Firearms retail industry incompetence and root problems. Is there a cure?


October 11, 2007, 02:18 PM
As an NRA firearms instructor, I have relationships with numerous gun shops who give me student referals as well as being a patron myself. It always amazes me how the retail firearms sales is so ridden with people who simply lack people skills and so are subjectively biased that they are incapable of understanding that a firearm that may be best for them, may not be for someone else, example of bias overselling, simply ignoring customers, calling out to female patrons: "Can I help you little missy?", or a customer being in the store for over 10 minutes walking around and not a simple "May I help you find something ?" (not over selling, simply acknowledging them."
We have all either witnessed or have been subjected to this treatement or lack of treatment. Be it salespeople who are mall ninjas with tactical vests and 10 Glock magazines on their belt who are so hopped on adrenaline that they are about to burst or the apathetic gun store employees who totally ignore you. Be it overselling, or apathy, what do you guys think the root of the problem is? Why is it so prevalent in retail firearms sales, Is it because there is lack of corporate oversight structure and accountability from the standpoint of family run or nepotism run establishments, or is more complex. Any thoughts?

If you enjoyed reading about "Firearms retail industry incompetence and root problems. Is there a cure?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
October 11, 2007, 02:25 PM
Not unless you find a way to run a gunshop and pay your employees a lot more than minimum wage.

October 11, 2007, 02:28 PM
Not unless you find a way to run a gunshop and pay your employees a lot more than minimum wage.

OK, but how do you explain owners of gunshops that don't act right?

From owners, I've seen apathy, rudeness, ninja-caffeine-tactikewl hyperactivity, and stupidity.

October 11, 2007, 02:29 PM
You just as well ask why mcdonalds messes up your order . I have " babyset " gunstores for friends on vacation if that counts as working in them , and as a rule neither side of the counter need apply to mensa .

October 11, 2007, 02:32 PM
I've had similar experiences (lots of them) in gun shops. But I've had many, many more in retail establishments that sell electronic equipment, sporting goods, furniture, clothing, megamarts that sell everything, etc.

I don't think it's necessarily a gun shop issue -- I think it's more of an apathy issue.

Having said that -- I really really hope I never see another gun shop employee recommending a .22 LR semiautomatic to a woman as a self-defense weapon. :fire:

October 11, 2007, 02:32 PM
How,exactly is this any different from other retail enterprises?IMO,paying salespeople an hourly wage-as opposed to a wage based all or part on performance-promotes apathy.Also,the alluded to mall ninja problem needs to be addressed by the employer-who likely isn't terribly clued in about the whole customer service thing his own self.Which also explains the salespersons tactic w/women customers.

& on the subject of a "lack of people skills",have you spent any length of time trying to talk to an attorney or a MD?

October 11, 2007, 02:33 PM
Think about how stupid the average person is, then realize that half of everybody is stupider than that - George carlin.

News Shooter
October 11, 2007, 02:34 PM
I work in a gun shop on weekends, which means I work seven days a week. I would do it without being paid. We (mostly) treat our customers right. They are always greeted on arrival and asked if they need help finding anything. We don't play mall ninja and we aren't rude even to stupid people. I wish I could say that about all gun shops

October 11, 2007, 02:40 PM
Gun dealers are an unusual lot. They remind me a lot of coin dealers. In some respects, I think it is partly an act they put on because people expect gun and coin dealers to act that way, and partly their personality.

I suggest getting over it. Or, starting your own gun shop where you can treat your customers exactly as you feel they should be treated.

October 11, 2007, 02:51 PM
I've worked in retail stores, and let me tell you, it's not only gun stores that do this.
What happens is the kind of people willing to work the conditions a store owner requires, and be paid the dirt the store owner can afford or is willing to pay - often very close to minimum wage - are usually not going to be well-versed, educated, and socially adept people. You're going to have kids walking in and turning in applications because they just need any old job. With gunstores, this is even more of a problem, since you can't just be any kid, you have to be 21+ years old AND be willing to take working conditions that most highschoolers won't even take. On top of that, you have guns being a very specialized field, which takes a bit more knowledge and intellect than bagging groceries.

