How ATF’s Electronic NFA Form System is Ruining my Business

ATF

This is not an exaggeration. Our federal regulators have a site that is designed to handle NFA transactions electronically, and it’s failing miserably and nobody seems to know why it’s barely operational. As of this writing, logging in is simply not possible, and filing ATF Form 3 or Form 4 or checking existing drafts just isn’t happening. This is incredibly frustrating to me and others in the industry and the how and why it’s ruining my business, but let’s preface this article with the fact that we’ve discussed problems with the ATF’s eForms back in August . . .

I’m well aware that being in the NFA business isn’t for the faint of heart. Your retailer should know how to do a Form 4 – and if they don’t, you’re looking at delays in getting your stamp back if they can’t get it right the first time, or give you an idea of what needs to be sent to ATF so they can approve it on the first pass. Thankfully, the internet is becoming our friend in telling people how to get their NFA gear, right? In one merchant of death’s opinion, not so much. Specifically, here’s why ATF’s electronic submission system is driving me insane. 

Recently, browsing reddit’s gun forum, a question was asked about NFA purchasing. Someone rather unambiguously answered that that the dealer you use should process your forms electronically, because it will save you months of waiting time. I think this is misguided for a few reasons.

1. Yes, electronic forms are theoretically faster. Here’s why. When you’re at a grocery store with 10 cash registers, eight of which are open and there’s a long line at each, and the store opens up another lane, everyone flocks to that new lane. Pretty soon, that one is just as long as the other eight. You haven’t gained anything if you’re on the back-end of the line but if you’re close enough to take advantage of the new opening, you can theoretically shorten your wait time. The people who benefited from the new eForm system are those who volunteered to be guinea pigs and hit me up for NFA merchandise just after the system came online.

In August when the first batch of electronic forms went in and in October when the first batch of electronic forms came back, nobody believed me when I said that I had gotten Form 4’s back in 60 days. So what did they do after I showed them the proof? They threw money at me and asked me to do everything electronically from then on.

ATF’s system went from taking and approving zero forms, to approving some forms. And now that the internet thinks that you can save months of wait time, they’re telling dealers to do e-forms or not get the sale. This raises a theory of mine: with the sheer volume of people demanding electronic forms (I have no hard data to corroborate this, just industry experience and my gut) I think that the electronic submissions are outpacing the paper submissions since the folks that do electronic submissions tend to do a lot more NFA business than smaller outfits that do it on paper. My guess is that we’ll reach a tipping point and at the rate we’re going, in 3-4 months or so, a paper form will come back before an electronic form due to the sheer quantity of electronic submissions.

Again, this is just a theory… only time will tell to see if this plays out.

2. Another theory of mine is that the ATF’s system is being slogged down by volume. The system that I played with in August didn’t work very well. It didn’t do any better from September to December – it was intolerably slow, but you could occasionally get work done.

Some dealers tell me they have no trouble, where others have encountered plenty of problems as I have. Gut instinct tells me that when ATF’s site takes an eternity building my NFA inventory from their database it’s because I have 300 items in inventory and smaller dealers have three. That’s why I’m having problems and they’re not. I haven’t been able to test this objectively, but colleagues of mine that work for larger firms are NOT using the electronic system as it is too unreliable for their business to depend on. And the ATF has issued a press release indicating they are, in fact, having performance issues.

3. ATF’s electronic system is ruining my business because people simply don’t understand the back-end process and are results-oriented. They hear on the internet that you must go to a dealer that files e-forms and you must not accept a substitute, lest you have to wait longer for your NFA merchandise. I file this under “Things Amazon has done to ruin society.” People simply don’t know how to wait for anything anymore. Patience is a virtue, and it’s simply lost on too many people.

I lost four sales last week because when I was asked to do electronic forms, I offered the following option:

  • I can try to do the forms electronically. ATF’s website isn’t working very well. If I can’t get it to work, we’ll go with paper.
  • If you want me to try it electronically, I’m going to charge you more money. My price is discounted for me to spend a minimal amount of time on this.

What happened? They looked at me as if I was crazy and took their business elsewhere.

Apparently I’m the only one who realizes that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I spent the last three days of January trying to get a pair of Form 3’s submitted and a single Form 4. I kept submitting it repeatedly and ATF’s website simply did not handle the submission properly. The most valuable commodity I have isn’t plant, property, equipment or capital… it’s time.

When I can do a paper form in four minutes flat, proofread, with serial numbers double checked and mailed to ATF the same day I’m paid, I have no problem working cheap and slinging an SBR at $50 over cost. What are you supposed to charge when your time commitment to getting the transfer sent in will vary from 15 minutes (approximately the amount of time it takes to do a single e-form 4 with a 4MB upload of trust documents and tax payment to the US treasury) to 3.5 hours during which the ATF’s website crashes mid-submission every time or the connection to their server gets lost? And even after you’ve spent 3.5 hours trying to submit the form, you potentially still haven’t finished the job.

People don’t seem to realize that with a paper form, the ATF’s contracted bank cashes the check and handles the paperwork that’s sent to the NFA branch where it is examined and subsequently reviewed for and processed into the NFRTR. This is in stark contrast to an electronic form, where the burden of data entry, payment to the government, document submission, etc. are all shifted to the dealer. More work with the same markup = less profit.

When I say I can do paper forms for a low markup or electronic forms for a high markup to cover the amount of time I have to sink into it, they look at me as if I’m insane. One other dealer went so far as to say that I was gouging customers, because when I said the price of the item was X, I should include as much time as necessary to get the job done and not filing the customer’s forms electronically was a breach of their trust. My response to that is that in life, as in sports, the boos always come from the cheap seats. Protip: Never trust a gun dealer that has a massive amount of free time on their hands.

Until ATF can get their act together, I will continue to lose sales, I will continue to lose profits and I will continue to lose sanity/productivity dealing with customers who feel my time is best spent fighting with ATF’s website so they can theoretically get their gear sooner.

