Customers’ Pet Peeves


The initial customer-dealer interaction at the counter sets the tone for the sale. If your
team can avoid some of the turnoffs outlined below, the odds of a sale skyrocket.

If you’ve been reading Shooting Industry for a very long time, you may remember when this magazine had a monthly feature on dumb things customers did and said. The series was eventually dropped when some of our readers didn’t see anything amusing about making fun of customers. Fair enough.

Obviously, unsatisfactory customer-retailer contact can go both ways. Just as a satisfied customer keeps coming back and sends more customers your way, the unsatisfied customer can inflict more than one wound on your business. Clearly, you’ve lost their business. If they’re regular shooters and have a lot of friends who are into guns, you know they’ll also be talking about their negative experience with other customers — both current and future.

And, in the time of Yelp and Google reviews, as well as local and regional online shooter forums, they can spread their negative opinion exponentially.

A Case Study

Let’s look at one couple as an example. At their request, we’ll call them simply “John” and “Jane.” Both are gun collectors, competitive shooters and compulsive gun class students. They’ve been together for almost 20 years, travel quite a bit and buy lots of guns, ammo and accessories. Their annual expenditures in gun shops go well into five figures. They have each developed very specific sets of likes and dislikes that determine where and with whom they’ll spend their money.

Her Deal-Breakers

“The first thing to turn me off,” Jane said, “is something that turns off almost every woman shooter I know. We walk into a gun shop. An unoccupied sales person obviously sees us … and looks right through us. If a male customer walks in behind us, though, they’ll say, ‘Can I help you, sir?’”

She continued, “I can be standing at a counter looking at a gun and obviously waiting, and wait almost until I can feel cobwebs starting to form on me, and still be completely ignored. It’s at that point I’ll turn around and walk out, even if I’ve seen something I really want to buy.”

Jane offered the following advice: “If my husband is with me when I’m buying a gun, don’t be talking exclusively to him about it as if I’m not there. If you do, I’ll say ‘I don’t want it anymore’ and walk out. The ‘Man of the House buying a Lady’s Gun for The Little Lady’ has been over for a long damn time. And it’s not just gun shops: I, and other women I know, see it all the time at car dealerships.”

She expressed, “The pink gun stereotype is another turnoff. Yes, I know, there are women who like them and I respect that. But please, don’t equate pink with female unless you’re buying gifts for a baby shower. Personally, I’ve never owned a pink gun and never will. I think they’re condescending. If I ask to see a GLOCK 19, for example, you’ll kill the deal if you automatically show me the only pink Cerakote one in your whole GLOCK display.”

How To Turn It Around

If the above are turnoffs, what things put her in a buying mood?

“I have to admit, I get a positive vibe when I see a woman behind the counter; she’s the salesperson I’m most likely to gravitate to,” Jane shared. “Honestly, a lot of the female shooters I know tell me the same thing. I particularly remember a gun shop I visited in California a few years ago that turned out to be owned by a woman and had a lady gunsmith. As soon as I walked in, I saw a display of gun purses and a female mannequin wearing holsters designed expressly for females. I stayed in that shop for quite a while, and racked up a pretty good credit card bill there.”

Sales Tip: A lot of female gun buyers tell me similar things. How hard would it be to have a female-oriented sales display somewhere close to the point of entry telling women right off the bat, “We’d like to serve you and your particular needs”?

Just as a satisfied customer keeps coming back and sends more customers your way, the unsatisfied customer can inflict more than one wound on your business.

His Gripes

Witnessing his wife receive poor treatment at the counter also troubles John. He’s encountered his fair share of “questionable” customers service, too.

“People who think my wife is invisible turn me off almost as much as they do her. But I can go into a gun shop alone and find turnoffs. One is the salesman who insists what I want doesn’t exist. I remember asking about some .22 Long ammo (for a rare European pistol I have in that caliber). The clerk insisted there was no such thing and what I wanted was .22 LR. Insulting the customer’s intelligence is not the way to his heart or his wallet.”

Displays featuring a concealed carry purse, like the one here at Wyoming Gun Company,
represent a subtle way to welcome women into your store.

He continued, “Another time in another shop I asked for 12 GA Federal #1 buckshot with the Flite Control wad instead of the usual 00 buck. The clerk literally sneered at me and asked sarcastically, ‘Where did you get that advice, the internet?’ I told him no, I got it from Dr. Gary Roberts and the late Dr. Martin Fackler. I don’t think he recognized the names of two of the leading experts on wound ballistics and ammunition testing. I didn’t buy anything there that day. An attitude like that doesn’t win customers or purchasers for a gun-shop owner. And I was there to buy by the case, not the box.”

John added, “Make sure your sales staff knows the letter of the local laws. I don’t live in Illinois, but I’ve bought several guns there and simply had them shipped to my hometown FFL dealer. I walked into a one-man gun shop in the northern part of the state I hadn’t run across before. They had several of the sort of guns I like to collect, and I asked to see two of them. The guy behind the counter got all haughty and said, ‘Let me see your FOID card,’ in the tone of voice of a Gestapo officer demanding, ‘Your papers!’ I replied since I was out of state, Illinois wouldn’t issue me one of their Firearms Owners Identification cards, and explained the whole ship-to-FFL thing. He said very sharply no one could touch one of his guns without a FOID card. I wished him a nice day and walked out without two expensive guns I probably would have bought and paid shipping for.”

The Power Of The Customer Review

Neither John nor Jane has ever written a negative Yelp or Facebook review of any of the gun shops which — to put it lightly — irked them simply out of professional courtesy because they work in the industry themselves.

Most dissatisfied customers won’t have such reservations.

Dealers, what tips do you have in dealing with dissatisfied customers? Let the SI team know for a future article.

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