Occasionally you will get the kind of employee like News Shooter in a gunstore, just like you'll find them every now and then in a computer store, auto shop, or any other specialized store. Unfortunately, the people who truly love their trade and care about spreading their joy through customer service are few and far between.

Pay more and offer better working conditions, and you'll find yourself having better quality employees if you do it right. Paying more doesn't mean commission, mind you, it means hourly. Commission jobs appeal mostly (estimate, don't get offended) to the kind of people who can "sell anything" which has very little to do with product knowledge and customer service, and everything to do with psycological manipulation of the customer for personal gain. Where I come from the most effective of these types are known as "sleazeballs" or "weasels".

And that's pretty much that.

October 11, 2007, 03:54 PM
When I worked at a retail gun shop I'd always ask if someone needed help. Anyways like you said some guy came in and wanted a pistol for home defense for around $500. So I gave him a couple options. He ended up with a Glock. Not my favorite pistols but he liked and who am I to judge??

A couple other guys at the shop were very cool and helpful to the customers and us other "clerks".

But most of them were like you said. They had their brand and stick with it and try to sell everyone what they carry, or half the time were just straight ******* to the customers. I think they need to shoot more or practice martial arts like I do to get the testosterone at a manageable level. :D

Chris B
October 11, 2007, 04:01 PM
Before I was born some gun shop employee sold my unknowing father a revolver in .22lr for SD/HD. What a jerk.

The Wiry Irishman
October 11, 2007, 04:01 PM
I think that's just a retail problem, not a gun store problem. You'll find just as many idiots and decent people as you would at in a mall or a Best Buy, I'd imagine.

October 11, 2007, 04:05 PM
I can't think of many, if any, retail stores where I'd ask for opinions and ideas. I might ask just to see if there's anything I didn't think of, but otherwise, I try to find out as much as I need to before I go to buy something.

That's ANY retail, not just gun retail.

October 11, 2007, 04:12 PM
Before I was born some gun shop employee sold my unknowing father a revolver in .22lr for SD/HD. What a jerk.
A local gun shop here was recommending cheap 38 snubbies for self defense when people who were not knowledgeable would ask. several came to the pistol club safety class with their snubby and were dismayed to find out that it was probably a poor choice. the club eventually asked the dealer to stop suggesting such things.

i suspect he bought a pile of them cheap and wanted to get rid of them. or he may have thought it was better than nothing.

people will often set a price point they are unwilling to pass when buying things, and the seller has to deal with that in some way.

October 11, 2007, 04:21 PM
Cheap .38 snubbies have saved a lot of innocent people from criminals over the years.

Why did they feel "dismay", exactly?

(It seems to me that more gun shop employees will insist that only the tacticoolest gun is adequate for anything at all, regardless of purpose.)

October 11, 2007, 04:24 PM
OK, but how do you explain owners of gunshops that don't act right?
The problem is that a large percentage of gun shops are hobby businesses and as a result NOT run like proper for profit businesses.

Many of these gun shop owners are hobbyists first and businessmen second whereas most other retail businesses are run by people that are businessmen first.

Look at any other hobby business and you'll find a lot of the common complaints that we have about gun shops.

The real solution is for professionally run stores to run the poorly run mom & pop gun shops out of business ... but nobody likes to hear that.

October 11, 2007, 04:27 PM
Why did they feel "dismay", exactly?

pretty dismaying for a new shooter to not be able to hit a target at 10 feet because someone sold them a snubbie with a 2" barrel instead of a more appropriate firearm.

i would agree a snubbie is a good choice for some cases, but for someone who has never fired a gun, it is not a real good choice for self defense. and since it really has no other utility, its a bad choice all around for that individual.

October 11, 2007, 04:38 PM
pretty dismaying for a new shooter to not be able to hit a target at 10 feet because someone sold them a snubbie with a 2" barrel

The instructors blamed that on the gun, huh?

I don't shoot snubbies much, but the last time I did, I put the first cylinder in the 10 ring at 7 yards. Surprised myself, since I expected the snubbie to be really hard to shoot.