Circumstances like these are what make running a business difficult. I can tolerate the government’s regulatory process. But the fact that a system that was engineered to be more productive is turning into being counterproductive is what really grinds my gears. And customers are taking their business elsewhere because I can’t meet their seemingly simple demands.

UPDATE: A few hours after this post was published, the ATF sent this email blast regarding eForm performance problems.

comments

  1. avatar ST says:

    A good submission.

    I have to think somewhere in DC, a very devious government functionary figured out that you need a natural disaster to stop a facility from processing paper forms, but only the flimsiest of excuses to shut down a website.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      I’m kind of shocked they admitted there was a problem…

    2. avatar SD3 says:

      “I have to think somewhere in DC…”

      Somewhere in *Belorussia*. Fixed it for you.

      1. avatar Random_Commenter says:

        In former Republics of the Soviet Union, web site breaks you

    3. avatar Jim Jones says:

      Looks like websites are not the Feds fortay. You would think that by proxy, people would figure out the long game that the Feds are not good at much of anything other than extorsion. A man can dream.

      1. avatar JohnO says:

        I’m a heavy user of fed sites, mostly having to do with natural resources (e.g. Fish & Wildlife Service). Since the earliest days of the Internet, they have always been the worst.

    4. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      Computers are here to make our lives easier….

  2. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

    SOT in Arkansas told me do them before 8am CST or after 6pm CST. Works then.

    But yeah, I feel your pain.

    1. avatar full.tang.halo says:

      No reply under your other comment so I’ll do it here. AAC and Gemtech are sure as hell not selling wholesale with 50%-100% markup. A colt 6944 isn’t being sold to anyone other than the gov at under 1k. I’ve seen the 2014 Sig Sauer master pricelist on the new X series guns, even the top of the line race gun they make that MSRP’s for over $4400 doesn’t have even a 25% margin in it, and that’s if you could get that number. X-Five entry 9mm are selling for $1300 with list of over $1700 and a cost in the eleven hundred range.

      But yes, you can sell huntertown arms guardian 22 for $199 and make 100%. The fact of that is nearly 100% of your customers are gonna be disappointing the second it comes off transfer cause it’s a POS.

    2. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      Tried that. Didn’t work. I’m frequently trying submissions at 9PM when I get home or 1AM before I get to bed. It’s no-go. I couldn’t even get logged in at 9AM today.

  3. avatar Bob S says:

    I work in Silicon Valley California (though I’m trying to escape to a free state) where I make a living building Internet-scale computing infrastructure. Details like size, performance, and availability are not novel new problems – they’ve been solved to the point of being published as cookbooks. If nfa.gov or obamacare.gov can’t deliver their services, they’re simply not asking the right people.

    1. avatar cwp says:

      I’m actually in the same field, and I have some experience working for a large federal agency that shall remain unnamed. The pattern I saw repeated over and over was that there were technical people working for the agency who knew how to solve a particular infrastructure problem, but were stymied either by:

      1) Other technical people working for the agency who were incompetent (not knowing how to solve problem X) or stubborn (insisting that Solution Y was the only possible way to deal with problem X despite Solution Z being cheaper, faster to implement, and easier to maintain).

      2) Project management who aren’t willing or able to devote the resources needed to solve the problem out of a misguided belief that the propellerheads just need to work smarter, not harder. Or harder and not smarter. Which it is depends on how old the project manager is.

      3) Turf wars — the problem isn’t getting solved because no one can agree whose budget it’s supposed to come out of, or who’s to blame for it happening in the first place, or whose responsibility solving it is.

      4) Procurement delays. I have a small joke that goes something like this: “I used to work for the federal government, and I could afford anything I needed, but I’d get it next year. Now I work in academia, and I can order things I need tomorrow, but I can’t afford anything.” Which, humor aside, is pretty accurate. Getting the feds to spend money takes forever, especially in internet time.

      The NFA system went live, what, six months ago? In the geological time scale that federal agencies operate on, that’s about enough time to collect some preliminary performance data and decide that it’s worth investigating whether there may be a problem.

    2. avatar Kyle in CT says:

      With the healthcare website they DID ask the right people. Then tied their hands because of political expediency. Then fired them when the problems that they had warned the government about came to pass.

    3. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      Of course if I was wearing my tin-foil hat today I might suggest that the “performance issues” (isn’t there a little blue pill for that?) were engineered precisely to cause the people of the gun problems. But I’m not, so I won’t…. Did I say that out loud?

      Hello, NSA Deputy Barnes (or whatever alias you’re going by today). How’s the wife and calico cat doing? Did you get any time to work on that old MG you’re restoring?

    4. avatar Gene says:

      You’re making a presumption that technical skill has something to do with winning the contract. All you have to do is get the highest marks on the different parts of the proposal, then worry about staffing the projects. In general, federal contractors are not the best skilled folks – nor do they need to be. It’s the political win rather than the technical one that matters. Besides, who cares if the site doesn’t work well – just blame the contractor, use it as a negotiating point for the next contract to get better rates, use this as justification to burn end-of-year money, etc. You make it sound as if there should be consequences for poor management or poor product acceptance. From their perspective, it’s called opportunity to justify a budget increase which is their win and really all that matters.

  4. avatar rlc2 says:

    Why not simply stop processing electronically?

    1. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      Just say that you’re processing the forms in the quickest way possible, that would be truthful.

    2. avatar Ben says:

      I Recently had some clients who submitted with the e-Form get their tax stamps in around 3 months. If you can get it to work, it is worth it.

  5. avatar Craig says:

    I’m in a state than bans NFA items, so for me this is purely speculation.

    But the way this guy and others write on TTAG, seems like NFA customers are extremely gullible and dopey. I’d expect the opposite since buying a silencer or a full auto simply is more complicated than a normal piece of gun paraphernalia.

