Did you patronize a gun store this holiday season? Did you spend any time at a gun range? How were you treated? Even today, women frequenting these establishments often still face scrutiny not leveled at men. However, the tide is turning as it relates to the growing number of women gun owners, so I am offering some analogies to help businessowners understand why any condescension whatsoever toward women customers is not good for their venue or the firearms community in general.
If a woman walks into a gun shop with her husband, and the man behind the counter ignores her and starts talking with her husband, he’s making an assumption, or a series of assumptions. Perhaps they are there because the woman has an FFL item to pick up. No matter the reason for them visiting the gun shop, the proper thing to do is to treat them BOTH as potential customers—and not make assumptions. Not a big deal, right?
What if a couple walked into a grocery store and a man with questions was dismissed while the woman was treated as though she was the only one who mattered? Men would probably just shrug this off, because grocery shopping isn’t always fun. But when the items you are purchasing have legal requirements and are tools used for self-defense, it’s an insult to dismiss women. And if there are legal requirements on the FFL to disclose certain pieces of information or ensure the buyer understands their legal duty, then talking to the man instead of the woman—the actual customer—becomes a real concern.
Treating any one party in a business transaction with disrespect isn’t a good way to do business. Ranges are a business. Competitions are a business. Treating women who come to a range or a competition as less knowledgeable and capable is not just disrespectful, it’s going to cost you business. Just as it would be disrespectful to treat a male customer with disregard if your business sells something which people assume men typically aren’t interested in. He’ll probably go elsewhere. And in a time where women are purchasing firearms at a high rate, understanding that simple respect matters is going to be a positive for your business.
Etiquette isn’t a Single Party Interaction
Many people working at ranges or with firearms are men. It’s a fact. But customers are not comprised of only men. Whether the customer is just trying to use the range, purchase an item, or attend an event like a shooting match, etiquette in how you treat them isn’t something that goes only one way—if a person working at a gun shop treats you like you are not important, it’s fine to just take your business elsewhere. But it might be more productive to simply say that as a customer, you had been planning to make a purchase, and wonder if there’s anyone who can help you. If they change their tune, politely tell them that you were close to leaving because of how they came across. If they don’t change, then it might be best to put your money into someone else’s profit margin. Maybe call back at a different time and ask to speak to the owner or write them a note.
The Golden Rule
So when you head to the gun shop or the range, or if you work at a gun shop or range, consider not only the effect that your behavior has on your own interactions, but also how it affects others.
As a customer, whether you are buying a gun or using a range, it’s OK to ask for a manager and let them know you were or were not treated with respect. In fact, when you have good customer service, stop to point it out—it will help others.
As a staff member of a shop or range, remember that people talk. If they have a bad experience in your facility, it can impact future revenue. That means it can affect your job. If you like your job and want your business to grow, remembering the golden rule applies regardless of gender.