Party Crashers

By Chris Dolnack

While the reviews for the 2017 SHOT Show have been overwhelmingly positive, a show as large as ours doesn’t happen without a few complaints here and there. As you might imagine, some are minor and don’t really have anything to do with the show itself. Others, of course, are absolutely legitimate, and as we sort through comments, suggestions, criticisms and compliments, it’s those serious concerns we always want to address.

One concern in particular stood out this year, not for its frequency, but for its telling. One of our retail members approached me late in the show week to tell me he’d seen someone with a buyer’s badge on the floor whom he knew for a fact was not a buyer and was not at all associated professionally with the industry. That person, he claimed, was wearing a store badge and “working” with another retailer our member knew and who was indeed a legitimate attendee.
“Did you get the name on the badge?” I asked him.

“Yes, but I don’t want to tell you who it is. I don’t want to cause any trouble. But you really ought to do something to stop this kind of thing.”
Okay then.

Truth be told, this is a concern — and a valid one — we hear every year, just as we do those of suitcasing and outboarding. We take every one of them seriously: We comb our attendance list every year, performing an in-depth audit of a percentage of all buyers, wholesalers and other permitted attendees to the show. Here’s how the audit works.

Those names and businesses with which we are not first-hand familiar are periodically asked to provide credentials supporting their claim of being active professionals in the firearms industry. It doesn’t mean someone has to own a 50,000 square-foot store and staff half their county. It does mean if they can’t produce an invoice for ammunition or firearms or accessories orders they’ve placed in recent months, there are going to be additional questions — and if those answers don’t come back satisfactorily, they are removed from the attendee list.

Let me emphasize that we perform this audit every year. Annually we remove 10 percent of those on the list of attendees from the previous year’s show. Yes, we understand the enormous draw the show holds for the family members and friends of those industry members who travel to SHOT Show every year, as well as consumers in general. But the SHOT Show is a trade-only event, one requiring a significant investment from everyone attending. If you can’t get the business done you need to get done because there are non-trade people gawking at the displays and chewing the fat, then any return you expected from your investment is compromised.

Nobody wants that. Not you and not us. But the SHOT Show is not the Pentagon. There will always be some people who gain admission and shouldn’t be there. It’s an unpleasant facet of a show this large. What we can do is control the issue. Our annual audit does much of that work, but we need your help.

Telling us we “oughta do something” about a problem without telling us who and what the problem is doesn’t help us, and it certainly doesn’t help you or protect the investment you’ve made in attending the show. Report the person and businesses you know or strongly suspect of being admitted to the show under false pretenses and we’ll take care of the rest. Your report will be anonymous, so there will be no retaliation, and you won’t be “causing any problems” — in fact, just the opposite.

Chris Dolnack is the SVP and CMO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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