All in a Week's Work
By Joseph Meyer
Bringing in New Customers is the lifeblood of a struggling Fly Shop. Retailers count new customers as found money. We especially like the folks new to fly fishing, they need more stuff as they haven’t spent a couple of years hiding fly shop receipts from their wives. Let’s face it, if Lefty Kreh calls you by name, I’m not going to be able to sell you much fly fishing hardware, you probably have all you need. Maybe not all of the hardware that you want but that’s another story.
Two barely teenage customers with surfer-dude haircuts and nose rings came into my fly shop one day, each with decrepit Medallist reels with no backing, and a 3 weight double taper line bought on-sale at my competitor’s Fly Shop. They wanted me to measure out the line, cut it in half and then install half of the line on each of the reels.
I know damn well that my competitor rang up the sale, happy to dump a discontinued fly line and then ran these two kids out of his shop. Two relatively new trout fishers with a lifetime of spending in front of them and the old curmudgeon down the street couldn’t see the value of taking care of the future.
Theirs was a rather intelligent approach to delivering short casts to trout by utilizing half of a 3 weight line, a frugal approach none-the-less but Hell, a long time ago I was young and broke, too. Now I’m older and broke but I could empathize with these two dudes so I worked over each reel, cleaned them out and went to all the work to install backing and then split and installed the lines, added braided loops and taught them the Perfection Loop knot so they could change leaders on their own and sent them on their way.
My take from the transaction? $0.00 but I have two customers for life and I’m now up two in the New Customer column.
Another day, a customer was standing outside my shop, waiting for me to open. I greeted him and noticed that he was holding a bag from my shop. After 17 years in retail, I know when a customer comes in my shop carrying one of my bags, it’s never good news and each time I see one of my own bags coming back, I know this is going to be an adventure
Wrong size, wrong color, cheaper down the street, sorry I forgot that I already had a 5 weight line at home, can you take this line off of my reel and give me my money back? Or, one of my very favorites: “ I bought this pontoon boat for my wife but she doesn’t
like the yellow pontoon boat that you special ordered for me and then assembled on your day off, could she have the blue one that was on display in your front window the whole time? “ Big sigh, that’s part of retail.”
So, back to my early morning customer, Mr. By-the-Way. He was returning 34 of the three -dozen bonefish flies that he had me tie to his specifications earlier that month and wanted a refund, in cash of course because that was his method of payment. He’s not going Bone fishing again for another year, By- the-Way. Has no use for these flies at all.
He continually tapped at the sign near my register that offers refunds, cheerfully of course, within 30 days and with receipt. His receipt said cash and by golly, that’s what he wanted and By-the-Way he wanted it right now.
I’m muttering silently: “ Damn, I sell flies, I don’t rent them” but I suck it in and tell him that I open my shop each morning with only so much cash in the till but he demanded the green stuff.
Now, I will probably lose this guy as a customer but I thought, with effort, I could at least salvage this transaction. “Sir, the flies you had me tie are beautiful as well as being effective and they won’t spoil, you’ll be all set for next year.”
No deal. I told him he could come back later in the day when I had made some cash sales or I would happily write him a check or he could even have a store credit (brings ‘em back for more: the retailer in me comes out) but that I didn’t have enough cash right then.
We then exchange unpleasantries in that escalating-force kind of way that led to my divorce and then he took a swing at me! The Ex-wife would get mad and then loud and then very loud but violent? Never.
I bounced him from the shop and never saw him again, by the way.
O.K., I’m still plus one in the New Customer column and now I can make a deal to someone on 34 quality Bone fish flies.
Another customer brought in some truly crappy reels for us to clean and go over for an upcoming trip to Belize for he and his son. We talked about the marginal ability of these reels for Saltwater use (Honest to God, I wasn’t trying to sell him a $600 reel) and he told me to save the sales pitch, worse anglers the him could whip a Bone fish with gear of the same quality, Thank You Very Much.
We then exchanged stares, the Frugal Customer and the Harried Fly Shop Owner and I go about his bidding.
We cleaned all of the excrement out of a graphite reel that wouldn’t stop a charging bluegill let alone a bonefish. I mumbled something about hoping that he hooks up with an 8 pounder and him winding up with a pile of springs and screws, wouldn’t that just serve him right; Fishing Karma and all.
He did feel a little guilty when we did not charge him to clean and go over his reels, re-tie each of his connections all with a smile.
He looked around for something to purchase to make us feel better and we talked to him about the value of sun protection in Belize but he was just going to put on lotion, Thank You Very Much, but he might want to look at a hat.
“Fine, over here, Sir, is a hat designed to keep the sun off of your neck and ears, the underside of the bill is a dark color which helps your vision by cutting the glare, Supplex fabric, stays cool, blah…blah”.
He shrieked at the $24.95 price but finally gave in and said, what they hey, for 25 bucks, my son and I can share a hat. He and his son were going Bone fishing mind you, not a jaunt to the local worm dunking hole but a very expensive trip for two to tropical, sunny Belize. This is not the time for frugality.
We stood in the center of the shop, slack-jawed and asked, “How do you share a hat?” His answer?
"Well, there is only going to be one of us on the bow at a time, when it’s my turn to fish, I get to wear the hat, Thank You Very Much".
Don’t know if I want this customer back, time will tell, and now I’m pretty much even in the New Customer column.