Monday, March 31, 2014

When a guy walks into a fly shop....

Asshats don't catch nice trout

....he should not be an asshat.*/**

I've given fly shop owners a hard time now and again for their lack of customer service. I think it's a fair complaint and one that certainly has struck a chord with fly shop customers. I get more traffic and comments related to fly shop posts than most anything related to actual fishing. Maybe that also says something about my skills as an angler.

One of the great challenges of owning a shop is beating the competition. This used to be a simple matter of knowing who was upstream or downstream of you. But the internet has stomped into town and made things cheap and abundant and easy to get without going outdoors to prepare for one's outdoor sports.

Just last week I noticed I was getting low on Comparadun hair. I suppose I could have driven an hour or so to the nearest fly shop on the off chance that it would have something in stock. I could even have called ahead to check stock before I showed up. But the internet has made it easy. Sadly, the sample of Comparadun hair that arrived was substandard. The hairs are all very short, not good for anything bigger than #16.

HRO. One of the better ones.
The prime difference in shopping experience between a fly shop and the internet*** is the ability to fondle the goods. With something variable, like deer hair, if I want what the shop has I have to buy it from the shop. I can't scope out the best feathers or hair and then expect to get something identical from the intertubes.

But when it comes to mass produced items - rods, waders, boots, etc. - one can fondle locally but purchase globally. Now this behavior isn't unique to fly shops. I've walked into Best Buy, fondled the goods then scoped out the web for the best price; sometimes right in the store.**** More often than not the best price is from Best Buy or some other big box retailer. I don't feel so bad doing this with large retailers because that's the game these guys play.+

But I think it's a different game when you do this to a small retailer. Sure, they've signed up for the Russian Roulette of Capitalism, but the game is much different for the small guys. Volumes are low. Margins are slim. Cheating them of a well earned sale is cold. If you walk into a shop, scope out the goods, take the rod for a test drive, make the clerk answer twenty questions and then go buy on the internet to save a few beans, then you're an asshat.

Shop owners aren't operating a charity and they don't get commission when some other guy rings the register. If you take the time to visit the shop and scope out the goods, then you should dance with them that brung ya. Heck, amortize those internet savings over the number of fishing trips you're going to have during the lifetime of the product and you're probably talking about chump change per trip.

Shop on the internet or shop in a shop. But don't showroom. Showroomers are asshats.++ Don't be an asshat.

* Gals can be asshats too
** I was tempted to use the term "douchebag" in this article but restrained myself because it is too vulgar for family audiences. I do, however, love how the word feels rolling off the tongue.
*** Well, besides the generally apathetic sales force.
**** Referred to by professionals as "showrooming"
+ At least that's what I tell myself.
++ Except for the previously mentioned exclusion


  1. Steve, good post and you make a very good point. I will say this, it is a struggle for those fly anglers who are in "Geezerhood" stage due to living on a fixed budget. However, I want to see the fly tying product I am buying before I purchase it. I think that is one of the features of being one who ties their own flies. I like to feel, caress, sort, and compare colors and feel of a material. Now, I have a totally different approach to say, fly lines, They are what they are and just buy one is my motto. No chance I buy a rod or reel without fondling first!

  2. You nailed it on this one! I was just explaining to someone today how I make sure and buy something, anything, even a few flies that I may never actually use. This is all assuming that the shop I visit is friendly and willing to offer advice. As you mentioned and wrote about before, that friendly piece is sadly lacking at a lot of shops these days. I'm glad to always spend a little in my favorite shop(s) just to make sure I do my part to be able to return anytime I want to...

    1. I somewhat ambivalent on whether one buys from a shop or the internet. But if you do visit the shop and get some benefit, as you said, buy something.

  3. Having worked on the retail side, I am very sensitive to how shop sales approach and handle the helping/sales when I am in the store. Even if I am just looking for information, if the help is good and friendly, it is easy to buy something, even if it doesn't amount to much, it helps. And I have gone back for big purchases later, so like to think it pays off for them in the long haul. While buying on the internet is not going away, being able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson (or even one who doesn't know, but admits it and says they will find out more) is much more enjoyable - and when you see them out on the river, makes it even friendlier.

    1. I have also made purchases from the shop when I knew I had cheaper alternatives just because it was the right thing to do. I purchased a pair of Simms pants at full retail because seeing them in the shop finally made me realize that they were something that would work perfectly for winter fishing (and my buddy Jonny gave them a hearty endorsement).

  4. I think I might be an asshat. Worse yet, I'm having a hard time feeling all that terrible about it. What does that make me? You can send me a private email if it's not fit to print.