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SI dealer tips: the Joe-Bob syndrome; don't let it happen in your store!

SI Dealer Tips

Most retail gun shops have at least one Joe-Bob; some have several. Joe-Bob is the salesman who has cultivated the qualities that he admired in some of the revered old-time gunwriters and shooters.

These old-timers have since been described as "stand-offish" by their generous surviving friends.

An impartial observer probably would be more-to-the-point: "smart-ass."

Joe-Bob, the salesman, has adopted this same attitude - but, alas, has none of the saving grace that his role models had. Consider this:

Customer: "Pardon me, sir, but I'm thinking of buying a firearm. Could you help me?"

Joe-Bob (narrowing his eyes as he decides the gent is a newcomer): "What kinda gun?"

Customer: "Well, uhhh, I'm not real sure..."

Joe-Bob: "Well, what are you gonna do with it? Shoot grizzlies? (He makes no effort to conceal his sneer, and winks at another Joe-Bob nearby.)

Customer (beginning to sweat and squirm): "No, sir, what I wanted was a handgun to do a little target shooting - something I could keep around the house for self-protection if I ever needed it. A friend of mine said I might want to get a .25 automatic like his ..."

Joe-Bob (interrupting): "A .25 auto? Why dontcha [sic] just get yourself a medium-powered slingshot or something? You could do more damage with it." (His lip curls again and he glowers at the cringing customer.)

Customer (knowing he's being derided as a wimp, tries to escalate): "Well, uhhhh, maybe a .35 automatic or something, then, or maybe one of those `Woozies' ..."

Joe-Bob (yelling across the shop): "Hey, guys, this fella wants a .35 auto or a `Woozie!" He guffaws and slaps his thigh.

Customer (visibly shaken and beginning to back toward the door): "Well, listen, uhhh, maybe I won't get a gun after all. Maybe I'll get into golf instead ... or something ..."

The customer flees the shop.

Joe-Bob snickers in his wake, smug at having shown that "klutz" up for the amateur he was, and at having displayed his own superior knowledge of guns.

Adios, gun sale. Adios, continuing sales of target ammunition, targets, cleaning gear and supplies, shooting glasses and other components.

Thanks just a whole bunch, Joe-Bob.

I have a friend who has a few guns - keeps them mostly as investments, I think. He's not much of a shooter, but does occasionally go through a box of ammunition.

He once confided in me: "I really hate to go down to the gun shop, you know."

I was shocked; I like nothing better than to browse around the used-gun counter, hoping to find a "prize."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Those guys are like sharks," he replied. "They can tell whether you know what you're talking about the way sharks can smell blood. And if you don't know what you're talking about, watch out!"

I had never thought about it - not in recent years, anyway. When I go down looking for supplies, I just tell them what I want: "Gimme a pound of 452AA, a pound of Unique, a pound of H110, a quart of Hoppe's #9 and 1,000 Winchester primers."

I get a smile, the stuff I asked for and no flack.

But the next time I went in, I sort of hung around in the background, watching for the Joe-Bob syndrome.

Sure enough, some of the same guys behind the counter who had always been so pleasant with me tended to get a little short with novices who didn't seem to know exactly what they were looking for.

Not total Joe-Bobs, maybe, but exhibiting enough of that behavior to make the customer uneasy.

Let's face it: None of us likes to feel like we're out of our element. None of us like to be talked down to. None of us likes to feel like the outsider in an exclusive club.

The man behind the counter can make all the difference in the world.

How much better for business if Joe-Bob had handled the novice customer this way:

Customer: "Pardon me, sir, but I'm thinking of buying a firearm. Could you help me?"

Joe-Bob: "You've come to the right place, my friend. If you don't mind my asking, is this your first gun?"

Customer: "Well, yes it is."

Joe-Bob: "Great! You probably don't want something that will bring down a rhino, then do you?"

Customer (feeling more at ease): "You've got that right!"

Joe-Bob: "Let me ask you this, then. Are you looking for a rifle or a handgun?"

Customer: "Well, I was looking for something I wouldn't be afraid to shoot, something that doesn't kick too much. Probably a handgun - something I could do a little target shooting with and keep around the house for self-protection."

Joe-Bob: "In that case, since you're not an experienced shooter, you might want to think about getting a .22 - revolver or semiautomatic. I see you look a little surprised. You probably think the .22 is a pipsqueak round, right? Well, it's not the best home-protection weapon you can get, but it'll do the job in a pinch - and it's a heck of a lot better than those little .25 semi-autos, not to mention much cheaper to shoot. That means you can do a lot of practicing without it costing you an arm and a leg.

"Then, after you get comfortable with it, if you decide you want something with a little more pizazz, bring it back down and we'll let you trade it back in on something bigger. Another thing: Your wife and your kids won't be afraid to shoot a .22. You might want to look into the gun safety course they have on Thursday evenings down at the shooting range. It's a great course, inexpensive, and a lot of fun."

Mr. Customer has been put at ease instead of being ridiculed. He walks away with a new handgun, several boxes of ammunition, a cleaning kit and a positive outlook. He - and the whole family - are going to learn how to shoot.

Chances are very good that he'll be back for more ammo. And one of these days he'll come back down to chat with the helpful Mr. Joe-Bob about something in a little larger caliber.

The smart retailer knows he can't afford to turn away all the maybe/maybe-not customers who walk through his door. It's just poor business.

And allowing any Joe-Bobs on the staff to do so is the same thing. Tell Joe-Bob to take his hostility down to the range with some friends and demonstrate his rampant gun-savvy there by punching holes out of the X-ring at 25 yards instead of taking potshots at the novices.

And make him pay for his ammo, too, by golly ...
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Title Annotation:gun dealerships
Author:Allen, Paul L.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Previous Article:SI takes a look at gun racks; one way to rack up sales.
Next Article:Competition: don't let the big boys bully you.

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