    1. avatar aweds says:

      I disagree. For any regulated item that brings with it additional burdens and costs as part of the law, the process for people complying with that law should be as easy as possible. The process is not actually that hard. It’s the lack of efficiency and seemingly intentional delays that drive NFA buyers nuts. The Form 4 is not that different than a regular 4473, and even includes the same questions. So if a background check can be performed in the LGS in minutes, what is the issue with ATF (which is theoretically using the same FBI NICS system) that causes such problems? With ATF waiting times for paper applications exploding to 12-15 months and with their own brand new eForm system simply not functioning, the government is imposing a burden through the ATF that it is, in turn, not complying with itself. What is “reasonable” when buying an NFA item? I mean, if the government created a process for abortion that was so inefficient that it led to a 9 month waiting period before a woman could have the procedure, there would be righteous indignation screamed from the mountaintops. When it comes to the ATF, it’s more a shrug and, “Well, that’s what you get”.

    2. avatar NFA Buyer says:

      An astute observation, and a business opportunity. But the fuzziness is more on the side of the dealers than the customers, in my opinion. I dont expect the customer buying his first suppressor to know all the details of current regulations, but the dealer should know them cold! Gun dealers these days are putting more energy into to attracting the NFA customer because these are higher dollar items with higher markups. And the dealer with the item in stock, with those serial numbers ready to file, holds a distinct advantage. But the dealers trying to cash in often havent invested time or energy into being able to communicate the rules and regulations properly. For an example of a getting it right, give the guys at Silencer Shop a call. They really know how to run a business and how to treat a customer, and I expect they are thriving as a result. Sorry you live in NFA ban state, consider a move! 🙂

      1. avatar full.tang.halo says:

        I’m sorry but you don’t have a clue about the margins on NFA items. There are so many SOT’s right now with cans and sbr’s that the markup on them is not some magical 50% it’s more like the markup on a standard title 1 gun, 5-10%, with many “table top SOT’s” who are selling at near cost to move product off their books to pay the bills.

        1. avatar NFA Buyer says:

          I am sorry that you have narrow understanding of NFA items. Vendors don’t collect a fee for the extra hassle of paperwork and storage of NFA items. They advertise heavily and pursue those sales because there exists a financial incentive to do so. A vendor would rather sell an in-stock SBR than an ordinary title 1 item because A) SBRs tend to be made by higher tier manufacturers with higher price points, and B) they can pretty much set the price because there is a large demand and low supply. Suppressors are not the only NFA item out there. And speaking of margins, yes suppressors have huge markups from the manufacturers, as compared to their cost of manufacture.

        2. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

          Knowing the markup and working for an SOT, the markup is about the same as title 1 stuff on well known items and some items are even closer to 50%.

          I went to a demo one time where a dealer price was quoted and they said “if your sell these for $199 (MSRP), you will make 100% profit.”

      2. avatar full.tang.halo says:

        “A vendor would rather sell an in-stock SBR than an ordinary title 1 item because A) SBRs tend to be made by higher tier manufacturers with higher price points”

        Higher price points….with higher wholesale costs. Granted I’d rather make 10% on 3k than 1k, but if I can move 10 1k guns in the time it takes to move a single 3k gun, how exactly am I making more money.

        B) they can pretty much set the price because there is a large demand and low supply.

        HAHA, low supply of maybe Knights, HK or LMT but if you want anything under that there are tons of them in the market, at well below MSRP prices.

        Suppressors are not the only NFA item out there. And speaking of margins, yes suppressors have huge markups from the manufacturers, as compared to their cost of manufacture.

        And that markup stays with the Manufacture, dealers only make the difference from the sale and what they pay wholesale, and let me tell you, they arent making 50% on any manner of quality suppressor. Yea you can make that on a Huntertown Arms or YHM, but you are gonna have a pissed customer 9 months down the line that you sold a POS can to,

        1. avatar Robby B says:

          So this is the 2nd time you’ve mentioned Huntertown as a POS. Any particular reason? MAC seems to like them just fine.

  6. avatar christopher Wellen says:

    sounds like the obamacare website

    1. avatar Roll says:

      Probably was developed by the same people. Hopefully it wont turn into as big of a trainwreck as obamafail. I plan on putting a form 4 in soon hopefully it works.

  7. avatar NFA Buyer says:

    Sounds like free enterprise in action. Its a beautiful thing. The customer wants eForms, that creates an opportunity for vendors who will give them what they want. I have both paper and electronic forms waiting for approvals. I am fairly certain my electronic ones will be coming home next, while my paper ones I am not expecting for a good while. For my next purchase, I will likely request an eForm again. It sucks that the government can’t run a website properly, but if a few hours of frustration saves months of waiting, I will appreciate the vendor that will put up with that for me.

  8. avatar Kyle in CT says:

    “I lost four sales last week because when I was asked to do electronic forms, I offered the following option:

    – I can try to do the forms electronically. ATF’s website isn’t working very well. If I can’t get it to work, we’ll go with paper.
    – If you want me to try it electronically, I’m going to charge you more money. My price is discounted for me to spend a minimal amount of time on this.”

    After reading your posts over the lasts several months, I wanted to throw in my two cents as a customer. The tone of the quoted section above is something that concerns me from the standpoint of customer service. While I understand you are probably distilling a much longer conversation, the specific tone and phrasing used with the customer is the key. I can say that, personally, if you had given me those options as bluntly as was posted here, and did not want to explain your position (namely the rest of the details you posted) in a friendly, conversational manner, I would absolutely walk out the door. More to the point, it has absolutely nothing to do with wait time. If you were to tell me, “Listen, I can give you a discount if you use a paper form, as the ATF website isn’t working well and what should take a few minutes is taking several hours. Plus, the 60 day wait times aren’t typical, you may save a little time, but best-case it’s probably on the order of 2-4 weeks” I would gladly save a little extra money on the front end, and thank you for giving me the option. The reason is that the focus is on the customer, and what he/she can do to save money. On the other hand, if you were to tell me, “I don’t like the ATF eForm, it takes me too long to do, so if you want it filed that way I’m going to have to charge you more.” the emphasis is on how the eForm impacts you, not the customer, and you emphasize an “extra” cost, not savings. Functionally you end up in the same place, but in the first instance you would keep my business, and in the second I would go somewhere else.

