12 Types of Nightmare Outdoor Shop Customers
Chances are, you've ticked a couple of these boxes
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
No one wants to be the person who leaves a store and becomes the subject of retail employees’ horror stories—but of course, lots of people do. (There’s an entire Reddit page dedicated to it.) And if you act in a certain way in an outdoor gear shop, you might be one of 12 prototypes that, thanks to several folks who have spent some years in retail, we’ve defined. In the words of my dad, “You can be anything you want in life—just don’t be an asshole.”
The Person Who Can Get This Cheaper on Amazon
This person seems to not understand that their local gear shop is not a showroom for Amazon.com. Also, that employees of said gear shop might not love hearing that Amazon sells Product X for less. Neither of these things are true, but this savvy shopper is killing two birds with one stone: saving a little money and being a dick.
They’re Just Trying It on in The Store to Know What Size to Order Online
A close relative of the Person Who Can Get This Cheaper on Amazon, this person seems to believe that their local gear shop exists not only as a sort of showroom for Amazon, but also a dressing room, when in fact their local gear shop is neither, and treating it as such doesn’t actually help their local gear shop stay in business, but helps cause the slow death of a local retailer.
Mr. I Told You I Could Get This Cheaper Online so I Bought It Online Instead of in Your Shop But Came into the Shop to Ask How to Install It
Yes, this actually happened. (Thanks, Maggie.)
The “I Need to Talk to a Man” Man
This man (and yes, it’s always a man) believes that women couldn’t possibly know more about gear than a man, and requests to speak to someone else whenever a female employee tries to help him. “Someone else” of course meaning someone who identifies as a man. In 2018, I Need to Talk to a Man Man might consider that women like Lynn Hill and Hilaree Nelson have been climbing, skiing, and doing everything harder than men for literally decades, so it’s not that far-fetched of an idea that a woman actually might know something about tents or climbing gear.
The Discount Hound
This person mistakes his or her local gear shop for a market in Marrakech, thinking everything is negotiable. Well, as our friend Bruce says: “In specialty retail, we pride ourselves on customer service because it is literally all we can do to differentiate from online sales. Nothing is more frustrating than spending an hour working with a customer and talking them through every piece of gear they need. Then at every turn they ask, ‘What's the best you can do on this?’ or, ‘Will you take $200 less?’ followed by the most annoying, ‘Well, there is no harm in asking for a discount?’ TOP SECRET: the more they ask for a hook up, the less likely we are to give them one. I have literally spent over an hour educating a customer and they still feel the need to beg for discounts, as if they do not see the irony that the whole reason they get to gain this knowledge is because we are a small business that cares about the sport and not some massive conglomerate. Bottom line: you are paying for us to take time with you—please recognize that has value.”
Mr./Ms. “I Know As Much As You”
This person is not so much in the store to buy things or to gain knowledge, but to verbally joust with a store employee and prove that they, the customer, possess superior knowledge about all things gear and/or outdoors. Our friend Bruce, again: “These people can come in solo, which is disturbing, but they more likely come in with a significant other or friend to impress. We are stoked that they love our sport—we love it too—but if they’re coming in to prove to their friend that they know a lot, at least buy us a cup of coffee while we sit there. The inverse is true on this, with a novice bringing in their ‘expert best friend’ and then double-checking every single thing you tell them with said ‘expert.’ We aren’t used car salesmen. Unless you’re walking into a climbing shop with Alex Honnold in tow, you can probably just listen to the salesperson.”
The Pro Dealer
The Pro Dealer has an in or a hookup with an outdoor company, through their profession or a friend, and as anyone with pro deal access knows, the last thing you’re supposed to say to anyone who works in retail is that you have a pro deal on anything. However, Bruce says, some people feel the need to break this rule. “If someone goes into a shop and asks questions and gets help from knowledgeable staff so that they find the exact item they need and then they end the conversation with ‘Thanks, but I have a pro deal with this company,’ this person will most certainly test the patience of the kindest and most polite salesperson. If they think this is okay, they are wrong. More importantly, if they think that it is impressive, they are wrong. Honestly, I’d prefer you lie and end the interaction with, ‘I need to think about it more’—at least then I won’t be angry for the rest of the day.”
The 5-Minutes Till Close Shopper
In the restaurant business, nothing infuriates both front-of-house and kitchen staff more than someone who walks into the empty or nearly-empty restaurant ten minutes before the restaurant closes and proceeds to have a nice leisurely dinner and drinks while half a dozen employees wait around to shut down the restaurant. Retail employees don’t have grills to clean, tables to bus, and dishes to wash before they go home, but when a customer comes in five minutes before the store closes and then shops for 25 minutes, that customer is certainly not making any new friends among the staff.
Mr./Ms. I Aspire to Have Smaller Feet
Look, your feet probably aren’t shrinking. If you were a size 9 last year, you’re probably not a size 6 this year. Maybe an 8.5. But let’s not waste everyone’s time trying to cram our feet into shoes that are way too small just because we’d love to have dainty little feet.
The Color Coordinator
Ski boots must match skis, or ski pants, or goggles, or all three. Warm-weather version: Hiking day pack must match trim on hiking boots.
Just Has to Have the Best Everything
They have money, and even though they’ve never skied or climbed or done anything before, they want to spend it. Never mind that the best skis for them might not actually be the most expensive ones in the store, or the $500 backpack doesn’t fit them and the $300 one does, or the $8,000 mountain bike is extreme overkill for a person who’s never ridden on a trail before. They are getting the best gear possible, period, and the shop employee is going to like it. Side note: the shop employee is also going to like not having to teach this person to ski, which may or may not involve explaining why those skis weren’t actually the quote-unquote best. (Thanks, Jenn.)
Doesn’t Need Anything, Just Coming in to Talk Shop
Everyone at the shop probably thinks this person would have a much better weekend if they went somewhere and used their outdoor gear instead of coming in every Saturday and talking for hours without ever buying anything.