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Thursday, February 23, 2012

NWTF Convention, The Outdoor Sisterhood and a Social Experiment

As promised, there are still tales to be told from my trip to the NWTF Convention. Alas, I have been beset  the past week with what could be called, the flu, the epizootic, or convention ick. I've spent the last few days in some  feverish, cold and flu medicine haze that has prevented me from forming a coherent thought, let alone writing a grammatically correct sentence.

Thankfully the "outdoor sisterhood" to the rescue! My traveling companion, friend, outdoor sister  and fellow woods runner Jane Kolmer, Owner, President, and creative genius  at  Action Graphics generously supplied me with  this guest post about her "Social Experiment" during the NWTF convention.  Welcome Jane and Thank YOU!

Jane (L) and our other Outdoor Sister  Marti Davis(R) at the EAR,Inc. Booth examining the custom made hearing protection available

 A Social Experiment
It started out simply enough.  While at the NWTF National convention in Nashville, I decided to stop by the booth of a major gun manufacturer and ask the guys working if they knew my son (Moms like to do that).  On my first approach, the guys were busy hustling around helping people get familiar with their weapons so it was easy to see why they didn’t have time to look in my direction, after all, I wasn’t going to buy a gun, I just wanted to talk.  They must have known that innately, so I decided I would come back later.

On my second approach, all of the attendants were still busy talking to attendees and showing them the latest and greatest in their product line.  I decided to hang around awhile and look at the firearms in their booth and wait for a pause in the action to say “hey”.  After all, I am a firearms fan, so spending a little time admiring and handling their product was not an unpleasant way to spend my time.  After about 10 minutes, I decided they were all still too busy and went on my way with the intention of coming back again after my “rounds”.

I am in the market for a new handgun, so I headed over to the Ruger table.  Ruger had a really nice display of several cabled handguns.  It was crowded, so I had to push my way to the handguns.  After the third fellow gun enthusiast bumped me out of the way I started to get a little testy, so I pushed my way back in to get a better look and claim my space at the table.  Picking up each gun for better inspection I found one I thought might be a good fit and tried to get the salesman’s attention.  Funny, he didn’t seem to see me.  He did however see the guy next to me, and every guy after that who approached the table. He even managed to address them with comments like “Nice isn’t it?” and “Do you have any questions?” I started to sense something may be amiss.  

After all, I was personally responsible for most of the firearms in our home’s multiple gun safes.  I grew up with guns.  I like guns, believe in the 2nd Amendment and had money in my wallet.  What was the problem?

A quick self check assured me that I hadn’t mistakenly worn my cloak of invisibility to the show.  I think I looked like I could afford a gun.  I was dressed neatly and even took a shower before I left the hotel.  Then it came to me… the purse.  I was carrying a designer purse.  Must be the purse!  No prospective gun buyer wears a purse.  None of the hard-hitting female outdoors shooters and writers I was hanging with that weekend carried a purse.  They all had fanny packs and backpacks.  So I ditched the purse and bought a $14 camo backpacks and headed back to Ruger.

Nope, wasn’t the purse.  I still couldn’t manage to gain the attention of an attendant.  A warm sensation started crawling up my neck.  It was a mixture of dawning awareness, anger and a dash of hurt feelings.  Surly not.  Not here.  Not at NWTF where I have personally been a sponsor for the past decade plus.   Was my invisibility because I am a… woman?  I mean, I was a little surprised when I registered for the show and they didn’t have any record of me,  my business, or the fact that I had been a NWTF sponsor for most of my adult life.  But they did finally find me (under my husband’s name, even though it was my business that was the NWTF sponsor and my work that had been donated to the NWTF over the years).  And I was kind of taken back when the retiree working the door said “I’ve got your partner right here, Baby” when I hit the convention floor the day before.  But in my everyday world sexism isn’t an issue.  My days are full of power hitting outdoors women and business people.  So this new sensation caught me off guard and my “social experiment” had officially begun.

During the course of the next two days I systematically visited every gun dealer at the convention multiple times.  With every stop, my suspicions were reinforced.  Not even after I scored a sharp looking Camo vest from my buddy Sparky Sparks at M2D Camo could I get gun attendants to ask if they could help me.   The knife dealers could see me, why couldn’t the gun dealers? I think Remmington was the biggest disappointment (they are my gun of choice) because they even had a female attendant. Why WAS she there?  A token perhaps?  
Jane withe her new M2D Camo Vest Courtesy of M2D President "Sparky" ; who was more than happy to spend lots of time talking with both Jan and myself!

On my fifth visit to the manufacturer my son works for my social experiment was officially completed.  Being the only person in the booth and with my hands on their guns, all three attendants turned their backs on me, walked to the aisle and stood at attention looking for better prospects.  So I did what anybody would do at that point.  I walked up to the closest one, touched him on the arm, looked him directly in the eye and said “Hey, do you know my son”?


