Omaha, NE—Billionaire financier and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett took to the sales floor at Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry during the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ weekend meeting, held here last weekend.
For two hours on May 6, he manned one of the store’s counters, selling jewelry, chatting with customers (mostly his own shareholders), posing with them for photos, and signing autographs.
Berkshire Hathaway owns Borsheims, as well as retailers Helzberg and Ben Bridge, and supplier conglomerate Richline. As owner of the company, Buffett was allowed to discount, which he did several times—offering a “Crazy Warren” price to get a piece sold.
A Borsheim's customer squeals with delight. We're not sure if it's because she just got engaged or because Warren Buffett closed the sale! (Photo: Borsheim's)
But the 83-year-old finance whiz didn’t need to rely on discounts. Not only were customers lined up to buy from him—some from as far away as Australia and Brazil--but as a former salesman, he knew just how to charm a not-quite-ready customer into buying.
Susan Jacques, right, Borsheim's CEO, offers tips to her newest star salesman, Warren Buffett. (Photo: Borsheim's)
Click here to read more on the Borsheim’s blog, and to access a video of Buffett in action at the sales counter.
Separately, BH's Richline division debuted a new jewelry vending machine during the annual meeting. The kiosk, created by VIGIX, has a footprint of only two square feet and looks somewhat like a cross between a vending machine, an ATM, and an airport check-in kiosk. Information is presented on a touch screen, and purchases are made with a credit-card swipe. No scrummaging around for change.
Like other jewelry vending machines already in use around the world, this one is designed to dispense low- to mid-priced product, and be placed inside mass retailers, though the test unit was selling gold coins and some silver jewelry from Borsheims. But with vending machines these days offering everything from iPods to a glass of cabernet sauvignon, can the vend-gagement ring be far behind?
The test kiosk, bearing a likeness of Warren Buffett, sold gold coins and silver jewelry at the Berkshire Hathaway expo last weekend. Richline marketing director Mark Hanna said the coins bearing Buffett's likeness sold best. But, we're curious: didn't Buffett just tell BH shareholders not to invest in gold?