Why are some gun store owners so cheap? (rant)


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Monkeyleg
July 4, 2005, 07:52 PM
This is just a rant, so feel free to disregard.

I have a lot of shops on my site, but a lot more to go. Back in March I started calling the first shops on the site--which had been on the site for something like nine months for free--to pay up. The cost is $60 for six months or $100 per year.

The number of shops that came through and paid surprised me. Even some one-man, forty-guns-in-stock stores paid.

Then there's the ones who told me to invoice them and still haven't paid. I have one shop in PA that I invoiced on 3/24. He told me he didn't get the invoice. I mailed him another. Then I called a month later, and he said he'd have his accountant cut a check. I'm still waiting. And this is not a small store by any means. Plus, he's already told me he's gotten new customers from my site.

Another store in NM. The owner said, "yeah, I've had people come in and mention your site. Invoice me for a year." That was on May 5th. When I called him last month, he said the invoice was "right in front of him," but he just hadn't gotten around to writing that $100 check. Also a pretty big store.

Another one in Iowa. And this one maybe takes the prize:

I called one of the partners back in March. He said he'd need to talk to his partner, and I should call back in two weeks. Called back, and he said he'd need to have me talk to his daughter, since she handles any computer stuff. Talked to her, and she said to talk to the partner.

Meanwhile, I get an email from someone who's looking for a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .300 H&H, SuperGrade or better, in 98%+ condition. That's a $2,000+ rifle, and the guy is serious about buying one.

This Iowa shop mentions in their page on my site that they specialize in pre-64's. So I call the owner to see if he has one as described. Yep, he does. I tell him that I have a customer for him, and I'll have the customer give him a call.

Then I ask if he's figured out what he wants to do about being on my site.

"Oh, I don't think we're interested. We're not really into computers."

Needless to say, that Iowa shop didn't get the buyer for that Winchester. A shop in California did. A shop that had already paid to renew, I might add. And whose owner said that the $100 for my site was "the best $100 I've ever spent."

On top of that, I got an email from a guy wanting to know how to contact the Iowa shop by email. I explained that the owners aren't into computers, they don't have email, and that I would be removing their shop from the site shortly. The guy went to the store, liked it, and emailed me back saying I should keep it on the site, even if it's for free.

Yeah, right. I love working for free.

What are these owners thinking? If they've already gotten new business while they were on my site for free, do they think it's going to stop if they pay? And $100? My buddy paid that much for cabfare to and from the airport for the Shot Show (which he said was terrible).

OK. Rant over.

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R.H. Lee
July 4, 2005, 08:02 PM
Part of the problem is you marketing strategy. You're operating on the 'call girl' principle - the value of services always appears to diminish rapidly after services are performed. You need a new angle. How about monthly specials, available only on your website. So the customer will walk in and ask for the Monkeyleg special. That will remind the owners, hopefully on a daily basis, how valuable your website is.

Standing Wolf
July 4, 2005, 09:09 PM
An awful lot of gun shops are poorly run—period.

With exceptions, of course, the firearms industry doesn't seem to attract and keep the cream of the retail crop, probably because on the whole, it's a declining industry.

An awful lot of gun shops are owned and operated by hobbyists who don't know anything about business, and clearly take pride in the fact.

jamz
July 4, 2005, 09:22 PM
I feel really lucky that in my entire timeline of gun ownership I've run across nothing but friendly, helpful gun store employes, owners and clerks.

-James

bogie
July 4, 2005, 10:47 PM
So cut 'em off. And send 'em a note about why. Also, report 'em to a credit agency, _IF YOU TOLD THEM THAT IT WAS GOING TO BE A PAYING PROPOSITION TO START WITH_.

If they miss you, they'll come back.

trickyasafox
July 4, 2005, 11:13 PM
sorry to hear you got the ol' "bohica" its a sad state of affairs that those in the industry as their lifeline don't even have the common decency to help stimulate it into a thriving source of income again. they aren't just screwing themselves, but its this constant disregard for those in your field that allow gun rights to constantly get slammed. no east coast gun owners rally for californistan, no southerners rally to help stop new york bans, and no body does anything to help massachusetts (god i probably butchered that spelling) for as organized and riled up as we like to be, we often aren't

The_Antibubba
July 4, 2005, 11:18 PM
So pull them of the site!

Or, if there are no legal barriers from doing so, put a note next to the offending stores to the effect of: Due to circumstances beyond our control, Monkeyleg Services can no longer recommend this firearms' retailer. Please return to the list for approved FFLs in your search area.

Monkeyleg
July 5, 2005, 12:58 AM
Thanks for the suggestions. Actually, I've given thought to all of the above.

Having someone click on a shop's name in PA, only to find a message that says "the owner of this store did not pay his whopping $100 bill" would make me feel good. It would also probably turn off prospective new shops, and maybe invite a lawsuit, which I can ill afford.

As for cutting off the freeloaders, that's part of my daily process: find that shop's competitor, get them on the site, then email the freeloader to let them know they've been cut off, for what reasons, and how they can get back on the site. Politely.

Early last year, when I asked THR members for input on the idea for the site, I got a wide range of opinions, from "I love it" to "this idea is bound to fail."

To be honest, I didn't think that Butt's Gun Sales in Billings, MT, or Cosner's in Bedford, IN, or a shop as tiny as White Tail in Jersey Shore, PA would benefit. Yet all of them, and many more, have told me they've gotten more business.

Back in 2003, it seemed like such a simple concept, yet one that nobody else had tried: gun buyers don't always know the shops in their area, or the shops in areas where they're going to be travelling to.