  1. Great article Jane.. and I don't think it had anything to do with the purse at all.. but maybe that shifty look in your eye:) 

  2. WOW!  My experience was about the same.  I was looking and learning and trying everything out, but was never "bothered" by anyone trying to sell me anything. The only time someone spoke to me was when my husband was behind me and said "Is that the one you were looking at?"

  3. Great story Jane, I am so sorry for your experience!  Hope I didn't become a "statistic" like the other guys.  It was great meeting you.

  4. No matter how much we learn, accomplish, spend, they just don't get it do they?  Sorry for them.  I hope all the manufacturers get to read this.

  5. I'm a new shooter. I had pretty much the same experience a couple of weeks ago at a gun show. I was clean, dressed outdoorsy, and had cash burning a hole in my pocket. I was in the market for my first handgun. At one table, I finally thought I had gotten the attendant's attention when he turned to a man next to me who'd arrived after me. At most tables, even if I was the only person there, I was ignored. Did my money need an injection of chlorophyll to make it green enough? I though to myself, "Fine, I'll just fondle your guns and move on." At two gun tables I got some service. Both were happy to show me their guns and talk about the differences and what I was looking for. I bought a handgun from one. Another vendor with cleaning supplies had two guys working the booth, one talking and the other digging around in a bag trying to look busy. The one doing nothing was apparently impaired, because picking up a bottle of CLP and waving it at him while saying I'd like to buy some wasn't enough to get his attention. However another man walking up to the table cured him. I bought cleaning supplies from a different fellow who was a delight to chat with. Good customer service will make for a repeat customer.

  6. I have sent a request to Ruger demanding that they address this. Please let me know if they do ANYTHING to address your terrible experience!

  7. This is a lot of the motivation I had to get my FFL and become a gun dealer. I have my own gun business now and I am proud to sell firearms to women.

  8. Why must we try to appear to be more "manly" in order to get their attention! I  AM  WOMAN!  I LIKE being a woman! I like pink and "girly" things and jewelry and designer purses. I have my nails done, my hair done and wear  pretty clothes!  And I like to hunt and fish and NO, I don't borrow my husband's gun, or bow, or rod. In fact..he doesn't even know how to fly fish! And I want the gun and bow that suits me! We are the daughters and nieces of avid outdoorsmen who raised us the same. We could hunt and hike and shoot and ride with confidence before most kids could walk around the block on their own.  Why should I have to play down that I am a woman and I LIKE being a woman! I just happen also love the great outdoors and hunting and fishing.  My dad made my first compound bow to fit me before any company ever considered fit. And no, I don't pull a light or childs bow. I pulled a 55-60 pound bow even as a teenager! Listen up salespeople and manufacturers...We also make the financial decisions in 60% of all American Households. I am all woman...but don't think that means I can't outshoot you!

  9. You Stacey, you may be on to something....she does have that decidedly shifty squint...

  10. Jeff you are certainly NOT one of those guys!

  11. Katherine I agree - if only some in the industry could get their heads wrapped around the fact that the women are here, we're here to stay and we have wallets we will be talking with!

  12. How great that used your bad experience to form a company! Great way to take a negative and make it a positive. Yay you! I think that's exactly how many of our growing women owned outdoor business have started. Utter frustration- but boy, look how we are growing!

  13. Exactly - While I don't exactly care for any of the pink or girly things - that's just me... but I celebrate the women who do :) We are all unique, and most importantly, we are all sportswomen first! I especially like how you referenced he fact that many of us were self sufficient at a much earlier age than our peers thanks to our outdoor mentors. We'll keep telling the outdoor industry that we have wallets, we control finances, and we will spend our dollars with the companies that best meet our needs! Hopefully some day they will listen :)

  14. Doesn't that just make you want to slap somebody?! LOL At least grab them by the scruff of the neck and say "hey I am a consumer too!"

  15. Deb I agree - and I too hope the manufacturers take heed

  16. Thank you Robin! We will be anxious to see how Ruger responds!

  17. UGH!!!! This does NOT make me feel good. I often wonder what it is that women have to do to shake some sense into these people. I have such hope for equality in our industry and then I hear a story like this and it just completely shatters any postitve images I may have previously conjured. I know that everyone is not like this but it seems to be the majority. I recently sold my turkey hunting shotgun and am in the process of purchasing a new one. I'll be interested to see how I am treated while gun shopping.

    Wake up people!! Women are in this industry too, and we are here to stay.