    This has played out for me personally in reference to a large LGS. I use their rental range, I like browsing there, but with the exception of not being able to find a product anywhere else, I will not be buying there. The reason is very simple; the vast majority of their staff has treated me with total disinterest. I try to get them to engage in a conversation about a specific gun, get them to show me comparables and discuss the various features, and they just seem put-out and annoyed. I refuse to give my business to an organization that treats me with disdain. This is why I don’t go to my local Home Depot anymore, but travel further to go to a different store. This is also not an isolated problem. Having been to several LGS over the years, lots of them have the same problem. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because they get so many people coming through and looking but not buying. But the key issue is that while you may not get business just because you’ve been friendly, you will certainly drive business away by being unfriendly.

    In essence, if it were my business, I would look back with an open mind, run through the interaction with these customers, and try to approach the conversation from their point of view. Obviously, I don’t know you personally, so I’m not accusing you of doing anything. You may be the friendliest salesperson in the world for all I know. But it’s possible that these customers walked not because of the facts, but because of the tone of the conversation. I know that personally, if I’m going to drop big bucks on any item, all else being approximately equal I will give the sale to the business that treats me well.

    1. avatar full.tang.halo says:

      Do a 10 year stint in retail with at least 5 years of that owning your own business and then come back and comment on customers. Customers that are irrational ME ME ME, are often the worst and least profitable. Spending time trying to coddle them is just a exercise in frustration and time wasting. Firing low margin customers is very rarely a bad thing, the worst they can do is tell their low margin friends not to come in, which is really a win in and of itself.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        The ONLY part of that I disagree with is the “worst thing” part…..remember that the intertubez has given every idiot a voice.

        And not all of them use it to bitch about sh1tty movies….

      2. avatar Shandower says:

        Then by all means, fire those low-margin customers. Just don’t THEN make a long whiny post about how your business is suffering in a forum that mostly consists of consumers.

      3. avatar Kyle in CT says:

        I’m not arguing that it isn’t a tough job, but if you hate dealing with customers, you should find another line of work. It is the nature of the beast that customer service is important. If you aren’t willing to at least fake pleasantness, you can’t complain that customers leave because they feel you have been rude. Would you drop thousands of dollars at a retail store that was rude to you?

        1. avatar full.tang.halo says:

          Yea, I buy over 100k worth of product a year from a company that has an absolute bitch for a branch manager. Why? because to buy from another source I’d spend 120k on the same amount of material, so do I raise my prices 20% because of wholesale cost increases so I get talked to nicely and then go out of business because I can’t make sales? Or do I continue to buy from my current supplier and stay in business?

        2. avatar Kyle in CT says:

          That sounds like you’re dealing with a wholesaler, it sounds like you ARE the retailer. That’s a totally different kind of relationship. And yes, I agree a 20% difference on that volume is a strong incentive. But more relevant to your average consumer is a difference like $50 on a P226.

    2. avatar Shandower says:

      I don’t generally like to say “This.”, but…

      This.

      I went to go buy a new XDs yesterday. I called the place that I know has tons of Springfields.

      “I’m looking for an XDs in 9mm, two tone. Do you have any in stock, and if so, what’s your price?”
      “Yes. We don’t give prices over the phone”
      “Okay, well, I don’t drive to South Hill for a place that won’t give me a price. I can get bad service locally.”

      So I drive over to the closest LGS, known for their lack of customer service.
      “I’m looking to buy an XDs in 9mm, preferably two-tone. What have you got in stock?”
      “We sold out.” (Walks away to help someone else, even though I can clearly see a black one in the case, which I would have bought if I had had the chance)

      So I drive over to the outdoor chain store, wait in line for 15 minutes, and pay an extra $20 to buy my XDs (black) from someone who is at least mildly pleasant

      I’m sure the LGSs have their reasons for their policy (perhaps trying to avoid being price-matched, and processing as many people with cash-in-hand as possible), but as a customer.. I DON’T CARE. All I know is that the only person that actually WANTED to sell me a gun was the kid behind the shooting desk at the outdoor store.

      1. avatar NFA Buyer says:

        Precisely. I’ve had the same thing happen many times myself, with NFA and non-NFA items. Which is why I love so much to find the good guys in the business who don’t think customers are whiney nuisances that get in their way of….what exactly?

      2. avatar NJDevils72 says:

        I’ll almost always pay a little more to a business that treats me well and acts like they really do want me to spend my money there compared to a place where no one will even look at me for fifteen minutes as they stand around behind the counter and talk to each other.

      3. avatar Hasdrubal says:

        Are you talking about the Marksman near Puyallup?

    3. avatar MW says:

      THIS. No lgs has lower across the board prices than any other and I haven’t had a pleasant interaction with any gun store employee (other than a phone interaction with someone from Quiet Riot) in at least a decade. So what is the markup for? Is it a large overhead cost to employee workers with bad attitudes?

  9. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    The gov could solve their problem easily by removing SBRs, SBSs, and silencers from the NFA. The conditions that led to the NFA, while stupid, don’t even exist anymore. I wish someone would have fixed this prior to the Dem senate and president.

    1. avatar tfunk says:

      Umm, I’m pretty sure the govt doesn’t see it as a problem.

      1. avatar Avid Reader says:

        For them it’s a feature, not a bug.

