This weekend I did two things which I rarely do. I decided to buy a new gun, and I went to Wal-Mart to do it. The reason that I rarely buy a gun is because I have all the guns that I need, and I am not in the habit of buying things that I don’t need. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bought a gun since the Brady Bill was passed into law.
The reason that I rarely go into Wal-Mart is because I loath everything that they stand for. They predatorily destroy local businesses, they bully and exploit their vendors and employees, they are a major source of the U.S. trade deficit, and they are a supporter of the Communist Chinese economy.
So here’s what happened. My son is getting ready to graduate from college, and he has been wanting a Remington 700 in .308 caliber. Wal-Mart had them on sale with scope and mount for $297 plus tax, so I drove to a nearby town to buy him one for a graduation present. Those of you who are familiar with the Brady Bill probably know where this is going. I went to the sporting goods section and the salesman pulled out a 700 for me to look at. I cycled the bolt, pulled the magazine out, replaced it, and told him I’d take the gun. I told him I was so happy to find it because I had been looking for one for my son’s graduation present and they were hard to find in .308.
Now here’s where the stupidity starts. At this point the salesman could have said, “Gee sir, if you’re going to buy it for your son, you’ll have to have him come in to fill out the paperwork on it because the Brady Bill requires the person who will own the gun has to sign the papers. I would have disagreed with the law, but I would have understood his position, and I would have had my son go up there with me the next weekend when he was home from college and fill out the papers. But is this guy smart enough to do that. Sadly, no. He is either the dumbest gun salesman in the world; or, more likely, he is not permitted to deal with something of this magnitude without the approval of higher management. So we go through the whole rigmarole of filling out papers, checking ID, calling for a background check, etc, etc. This process is interrupted by him taking a phone call which, in his defense, he was polite enough to ask me if he could take. He then had to go check a price for the person on the phone. Then he had to go to the back and find a box for the gun which took an unusually long time. I later realized that it took so long because he was alerting the manager to a major crisis that was developing at the gun counter. To whit, a good citizen was trying to buy a hunting rifle for his son in violation of the Brady Bill straw purchase clause.
So, a half hour after I told the guy that I was buying the gun for my son’s graduation present, he finally makes it back to the counter with the box. I have my money clip in my hand ready to pay for the gun when here comes “Mike the Manager” rolling up on his walkie-talkie equipped electric scooter. Mike is in his thirties I would say, weighs about 220, and is bald as a billiard ball. He gets off his scooter and walks around the counter. He takes one look at me, 145 pounds, $500 snakeskin boots, and a money clip full of 100 dollar bills in my hand, and his eyes light up with joy. He’s fixing to get to stick it to one of those guys that he knows he’ll never be.
The situation could still have been salvaged at this point. The conversation could have gone like this:
Mike: “Sir, I’m sorry but we may have a problem with selling you this gun today.”
Hank: “Oh really. What kind of problem could that be?”
Mike: Well there’s this law called the Brady Law. It’s a pain in the rear for us and for honest citizens like yourself, but we have to follow it or we can get into big trouble.”
Hank: “So how does that apply to me?”
Mike: “Well, you said you were buying this gun for your son’s graduation present, right.”
Hank: “Yes. He’s graduating from college in May.”
Mike: “Well according to the Brady Law, and again I apologize for this, the person who’s going to own the gun has to fill out the paperwork and sign it if he’s over 18 years of age.”
Hank: “Oh, I wasn’t aware of that. That’s a pretty stupid law.”
Mike: “I agree. Everybody knows that this won’t keep bad guys from getting guns, but we have to follow the law. If you could just bring your son in and have him fill out the papers we’d be happy to sell you the gun.”
Hank: “OK. It’s a pain in the butt, and it will ruin the surprise, but he’ll be home next weekend and I’ll bring him in then.”
There could have been a happy ending for everyone, but apparently Wal-Mart doesn’t spend much time working with their managers on people skills because this is how it went:
Mike smiles and asks, “What are we buying today?” “A Remington 700 in .308,” I tell him. “Going to do a little deer hunting are you?” he asks. “Well my son will probably go deer hunting with it next year,” I say. “I’m buying it for his graduation present.” “Oh really. How old is your son?” he says like he’s a nice guy who’s just interested in my family. “He’ll be 22 in April,” I say. He gets a look on his face like he just personally caught Osama Ben Laudin. “Well sir, I can’t sell you this gun.” He says with a kind of satisfied smirk on his face, “If you’re buying it for someone over the age of 18 he has to fill out the paperwork or it’s a violation of the Brady Law.” “You’ve got to be sh__ing me,” I said. “No, I can’t sell it to you,” he says. “Well, I’ll buy it for myself then,” I say. “No, you already said you’re buying it for him. You can’t take it back once you say you’re buying it for someone else. I’m sorry,” he said, “I can’t sell it to you.” So I told him what I thought about him and the Brady Bill and left never to return.
They could have made me feel like they wanted to sell me the gun but that their hands were tied by a bad law that we were both victims of, and that if I would come back with my son they would be happy to sell me the gun. Instead they made me feel like they’d set a trap to try and catch me consciously committing a criminal act, that they were way too smart to get fooled by little ole me, and that I should be on my way. Not a very good way to keep customers, but then again I guess Wal-Mart thinks they’re so big that they don’t have to worry about losing a few customers. Well, it may take a while, but the bankruptcy courts have a long relationship with businesses that think they can lose a few customers without consequence.
So let’s recap. We have a stupid law that prevents a law abiding father from buying a graduation present for his son, but a law that every terrorist, drug dealer, and gangbanger in the U.S. knows how to get around. We have a stupid salesman that wasted a half hour of my time and turned a potential sale into a lost customer. And we have Mike. God bless you Mike. I hope you enjoyed yourself. A guy like you needs a break every once in a while, but I’d try to brush up on my customer relations skills a little if I were you.
P.S. I’ll just give my son the cash and tell him to buy his .308 wherever he wants, as long as it’s not from Wal-Mart.