I know there's myriad reasons for why a shopkeep may not be as eager as you'd otherwise expect. Listed below are a few hypotheses:
- The last person in the shop had no interest in buying anything, they just wanted some free intel on river conditions.
- The last person they helped to select a rod thanked them saying "I can get it cheaper on the internet."
- The shopkeep is a guide doing indentured servitude behind the register cause he doesn't have a float today. He barely knows how to use the register much less how to sell you anything. He can tie a blood knot blindfolded.
- You're the forty-second person through the door today who can't spell Baetis much less understand how it's the best hatch to fish and only knuckle-dragging morons fish anything larger than a #22 dry.
- You're the forty-third person through the door today who clearly is not a local and will probably never return and actually buy anything. No extra attention for you.
- You're the 17th sun-dress wearing tourist to enter and ask if they have a public restroom.
- The shopkeep is a curmudgeon and should probably be in another line of business.
I walked into a West Yellowstone fly shop last week. It's one of the big name shops in town. Inside there were two shopkeeps. Behind the counter was a guide doing penance. Seated on a stool was a more senior member of the team, he looked managerial. I'm the only person in the shop. I'm dressed in full fly angling costume: requisite cap with fish on it, Simm's shirt, quick dry pants.
I had two interesting conversations in my short time in the shop.
Conversation 1: A fishing license.
Guy on Stool: Hey.
Me: Hi. I need a fishing license for Yellowstone. Can I get that here or do I have to buy it in the park?
GOS: You can get that here.
GOS: [This space intentionally left blank. Clearly my desire for a license does not seem certain or immediate. GOS is stoic]
Me: [Pause while standing in front of GOS looking hopeful, perhaps plaintive]
After a painful amount of time, perhaps only twenty seconds, I can take it no longer.
M: Can we do that now?
GOS: Sure. [GOS rises and a license is procured]
Conversation 2: Flies for the Lamar
I wander over to the fly bins and clearly seem bewildered.
Me: I'm going to fish the Lamar in the next few days. Would you recommend Hoppers?
GOS: That might work. Also, the Drakes are coming off. You might try a Green Drake.
Guide: Yeah, I fished Drakes there yesterday and they seemed to work.
Me: I have hoppers but I don't have one of those Drakes.
GOS: [Stoic yet again.]
Me: What fly would you recommend for a Drake pattern?
GOS: Over in the bin to your right on the bottom row you'll find some.
I continue to be bewildered.
Shortly GOS joins me to sort through an overwhelming selection.
GOS to G: Which ones were your fishing?
G: The ones with the shiny abdomen
I procure forty dollars worth of flies.
I felt in both conversations I had to ask for them to sell me something. I don't need someone following me around the shop like a puppy dog, but these experiences were unnecessarily painful. Worse, I was in this shop last year and got the same treatment. Clearly I'm a slow learner. I'll go somewhere else next time.
The flip side of all that
If you own a fly shop and you want to learn how they should: a) be organized, b) be staffed, and c) integrate customer relationship best practices (internet/mail marketing) visit Little River Outfitters in Townsend, TN. Those guys have their game on. Friendly. Courteous. Helpful. And they didn't let me leave without getting my email address.
When Mike and I visited they asked where we were fishing, recommended a few spots we should try and even pointed out some flies we should purchase. All without being asked. They made a quick sale and, more importantly, got me in the mood for buying. I picked up more flies than I would otherwise have done so and even bought supplies that I didn't need (though those extra leaders came in handy in Yellowstone).