There I stood, waiting at the archery counter of the second shop this week. The first attempt had not gone well, and had left a bad taste in my mouth. On the previous Sunday I had gone to a local everything-outdoor retailer (they also sell farm tack and supplies, I won’t directly mention their name. but I think you can figure it out.) with the intentions of getting a little expert advise (or something close) and maybe laying my hands on a couple new compound bows. I am by no means a novice, I have just been out of the game for a bit. I had my release in one pocket and my wallet in the other, they should have been able to see me coming. I know from personal experience selling firearms, that you can tell from a distance who is a driver and who is a tire kicker. But the clerk (notice how I didn’t call him a salesmen, he wasn’t selling anything) was too busy chatting with a couple of his friends, who were actually blocking the whole entry into the archery area. After 10 minute waiting just to pass through the door, I gave up. Just so happens that I know a guy who is currently working in the firearms section. He came up to me with a smile and a handshake, and asked how it was going? All I had to do was point over to the archery department, and he knew exactly what I was talking about. His smile faded away and he apologized. “It’s not your fault”, I replied, “Maybe I just don’t want to buy a bow from here that bad”. I turned around and walked out of the store. Flash forward 7 days, once again I’m standing at the archery counter (different outdoor store, once again I won’t mention any names, but it rhymes with “crack weep”) just hoping that I will get someone knowledgable that will attempt to give me a hand. This time my Son decided to go with me and I changed my tactic a little bit. I walked in holding my wallet in one hand, and my release in the other. The fella behind the counter kept diving back and forth, looking at his phone and ignoring the fact that I was even there. He then took up a in-depth conversation with one of the other sales associates about the cool new tires he got on his pick up truck, then about his ice fishing set-up, then about the walking dead… All the while I’m standing there slapping my wallet into my other palm and staring right at them. I looked down at my Son, and with a voice volume about 10 settings too high said “Well bud, I guess these guys are just far to busy to sell me a bow!” That got their attention, but still not enough to have them speak to the fact that I had pointed out their lack-luster sales skills. For the second time in a week I was walking out of archery shop pissed off about the lack of service…
I started shooting archery when I was around 13, and quickly went through bow hunters education for a chance to extend my hunting seasons. I originally had a Bear whitetail hunter that I purchased from a pawn shop that a family friend owned. (I had to borrow the $60 from my parents and pay them back with sweat-equity) I then had to take up whatever random job I could find so that I could afford arrows, but being young and focused on being a deer slayer I didn’t mind a bit. I shot the hell out of that bow, I purchased a bale of hay and wrapped it in poly (for years I never even knew that they sold archery targets), but living in downtown Coeur d’Alene, I would have to talk my Dad into taking me into the woods so that I could continue to hone my arrow flingin skills… Several years later my ex-brother in law Dave presented me with a new (to me at least) Hoyt eclipse. He had upgraded to a Mathews Switchback, in so he wanted me to have his old bow. Boy that Hoyt was a rocket ship in comparison to that old Bear! It had a multi-pin sight, it was served for a release, and it was around 50 fps faster to boot. (Remember those old Bear bows were only rated at about 160 fps, so 50 fps was like going from a Volkswagen bug to a Porsche 911). A couple of days a week I would drive up to Dave’s House and we would shoot his impromptu 3D course. Dave could always out-shoot me but it didn’t matter, I was getting pretty good, especially on off camber stuff, and I was pretty much a walking rangefinder. September came around, and field points got swapped out for broadheads. No I didn’t shoot an elk, but we got into them. The excitement of belly crawling into position, constantly checking the wind, the smell of the elk as you made your way into the herd, it was almost too much for a young man to bear. I was hooked! But my tag went un-punched that year. By the time the next archery elk season rolled around, I was nowhere to be found. That summer I had gotten into a motorcycle accident, that had left me in an isolater sling, with no feeling or movement in my left shoulder. The feeling would later come back and my motion now is probably 90% of what it was. What didn’t come back was that lust for shooting my bow, It had been so long that I had forgotten the joy that it had brought me. It’s taken me 13 years to remember it. Now I can’t even find somebody that wants to sell me a bow. I’m seriously thinking about taking a white shirt, and writing “SELL ME A BOW” in sharpie on the front the next time I enter a sporting goods store.
So I just wasted your time, and typed 1,001 words just to gripe about bad service right? Not exactly… This is something that is bigger then that. You, like myself, have to work for your money, and in that sometimes it is VERY hard to part with it. I have been researching new bows for almost a year now, and have funneled it down into probably 6-10 that I am actually interested in purchasing. Out of the thousands that are out their I’m down to two handfuls. I know I can order them online for a fraction of what I would spend for them locally, but I am a touchy-feely kind of guy, I don’t care what the stats say, if the bow (or gun, knife, hatchet, fly rod etc.) doesn’t fit me correctly and give me a feeling that it is “the one”, I don’t want to buy it. Even if an archery department doesn’t have “the one”, but I get awesome service, and the sales person get’s me headed in the right direction, I am more likely to spend my hard-earned money there on other things. Speaking from personal experience, you may not be able to sell someone something today, but if you treat them right, you may be able to sell them something tomorrow, then 2 month’s from now, then in a year. It is always better to have more allies then enemies. I can remember having families come in looking for firearms, treating them right, getting them the best prices I could, mounting their optics, the having them ask me my opinion on cases, or hunting boots, or tents… I never said “I sell guns, go find someone else in that department to help you”, I would walk out from behind the counter and take them through the store, answer any questions that I felt comfortable answering, and if I didn’t have the answer I would find the department manager and have them help field the question. What started off as a two rifle sale worth $1,500, turned into $6,000 hunting camp set up. Even more important than that, those customers now respected me, we were now friends. When they shot that buck of a lifetime with the rifle that I set up for them, they would come back in with pictures and thank me. I still run into some of those people out and about through town, they remember me and always say hi. You create relationships. In this day and age, where people are fearing the complete and utter collapse of society, is it better to be the person that everyone trusts and respects, or (for the lack of a better word) the asshole behind the counter? If we actually do experience this implosion of life as we know it, who do you want to be, and who do you want on your side? Remember that the bridge that you burn today, may be your only escape route tomorrow. Spend your money at places that treat you fairly, and remember that you never know who you’re talking to, what may be as small of a gesture as opening the door for someone, or pleasantly carrying on a conversation with a cashier, could have longer lasting effects. Winston Churchill once said “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them” and there is a lot of truth behind that statement… As for getting decent service at an archery shop… I’m pretty sure you can’t buy that with a fistful of dollars.
-Grant Willoughby 04/01/2017-