Guide to Surviving Customers (Runner Up Award)

During my brief yet potent tenure as a retail employee, I’ve witnessed the gamut of customer species, ranging from the miserly Waddem tightus, whose survival depends on their ability to procure an additional 2% off any purchase, to the snarling Jerkis completem, whose only recorded form of communication is, “Can I speak to your manager?”

During my brief yet potent tenure as a retail employee, I’ve witnessed the gamut of customer species, ranging from the miserly Waddem tightus, whose survival depends on their ability to procure an additional 2% off any purchase, to the snarling Jerkis completem, whose only recorded form of communication is, “Can I speak to your manager?” It has come to my attention, however, that there exists only two species of customer which merit nicknames: Gearis dorkus, and Lamo brainium. Although both varieties qualify for pseudonyms by frequenting their preferred establishments, they can be differentiated based upon observed social patterns and physical characteristics.

Gearis dorkus, a close relative to gear shop employees, is easily excitable and prone to drooling when presented with new or obscure products. Often clutching multiple catalogs, they are readily identified by their sublime, yet understated outdoor apparel. Due to their affable nature and social compatibility with shop employees, members of the Gearis dorkus species usually gain personalized nicknames such as “Pastor Greg,” or “Postal Climber Lady.” Although generally easygoing, when their knowledge of gear is challenged, Gearis dorkus quickly becomes defensive and even aggressive. If faced with such an individual, distract them with the closest piece of Gore-Tex and back away slowly, carefully avoiding eye contact.

Unlike Gearis dorkus, Lamo brainium are virtual chameleons, being just as likely to resemble a NASCAR fan, as they are to resemble a tax attorney, and sometimes even emulating the garb of Gearis dorkus. Due to this plethora of appearances, it can be difficult to distinguish a true Lamo brainium. However, their social interactions reveal them to the trained retail employee.

When trying to spot a member of this species, observe the gear shop employees in proximity to the suspected individual. The sounds emitted by a Lamo brainium will cause employees to exhibit reactions including, but not limited to, bewilderment, stifled laughter, attempted suicide, and epileptic seizures. Unless the suicide was successful, the affected employee will be left with an indelible impression from their experience. Nicknames for Lamo brainium are generally derived from the topic of conversation that was so moronically under discussion. Examples include, “REI Lady,” “Kingpin Dude,” “Bandana Man,” and “That Guy.”

One noteworthy subject, given the moniker of “Death Zone,” exhibits the inferiority complex typical of the species. Methods of compensation include a commercial grade suntan, overly tight fitting attire, backwards and inverted Oakleys regardless of outside light levels, and a compulsion for unwarranted hyperbole. When asked, “Can I help you,” the subject may begin comparing his experiences on Everest to his aborted attempt on Mt. Shasta due to, what he calls, “the hypoxic environment. Y’know, the death zone.”

If you are prone to smartass remarks and wish to remain employed, it is recommended that you avoid this species. Otherwise, wrap padding around your head to protect yourself from frequent forehead slapping and the possibility of seizure.

Although far from comprehensive, hopefully this guide will provide some insight into the habits and idiosyncrasies of two common species of customer.

by Neil Techawongtham

Through July 1, retail sales staff answered the contest call to submit a story of survival and perseverance in the face of challenging customers. The story titles with summaries that made the first round of qualifications are listed below, and each is now in the hands of our judges to decide on the top 10. You can read each story in its entirety by going to the contest landing page -- click here.

Ten lucky story writers will each win over $1,000 in product prizes based on the contest judges' votes. Here is where you come in! Of those 10, one will be named the grand prizewinner, cashing in on a trip for two to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2007. Three others will be named official "honorable mentions," and in addition to the valuable prizes, each will receive a gift certificate that can be redeemed toward attendance at an Outdoor Industry Association-sponsored event, such as Outdoor University, Mountain Sports Festival or the OIA Rendezvous. The grand prize winner will be announced at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006. We will determine the grand prize winner and the three runner up winners based on popular vote (sorry judges) -- those among the top ten receiving the most votes win, it's that simple. This is for store pride, for knowing you have a winner amongst you, so vote as often as you like. Tell your friends. Tell your friends friends. Tell your dog -- but only if he can work a computer keyboard.

Deadline for voting is August 1, 2006.Click here to register your vote now!

Did you miss out on this year's contest? Bummer, but no worries. If you haven't already done so, outdoor retail staff can get ready for next year by activating a subscription now at Then, watch your SNEWS® for announcements calling for our next contest entries and get ready to be a winner.



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