July 29, 2006

Are you cool enough to buy our stuff?

Jed Baer blogged on being treated as invisible in a Colorado gun shop, and Wadcutter took up the topic too. But it's not just gun shops that can be this way--although I had a similar experience last Friday. (I won't name the establishment because I will be surprised if it is there this time next year.)

Is it the outdoor business in general: fly shops, bike shops, mountaineering shops?

You walk through the door, and the clerk's look says, "Are you cool enough to be shopping here? Do I recognize you from Outside or Fly Fisherman magazine?"

There are exceptions, of course. I nominate Absolute Bikes of Salida, Colorado, as a shop that is chock-full of bike geekiness, yet its staff seems attentive to every tourist who wanders in, not just to Lance Armstrong-wannabees.

So your choice is to try to get on the "known customer" list or to go to some big-box store where the selection is just the lowest common denominator, and the sales clerks (if you can find one) were working in consumer electronics or women's wear last week.

Baer says it:

At no time did anyone think to utter those 4 little words which are so noticeably lacking in the retail business these days: "May I help you?" Guy #2 was obviously too busy to bother with something so unimportant to the retail trade as helping a customer, or even being courteous. . . . I've worked retail. I know what it's like. Never, ever, during that time, did I fail to greet a customer, no matter how busy I was.

And you wonder why people are slow to take up these activities.


Matt Mullenix said...

Chas: Bike shops are my bane. I love these kids---they are living their dreams, working among the bikes and gear that rule their lives anyway. But at some point you have to MOVE MERCHANDISE in order to STAY IN BUSINESS.

I am not enough of a "bike guy" to be immediately recognizable as such. They peg me immediately as a wanna-be, which is fine and pretty accurate except that I bike 10 miles day to and from the office and I NEED this stuff!

Chas S. Clifton said...


I bet you don't dress funny with shoes that click on the floor when you walk into the shop. That's your problem.

Matt Mullenix said...

Chas I don't clink when I want but I do wear the nifty little ankle straps. They even glow! I figured THAT would be enough to get me in the door, but no.

Anonymous said...

I am routinely ignored in both gun shops and fly shops, even when I make it clear I am there to buy something. I seem to be uncool in any situation, a high school lesson that remains true today.

Chas S. Clifton said...

M.L. Miller,

I don't think it's you (although do we ever get out of high school?).

I think too many gun shops turn into clubhouses for the owner and his friends rather than, as Matt says about bike shops, stores that are supposed to MOVE MERCHANDISE.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I shop a lot at independent stores, but refuse to do so just because it's an independent store.

A certain bookstore comes to mind, where I was always ignored and often treated with hostility. After all, I often interrupted the all-so-important discussions of MFA poets and post-modern cynics gathered around the front desk.

They went out of business, with much gnashing of teeth from the MFA crowd. But contrary to their assertions, it was not Barnes and Noble that ended the store, it was horrendous customer service.

All that said, I suspect at least part of the reason they ignore me is because I am chronically uncool.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Absolute Bikes is a great shop. Attentive, friendly, knowledgeable staff who love bikes and treat customers (in my experience) well. They also do a lot for the community in terms of sponsorship of bike-related and sustainable/green events and issues.