Everyone talks about how you can't hit much with them, but at close ranges, if you can't hit the target at 10 feet with a snubbie, you probably can't hit it with an 8" 686 either (why did they quit making that BTW?).

Sounds like the class should have started absolute beginners out with loaner .22's, so they have a clue how to hit the target, and the instructors were awfully quick to blame the guns.

October 11, 2007, 04:51 PM
"...Many of these gun shop owners are hobbyists first and businessmen second..." Exactly. Even the ones with years of gunsmithing experience. Mind you, there are also customers who only want you to tell them what they want to hear. Or sell them something they saw in a movie/on TV, on the Internet that's either doesn't exist or is illegal. And they want it cheap or to trade a firearm that isn't worth anywhere near what the new one is and get offended when you tell them they'll have to come up with some cash too.
It's worse when you sell milsurps. Had a guy buy a 1903A4, sans scope, long ago. He butchered the stock with a hand saw, then came back complaining that it didn't shoot. Couldn't understand why he wasn't getting his money back.

October 11, 2007, 05:02 PM
I agree that it is a retail problem. Not just gun stores.
I don't buy firearms at the big box stores. I have had some lame experiences with the firearms counter there.
I consider myself knowledgeable about firearms and sometimes I feign ignorance just to hear what the salespeople know. Always a bad experience at the box stores.
It is hard for some guys to check their chestpuffing at the door.
Just impress me with your knowledge and I am your customer. Simple as that.

October 11, 2007, 05:57 PM
I see it frequently, and I wondered about it. It is like un unwritten rule-you must be rude, opinionated, ignorant and apathetic to work in a gunshop. You also have to be unethical to manage one.
They not only look over people, but many will take people for a ride-just like used car salesmen. In fact, I know one owner who was a used car salesman.

BTW, neither side of the counter need apply to mensa . Why are you taking a stab at the customers? Do you think all gunowners are stupid?

I don't think it has to do with minimum wage workers either. Some of these guys are making a living and still act this way.

There are rare exceptions and they really stand out in my mind. One owner was attentive, polite and gave everybody a fair shake. I remember sitting around the shop chatting, but whenever a customer walked in, the chatter stopped and they were promptly greeted warmly. He gave honest appraisals to people with whom he was doing business too. He even told people that he would rather they sell their guns on the market than trade them in because they could get more money that way and he did not want them to feel like they were being ripped off. I miss that place.



October 11, 2007, 06:35 PM
I have a small gunshop in Northern Alberta and I run it myself. Casual hours/backwoods type set-up. And I outsell everyone in northern Alberta.....why?

Because I give a s**t. I remember customers. I pour coffee. I dont sell, I allow people to buy. I answer questions, I don't guess.

Fewer and fewer employees care. If your heart aint in it, you are of no use.

Big shops used to laugh at my setup. Rough wood walls, pictures of customers and their animals, pictures of moose drawn by my 5 yr old......

They don't laugh anymore.

October 11, 2007, 10:37 PM
If you are going to run a gun shop it is a must that it be customer based. I will recognize and support you. I will value you as a critical and key member or our society. I will understand that you have life hard and will pay your price to keep you in business because I value your type of business.
If you treat me like an idiot, Overprice your stock and insult me with your crappy product and your attitude I will tell you so and vote with my feet and spread the word by word of mouth.
I will use the internet, I will buy everything gun related through the internet. Don't lie to me as to why your doors are closed when you should be open and I am forced to always call in advanced to see if you are open first. Don't tell me what your transfer fees are one day and what you charge the next.
Don't take guns on consignment without inspecting it first. It speaks volumes when a person two steps above a blithering idiot can tell that the gun is junk and way over priced.

October 11, 2007, 10:44 PM
Your shop sounds a lot like the one I remember. I don't understand how anyone can be in this business and not give a rip. I mean, from my perspective shooting sports, hunting, fishing and the outdoors are all part of who I am and what I love. I cannot imagine that an owner would have any trouble finding reliable, enthusiastic and knowledgeable help who could add to the value of the place and the merchandise. I gladly pay a few bucks more for friendly, knowledgeable service. Am I alone?


