Things that make no sense … but you can fix

There’s a lot I don’t understand. Just ask my wife.

For example, if I’m the only person in a store and the clerk spends some time trying to help me, I feel obligated to buy something — anything! If I don’t buy something, I feel guilty. The only way I leave the store without making a purchase is if the stuff is so outrageously expensive that I can’t afford it or so far from my needs that I can’t justify it.

Are your clerks making a connection with your customers?

Any clerk who shows a real interest in me and my shopping quest is definitely going to make a sale. Ninety-nine percent of the time when they ask if they can help me, I say something like, “Just looking around” but the truth is, I usually have something in mind but don’t want to be led straight to it. I want to check things out. If I’m new to the store, I’ll usually walk every aisle. If I’m a regular, I’ll scan to see what’s new. If the clerk’s on his game, he’ll use this opportunity to show me something that just arrived in the store or that’s hot for area anglers. It’s a pretty sure bet I’ll buy one.

Are your clerks just minding the store … or are they making sales?

If I only need one of something, but there’s a discount to buy two, then I definitely buy two. That’s true even if it means that the second item won’t get used right away … or at all. My desire to feel like I got a deal is so strong that I can’t pass it up. “Buy two and get one free” or even “Buy five and get one free” is better yet.

How many deals like this do you currently have in your store?

Anyone who’s worked with me knows I’m not a supporter of dress codes … but that’s only dress codes that apply to me personally. For other people, I like dress codes. I understand this makes me a hypocrite, but it’s the truth. If I walk into a tackle shop and the staff is all dressed like they’re about to go noodling in a muddy creek, I don’t like it. For one thing, it makes it tough to spot staff from other customers. For another, it makes it look like they’re unprofessional and don’t care. They don’t need to be in a suit and tie, but they should be clean and neat, wear some store-branded clothing and look like part of a team.

What’s your dress code?

Sticking to that dress code theme, I’ve actually walked into small tackle shops to see a clerk wearing a cap promoting a big box or online tackle store. Seriously! If I were the shop owner, I would probably fire that person immediately. If they’re not smart enough to promote their employer, they’re certainly too stupid to work there and almost certainly too stupid to make change. Why are they on the payroll?

Are your clerks waving your flag or someone else’s?

I like the dusty and dark corners of tackle shops, but also think they’re a big mistake. I check them out because I want to find old stuff that’s not being made or sold anymore — a vintage bait or something still in the original package. I’m strange like that. At the same time, I know it’s a mistake to have a part of your store that’s poorly lit or to have products covered in dust. It presents a terrible image, makes you look behind the times and like you don’t care about the inventory you carry. If you have a Smithwick Rogue from 30 years ago or an original Storm Wiggle Wart, I want it, but those things should be on eBay (you’ll make more money), not in your shop.

Are you in the antique business or the tackle business? Do you run a store or a garage sale?

As a guy who has done a little traveling and seen a lot of tackle shops, I can tell you there are three things you will find no matter where you go.

First, some local will tell you that a neighborhood in that area is one of the wealthiest in the country. Unless you are in New York, California or D.C., he is mistaken.

Second, if you’re talking to someone with young children, they’ll tell you that the local school system is ranked in the top 10 of the entire nation. This is not true.

Third, if you go to the local tackle emporium and some of the clerks are the area “sticks,” they’re ordering stuff for themselves that never sees the light of day in the store. It’s usually a hot hard bait or a soft plastic lure in a custom color. The clerks are hoarding them and refuse to put them out on the floor because then anyone can get them, and it might hurt their tournament performance.

Never mind that they’ll only make a few hundred or thousand dollars in tournament winnings this year, and that it won’t come close to covering their expenses. They still want to keep that bait a secret from your customers (and their competition). That’s remarkably bad business, and it really needs to stop. I understand that many of these pro angling wannabes are only working in your store so they can earn entry fees and say they work in the industry, but they’re costing you money. You hire those guys because they’re knowledgeable and can help your customers catch more fish. Unfortunately, too many of them are repaying you by keeping secrets.

Are the local experts working for you and helping your customers, or are they only out for themselves?

A lot of stuff doesn’t make sense to me. Luckily, a lot of it is easy to fix.

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