Time to Change the Culture at the Gun Counter

Its Time to Change the Culture at the Gun Counter
By: Eric at the Gunmart Blog

Obama Throws the Trigger Finger
Take a Tip from the Greatest Gun Salesman Ever - Time to for Hope n Change at the Gun Counter
Eric at the Gunmart Blog
Eric at the Gunmart Blog

United States –-(Ammoland.com)- 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.

Grizzled & Old Need Not Apply
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.


Eric at the Gunmart Blog – Eric is a gun blogger, firearms enthusiast, and sorry excuse for a hunter. He is also an AmmoLand Shoting Sports News Columnist. Leave him some comments on this article before you go. You can also follow Eric on Facebook, Twitter and at his blog, Gunmart. Visit: gunmart.blogspot.com

  • 19 thoughts on “Time to Change the Culture at the Gun Counter

    1. Good article. I once went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to purchase .45ACP for target shooting and was greeted by the store clerk with that condescension you write about. When I asked to see their “ball” ammo, he gave me a confused look and I sensed he was starting to get irritated so I just said “full metal jacket”. Without looking at me or saying anything more, he pointed to where it was located on the shelf. I checked the price and it was too high – probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway.

      Went to another gun store and I overheard the guy behind the counter tell a young guy and his girlfriend that the HK was better than the Glock which was better than the SIG. I thought, wow, HK must have larger profit margins because qualitywise they are all too comparable to make categoricals like that.

      Went to a gun range wanting to rent a Ruger Mark II to shoot some leftover 2-3 year old .22LR I had in my safe. The guys behind the counter said, “if you rent our guns, you have to shoot our ammo.” I had no problem with that. They cannot have unknown people experiment with unknown ammo on their guns. But then one of them said, “besides, your ammo probably isn’t good anymore – gun owners should use their ammo within six months of purchasing it or it will go bad/be dangerous” or something like that. I told them my grandfather only recently used up the rest of his stock of WWII surplus ammo and they looked at me like I was from outer space.

      Years ago I went to a place in Northern California to pick up a $2K custom 1911 I had ordered. Went through the paperwork and everything just fine. The salesman pulled me to the side to do his CA mandatory, “this-is-how-semiautos-work” speech and when I came back to the place at the counter where I was to take possession of my new gun about four employees were standing right behind me. They had been talking cordially with each other until I got to the counter and then…silence. When I peeked back two were looking down at what I think was probably my hands. The other two had their game faces on. Wondered if they thought I was goint to load my new gun right there and shoot the place up. Didn’t know gangsters were buying custom 1911s these days.

    2. Nice article, but I would have enjoyed seeing something about the treatment of Black customers. We aren’t all (or even most of us) gang members who are buying Glocks to look like 50 Cent. I don’t even listen to rap. Most of us are regular people; professionals who have graduated college and go to work every day. This seems to be a real problem in my area…

    3. Send a copy of this to the Gander Mountain store in Lakeville, Mn.

      We tried shopping for a Trap shotgun there recently … for my wife. The counter guy kept telling her that she wouldn’t like a 12 ga because of its heavier recoil, even complaining that he didn’t like them either.

      Despite repeated requests to see long barrel 12 firearms (longer barrels being preferred for Trap), he kept handing her 20 ga “youth” models with 20-22 inch barrels.

      An older and more “grizzled” colleague joined the discussion, but it didn’t improve. We and a couple of other customers who had stopped to eavesdrop all left empty handed.

      We won’t be going back.

    4. Seems to me the problem is self-correcting as you describe it. Crappy shops will lose business and good ones will gain it. My shop is very old school but they’re also really helpful.

    5. I agree completely with your story Eric, and with the comments too. The biggest thing that the “gun experts” at the counter need to realize is that we do not need a closed culture that shuns anyone just getting started. The person that they piss off by being a gun snob may just be their next big sale or next lifetime customer that has just got to have almost every new gun that comes out. Who do think they are going to buy from, your average gun store or gun range snob, or someone like David E, who commented above?

    6. I agree with the other comments, the people behind the counter over rate their abilities and need to learn the art of salesmanship.

      However 40 years ago the attitude behind the counter was different.

      What happened?

      I believe it was the passage of the 1968 GCA. Guns could be bought seemingly everywhere. Most Hardware stores sold guns. So the guy you bought pipe fittings from could also sell you a gun.

      Locally we had a Western Auto Store that sold guns, Friendly service was common place.

      When the NRA supported an end of mail order sales this nations culture changed for the worse.

