.

He had called the company repeatedly during that 30-day period, and he was told that the reason he didn’t have his paid-for gold yet was that “Krugerrands were hard to find at this time.” Which, of course, was total horsefeathers. The only reason a bullion firm wouldn’t have any to ship is that they weren’t willing to buy any, for Krugerrands are the most common of all the gold bullion coins, always available by the thousands just for asking.

No, the kindest interpretation of that outfit’s behavior was that they decided that they were going to fill the order whenever they got a chance to at an advantageous price, either in a lower market, or by waiting for someone to liquidate coins to them so they could widen their spread on the trade.

However, the more likely possibility is an even more despicable business practice endemic to the gold marketing business, a bait-and-switch strategy that goes like this:

If at first, you, the customer, don't go for any of their highly marked-up ‘numismatic’ offerings, they will reluctantly take your money for a bullion order. Time passes, and after a while, you start calling to ask ‘Where’s my gold?” Each time you call, they will relay some version of the ‘hard to find’ story and bring the conversation around once again to numismatic coins. I have heard versions of this scam dragging on for weeks and weeks - the firm has your money, and won't deliver what you ordered, but continually reminds you that they have some really promising numismatic coins in stock.

After a few weeks of this, the victim begins to despair of ever receiving his bullion coins. At some point, the idea of getting something from this firm that is holding his money hostage starts to sound better than nothing at all. After all, the salesman did say they had the numismatic coins in stock, and would even send them via overnight courier. Eventually, the victim relents, takes the numismatic coins, considers, or actually attempts, to contact the state's attorney general, and finally writes the whole thing off as a bad experience.

Heckuva way to run a business, eh? But in this virtually unregulated field, not as uncommon as you might think.

So to get back to the fellow who was considering all the different websites and companies in the gold business, and called to ask “Why should I choose to do business with your firm?” I guess my best answer is this:

We’re in the bullion business, and have been for 20 years. Our practices, reputation, and business ethics were built before there even was an Internet. We will take your order and ship on the exact day that we promise. And if you sell bullion to us, we will pay for it immediately without exception.

Running a business that way is not rocket science. Nor does it sound very impressive - unless you’ve experienced the rather ugly alternatives that are out there.

-Richard Smith

 

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