Wes Janson
October 12, 2007, 12:02 AM
I think if people tried it from the other side of the counter for a while they might better appreciate how complex it can be.
Having said that -- I really really hope I never see another gun shop employee recommending a .22 LR semiautomatic to a woman as a self-defense weapon.

On the face of it, that sounds fair enough. But on the other hand, I've seen a number of people come in looking for a weapon for concealed carry who could NOT rack the slide on a "normal" semi-auto (Glock, 1911s, SIG, Kahr, you name it) under any circumstance, and were also completely uninterested in a revolver. The Beretta Bobcat and Tomcat models were the only ones they were capable of loading and operating. And some choose .22 LR due to ammo prices. Is it ideal? Of course not. And I'll tell them that. But a .22 LR that will be carried and shot is infinitely more useful than a 9mm that the owner can not shoot and will not carry.

It is significantly difficult to try to explain and educate someone in the span of a few minutes on subjects that have entire collections of books written upon them. We all tend to look at our own experiences first and foremost when making recommendations, which is why many gun sellers will tend to suggest particular models. Realistically, very very few can afford to buy, shoot, and carry even a decent percentage of the guns that are out there on the market.

The advice I always give customers is to find a pistol that fits their hand, their carry needs (or lack thereof), and their price range. The majority of customers I've dealt with will inevitably find certain models or brands that fit them best. Some people naturally feel comfortable with 1911s without even knowing what they are...others, with Glocks. The key, as I see it, is helping each person figure out their own preference.

And that's not even getting into rifles and shotguns.

October 12, 2007, 12:41 AM
It's an either/or thing. People who grew up putzing around with mechanical do-dads freqently weren't the most social folk. Sure there are exceptions, but often times the mechanical thing was the common ground or the conversational go-to, just like sports can be etc. Gunnies in that way can be kind of like computer geeks, off in their own little click. That's why the knowledgable gun staff are frequently the ones who blow you off, talk down to you, ignore your requests and tell you what they think is best.

On the other hand, lots of places like gander mountain, cabela's, etc hire salesmen, and treat them all alike, be it shoes, canoes, or guns. They look for employees who are good with people, make them feel comfortable, etc, they train them to be better at it, and then they promote and move them around based on it. This means the guy who was really great at selling shoes might get moved to the gun counter. He is the guy who will come up to you and ask you if you need any help, and then be totally clueless on how to help you.

So, you either get ignored by the gruff gunny who can assist you, or you get attention from the guy who doesn't know where the bullets go, but who is nice about it

October 12, 2007, 08:21 AM
There is cure. Get them out of business by not shopping in those places. Find a nice pawn shop with FFL and start buying on the Net. This will be my next step. The stuff I own I bought from a local dealer who while having great prices treats you like you are some sort of pest to whom he is doing a favor by selling you a firearm. Once I tried to bargain this guy, and he started cursing me. Well, I have decided not to put up with this guy anymore and will be going through a local Pawn, that charges $20 for transfer and has a documented excellent customer service.

Also, I agree with many of you who rightfully state that this is not an issue limited to the gun industry. I have gone on-line for most of my non-firearm related purchases for the very same reasons.

October 12, 2007, 09:40 AM
Many of these gun shop owners are hobbyists ...

I have always wondered what it would be like to have your hobby be your business. Sometimes I think it might be cool, other times I think it would be tough.

I can see where you'd be doing paperwork when your buddies would be shooting.

You'd probably have to be open during prime shooting times - it's very hard for me to make it to a gun shop during the week due to that pesky "staying employed" stuff. So I have to shop on weekends. I am sure the guys behind the counter would rather be at the range than helping me!

Hunting season would go from a good time to a very, very busy time of year. I bet you live in the shop during hunting season.

You also don't get to pick your customers in the same way as you pick your friends - you may spend a fair amount of time dealing with people you wouldn't want to hang around.

I suspect that a number of people who walk in the shop seem to there mainly to show how much smarter they are than you - particularly with fairly big ticket "high brag" items like guns.

One dufus who buys a gun at your shop, and then shoots a bunch of people, can make your life at least temporarily hell.