      We need to repeal gun control laws and stop pretending to be tuff on crime and start being hard core on Liberty!

    7. Agree too. The growing gun shops know it’s past time to put away that “we only deal with the trades” attitude often seen at plumbing or electrical supply houses and adopt a more of a Ace Hardware “helping your neighbor” attitude. And, it pays!

    8. All of the above comments are so true. I recall doing the same as Erick X did, I educate a potential customer. It was not on firearms but in my profession. It happened at a electronic BOX store. The salesperson was so un-knowledgeable that all he care was making the sale. Bottom line 99% of all vendors have lost that personal touch. Have I paid more for a item that the vendor provided the service and attention to details? YES I have and walked happy from the store knowing that the vendor stood behind its product. As the saying goes a educated consumer is the best customer. Basically educate the client so he/she can make a informed decision.

      Treat your client (future) with respect, honesty and you will have them for ever.
      Buss 101 – you are in business to make money and support/provide for your family. We as consumers must understand that. So don’t get upset if mom/pops sells that firearm for $20 more.

    9. I agree with the article too. But I would like to make a slight change in the subject. Gun Ranges. I was a member at a local outdoor range where I paid a lot up front for membership so I could take my clients for the opportunity to shoot without the worry we would get turned in by someone at a questionable site. I am a real estate broker and I have a long list of former clients I need to keep in touch with. I host picnics and other special events to keep up with my people. Several times each year I like to do “Skeet and eat” events. Many of my clients are from India. They do I.T. work for a major local employer used by everyone reading this. Lots of Indian families. They come from a gun control culture but their grandfathers were often shooters. They like the events except the gun range people freak out at all the “Muslim terrorists” on the grounds. They hover over us. They are hyper critical. Their disdain for “people of color” is clear. I also would take clients there on a one on one basis. Black clients got the same treatment. It should not matter but they got this treatment despite being at the range as the registered guest of a member who was a white guy who was there often and is a very safe operator. I bumped into a board member of the range at his small gun shop one day. I told him I was quitting because of the bigotry and the “hovering” treatment. He said he knew it was a problem but it was impossible to fix because of the type of people they get as employees and as volunteer range workers. They hover over people they prefer were not there and it is sickening.

    10. A-F*#%ng-MEN!!!
      Ok, me… extensive background in weapons from 6yrs Special Operations (where among Ranger Q I earned an EIB and was a MTU & SOTIC trained sniper) to 6yrs reserve where among those duties I was an armorer (@USASOC)… then there’s the 6yrs or so as a security contractor where I would have to operate with a variety of weapons in various conditions from pristine to rusted, shot-out piece of crap… owned a rifle since I was 15 and a pistol since I was 18, self trained mostly but took more classes as a soldier than most competitive shooters)… did some competition shooting (didn’t have enough $$$ or time to do much with it)… amateur gunsmith mostly but also a collector… NOW, that out of the way, I know WAY more than the average gun store employee and often times inform THEM on facts and such.
      Aside from the FREE advice I give them, I freely give it to customers… which pisses some of the shop staff off because I inform that uninformed customer that a HiPoint or Raven is NOT what you want to bet your life on and the only pistol worth less than $200 is a com-bloc surplus one!
      It pisses me off how most gunstore staff scoff and refuse to educate customers, much less potential future customers! When I temporarily worked at a gunstore way back when, I made a point to educate a customer whether serious or not. I got a lot of sh*t from my boss for “wasting time” teaching and educating someone who wasn’t flashing cash but my philosophy was this… sale or not, I am giving them the attention and information they obviously need and while I might not get the sale, I am giving them an education in all the aspects of “gun” from safety to quality to selection to what works for them to what is adequate for self defense.
      They will remember that and while I might not get THAT sale, I will get that future sale (especially when they got burned by someone else) simply because I SHARED my extensive knowledge and practical real-world experience of firearms with them.
      Above all that… I educated a fellow gun owner!
      It is NOT all about the money. In this “business” it’s more than that. It’s about someone buying some piece of crap and whatever ammo the gunstore clerk pushed on him because it had the greatest profit margin… it’s about people’s lives and the safety of our fellow gunowners.
      I actually talked some customer out of a Taurus (no offense to Taurus) and into a SIG simply because he lived in an area where it would take the cops 15 min to respond to a break-in because of a simple line I used… “WHAT IS YOUR LIFE WORTH?”
      Owner hated me because he would have made $20 more on that Taurus than we made off the SIG… well screw him because while that Taurus might be a nice gun it wasn’t 100% reliable… the SIG WAS! The man was buying it to protect his family… I simply gave him the option… “98% or 100%?”
      Anyway, I completely understand the condescending attitude most clerks display with the uninformed. Pisses me off seeing them do that to some uninformed future gunowner.
      Irony; I spend more time educating the uneducated gunowner in the store as a customer than I do looking over the stock in the cases and on the wall. In fact, I kinda get a morale boost of sorts doing so. Gunstore workers hate me unless I talk them into a sale… of course I get no kickback and often not so much as a discount for it… but talking to fellow gunowners and sharing experience and knowledge with them has no price and knowing they will walk away smarter and better informed has its value beyond the walls of that store.
      @ ERIC AT THE GUNMART… Kudos to you my brother for bringing this to life and to AMMOLAND for publishing it!
      To my fellow gun enthusiasts… PLEASE talk to that fellow gunshop patron… if not because you might own what they are looking at but simply to share your knowledge and educate your fellow gun owner. You have nothing to gain or loose from doing so although I have had plenty a beer bought for me for guiding someone in the right direction (had a fella one time reward my efforts with a $55 bar tab! More than the gunstore made off the sale!!!).
      Do it because the more informed we are as gun owners the better.
      Do it because someone, somewhere did it for you.
      Ever heard that expression “PASS IT ON”? Well, someone did it for you… you do it for the next fella or gal…
      PASS IT ON!