One of our THR members--GreenFurniture--has a shop in Knoxville, TN. He also has the advantage of having Tamara on his staff.

As of this posting, 2603 people have viewed his page on my site since April 1st. That's 2603 people who probably didn't know about his store before seeing it on the site. There's no doubt in my mind that's he's gotten at least a couple of new customers from my site.

As I see it, there's two different types of gun buyers: those who buy a shotgun or some shells every fall for hunting, and those like THR members who spend money on guns and ammo all year round.

If I owned a shop, I know which group I'd cater to.

RileyMc: a good number of shop owners have suggested promotions to not only attract new customers, but also quantify those coming from my site.

The problem is, either I or the shop owner has to pay for those promotions.

I have one shop in CA whose owner has a standing offer: print out his page on my site, bring it in and get $25 off the price of a gun, $25 off of gunsmithing services, or $10 off of range time.

When he told me to write that, I said, "Evan, you're going to spend $25 per customer to gauge the effectiveness of a $10 a month ad? That makes no sense."

I guess it all boils down to this: most owners of gun shops have little or no understanding of the internet. They think that if little cousin Timmy puts up a site that he created using MS FrontPage, that's all they have to do. Give Timmy a lollipop, and all is good.

There's another Iowa shop that cancelled on me. They had a local outfit do a really classy website for them. I mean it: it's first-rate. But I can guarantee that their site will not be found on the search engines, unless somebody already knows the name of the shop. And, even then, it's dicey. They haven't done the Search Engine Optimization work.

Try doing a search for "Iowa gun shops." I'm #1 on just about any search engine.

Do a search for "New York gun shops." I'm #1 out of 5,680,000 results on Google.

Those kind of rankings don't come cheap. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies charge anywhere from $1000 a month to $5000 a month or more to get those kind of rankings. I know how to do it, I've been doing it, and I'll continue to do it. It's not particularly creative work, but it's challenging.

There's no way that even a good-sized gun shop could afford SEO services like that. And that's one of the big things I bring to the table: for $100 a year, Bob's Gun Shop can be found for terms that would cost ten or even fifty times the cost if Bob were paying an SEO outfit one-on-one.

Take a look at Impact Guns in Ogden, UT. I know that they've spent a ton of money on their online store. Yet I beat them out for just about every search term I want. (I don't know what they want).

Unfortunately, that shop in Iowa that cancelled on me last week won't realize their mistake for months. Or they may never realize it at all, and just say, "oh, we never had any luck with the internet after spending a lot of money." I can't tell you how many times I've heard that one.

All of the above is my general rant. To be more gun-specific, though, I do not understand why the owners of restaurants, golf courses, realty companies, aroma-therapy candle stores, and other sundry businesses have spent major dollars on internet advertising, yet the owners of many gun stores--some of whom have tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars tied up in inventory and property--just don't seem to "get it."

Justin
July 5, 2005, 01:16 AM
Monkeyleg-

Welcome to the world of marketing. Having a few clients welch on paying you is going to happen. I see it semi-regularly in my line of work.

Probably the best course of action would be to send them a note stating that their failure to hold up their end of the bargain resulted in their ad getting yanked.

P95Carry
July 5, 2005, 01:39 AM
Dick - I share your frustration - bad apples always will be there regretably. I guess pulling ad's is main recourse - tho it'd be tempting to leave just their name and be able to put in ''invoice unpaid'' :D

Maybe over time when dust settles you may even be able to have some sorta ''bad debts'' list - a sorta blacklist according to your being let down - tho in today's litigious climate maybe not so good in the end.

I'd sure get or feel vindictive if screwed around!!!

Best of luck tho with the venture's continued success .... I know ( I think) how hard you must have slaved over it all. :)

waterhouse
July 5, 2005, 02:30 AM
Monkey leg,

back in the day (a whopping 3 years ago) when I was in business school we did a case study on why people were late in paying their bills. The case study took into account data from phone companies, software firms, landlords, and several other businesses which collected monthly fees.

The grand result of all this data collection was this: the punishment was not high enough to discourage the wrongdoers.

I think the penalty for paying my phone bill late used to be about $0.40. I don't know anymore, because it gets paid automatically, but I remember it wasn't very much. Our landlord was always more than happy to take our rent on the 6th instead of the 1st, with no penalty.

The point of this case study was that people will pay if and when they want to pay unless you encourage them to pay on time. If possible (and judging from your previous posts it is possible) you should present each dealer with numbers of how many customers they have gained from your service and let them know that if they choose to not pay you they will be losing those customers. If they pay they get to keep them, if not they don't, and let them make an informed decision.

poe_9999
July 5, 2005, 05:39 AM
I’m pretty impressed with how far your website has come.

I have an idea for you. I assume it takes a rather large amount of time to solicit all those individual gun stores. See if you can get the gun manufactures to pay for advertising to list all of their master dealers. Who knows it might even be easier (big companies tend to have an advertising budget)

Monkeyleg
July 5, 2005, 07:20 PM
Thanks again for the replies.

Having been in business for myself for 18 years, I've had customers not pay. However, those were invoices in the thousands of dollars, and I was able to threaten them with loss of copyright usage. That puts the fear of God into the client when he realizes that he can be sued for $$$$ if he doesn't pay up.

For these deadbeats, it's probably a matter of not seeing that they're getting a few new customers, or maybe not realizing the value of one, two or even three new regular customers.

As for getting manufacturers to pay, it's an idea I explored over a year ago, and none of them were interested.

Eventually I hope the site will have shops whose owners recognize the value, and who will pretty much automatically renew each year. Possible? Who knows?

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