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.
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.
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.
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.