    2. avatar Elliotte says:

      Or they could just keep all their paperwork and requirements and do a NICS check and if it passes, put the stamp on it and mail it back. In theory this would cut down on the processing time. And the faster they can process these, the more NFA items people would buy, and the more money they’d make.

  10. avatar Michael B. says:

    Here’s more of his whining:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/guns/comments/1x0vlc/a_prime_example_why_retail_gun_dealers_hate/

    “Woe is me! I’m not smart enough to offer discounts solely to people who have concealed weapons licenses and are willing to pay using cash or debit cards so here’s a long whiny post!”

    The seemingly shocking truth that nobody wants to talk about – if stupid people weren’t allowed to buy guns, it would be a game changer for the business. Specifically, we’d lose a major profit center.

    If anyone’s wondering what my world view of last week’s Glock 17 sale was, it’s as a cynical observer of the human condition and that we should weep for the future. If this is the next generation of gun owners, we as a gun culture are totally fucking screwed.

    The barrier to entry for these people was the simplest: the almighty dollar. By lowering the barrier to entry, they pulled the trigger (pun intended) on a new gun and all it took was aggressive pricing. Not a decision based on quality of the good sold, or the warranty, or the engineering, or the customer service, or the performance under adverse conditions – one thing, and one thing alone – price, was the defining factor in each of these sales.

    lmfao

    1. avatar rawmade says:

      Best part of that is where he promotes straight up stealing someones money if they were denied on the 4473.
      When called out for it he said “what are they gonna do, call the police?”
      The guy is a just a terrible person and gets off on being a pos.

    1. avatar Michael B. says:

      Your comment is going to be deleted. My harsh criticisms of FC are deleted here on TTAG. The guy can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

      1. I see no reason why either of these comments would be deleted. Neither one flames the author or the site.

      2. avatar Matt in FL says:

        “I continue to wonder why in the hell TTAG posts FC’s writings. This FC post is nothing more than low quality whining.”

        Your “harsh criticisms” are nothing more than “he’s an asshole and I don’t like him.” They don’t actually contribute anything to the conversation. Say something worth hearing and it won’t get deleted. The policy is “don’t flame other people or the site.” It’s really not a hard concept to grasp. Sometimes the standard is applied a little questionably (even I run afoul of it on occasion; I had a comment deleted just yesterday and I was irritated about it), but I’m pretty sure that this comment was well into the unnecessary realm. I’m sorry if you can’t see that.

        1. avatar Michael B. says:

          Where is the “say something worth hearing and it won’t get deleted” rule posted on the site?

          “Don’t flame other people or the site.”

          Sounds fair. I didn’t.

        2. avatar Ralph says:

          Your “harsh criticisms” are nothing more than “he’s an asshole and I don’t like him.”

          What a coincidence. I have the same harsh criticism.

        3. avatar Jeff says:

          how often do we all flame anti gun people here?

          FC deserves what he gets from some people here. commenters can and do have opinions on people other than just anti-gunners. get over it.

      3. avatar KMc says:

        I didn’t criticize FC, just pointed out his dislike of customers. Maybe he should find another job?

        1. avatar KMc says:

          That was for Michael B.

      4. avatar rawmade says:

        I call FC out all the time as do many others and never seen em get deleted.

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I’m not sure how this applies. He’s not complaining about not having any business because people don’t like him. That would be karma. This post and the one you linked have nothing whatsoever to do with one another, other than being written by the same person.

      1. avatar KMc says:

        The vibe I got from both is this: Customers, while they do pay the bills, suck.

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          Yep, he’s not alone in that opinion. It’s pretty much what anyone who has ever dealt with customers for any length of time thinks. Most of the time the benefits you get from having customers only very slightly outweighs the irritation those same customers cause. That thin margin is where people make their money, but that doesn’t mean they have to love it.

        2. avatar KMc says:

          Maybe FC should go to an online only business model. You never have to see a customer, listen to him bitch or waste your time. A LGS near us went that route last year and we are more than happy to have his ex customers. I spent over 30 years dealing with Farmers so I feel his pain. Up to a point and than it’s just a bitch session. I’m not Dr. Phil, he can work out his problems on his own time.

    3. avatar mike says:

      Precisely. If FC is comfy eating his cupcakes during tragic human events, surely he can stomach some unexpected waiting time online. Business isn’t just a 1-way or 2-way street…it’s a 4-way stop.

  11. avatar peirsonb says:

    Specifically on the “Amazon ruining patience” perspective, I’ve seen that a lot. But, like so many things these days, apparently I’m bass-ackwards. I tend to not order from Amazon/other online retailers (unless it’s something really obscure/hard to find) because going to a physical store is faster.

    Why would I wait for even one day shipping when I can walk in a store, actually TOUCH something, and walk out with what I want right then?

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      10%, 20%, or more in savings.

      Not a small concern, for some folks.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        Yeah, I s’pose there’s that.

        Still, actually being able to lay hands on an item before I buy it is worth the trade in most cases, for me. And for some reason I never made the logical leap to “check it out in a store, then go home and order it cheaper.”

        1. As an Amazon Prime member, I can tell you that I default to Amazon. Not having to deal with finding what I’m looking for in a store, standing in line or dealing with salespeople (good or bad) is plenty of incentive. Not to mention having the item at my door in two days. And avoiding sales tax.

  12. avatar FortWorthColtGuy says:

    Boo-hoo. Cry me a river. This article coming from a guy who only a few months ago bragged how he takes advantage of people worried they are going to lose their gun rights? I am sorry, I have zero sympathy for this author. What goes around, comes around.

    1. avatar nnjj says:

      Don’t forget this little gem:

      “Listen, I’m not saying I want to see Sandy Hook II but another 20 or 30 dead kids would really dress out my balance sheet.”
      https://twitter.com/FirearmConcierg/status/410868580905783296

      Why does TTAG even associate with this guy??

