I have touched on this subject several times in the past on my blog, and now its time to take it head on. First off, I need to clarify things a little bit… by “at the gun counter” I really mean “behind the gun counter“. The cultural shift that we need to see is one that moves away from the loud mouthed and condescending know-it-alls who have become the gun shop cliche, and towards people who are friendly, knowledgeable, and who are not there to stroke their own ego.
As gun ownership becomes the norm again in this country and shooting once again moves back into the mainstream, more and more non-gunnies are walking into the local gun shops. These are people who may never have stepped foot into a traditional gun shop before. They may be first time gun buyers or they may have already bought a gun or two at a big-box chain store. No matter what their background or how they got there, they are customers. They have money in their pocket and they are looking to make a buying decision. These are people who are not used to the traditional “charm” of a local gun shop. They are not going to simply laugh off the rude people behind the counter who would rather look down their noses at them than get off their stool and help them buy a box of ammo. The “new gun culture” is not going to tolerate anything less than the level of customer service that they would receive in any other traditional retail environment. Anything less then a typical retail buying experience and they will simply take their business elsewhere. They will also tell their friends to do the same. Any retailer who finds themselves getting hit with bad word-of-mouth about their customer service is soon going to see a sharp decline in their sales, and the same is true for a shooting retail shop.
Many times, this subject is only addressed with regard to the treatment of women gun buyers… and rightfully so. Its incredibly important, first and foremost, that sales associates in gun shops drop their preconceived notions of women customers. The “can I show the little lady a pink snubbie” routine is not doing anything to help the person on the other side of the counter to make an informed buying decision. Women gun owners/buyers are now very common in the industry, and they need to be viewed as just a serious of a customer as any man. Drop the prejudgements, answer her questions in an open and friendly manor, and try to close a sale. If the woman on the other side of the counter wants to look at an AK, a Glock, an AR or whatever then help her do so.
As a man, I would just like to add that this shift in culture is equally as important because of the men that walk up to the gun counter and start asking questions – first time gun buyer or not. I personally am sick and tired of the grizzled old sales associates that populate most gun shops. I’m completely over it. When I walk into a gun shop I expect to be greeted warmly and gladly helped with whatever questions I may have. I dont want some yahoo to treat me like my being there is an inconvenience or like the conversation he was having with the other “mall ninja” who works there is more important than I am.
I see it all the time, and there is always at least one in every shop. The last several times that I personally have walked into local gun shops I was “assisted” by know-it-alls who were only there to feed their egos and someone who I am pretty sure thought he just got back from Afghanistan. They were snide, condescending, and were more interested in posturing than in assisting me with the guns I was interested in.
This kind of behavior is bad for business, and its bad for the culture of gun ownership in America. If we are going to keep this “new breed of gun owner” in the fold, then we have to be open and welcoming…. and it starts at the gun shop counter. We have to evolve. We cant expect them to just “put up with it“. If local gun shop owners don’t quickly come to the realization that things need to change, then they are going to be left in the dust. The quicker that you guys can either weed out the “gun shop commandos” or retrain them… the quicker your sales are gonna go through the roof.