He was a balding, portly, shorter fellow dressed in hemmed khaki slacks, brown loafers, and a nicely pressed pink polo shirt. Round coke bottle-esque glasses gave his face an awkward appearance. His rental car was a grey Chevy Impala.
When he walked into Moosely Seconds I asked him how his day was going. "Fine" was his reply.
He walked passed me and went straight to the tents. After a second I asked him what kind of tent he currently used. That was a fatal move. For the next 45 minutes I was engaged in an avalanche of tech talk about every lightweight tent ever made. He told me about the "modifications" needed on a certain Mountain Hardwear tent he used on a high altitude Denali expedition. The MSR Hubba Hubba, in his opinion, was a good tent, but wouldn't work for the trips he does.
After a 20-minute stove discussion and 30 minutes into our sleeping bag conversation, or should I say his lecture, I was over it. After more than an hour and a half of bantering about our stores’ inferior gear, I started getting tired. Finally, he worked his way towards the door, thanked me, and said goodbye.
After he left, co-workers and customer looked at me in bewilderment. This had gone on so long that this man and I had become the focal point of the store. One man came up to me and said, "You have more restraint than I do." I shrugged.
Unbelievably, an hour later he was back. He wanted to purchase the MSR Hubba Hubba, a Marmot Trestles 15 Right Hand Zip, a Pocket Rocket, a length of cordage, various replacement clips, and a set of lexan dishes and utensils.
The Hubba Hubba was on display and I asked him if he needed instructions on how to take it down. "No, I'm completely aware of how this tent collapses," was his reply.
Now the story goes from memorable to bizarre. As I'm ringing him up he tells me that this gear will be used for government testing.
"No kidding," I said with an internal smirk.
He goes on to tell me that he's a government contracted gear tester and is now working for Marine Special Forces. He handed me his personal Visa, I rang him up, and he walked out with his gear. He said he would let us know how his testing went.
"Great!" was all I could get out.
A few days later I was sitting in the back office and one of our sales associates Chris, who coincidentally was in Reconnaissance for Marine Special Forces, walks up with a smile and tells me “he’s” back.
He wanted to return everything. I was absolutely speechless. As I entered he told me he had been called back to Washington and couldn't complete his testing. "That's too bad," I said.
We gave his money back and to this day the image of loafers on Denali haunts me.
by Aaron Buckalew
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 www.snewsnet.com/freeretail/snewsarticle-contest.html. Then, watch your SNEWS® for announcements calling for our next contest entries and get ready to be a winner.