Imaginary African Safari...

Sometimes it helps to play crazy. At least, sometimes there are good things that come from acting just like your customer. A perfect example of this would be this spry old lady who comes to our store to buy gear for a safari that she's been perpetually "leaving to go on in a week".

Sometimes it helps to play crazy. At least, sometimes there are good things that come from acting just like your customer. A perfect example of this would be this spry old lady who comes to our store to buy gear for a safari that she's been perpetually "leaving to go on in a week".

The last time we saw her was 3 months ago, when she needed a pair of sandals that would "keep her comfortable in Africa next week". She came back later with the same sandals, still unopened and in the box complaining that they were "too sad, the color isn't happy at all!".

Always eager to please, and with a "customer service" grin plastered on my face, I offered to help her find a "bright, happy color." We went back to the sandals, and I helped her find a pair of sandal hybrids which were so hideously colored that they alone were on sale, out of all of the colors in that style that we stocked. Only a crazy person could like them - and of course, she did.

"They're perfect! They're so much better than boring green, they make me happy!"

I went along with her madness, grinning and nodding like I couldn't be more pleased that she found a pair of shoes to trek through her imagination in. Perhaps we'll see her next week as she further prepares for the trip she's going on "next week".

Then again, maybe she'll actually go.

-- Jeremy Spencer, Massey's Professional Outfitters - Baton Rouge, LA

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.



Nun on the Run (Top 10 Finalist)

So it’s Palm Sunday, the store is open and the alarm goes off. We rush to the front door, hoping for a chase down Cedar Avenue—what’s more fun than chasing down bad guys? But instead there’s just a little old lady with a fatigue jacket, pockets the size of Volkswagens, and she more


Another day in Aspen...

She walks in and right off the bat we all assume she’s going to be one of “those customers.” Wanting to exchange a hat she recently purchased, she asks to see more options. After she found the right one she approached a young man and his wife to ask if he worked in the store. more


Two Scouts v. My Bladder (Runner Up Award)

Fact: Earlier this morning I drank two Nalgene bottles of water, a Donald Duck orange juice, and a large cup of coffee. Fact: My bladder is the size of a small kiwi. So with these two important facts in the back of your head, let me describe my situation. The store had been more


What do you mean you don't carry REI?

I was entertaining myself one day by cleaning up after customers who enjoy remerchandising product in less than conventional ways when a woman approached me and asked if I worked here. I replied in the affirmative. She wanted to know where the REI "jogging suits" she had seen more


Someone's Ski Shop

As a retail storeowner sometimes your worst fears are realized. No matter how much training you do…..well sometimes it just doesn’t matter how much training you do. Several years ago a customer walked into one of our competitors' shops and indicated the ski shop across the more


Clashing Cultures

I've been working in the outdoor retail industry for years, but this was my first year working in the states. I had never come across such an amusing day like this before. To start with my accent (I'm from New Zealand) doesn't help the situation when talking to customers who more


Something Smells

A few summers ago I worked in a small shop in western Massachusetts near my home in Vermont. The shop is a destination for hikers. It is where the Long Trail starts, and where AT through-hikers filled up on white gas, slept, swam in the river, or hosed off. Being in a town more


Truth hurts

If you have worked in the retail industry long enough you will inevitably come across the customer without any spacial boundaries. “Does my butt look good in these,” speaking of tight yoga pants. “Can you see my panty line?” I replied with, “The fitting room has a nice three more


Daily Grind

Any one who has had the privilege to work retail, understands the friendliness, patience and positive reinforcement needed to help customers choose the right product and to have the right experience to come back to the store for more. What happens when, all too often, the more