      BTW, do Gander Mountain or WalMart gun counter employees need anything other than “oral skills” to get a job there? Seriously! I can get more facts and info on the guns in the glass from some 13 year old ADHD ridden kid off his meds and on a 2ltr of Mtn Dew high whose weapons experience lists “Call of Duty 4” and “Battlefield 2” than I do from these clueless idiots.
      Seriously, do they really NEED to hire the mentally handicapped to work the counters? Makes as much sense as their $75 transfer fee!
      there really needs to be a test and standard for working in a gunshop other than being related to the owner or willing to work for minimum wage!

      I am EricX and I own more guns than all those posting above me combined! LOL!

    11. I don’t think any AmmoLand reader is going to offer any argument that the premise of the “It’s time to change the culture at the gun counter” blog item. I have very recently returned to shooting as a personal favorite pastime at the ripening age of 64. I have had multiple gun counter contacts in my efforts to bring my knowledge up to speed. Here in Loveland, Colorado I have had zero bad feeling about the attitude of the gun counter personnel. My latest experience was just today when I visited a small gun smith shop to have them the Ranch Rifle I purchased new recently (100 rounds down range ) to determine the reason for a bolt hang when charging a first round from the magazine. The gunsmith turned the session into a real learning experience. Seems that he is a Marine Armorer with recent active experience. My contacts with the local JAX, Walmart and Jensen Arms gun counter have been just as congenial and informative while I made my numerous newby [email protected] inquiries. Seems to me that my new pastime has simply located a bunch of very good folks for me to turn to for helpful advice.
      Semper Fi
      USMC 66-70

    12. I 100% agree with this article. I can’t even count the number of times I have approached a gun counter for information only to be treated like some nuisance from some condescending jacka$$! Gun store definitely need to take a hard look at customer service in their stores when the doors are open. This new breed of gun owners will not put up with lousy customer service. These types of articles need to be published in all of the gun store owner trade journals so they get the message.

    13. I agree! It took me forever to find a gun shop that had personnel that would actually help me find the right gun for me. All the others would only show me what I asked for and only answered questions I asked. They had nothing else to offer. They were less than helpful. It would be great to get actual sales people in a retail shop!

    14. I will say I have had both good and bad experiences at the gun counter. I am female and disabled so for me a gun has to have certain features for me to be able to use. I want a semi-automatic but it has to be able for me to pull back the slide easily and have an ambidextrous safety. I would like an ambidextrous mag release but I can deal with it on the left side even though I am a left handed shooter.

      I have had one clerk REFUSE to even help me because of my disability then after a snit he wouldn’t show me anything but a revolver. I walked out and never went back to that store. I have also walked in to a store and been ignored because I was female.I ended up buying my HK at a gun store where I got treated with respect. For the most part love it but they neglected to tell me the model I bought had a bad muzzle flip issue. It isn’t just me a friend of mine that is a range instructor and has a great grip gets the same reaction of the gun I do.

      So when I go to buy my next gun I will rent the model at several different ranges to make sure it is what I want.

    15. Amen! As a woman and a novice at guns, I can’t stand the snobs at gun shops. I usually end up buying online because of it.

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