Bringing in New Customers is the lifeblood
of a struggling Fly Shop. Retailers count
new customers as found money. We especially
like the folks new to fly fishing, they need
more stuff as they haven't spent a couple of
years hiding fly shop receipts from their wives.
Let's face it, if Lefty Kreh calls you by name,
I'm not going to be able to sell you much fly
fishing hardware, you probably have all you need.
Maybe not all of the hardware that you want but
that's another story.
Two barely teenage customers with surfer-dude
haircuts and nose rings came into my fly shop,
each with decrepit Medallist reels with no
backing, and a 3 weight double taper line bought
on-sale at my competitor's Fly Shop. They wanted
me to measure out the line, cut it in half and
then install half of the line on each of the reels.
I know damn well that my competitor rang up the
sale, happy to dump a discontinued fly line and
then ran these two kids out of his shop. Two
relatively new trout fishers with a lifetime of
spending in front of them and the old curmudgeon
down the street couldn't see the value of taking
care of the future.
Theirs was a rather intelligent approach to
delivering short casts to trout by utilizing half
of a 3 weight line, a frugal approach none-the-less
but Hell, a long time ago I was young and broke,
too. Now I'm older and broke and I could empathize
with these two dudes so I worked over each reel,
cleaned them out and went to all the work to
install backing and then split and installed
the lines, added braided loops and taught them
the Perfection loop knot so they could change
leaders on their own and sent them on their way.
My take from the transaction? $0.00 but I have
two customers for life and I'm now up two in the
New Customer column.
Another day, a customer was standing outside my
shop, waiting for me to open. I greeted him and
noticed that he was holding a bag from my shop.
After 17 years in retail, I know when a customer
comes in my shop carrying one of my bags, it's
never good news and each time I see one of my
own bags coming back, I know this is going to
be an adventure.
Wrong size, wrong color, cheaper down the street,
sorry I forgot that I already had a 5 weight line
at home, can you take this line off of my reel and
give me my money back? Or, one of my very favorites:
"I bought this pontoon boat for my wife but she doesn't
like the yellow pontoon boat that you special ordered
for me and then assembled on your day off, could she
have the blue one that was on display in your front
window the whole time?"
Big sigh, that's part of retail.
So, back to my early morning customer, Mr. By-the-Way.
He was returning 34 of the three-dozen bonefish flies
that he had me tie to his specifications earlier that
month and wanted a refund, in cash of course because
that was his method of payment. He's not going Bone
fishing again for another year, By-the-Way. Has
no use for these flies at all.
He continually tapped at the sign near my register
that offers refunds, cheerfully of course, within
30 days and with receipt. His receipt said cash
and by golly, that's what he wanted and By-the-Way
he wanted it right now.
I'm thinking silently: " Damn, I sell flies, I don't
rent them" but I suck it in and tell him that I open
my shop each morning with only so much cash in the
till but he demanded the green stuff.
Now, I will probably lose this guy as a customer
but I thought, with effort, I could at least salvage
this transaction. "Sir, the flies you had me tie
are beautiful as well as being effective and they
won't spoil, you'll be all set for next year."
No deal. I told him he could come back later in
the day when I had made some cash sales or I would
happily write him a check or he could even have a
store credit (brings 'em back for more: the retailer
in me comes out) but that I didn't have enough cash
We then exchange unpleasantries in that escalating-force
kind of way that led to my divorce and then he took a
swing at me! The Ex-wife would get mad and then loud
and then very loud but violent? Never.
I bounced him from the shop and never saw him again,
by the way.
O.K., I'm still plus one in the New Customer
column and now I can make a deal to someone
on 34 quality Bonefish flies.
Another customer brought in some truly crappy
reels for us to clean and go over for an upcoming
trip to Belize for he and his son. We talked about
the marginal ability of these reels for Saltwater
use (Honest to God, I wasn't trying to sell him a
$600 reel) and he told me to save the sales pitch,
worse anglers than him could whip a Bonefish with
gear of the same quality, Thank You Very Much.
We then exchanged stares, the Frugal Customer and
the Harried Fly Shop Owner and I go about his bidding.
We cleaned all of the excrement out of a graphite
reel that wouldn't stop a charging bluegill let
alone a bonefish. I mumbled something about hoping
that he hooks up with an 8 pounder and him winding
up with a pile of springs and screws, wouldn't that
just serve him right; Fishing Karma and all.
He did feel a little guilty when we did not
charge him to clean and go over his reels,
re-tie each of his connections all with a
He looked around for something to purchase
to make us feel better and we talked to him
about the value of sun protection in Belize
but he was just going to put on lotion, Thank
You Very Much, but he might want to look at a
"Fine, over here, Sir, is a hat designed to keep
the sun off of your neck and ears, the underside
of the bill is a dark color which helps your
vision by cutting the glare, Supplex fabric,
stays cool, blah...blah".
He shrieked at the $24.95 price but finally gave
in and said, what they hey, for 25 bucks, my son
and I can share a hat. He and his son were going
Bonefishing mind you, not a jaunt to the local
worm dunking hole but a very expensive trip for
two to tropical, sunny Belize. This is not the
time for frugality.
We stood in the center of the shop, slack-jawed
and asked, "How do you share a hat?" His answer?
Well, there is only going to be one of us on the
bow at a time, when it's my turn to fish, I get
to wear the hat, Thank You Very Much.
Don't know if I want this customer back, time
will tell, and now I'm pretty much even in the
New Customer column. ~ ~ Joseph Meyer, One More Cast Fly
Shop, Countryside, IL