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Expectations when purchasing a firearm – Part 2: Service

In this 2-part series, Sara Ahrens’ Offbeat takes a look at gun store service.

 

When I’m ready to purchase a firearm, I make it a point to spend my money only at a business that meet my expectations of safety and service. If a gun store passes my initial expectations of safety, I next evaluate its service. I believe that many firearm sales are lost because of poor service to women. I’ve left stores empty-handed because of poor customer service. I blame poor service on ignorance, not bias. Whatever the source of the problem, the results are the same — women feel like unimportant, unintelligent and unwanted customers.

I’m amazed by poor customer service, because businesses have to make money to exist. Based on my experiences, gun stores never received that memo. I wonder if they realize that women are more likely to spend money if they feel comfortable. Comfort is derived from many sources, each of which are important and should not be overlooked or underestimated. Here are 4 tips to improve service to female customers.

 

Sara at gun store 2_1

 

He’s with ME

The quickest way to lose my sale is to address my husband, who’s standing behind me. First of all, my husband will respond, “She’s the one who buys guns.” Secondly, this act is code for not buying from that person/store. Sure, I’ll check out the merchandise and ask questions, but eventually I’ll buy elsewhere. I’m also equally peeved when other male customers are addressed before me, when I’ve been waiting longer. I’ll walk out of any store that helps customers based on gender, not time of arrival.

 

Educate — don’t berate

I don’t pretend to know everything about firearms, but I know plenty. From my experience, women are open to receiving “an education.” How this education is delivered will make the difference between a clerk being perceived as helpful, or condescending. The gun store employee should never assume a customer’s knowledge base. Most assumptions will be wrong, and result in the customer feeling of insulted or confused. Instead, the employee should gauge what the customer knows, and what he or she wants to know. Let the customer direct the conversation. It’s OK for the employee to gently introduce information, and if it’s done correctly, it can prove beneficial. Don’t miscalculate the importance of proper intonation, word choice, vocal emphasis and non-judgmental body language in delivering the information.

 

Sara Ahrens

Photo courtesy of The Shooting Gallery

 

Don’t tell me what I want

When I walk into a gun store, I usually already know what firearm I’m going to purchase. I research the firearm before I ever step foot into a brick-and-mortar store. I have specific reasons for choosing a semi-automatic over a revolver, and a .380 over a .45. I’m not opposed to discussing my motives, if asked. I am, however, opposed to having a clerk’s opinion forced on me!

Several years ago, when the Ruger LCP was introduced, I went to buy 1. I had already handled it and had spoken to a Ruger representative. I went into the store for the sole purpose of facilitating my transaction. The clerk interrogated me about the purpose of my purchase. I explained that I wanted it because I could conceal it in my cargo pockets. The clerk told me, “A .380 doesn’t have enough knock- down power.” He told me I should buy a revolver instead, and handed me a “woman’s” revolver. I felt my face burning brighter than the gun’s pink hue. I have years of law-enforcement experience, and have trained police officers. I, unlike the clerk, have actually witnessed hundreds of people and animals that have been shot, so I know what works, what doesn’t and why. I also know that having a gun I can conceal means that I would actually carry it. It felt like the clerk refused to sell me the LCP, so I politely told him, “I guess I’ll wait and think about it.” I left and immediately ordered it elsewhere.

 

Sara at the range_1

 

Don’t assume

I’m not going to harp on this, but any clerk who assumes I want pink gun or a revolver is DRT (that’s police jargon for Dead Right There – referring to the sale).

I won’t tolerate poor customer service. If a gun store wants my money, I expect to be treated like a worthy customer. My expectations when purchasing a firearm include being treated like an individual and not to having assumptions made about me, because compared to many gun store employees – I’m fairly confident that I possess in spades more knowledge, skills and experiences.

The Conversation

4 Comments
  • MidSouth Safety Training » Ladies, great post about purchasing your gun says: March 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    […] out this post at Women’s Outdoor News about what to expect when purchasing your […]

  • Sara Ahrens says: March 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Ellen and Trisha – I have had these experiences SO many times that I knew it was a universal sentiment. I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional… For as many times as it appears to be ignorance there appears to be times that it is bias. Maybe men get categorized too?

  • Ellen S says: March 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    This piece really struck a chord with me. You don’t understand it unless you’ve lived it I guess, judging from the statements from men on another site that linked this story. I went through all this when looking to purchase a custom knife at a show several years ago, too. I went to where I was treated better and made my purchase. There really is a bias on the part of men, whether they realize it or not, when a woman walks up to a counter. Maybe the customer base is just evolving a bit ahead of some of the vendor staff. We can hope they catch up soon, and realize women can’t be lumped into one group, just as not all male customers can be.

  • Trisha Bowen says: February 27, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Great points! I hope this article makes its’ way into every sporting goods store in America. I can not tell you the number if times I have been handed a pink bow or gun in a youth model when shopping for new weaponry. I simply look it over then ask them to hand me what I truly wanted to see. If its a bow I will shoot it and give my full opinion, pros/cons of how it operates. If its a gun a will work action, ready the gun, look it over and explain how it feels and balances…. Then I will hand it back to them and take pleasure in the dumbfounded look on their face. I will thank them for “showing” it to me and will shop elsewhere. My husband takes great pleasure in this spectacle and it has become somewhat of an entertainment factor for us.
    There was one shop I have worked specifically with to better their sales with women. They were the worst offender and I admittedly told everyone I knew not to shop there. Once they pulled their head out of their butt and asked what they were doing wrong I was happy to help and is now one if my favorite shops.