There is a lot to celebrate these days if you are pro-gun. Restrictive firearms laws are dropping across the country, gun manufacturers are so busy that some are freezing new orders to work through their backlog and the average person on the street is less likely to run screaming to the nearest cop if you accidentally flash your concealed carry piece (depending, of course, on what state you live in). Unfortunately, the gun boom has a dark side, too . . .
The supply of many new guns is getting scarce, which in turn is driving up the prices of used ones. Gun manufacturers are not as concerned about holding down MSRPs as long as they can sell everything they make and gun dealers are not as anxious to offer too much in the way of discounts from MSRP, especially for the really popular guns. On top if this, if you want to purchase a Class III device, the ATF wait times are stretching into the 6+ month range.
On top of this, there seems to be a rising arrogance on the part of some gun retailers, particularly the ones that have been established for some time. This approach reminds me a lot of what happened during the cigar boom of the 1990’s. For those who don’t recall, cigars became a key fashion accessory among the movers and shakers and nearly every male celebrity (and some female ones) graced the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine at some point during the decade.
Good cigars got insanely expensive (assuming you could find them) and some manufacturers took advantage of the environment by pumping out crap. Along with this, the attitude of the owners of many long-time cigar shops shifted into what I can best describe as thinly veiled contempt for their customers. Customer service was non-existent – just as in that Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode, you came in, placed your order, paid and got out. No idle chit chat.
I’m seeing a similar trend developing in my local area where firearms are concerned. Some of the established gun shops are really displaying outright contempt for their customers and quite frankly, I think this is a bad plan. To wit, I recently decided to take my brand spanking new gun trust out for a spin to get the paperwork started for a .22 suppressor. As near as I can tell, there are only two Class III dealers within a couple hour drive and here’s what happened:
I called and was told that the owner was out and he would call me back. Never happened. While I understand that given the complexities of the NFA, the owner would want to be involved in every NFA-related transaction, there seems to me to be no good reason why his staff couldn’t at least tell me what the shop has in stock. The next day, I was in the area and swung by the shop. No suppressors in stock, but a shipment was on order.
Customer Service Grade – D. No call back and insufficiently educated sales staff.
Dealer #2 has been a fixture in the area for nearly 50 years. They have an established reputation, not all of it good. I called the store on Tuesday to inquire if they had the suppressor I wanted in stock. The person who answered the phone had to ask someone else, but at least he answered my question – they did.
Based upon the price I was quoted, either the shop is offering a deal that undercuts the best Internet prices by 50% or else he got the names of the products confused. That said, it was at least worth my driving up to the store the next day. When I arrived, I was told that just like the other store, I needed to deal with the owner to purchase a suppressor. At the time, the owner had three people in his office and a call on hold. Since the boss was so busy, I said that I would just call the next day and make an appointment.
The next day, I called in the morning and the boss was again busy so I left my name and number. I also called a couple of hours later and left a message on his voice mail (just in case the person who took it down lost it). I told him I was interested in purchasing a suppressor and would like to make and appointment to come to the store to do it. A day later, still no call back.
Customer Service Grade – F – Really, you don’t want my money? Seriously?
Unfortunately, in my state, I’m kind of screwed. I’m going to have to deal with one of these two outfits if I want to purchase the product I’m looking for. I really think that there’s an opportunity here for someone who is not an assclown to get into the Class III business. As was the case during the cigar boom, new stores entered the market that actually paid attention to customer service and, once the boom eased, they did better as the customers remembered them.
Perhaps something similar will happen in the firearms business. I already channel a lot of my non-Class III purchasing through a local guy who does this part time and charges less than the big guys and is more focused on customer service than they are. If some of the little guys decide to get into the Class III biz, we might just have something here.