    Thanks for all of the comments of support.  I think it is important to point out that
    while Ruger and Remmington were named specifically in my post, the results of
    my experiment were across the board with EVERY gun manufacturer present.  In trying to limit the length of my post, I
    left out several of my attention seeking antics.  There was the booth where I pulled down my
    reading glasses and put my nose within 2 inches of a gun inspecting the finish
    like a scientist looking under a microscope. 
    This endeavor lasted a good five minutes, (within a foot of an attendant
    who was staring at me the entire time) without once being asked if I could be
    helped.  And there was the booth where I
    said out loud “Wow this is nice, I wonder how much it costs” within a foot of
    an attendant, also staring at me, etc.

    I am aware that at any given time I could have said “HEY, a
    little attention PLEASE!” with my best “I’m gonna kick your butt if you don’t
    come over here look”.  That would have undoubtedly
    snapped even the most unobservant attendant out of their “haze of preconception”.  But that really wasn’t the point.  The point was the blatant difference in the
    way men approaching the booth were prospected and the way I was not prospected –
    at all.

    Here’s the deal.  I
    have owned my own business for over 20 years. 
    I am acutely aware of how important each and every one of my customers are.  No customers= no business.  Over the years I have learned never to
    underestimate a potential client.  One of
    my best customers was a young man in his very early 20s that nobody else took
    seriously.  He ended up spending an
    average of $25,000 a year with my company for nearly a decade.   If I ever realized that a certain demographic
    of customers was being excluded by my sales force, I would want to know.  Then I would make sure I placed training in
    force to fix it.  If women are ignored by
    gun manufacturers, they are ignoring a very significant market share.  And
    putting a girl in the booth to make them look “female friendly” or target
    marketing with pink girly gear is just doesn’t cut it.

    While telling the attendant at the video sunglasses booth my
    story, he said “Let’s face it, men are pigs!” and went on to tell me a story
    about how the men’s room was a mess.  I
    think he missed the point.  I don’t think
    men are pigs. I love men, and I love being a woman.  I don’t think their actions were to
    intentionally exclude me.  They just
    weren’t thinking about me as a customer. 
    I don’t like being underestimated or ignored and I don’t think men like
    that either.

    Knowledge is power. 
    With posts like this, your comments, and “sharing” on media outlets like
    facebook, we can communicate that knowledge to the people who can make a
    difference.  So please, share away!  And if I
    hear from any of the manufacturers that were there, I will certainly let you

  19.  With a business like yours I would hope not - lol!  Great meeting you too.   Looking forward to seeing you again.

  20. Next time I will wear sunglasses to eliminate that as a variable in my experimentation.

  21.  Quit picking on me, or I'm gonna start crying..

  22. Ruger mentioned you in a comment.Ruger wrote: "Robin Frisk:
    I'm very disappointed to read this article as well. Shows are always
    busy and it's difficult to find time to talk with everyone, but this
    woman's experience was unfortunate. Women are not ignored by Ruger, we
    value and respect their choice to be gun owners. We know that women are
    intelligent, competent firearms enthusiasts - perhaps that's why they
    let me, a woman, run this Facebook page. This story has been shared with
    our sales department and management team and will be a learning
    experience for us all. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, and
    we sincerely apologize for the author's poor experience."

  23. I'm very disheartened to read your story, unfortunately it's not just the firearms industry either, I had a similar experience at the Archery Trade Association Convention last year (

    It's ridiculous to be treated this way in this day and age and I'm very glad you called them out on it.

    The really sad part is that half the time the people in the booths that treat you this way are volunteers or "pro-staffers" and don't necessarily represent the sentiments of the company.

    It's a tough situation all the way around and I'm glad you handled it in a professional manner.

  24. This is ridiciulous.  I hate bad service, I can't imagine dealing with THAT much bad customer service.  Trust me, all these manufacturers (at their corporate offices) are very in tune with the fact that women are buying a good # of guns these days.  Apparently nobody bothered to tell the field staff. :(

  25. Carrie,  I finally found your article.  The link didn't work so I went to your blog looking for it.  Wow, that's some great stuff.  My intention was to just look for the article you were referring to, but I kept getting lost in the entertainment of your posts.  Great site!  And yes, it seems like our experiences were too familiar.

  26. I just received an email from Ruger about your experience. I feel like they basically blew it off...
    Response: I am sorry that you were upset after reading this article. I spoke with several of our representatives at the SHOT show and they assure me that they do their best to speakto everyone who approaches the table and they never would ignore questions from any customer. Unfortunately, these shows are very crowded and it is not always easy to make eye contact and to address everyones questions. We appreciate our customers and always make our best effort to help. Customers can also call our customer service and speak to someone about a particular gun and we will spend as much time with them as they need.As a woman shooter myself, I do appreciate you letting us know your concerns and for sending us this article.