There are criminals who want to scam/steal from you - and you got tell them apart. There are always crooks, but I am guessing that criminals are a heck of a lot more interested in guns than in refrigerators and microwaves.

I could see owning a gun shop be a lot of fun - I could also see it making you never want to pick up another weapon.


Jim Watson
October 12, 2007, 09:50 AM

Most of the gun dealers I know have other hobbies. Even the ones who started as shooters got sick of the sight of a gun and went to something else. My very capable gunsmith only shoots for testfiring and only keeps a gun for self defense. Changed his sport from hunting to fishing as business built up. I know others with similar attitudes.

Guns and shooting are my main interest. No way would I spoil my fun by turning it into work.

October 12, 2007, 11:09 AM
With the minor (and now thankfully rare) exception of overselling a certain brand, most of the dealers around here, at least the ones where I shop, are pretty good. I have to come here to read the horror stories.

Might have something to do with the amount of competition locally - from my perspective as an outsider it appears brutal. Run the business poorly or cheese off customers and you're toast. I recall one place where getting waited on was a chore due to the cluster of "good old boys" acting like they were in a men's club and one other that had worked out a system whereby they could do trigger jobs employing no tools other than a pair of wire cutters. The first got bought out and the second is selling sandwiches.

In DFW, one can hit Dick's, Cabela's, Bass Pro, Sportsman's Warehouse and the Beretta Gallery without burning 10.00 in gas. I would guess opening a small shop here takes some serious clackers.

...or it could just be that the few shops I actually use are just the cream of the crop - personal anecdotes can be so unreliable.

October 12, 2007, 06:28 PM

Thanks. The cure is simple, isn't it. I remember what the old places looked and felt like. From the kid bagging your groceries to the free liquorice we might get at the hardware store.

Common sense approach to everything. Might not be fancy, but it will work and last. My shop is 18 yrs old now and I still dont have a cash register.....might get around to it someday.

October 12, 2007, 07:04 PM
pretty dismaying for a new shooter to not be able to hit a target at 10 feet because someone sold them a snubbie with a 2" barrel instead of a more appropriate firearm.

i would agree a snubbie is a good choice for some cases, but for someone who has never fired a gun, it is not a real good choice for self defense. and since it really has no other utility, its a bad choice all around for that individual.

What would you reccommend? Remember that this person can't be expected to take the time to learn how to hit a target at seven yards. Is it therefore reasonable to expect this person to take the time to learn how to handle another gun safely? Years of experience have taught me that if this person won't take the time to learn to shoot, he won't learn anything else, either. The wheelgun has the advantages of compact size, reliability, and it's almost stupidproof.

October 12, 2007, 07:52 PM
Requote:pretty dismaying for a new shooter to not be able to hit a target at 10 feet because someone sold them a snubbie with a 2" barrel instead of a more appropriate firearm.

i would agree a snubbie is a good choice for some cases, but for someone who has never fired a gun, it is not a real good choice for self defense. and since it really has no other utility, its a bad choice all around for that individual
Gunshop owners should keep NRA certified firearm instructor Business cards handy and refer to them often. Offer some instruction over the counter but refer the rest to the individual the business card.
Another option is to ask the customer to come back another time when the shop isn't near as busy for a bit more instruction on which type of firearm is which and which one is good for you and why.

October 12, 2007, 08:49 PM
A .22 is a bad self-defense weapon, but it's better than nothing. My mother had a .22 pistol in college and was able to chase off a rapist with it.... My guess is that most criminals aren't going to care if it's .22 or .50AE. The only real difference is when it's used against those high on drugs and whatnot.

I've had people ask me what the 'best gun' is, and I tell them it's the one you can shoot the best and it fits your hand well... I personally like Glocks (but 1911s are nice too), and despise revolvers... seriously despise revolvers... But I don't criticize people for buying a revolver. Sometimes it works for them.

I also find that most people that 'can't rack a slide' aren't trying hard enough/correctly. I generally walk people through several different ways to rack a slide and they can normally do it well in some way.