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        Because he offers a point of view into the industry that we’re not getting anywhere else.

        1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

          He is still an asshole.

          A correct asshole, but an asshole.

        2. avatar nnjj says:

          Yeah, the “School shootings are good for business” point of view. That’s just what the industry needs.

        3. avatar Mack Bolan says:

          I’m sure if TTAG actually tried to find a dealer with more intelligence, considerably better writing skills, some actual useful insight into the industry that goes beyond “why I’m awesome, why customers suck and who can I screw today” and rates below a 10 on the douche meter would be a pretty easy endeavor.

      2. avatar FortWorthColtGuy says:

        Is FC a plant of MAIG? He makes Gun owners out to be blood thirsty. I am repulsed by his words and offended by his insinuations. He should not be a TTAG contributor.

  13. avatar tfunk says:

    I submitted a Form 4 electronically Sept 11, 2013 and received the stamp Dec 18. Submitted another Form 4 electronically Oct 19 and received the stamp Jan 17. My last submission was Nov 22…we’ll see how long it takes. NFA Tracker is a great resource. So far it seems that eForm submissions are taking about 94 days from submission to stamp received while paper submissions are over 270 days.

    I was the guinea pig for my local FFL, and was there when he entered the submissions. The first one in Sept was a beeotch, trying to figure out how to use the website, how documents would be accepted, etc., and required several attempts and phone calls. Once we got it figured out each attempt since has been easy. However, after recently trying to submit my taxes using the IRS contracted Free File Fillable Files vendor (nope, haven’t been successful in 6 days of trying) it has confirmed my thoughts that our govt sucks at pretty much everything.

  14. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “Our federal regulators have a site that is designed to handle NFA transactions electronically, and it’s failing miserably and nobody seems to know why it’s barely operational. As of this writing, logging in is simply not possible, and filing ATF Form 3 or Form 4 or checking existing drafts just isn’t happening.”

    It’s the BATFE’s version of Obamacare…

  15. avatar John says:

    I spoke with the ATF NFA branch last week. I had called about the status of 4 NFA items I had in their queue. They were on top of their game and had extremely fast responses. I was asked if I would fill out an online survey afterwards, which I did. I was contacted the next day by the ATF NFA branch in reference to my survey responses. Specifically about my comments on wait times and the e-file forms. I was impressed by the professionalism and desire to increase customer service. They admitted to having a buggy program and are working in getting it fixed. They were proud of how it decreases wait times. They also covered other issues of how to decrease time and improve service. In the end it will help your business IMHO, embrace the change FC

  16. avatar Robby B says:

    “I will continue to lose sanity/productivity dealing with customers who feel my time is best spent fighting with ATF’s website so they can theoretically get their gear sooner.”

    How dare those paying customers, using a service you quoted and offered, have the audacity to expect to get their paid for products by the fastest method available? And you say some people are taking their business elsewhere; to places that will provide the service they are looking for? Its almost like there is some sort of invisible hand pushing these customers out your door and into another supplier of goods and services’. Now if only there was a theory by which we could understand this…

    1. avatar NFA Buyer says:

      Haha. Yes.

    2. avatar full.tang.halo says:

      Somehow my reply buttons are le-screwed up. I call Huntertown Arms crap cans because they do a shitty job at suppressing. They are noticeably louder than every other 22 can that I’ve ever demo-ed. If you are gonna go though the hassle of buying a can I don’t understand why you would spend money on something that has such poorer performance than other options that are not that much more expensive. I’ll also say the the Gemtech Trek-T is also a POS, and worse than a HTA it’s an expensive POS. It’s super light-weight and short, but it’s downright painful to shoot w/o ears outside.

      1. avatar Robby B says:

        Thanks, good to know. Their baffle stacks don’t look like they have much expansion room.

  17. avatar nnjj says:

    Good. Maybe it’ll destroy your business and you’ll stop going around saying how good school shootings are for your business:
    http://www.motherjones.com/files/tweet.jpg

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/reddit-guns-assault-rifle-ar15-logo-conde-nast

    Why is this clown writing for TTAG?

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Explain what he said that was factually incorrect. It wasn’t a very nice thing to say, but it wasn’t untrue.

      1. avatar nnjj says:

        His comments are not only a disgrace, but not helpful to the perception of gun owners, or our struggle to keep our gun rights intact. He provides ammunition to those who would like to see us disarmed – which if you read the article, is exactly how his helpful comments are being used. The gun control crowd drools over guys like him.

        You know, sometimes it’s ok to admit that fellow gun owners crossed the line. Like, when they say nation-shaking tragedies like Sandy Hook are good for business. But yeah, you defend that.

    2. avatar Coxsone says:

      Yep. Still an elitist prick.

    3. avatar SelousX says:

      Because his opinion, no matter how unpleasant you may find it to read, may serve as a barometer as to what is going on in the business, or even a bellwether as to what may be expected in the future.
      Personally, I’d rather have his input to the site than not.

    4. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      Hurricane’s are great for home depot and lowes. You don’t see them rooting for a hurricane, but they will count the money.

      School shootings are great for gun dealers who have black rifles.You don’t see them rooting for a school shooting, but they will count the money.

      I will not apologize for turning a profit from a thundering horde of people with blank checks.

      1. avatar Mack Bolan says:

        Lowes and HD do make money form hurricanes, but the big differences are:

        A. You wont see the CEO bragging about how they are exploiting someone else’s tragedy
        B. They don’t jack prices on plywood because “they can”
        C. They donate supplies to those affected.
        D. They don’t make public statements about how providing customer service is a bitch.

        See its the difference between having some class…and not. You are like a school in summer…no class.

      2. avatar nnjj says:

        If the media and the government were trying to put Lowes and Home Depot out of business and ban hardware superstores, do you think it would HELP them or HURT them to make inflammatory comments about hurricanes (with fatalities, mind you) being good for business? Because that’s where *we* are, and you’re not helping by saying dead school kids helps your bottom line.

