I am a hairstylist with a shop in my home. I also sell jewelry and hair care products. The other day a client I’ve known 15 years inquired about my jewelry on behalf of her friend.

     She asked me to mention the jewelry to her best friend who was getting a haircut later that day. After she left, I decided to pick a few pieces from my personal collection and place them in a tray to show the friend.

     When the friend arrived, she was pleased to see I had so many beautiful pieces. She thought they were for sale. I told her they weren’t, but I would lend them to her. She was thrilled! She picked out a pair of earrings and a bracelet. While I was putting the items in a jewelry pouch, she kept looking and making comments about how beautiful the pieces were.

     I didn’t think anything of it, but she seemed in a hurry to pay and went to her purse to get money. I did her hair, we talked, and when I was done she left. She reassured me she would return the jewelry upon her return from her class reunion.

     When I put my jewelry back in its place, I noticed a necklace was missing. I started thinking maybe I didn’t put it out or it fell somewhere, but I checked everywhere and couldn’t find it.

     These two women I’ve known for so long I can’t imagine either of them capable of taking something. They know how I have struggled as a single mom. I dismissed the thought and rechecked everywhere. The necklace is not in my possession and she was the only one in my house looking at jewelry.

     I just wanted to help somebody out! I hate to say it, but I now believe she took a necklace worth at least $250. How do I handle this situation?

     Yolanda

     Yolanda, just because a person is a longtime client, it doesn’t mean they are honest. Just because a jewelry store keeps their valuables in glass cases, it doesn’t mean they think you are dishonest. They are just exercising caution.

     You put the jewelry in play. You brought it out and put it at risk. You risked it might be lost in an airport or stolen from luggage or taken from a hotel room.

     When you lend, what is the “what if?” What if it is lost? What if it is damaged? Does the borrower understand what you would then expect? Do they know what will happen if they don’t return it?

     As much as you are proud of your jewelry, it is for your use alone. You risked losing a client when you stepped over the bounds of business into the personal.

     Wait until your client comes back. It may be she didn’t want to ask, or thought she had asked, or believed she had the pick of what to borrow. You can’t easily accuse her of theft because you allowed her to borrow your jewelry.

     If she returns the other jewelry without returning the necklace, ask, “And did you want to keep the necklace a little longer?” That way, you are giving her a chance to say she forgot to bring it in.

     If she denies she has the necklace, eat the loss and learn a lesson. If you confront her, whether she took it or did not take it, you may have lost a client, possibly two and possibly more. If you make this woman and her friend mad, what they might say to others could decimate your business.

     But if you keep them as clients, you have a chance to recoup the loss. Up-sell them every time they come in.

     You cast your necklace out into the world and this may be the lesson you learned. Your necklace may now have a life of its own.

     Wayne & Tamara