I've never worked at a gun shop but I try to stay way from them like the plague. There is a nice shop where I live, but they don't have a large stock of firearms (mostly archery stuff) so I don't go there much.

My guess is that gun shops probably aren't very profitable unless you are selling to LEO/government. I'm not sure what the markup on a rifle is, but I'm guessing it's not a whole lot. Plus you have a bunch of paperwork to fill out and liability issues.

October 12, 2007, 10:27 PM
The LGS that I deal with most of the time is fairly new in the gun market. They admit that they don't know everything and that they are still learning. They always say "hello" to me when I enter their shop and will ask me if I need any help. They know my name and will sit and chat for a few minutes just to be friendly. On the other hand, I used to shop at another LGS that is closer to my house. The only people that work ther are the two guys that own it and a retired guy. I purchased two firearms from them this year but they treat me like they don't see me when I walk in the door. I was in their shop not too long ago and was looking at a revolver when one of them took the gun from me and said that the gun was no longer for sale because he thought that it was worth at least twice as much as they had it marked at. And this guy isn't even the one with the ego.

The owner that is there most of the time can barely fit his head through the door because he thinks he is the last of the great hunters and will fill you with many tales of his prowess.So, the problem in my area stems alot from ego.

The rest of the problem stems from them wanting to sell a particular brand of gun over all of the others. They are really big fans of Taurus, so, that's what they push. I can only assume that they make more money on Taurus. I don't have anything against Taurus, but I saw the great hunter try to sell a very petite woman a Taurus 92S. This is a big gun that she could barely rack the slide on, let alone get her small hands around. What ever happened to trying to help someone find a gun that fit them? Needless to say I haven't been back.


"Phydeaux, bad biscuit!"

Dr. Peter Venkman
October 12, 2007, 11:23 PM
It's threads like these that make me feel that I could be a decent gun shop employee without having any kind of formal training.

October 12, 2007, 11:36 PM
I've been very fortunate to find a good dealer. The whole staff is friendly, call me by name and often listen to my input as much as I listen to theres. I've heard the man who usually works the counter actually say "One guy whos in here a lot told us that he really likes..." They are all avid hunters and not of the tacti-kool lot. Most of them carry old revolvers as their personal defense weapons. They say "Howdy, need somthin?" with smiles on their faces to people they don't know by name. That being said there is a another shop in the next town over that is exactly the opposite. The shop as the feeling of a ghetto pawnshop with the bars on the windows and front door. Its over lit and has that cheesy Indoor/Outdoor carpet covering both the floor and the counters. When you walk in you have to be prepared to buy a Sig or Glock, damned if you want to see something else and had better not ask any questions. If you're in the market for a shotgun, it has to be a 870 of some variety or you're a fool. Same with rifles, its a Rem 700 or you don't know what you're talking about, and the bigger the caliber the better. Of course 300 ultra mag is great for white tail. So when my friends ask where to go, I send them to the first shop and they come back very happy and often make more purchases there. When people want to "shop around" I take them to the second shop with the warning "You never buy here"

October 13, 2007, 09:48 AM
I was a complete and utter nobie not too long ago, the first one in the family to get a firearm of any kind, and yes, a lot of the shops are intimidating and belittling. One shop's employees where showing me guns without checking them for bullets the first day and on another day the guy took a gp100 from me and told me to leave because i thumbed the hammer back and than de-cocked it (i went over this in my mind for a week or so afterward before i went anywhere else, and i am sure it was pointed away form everyone else at the store) but the guys at gander mountain in flint not only where great to me, i went in there with my gun nurvous wife and they converted her! They wanted to make sure i handled everything form a .22 butt-mark auto (sorry browning fans) to a .44 smith before selling me a 4"gp100.

Point is we vote with our dollars, and can make a difference, eventually.

October 13, 2007, 09:58 AM
I think that most shops I go in are just not as concerned about customer service. And that attitude came from the owners not their employees. My favorite shop is a little backwoods shop ran buy a guy and his wife. But that is not to say it is the firearms industry alone, that pretty much goes across the board in retail.

If you enjoyed reading about "Firearms retail industry incompetence and root problems. Is there a cure?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!