        Why TTAG gives you a platform to amplify and legitimize your disgraceful comments is beyond me.

    5. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      If you hate my writing so much, why do you keep tabs on everything written by/for/or about me so handy?

      You seem to miss the point that the more controversial I get, the more people get ticked off, which results in more page views, which means a greater audience.

      Thanks?

      1. avatar KMc says:

        I don’t hate your writing, just the condescending attitude towards customers.

  18. avatar SelousX says:

    …and that’s just another reason I’m glad my submission went in on paper. 🙂

  19. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I would pay a little extra for expedited e-Form service, and that is especially true right now because I’m aware of the difficulties that the service is exhibiting and thus the extra time and effort required of FFLs that FC is complaining about. If I was buying a silencer and they told me that paper forms were free but eForm filing would cost an extra $20, I’d pay it without a thought.

    That said, the average customer isn’t going to understand that, because until they walked in they were probably not aware of the eForm system difficulties, and so it would behoove you to explain those difficulties to them in a non-confrontational way. It won’t take any longer than saying it nastily. Someone upthread offered a good solution. Set your prices based on what you think the eForm is worth, and then offer them a discount for paper forms, because it’s both slower and requires less work. That’s much less objectionable than offering one price and then jacking it up based on your irritation level.

  20. avatar Brian says:

    Things Amazon is doing to ruin society? You have to be kidding me. Amazon has simply taken the role of market leader. The things they do which used to be deal winners, unexpected, are now deal makers or requirements. Amazon has made society better because they have created economic efficiencies leading to an overall higher quality of life. The market has spoken and loves these efficiencies; meanwhile the author seems to be simply grouchy about the free market. Patience is only a virtue when dealing in non-financial transactions as money has a time value.

    Instead of complaining about his customers or his competition, the author should be looking at his business. If he cannot offer faster processing times or electronic filing, what other items can he offer to entice customers? Perhaps offering to not have customers pay 100% up front for NFA items until the stamp is approved? My favorite local SOT only requires 50% up front then 50% when the stamp is approved. The same SOT doesn’t charge for transfers from 3rd parties if you also buy something NFA from him at the same time. These features have earned this SOT 100% of my local NFA business. He’s competing for the market’s money, like any business should.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I don’t have any issue with your second paragraph, but your first paragraph only really applies if FC and Amazon were in the same business, and he was complaining about Amazon taking his market share. His complaint is that Amazon has helped a lot with making people think they should be able to get virtually anything right now, and when they encounter something that’s simply impossible to have right now, they get irritated and loud and nasty.

      His issue is not actually with Amazon, it’s with uninformed customers. You’ll actually find that is a thread that runs through all his posts, and it’s not unique to FC or to the gun industry. I used to sell auto parts. Uninformed customers were the bane of my existence, because they didn’t know what they wanted, and didn’t understand why they needed it, so when I told them and they didn’t like it, they thought I was trying to rip them off. His delivery may be far from the best, but what he says is not untrue.

      1. avatar NJDevils72 says:

        A customer being uninformed isn’t an excuse to treat them badly; it’s an opportunity to turn them into informed customers. A rude, impatient customer is not necessarily the same thing as an uninformed customer. There are plenty of knowledgeable people who are rude and impatient.
        The business that takes the time to service their customers, giving them proper information, treating them with the utmost respect is the business that will see more customers.

      2. avatar peirsonb says:

        Ignorance, by itself, isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a simple lack of knowledge, usually you just haven’t learned something yet. The problem arises when people see ignorance as something to strive for….

  21. avatar Justin says:

    GO figure… here’s a message I received from ATF just this morning regarding eForms:

    Good morning registered eForms users:

    For the past two weeks you have been experiencing various performance related issues while attempting to use eForm. These issues have included slow response times, inability to finalize and submit forms, pay.gov screen not displaying, inability to select product types for some submissions, inability to view PDF’s, the system abruptly returning the user back to the home screen, and some of you have not been able to log in at all. While any of you have been able to successfully submit your eForms, others have not been able to get them out of your “Draft” folders.

    First, we want to offer our sincere apology for what you are currently experiencing while using eForms. The quality of eForms’ current performance is not indicative of the quality of performance that ATF strives to provide its customers. We share your current frustrations and we want you to know that we are doing everything that we can to address these issues. We continue to meet every day with “experts” in the field, and we are confident that we will soon find a solution.

    We believe that eForms is a worthwhile investment for us, as well as for you, the firearms industry. And we think that you feel the same. The statistics below are reflective of this week’s work (our eForms week is calculated from one Wednesday to the next for reporting purposes):

    New eforms user registrations: 405
    Form 1 submissions: 208
    Form 3 submissions: 930
    Form 4 submissions: 898

    So, in spite of the performance issues, eForms is doing what it was designed to do. It may be slower and it may be temperamental at times, but we believe it to still be a worthwhile investment.

    We are committed to provide, you, our customers, the best service that we can and to this end we will continue our efforts to resolve the issues with our eForms system. While we are trying to resolve these issues it may be necessary for us to perform system restarts throughout the day where we may bring eforms down for an hour or so. We request your patience with us and your understanding that this process is unavoidable until we can correctly identify and resolve the issues.

    We will provide you with periodic updates on our efforts to ensure you of our commitment and to keep you informed. We thank you for your patience and your continued use of eForms until these issues are resolved.

    Please feel free to contact me at anytime if you have any questions or comments at lee.alston-williams@atf.gov or you can use the “Ask the Experts” function within eForms.

    Sincerely,

    Lenora (Lee) Alston-Williams
    Industry Liasion Analyst – IT
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives
    Office of Enforcement Programs and Services
    Firearms and Explosives Services Division
    99 New York Avenue, N.E. (6.E-333)
    Washington, DC 20226

    1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      Yep. Article timed perfectly

    2. avatar peirsonb says:

      ” performance that ATF strives to provide its customers.”

