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 where many tourists come to see the art and theater in the area, mixing the grungy, yet happy-go-lucky hikers and the tourists in the same shop was comical to watch.
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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 where many tourists come to see the art and theater in the area, mixing the grungy, yet happy-go-lucky hikers and the tourists in the same shop was comical to watch.

I can’t remember how many through-hikers came by each week. They usually took naps outside and some told me more about their hikes than others. Since the AT is a very social experience, I was interested in what it was all about.

One day a few guys came into the shop to cool off. I couldn’t really talk because there were other customers. They had quite a rancid odor which a few customers seemed to mind. If the hikers were looking at items near the woman tourist, she would move immediately. Finally, after at least twenty minutes of browsing this one woman, now at the register, loudly whispered to her husband “what is that smell?” He took out his plastic and paid for her pile of stuff and didn’t really answer. I just pretended to not hear and waited an eternity for the receipt to print.

I felt so bad for the hiker, because he was looking at items at the other end of the counter. He pretended not to hear and shrugged it off. It just reminded me of the clash of mindsets between those that are used to living a less rustic lifestyle. Whenever someone buys outdoor gear and they have a manicure, I automatically know I don’t want to start a conversation with them. There are people who buy gear or clothes in an outdoor shop, and it never leaves their yard. Then there are people who are perfectly satisfied smelling for days because they hiked for a week just because they felt like it. Some need the best gear because they feel they won’t enjoy or perform without it, but others take the bare essentials. The gear we have today is measures above what people used to enjoy nature decades ago. There are people who go to Sebago Lake, and there are people who go to Northern Maine. There is a difference in tastes.

One man I saw hiked the AT in a bright red kilt. He said a lot of men hiked in kilts. Maybe someone can let me know the percentage on that? I’m glad everyone likes to recreate outside. It’s just too bad that some people don’t understand the different levels of effort and appreciation people have for nature, even if it isn't wilderness.

I told the women who wrinkled her nose again when she left at the smelly hikers that it was a gorgeous weekend for a long hike. She gave me a puzzled look and walked out. That’s what I like to do. Give them something to think about as they leave.

by Silvia Cassano

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.

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