On People, Guns, and Shopping (a semi-encouraging ramble)

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Have you ever wanted to just curl up in a ball and forget everyone else in the world? Maybe move to Wyoming and live in the middle of 10,000 acres with nobody but your favorite dog or mountain lion to keep you company? Perhaps you’ve seriously contemplated becoming a hermit in a cave in the middle of the woods of Arkansas (I’ve heard they have nice woods)? Perhaps that’s not the best idea, but sometimes, I can totally relate. I’m often amazed at how many times I hear people say that they “hate other people” or that (more commonly) “I’m just not a ‘people person.'” I worked in retail for the past year and a half at a firearms and outdoors store, and I saw all sorts of people, and I saw them in all sorts of interesting states.

Selling firearms in North Carolina is a fairly painless process. There’s a decent amount of paperwork to be done, but nothing that a high school graduate should struggle with. The basic requirements and process consist of a driver’s license, background check, and the filling of a federal form known as the 4473; pistols require a permit or license that substitutes for the background check.

Many people come in to the store knowing exactly what they want and how to go about the purchase process. Those people are easy. I generally didn’t mind dealing with them. These sorts of people usually own several firearms and are immensely familiar with shooting sports, defense, or hunting and the related things that are needed. The worst experiences that I had with these shoppers are the ones who were cocky or curt, and they were not a huge problem. I know how to ignore negativity.

Some people come in not knowing anything about firearms. These are the people who have to be talked through various aspects of owning a firearm, the legal intricacies, and how the firearm works. These are the people to whom I usually recommend a class or two. If the person is open to listening, then the process is usually fairly easy. If the person has been ill-informed or thinks that he (yes, it was almost always a guy) knows something when he doesn’t, then we had problems.

  • The “(I don’t really) Know-It-All”
    This guy just can’t wait to tell you all that he knows, and he’s never wrong, even when he plainly is. I’ve had customers argue with me even after I’ve shown them the contradicting text on a package, website, or whatever else. They simply cannot stand the thought of being incorrect. This is especially scary when dealing with an item like a firearm. One of the most cliché but but also most prevalent examples of this was the “oh, well it’s not loaded.” Yes, but if you develop a habit of treating loaded and unloaded firearms differently, then you might one day slip up.
  • The “Just-Tell-Me-What-I-Need-To-Know”
    Some people are simply impatient. I typically have little respect for (rude) impatient people, and I openly dislike impatient people with guns. One of the purposes of a firearms salesman (ew, nasty term, huh?) is to filter through the people who are attempting to purchase a firearm illegally or for illicit purposes. When people were overtly impatient or curt, I then had to probe more and attempt to find out why they were being that way, and my actions often, in turn, made them less happy with me, which made me less happy, and then no one was happy.
  • The “Whoah Buddy You Really Don’t Need A Gun”
    Several different types of people qualified for this category–the most obvious were the people who had no mechanical inclinations and knew nothing about firearms. If someone picked up a pistol, put their finger on the trigger, and then proceeded to point it at me or someone else, I would politely work with them on proper handling and etiquette. I would often dissuade these people from purchasing a firearm until they had the proper training.

The list could go on, but I think you get the general idea; many people were a pain to work with. That’s not the point, though. Many people were a pleasure to deal with. Many people were gracious, considerate, and easy-going. People have the capability to be a positive influence in others’ lives, and I think that most people want to be.

I no longer sell firearms; I quit that job not too long ago. It was an interesting experience, though. I learned a lot about people, retail business, and (of course) guns. So, to the people who want to curl up in a ball, move to Wyoming, and live with several cats or a large-breed dog, I say, give others a chance. People out there do care, and how you approach them often sets the tone for how your interactions will go.

That’s my semi-encouraging ramble for the year.

~ Chris

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2 thoughts on “On People, Guns, and Shopping (a semi-encouraging ramble)

    Big D said:
    10 December , 2014 at 07:26

    It really sounds like you need immense levels of patience and tact for that job.

    Did you ever meet anybody who really set the alarm bells ringing?

      xanthuskidd responded:
      10 December , 2014 at 11:09

      Every now and then someone would obviously be a no-go. By law we could refuse a sale if we felt that a law was being bent or broken, so if we felt that something was sketchy, we could find a reason to say no.

      The main thing we’re taught to watch for is called a straw sale (someone buying a firearm for someone else who may not legally be able to purchase one.) So, if a woman came in with her husband, and she was obviously taking her cues from him, we could refuse the sale unless he did the paperwork/background check.

      I didn’t have any major incidents, but I heard of people who received calls from the FBI as soon as the background check was submitted. The salesperson would be asked to stay calm and keep the customer in the store until the police arrived. That would have been interesting.

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