      Maybe a minor thing, but that’s never stopped me before….

      The people using the system ARE NOT freaking customers. They’re your supervisors, you know, the whole taxpayer thing….

      /rant

  22. avatar over-educated economist says:

    While I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the author’s travails with the system, he seems to not get that, to a customer, shaving SIX MONTHS off the NFA approval process is huge.. and if the competition will do it for free, why not go there?

    1. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      It’s not free. It’s arbitrary and capricious. Why should I lose a sale to a dealer across town when we’re using the same E form system and theirs works and mine does not?

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Because karma. If dead kids are good for your business, you being unable to e-file is good for theirs.

        1. avatar FortWorthColtGuy says:

          +1000

          FC gives the anti-gunners the verbal ammo they need to take our rights. Whether or not there is any truth in his statement is irrelevant, he should know better than to say something like that.

  23. avatar former water walker says:

    Are we supposed to care? First post ever on any gun forum…to a jagoff who wrote “‘don’t be poor” earlier…lol

    1. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      I was poor once.

      I do not suggest it to anyone.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        If you’re feeling nostalgic, just wait a bit.

  24. avatar Ralph says:

    This could never happen if Kathleen Sebelius was in charge.

  25. avatar Rick says:

    You guys are all operating under the assumption ATF wanted the website to work.

    1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      A comment that perhaps got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get the praise it deserves.

      While I don’t think that’s the case completely, it may be why they are dragging their feet.

  26. avatar anon says:

    Well as far as non operational website, I’d have to say it’s intentional. Who you gonna call and complain to? The White House, the Justice Dept. or the ATF? Good luck

    As far as customers go, too many want all your knowledge and them go buy elsewhere. We run a store and website and a $5.00 difference for the same firearm means we sell a lot or a little. It is amazing.

    We’ve had customers accept a firearm, put optics on it, fire it and come back and complain it’s scratched, even though we insist they look it over completely before they take it!

    All I can think is cheap bas**rds!

  27. avatar Ryan says:

    FC- I understand charging a premium for eFiling because it takes more of your valuable time that could be used making other sales. However, you could consider hiring someone to help you with the eFiling if you really are losing a lot of business.

    1. avatar FirearmConcierge says:

      I should hire someone……to help me try to login to a website that is down?

      And when they can login, they can’t get forms submitted?

      So I’m paying them to press F5 all day?

      I’m sorry, how is that productive?

      1. avatar Edward says:

        In that case you could just get one of those novelty drinking birds to smack the keyboard all day. Problem solved!

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          Heh. Now that’s thinking outside the box. I’ve got a buddy that would automate it using stuff he build on his 3D printer and motors and stuff, because he’s into that.

      2. avatar Robby B says:

        Well in your case it would free up lots of time to run off more customers.

        1. avatar KMc says:

          Good one!

  28. avatar rawmade says:

    Oh noes…FC is losing business. Its so unfair that such a nice, helpful retailer who cares about its customers is running afoul.
    Why do the truly great businesses always get th shit end of the stick?!
    Its not like he hates all his customers, anyone not knowledgeable in what they are purchasing, “poor” people, people who dont want to wait a year for their item if they dont have to, any customer who asks a reasonable request if it takes ANY of his time, or that he blatantly gives gun owners and retailers a bad name any chance he gets. What a shame hes losing customers. It just doesnt make sense that buyers would go somewhere that doesnt hate them, talk negatively about them, and charge them more any chance they get. IT JUST DOESNT MAKE SENSE!

  29. avatar RickP says:

    Apparently, efiling is faster as a friend has his stamp already after three months but mine which went the old fashioned way is still stuck in process after over 5 months. Check out http://www.nfatracker.com and you can see that those that efiled are having a much better success rate. One would think that the old paper way would be getting faster due to reduced volume but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    1. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

      efiles even at the current rate quoted in a comment above are but a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of transfers each examiner has to see.

      every form 1, form 4, form 2 and 3, for each item gets looked at.

      every flashbang LAPD buys, has a form.
      every new M16 NYPD purchases (so that they can miss more tactically)
      every m203 Sioux Falls PD buys because they are bored.

      has a form.

      every single one of them.

  30. avatar int19h says:

    You sure are very condescending when talking about your customers. Perhaps that might better explain why you’re not having as many.

  31. avatar John says:

    I just received notice today that EForms system is being shut down until further notice. This is NOT good news.

  32. avatar Hal Mullett says:

    About a month ago I was able to submit (2) e-form 4s with the ATF website. The site is very slow at the best! I have since tried to submit a couple more e-forms and the site always crashes before I can complete the submission. Currently, I can not even login to the site. On the last 2 attempts at submitting a form, I got to the point where they accept the $200 and the payment was processed. However when I went to submit the form (which is the last step) the site crashed. So…….I have paid (2) $200 tax stamps which the govt. has verified by email, but have not been able to submit the forms for processing. I have of course contacted the so called correct phone numbers to address this issue and all I have received is promises that I will be contacted back by some of the “experts” to resolve this issue. So far, in over 2 weeks I have not received a reply. Typical Govt. bullshit! If I ran my business like that, I would certainly be broke. My opinion is: The site doesn’t have enough server capability to handle it’s demands. The original idea of the e-site was with good intentions, but do to it’s incapability to handle what it’s supposed to, the site is a failure. Must of been designed by the same guy that developed the Obamacare site! What a crock!

  33. avatar TheTruth says:

    I think the website is rigged – they make it dysfunctional on purpose so people give up–

    Websites are simple, all you need for a website to work properly, is have well working and enough servers to handle the amount of traffic, and the proof that it’s rigged is the fact that all there other websites work great

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