Intimidation Doesn’t Pay

I’m not much of a shooter or hunter. I like guns, enjoy shooting and love eating wild game, but I don’t know a great deal about guns or hunting. I’ve always been focused on fishing. And while it’s true that I own a few guns, I mostly keep them around to protect my fishing stuff.Occasionally, though, I find myself in a gun store. Maybe I’m there with a buddy who’s shopping or maybe I’m there to pick up some bullets or shells. And when I’m in a gun store, I’m always paying very close attention to how things are set up, how the sales staff operates and the basic differences between gun shops and tackle shops. Some of those differences seem universal.

The first difference I usually notice is that gun shops are typically cleaner and neater than tackle shops. They’re better organized … or seem to be. There’s usually less clutter in a gun shop.

Most gun shops seem open and spacious compared to most tackle shops. The displays tend to be less crowded and better organized. Maybe it’s because the margins are better in gun shops or maybe the manufacturers do a better job of providing their dealers with display tools.

One of the reasons I’ve not gotten into shooting or hunting very much is another of the differences between gun shops and tackle shops. The attitude and demeanor of the sales staff in a tackle shop is usually a lot better and a lot friendlier than I’ve seen in gun shops. There’s an attitude in a lot of gun shops that seems almost designed to intimidate a novice like me. Instead of working to get me reaching for my wallet, a lot of these stores have me reaching for the door.

I understand that staff in tackle and gun stores are usually there because they love fishing and shooting, but in an overwhelming number of gun shops the staff seems more intent on showing me how knowledgeable they are rather than helping me make a purchase. I often feel like I’m being talked “down” to.

Maybe I don’t feel that way in tackle shops because I can usually talk fishing with the very best of them. That’s certainly not true for me in a gun store.

But even if that’s right— even if this feeling of being patronized is mostly my own insecurity— it’s still a problem for the gun store operator and something he needs to work on if he wants more business. One thing I know for sure is that if I’m feeling that way about things, so are lots of others.

And it’s got to be happening in tackle shops, too, though hopefully not as often. There have to be millions of people walking into tackle shops every year who are overwhelmed by what they see and intimidated by the people who are supposedly there to help them.

Tackle retailers have to walk a fine line. You can’t talk down to the customers who are knowledgeable, and you don’t want to talk over the heads of those who are not. Finding the balance and striking the right tone means thousands and thousands of dollars to your store every year.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.