This article appeared in
July, 2009

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Communication Between Collectors, Dealers, and the Rest of the World

Some would argue there are too many ways to communicate these days. There is MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting, blogging, and web sites, not to mention ancient technology like mail, email and telephones. This tremendous proliferation of communication has appeared with no balance and no sensibility. How many youngsters have you seen texting their fingers raw when a simple phone call would do? Where’s the balance? How many people have you seen shouting into their cell phones, completely oblivious to their surroundings? Where’s the sensibility?

Collectors are not immune to communication imbalance. There are collectors who have posted their entire collections on personal web sites. They seemingly have no sensitivity to the dangers they may be exposing themselves to. There are crooks and criminals in every town on the planet. Unless collections are physically protected, it make no sense for collectors to tell thieves where to find their precious valuables. This is over-communication of the dangerous kind.

There is also over-communication of the annoying kind. Let’s face it; there are some very zealous collectors out there. Sooner or later, every dealer attracts a few. Those kinds of people write, email, and call with no provocation, wanting to talk about nothing at all. While the passions of most collectors are fun, there are a few whose passions verge on scary obsession.

Overly easy communication methods have fueled those kinds of collectors. Dealers can avoid many by watching for warning signs. Zealots often use little punctuation and their thoughts seldom coagulate into distinct paragraphs. They tend to be overly fond of abbreviations and they often seem allergic to using capital letters. They sometimes ramble for pages, sooner or later touching on unrelated subjects, particularly religion.

Don’t get me wrong. Dealers can over-communicate almost as badly. I ran into one obnoxious coin dealer that inundated me with barrages of email, sometimes numbering two or three a day, ten or more a week. Believe me, if I had been as rich as their marketing implied, I would have bought the company and fired the marketing department!

In my opinion, stock and bond dealers have quite the opposite problem; they under-communicate. Only a few certificate dealers do any email marketing and it tends to be minimal. This is the other side of the communication balancing act.

I hate to tell those kinds of dealers, but seldom-updated websites do not constitute active communication. In some respects, static websites are akin to finding ads in old newspapers — historically interesting, but neither good communication nor good marketing.

I don’t intend to talk about marketing here. I want to talk about simple decency in communication. Every couple months, contributors complain about non-communication from dealers. Every story is different, but they remain remarkably similar. Here is an excerpt from a complaint I received in early June. “All three of these dealers are ones I have done business with in the past and have made multiple purchases from. But frankly, in the past year or so, I have had more poor communication experiences with "traditional" dealers than I have ever had with casual or semi-professional sellers in all of my transactions on eBay.”

It is not hard to communicate. Dealers should communicate with their customers the way they would like if their roles were reversed. I don’t care how big or busy dealers may be, there is no excuse for non-communication. These days, dealers should be able to answer inquiries with email in minutes with fewer than 50 words. Unless their customers object, dealers should seldom need to touch stationery, address labels, envelopes, and stamps. Communication is easier today than at any time in the past.

Balance in the act of communication is terribly hard. Awareness is crucial. Collectors, go ahead and share your collections with the world. Just make sure you never communicate where you live. There are bad guys out there. Use free anonymous email accounts and divulge minimal personal information.

And dealers, please communicate more. Not just a little more, but ten times more. Constant communication with your customers is easy, easy, easy. Answer inquiries as soon as they come in and answer them in as few words as possible. If you don’t have a web site, get one. Even a free, static, single page web site is better than none. Google offers them for free. If nothing else, use static web sites to tell people know how to reach you. If you don’t have a computer, get one. Trying to do business without ready access to the rest of the world is like not having a mail box or a telephone. Your competitors use technology tools and they are taking business from you every single day.