Why in the world would an airgun company knowingly create and sell an air rifle/scope combo with a crappy scope – one that is likely to create a customer satisfaction and product return problem for them? The short answer is that you are not the first customer. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Of course I am the first customer. I’m the guy who plunks down his money and takes the air rifle/scope combo home.”
Wrong. The first customer for that air rifle/scope combo is the buyer at a big box chain of retailers. I saw a documentary a few years ago that explained there has been a change in the dynamic between manufacturers and big box retailers that have thousands of stores.
It used to be that a manufacturer’s representative would approach the buyer at a retail chain, put on a dog-and-pony show of what products he had available, and then the buyer would decide which products to order. Now the buyer may well be, in effect, deciding which products the manufacturer should make by saying something like this: “If you can deliver a rifle/scope combination with the following features for $X price, I’ll buy 100,000 of them.”
Now no manufacturer is going to turn down a big sale like that, so they will try to figure out how they can deliver the rifle/scope combo that the big box buyer wants at the specified price and still make a profit. The end result: a really cheesy scope is part of the combo.
At this point, you may well be thinking: “What about me, the airgun enthusiast? Don’t they care about me?” The short answer is: yes, they do care, but probably not as much as you had hoped.
The reason, quite simply, is that the big box retailers are the center of the universe when it comes to corporate profits for the bigger airgun manufacturers. Enthusiasts are important, but not as important as the big box stores.
It’s really a matter of numbers. I did a little research a few years ago to try to get a handle on the size of the airgun enthusiast market. I called each of the bigger online airgun retailers, talked to the boss, and asked – under the provision that I would not share the information with anyone else – how many unique customers they had in their customer database. Then I added up the numbers (ignoring the fact that there were probably duplicate customers from retailer to retailer and that the folks I was talking to might be inflating the numbers just a bit) and came up with an estimate that there were 15,000-20,000 airgun enthusiasts in the United States.
Given that this was a few years ago and that the airgun market has been growing, let’s postulate that the number has more than doubled, and that there are now, say, 50,000 airgun enthusiasts in the U.S.
That’s not a bad number, but compare that to the millions of people who visit the big box retailers every day, and you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out why those big box stores are so important to the larger airgun manufacturers.
So what can you do to help get the airgunning products you want? Two things.
First, if you have a retailer like www.airgunsofarizona.com who spends the time on the phone (or in person) with you to help you make an informed buying decision, support them by buying from them. Sure, you might spend a buck or two more, but isn’t it worth it to get buying advice you can trust from people who actually know and use the product?
Second, reinforce good behavior but letting manufacturers know when they have done something right. Take the time to call the customer service line or email someone when you really like their product: “Hey, thanks for including an adjustable objective on that rifle combo” or “I really love the new such-and-such pistol; well done!”
Ingratitude is darn-near a national disease in the United States. It is very fashionable to bitch, whine, and complain when the least little thing doesn’t suite us. Let’s strike a blow for the good guys. Let people know when they are doing good and how much you appreciate it. You’ll be surprised how much good you can do with a few positive words.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott