Thursday, December 30, 2010

Worth the hassle?

The author of wilsonblog ran into a clerk at Wal-Mart who obviously didn't normally haunt the sporting goods department and was none too pleased to be there, forced to actually touch icky ammunition. She awkwardly went through the whole "pistol or rifle?" cash register script, which Wilson, being quite obviously over 21, had never heard before.

You know, I'm occasionally amazed that any of the big chains even deal in guns and ammunition anymore, given the risk-to-reward ratio. It's one thing for a specialty store that can (at least theoretically) train its employees in the intricacies of federal and state gun laws, but it's another thing for some giant retailer who stands to take a fiscal bath if some kid from the infant sleepwear department gets transferred to sporting goods to cover a vacation shift and makes a mistake. What percentage of a suburban Box-Mart's sales come from ammunition? What percentage of its legal exposure comes from same? It's no wonder that so many have dropped firearms and ammunition sales like a live grenade.

Oh, sure, they make pious noises about it to try and make some PR hay out of what was a calculated business decision, but the fact of the matter is no Mart-Mart chain is as much "anti-gun" as they are "pro-money" and "anti-risk".


Anonymous said...

If it isn't her department, I can dig her being unfamiliar with it.

Being a b**** about it is something for her manager to deal with.


Tam said...

If I, a confirmed misanthrope, can fake being friendly to customers when I'm on a retail sales floor, then anybody can.

Anonymous said...

I always buy a brick of .22lr when I go to my Wal-Mart. They never ask me anything. Even when I bought ten bricks of Remington (525 count) and paid cash when they had a sale.

I love Virginia.

Tam said...

Anon. 0850,

Even in Virginia, the cash register asks the clerk "Handgun or Rifle?"

You must look over 21. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been asked it at multiple stores, not just walmart.

Daddy Hawk said...

Having worked at Wally World back in the day when they still carried carried firearms (both long guns and handguns), I can tell you they didn't just let anyone handle the firearms transfers. They actually did a fairly sizeable amount of gun sales at the time. Unfortunately, I forget where it happened, but the impetus behind their decision to stop carrying guns in most of their stores was some nut job who bought one, went outside, loaded it, came back in and started shooting. They still carry firearms in certain markets; but, after having worked there, I don't think I'd ever trust a gun bought at Walmart no matter how nice the price.

zeeke42 said...

I have a friend who, when asked pistol or rifle, answers, 'neither, machine gun'. He gets interesting reactions here in Massachusetts.

TheRock said...

zeeke42 - I've done that too. I get interesting looks....

Standard Mischief said...

What's even more fun is buying a car battery while returning a used one at the same time.

They ring up the battery. They tell you there is a $10 core charge, and then you point to the battery that you are returning in the cart. Hilarity ensues. Usually you need to get 2 or 3 extra employees involved to get the thing rung up correctly.

People try to dispose of used lead-acid batteries all the time by just leaving them on the curb. I try to help them out and be a good steward of the earth at the same time.

When I get a trunk load, it doesn't hurt that the scrap yard next to the auto-recycling pick-your-part place will pay me $8 each for them.

Anonymous said...

Tam - I can't begin to tell you how much I agree with you. I've been there, although I might point out that I'd rather have the customers I had then to some of the people I deal with at work now!


Mattexian said...

I don't even bother buying ammo at my local Wally-Wirled, because of the folks employed by AND shopping there. (Have you seen the people they let in there? If it wasn't for the blue vests, I wouldn't be able to tell the idjits apart!) Besides, most of my Warsaw Pact firearms can't be fed by what W-W sells, so I make those purchases at a regular "sporting goods" store.

Standard Mischief said...

Answer 1: "both"

A2: "the first 50 are for the pistol, the rest go in the rifle"

A3: "Is there a 'none of the above'? I happen to have a carbine"

A4: "They're for my bang stick"

A5; "Don't know, I haven't bought the gun yet!"

A6 "The BATF tell me that they call it an 'Any Other Weapon'."

Anonymous said...

What percentage of a suburban Box-Mart's sales come from ammunition?

That's the wrong way to phrase the question. About 90% of the non-ammo related purchases I make there are things I grab while I'm getting me some 9mm. Besides, ringing out everything else out at the ammo counter is much faster than waiting in line at one of the two registers that are open with 20 people in line.


doubletrouble said...

"..rifle or for a handgun?"

The Mrs. piped up, "It's for chipmunks."

Anonymous said...

heck they even sell reloading supplies here in Virginia!!

tickmeister said...

I asked the Wallyclerk why he was asking the last time I bought ammo. He said it is purely store policy, no other requirement. I don't care if they ask, but I always buy ammo with cash. I see no need to leave a paper trail. of buying ammo and having them keep a record of my answers.

evan price said...

The last time I bought 22LR at Wallyworld, I bought 6 boxes. The sporting goods clerk is usually a genial old fella who shoots a variety of different competitions and will talk guns all day long.
He was on vacation.

The clerk was a teenagerish girl who obviously knew nothing. She asked me the pistol or rifle question and I answered "Both."
This totally confused her. I wound up saying three boxes were for hte pistol, and three boxes were for rifle. She took a black Sharpie and very seriously wrote PISTOL and RIFLE on the boxes bfore she rang me up.

I sh*t you not!

Johnnyreb™ said...

Like a couple of others here, I reply "sub-gun" just to see their reaction ...

Tam said...


"I asked the Wallyclerk why he was asking the last time I bought ammo. He said it is purely store policy, no other requirement."

Wallyclerk was wrong. The reason they ask is the same reason the register prompts the clerk for your d.o.b. when you purchase alcohol or tobacco products.

Anonymous said...

, but the fact of the matter is no Mart-Mart chain is as much "anti-gun" as they are "pro-money" and "anti-risk".


And they took a LOT of notes over K-mart's spectacular collapse. Sure, there were a lot of issues there, but one of them was the Rosie O'Donnell-demanded ban on gun sales.

And from that moment, K-mart sales _plummetted_. Massively. I regularly drove by them, and almost immediately after that attack on the gun culture, their parking lots became near-ghost towns.

I go in them occasionally (One's within a baseball throw from my property corner), and it's amazing to see them staying in business.

But you'd better believe that Walmart is sucking that up as a loss-leader for the FFL hassles and such. Wal-mart isn't facing any real competition - but they look years ahead. They've got enough problems with made-in-China, bad PR, etc.

The last thing they want to do is get afoul of the gun culture. That, plus they're moving a *lot* of guns and ammo. Walmart isn't noted for giving up easy profit centers.

Our local WM had a problem with some guys open carrying a while back - the clerk refused to sell them ammo, since they "had guns". Upshot was they got kicked out of the store. ... And then a very profuse apology once the regional people heard about the problem.

Tam said...


Wal-Mart has quietly and selectively dropped guns and sometimes ammo from certain stores.

The nearest one to us in Indy, for instance, carries no firearms and no rifle or handgun ammo, only shotgun shells. I've been in others with no ammo at all. Go out to a small town, however, and Wally World is often the de facto gun store for the surrounding county.

Anonymous said...


Oh, Sure. Dropped some around here, too.

Where they've stopped, they did so with a big remodel, and basically did so slowly. No big announcement, and around here, the stores without FFLs will quickly tell you where the ones that are.

Unlike K-mart, they're not making a *political statement* at the same time. They're smarter than that. They're being very, very careful not to try and even seem to be getting into that. Especially in light of their PR issues currently with "running Mom and Pop out of business", etc.

Go out to a small town, however, and Wally World is often the de facto gun store for the surrounding county.

Yep. And given their current PR situations and such, I don't expect that to change - it would be a serious problem. The rural stores will sell the heck out of guns and ammo and other accessories. And people go back there for other outdoor stuff.

The considerations aren't just the sales, it's also PR, and how changes will be perceived. But you're right, don't think I was trying to argue, it is a business decision. It's just one that has more than simple supply/demand curve - and Walmart has damn near perfected that type of analysis.

Laughingdog said...

I'm still amazed at how many people think what you intend to use the ammo in affects the legality of purchasing the ammo (at least on the federal level) when between 18 and 21.

The law states that licensed dealers cannot sell ammo to anyone under 21 if that ammo is used exclusively in handguns. When pointed that out to the manager of one of the local gun stores, we had an interesting time trying to find anything they had for sale that couldn't be fired from some rifle/carbine or another. I think the only one we found was some variety of .32 that they had there.

Laughingdog said...

Had the wording off slightly, since I hadn't read it for a year or so. What I remembered as "exclusively" was actually "suitable for use only in a handgun". There's a mighty short list of ammo that fits in that category.

(x)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to sell, deliver, or
otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has
reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile -
(A) a handgun; or
(B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.
(2) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a juvenile to
knowingly possess -
(A) a handgun; or
(B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.

Tam said...

Oh, I know how it's worded, but the way it has traditionally been interpreted by the agency charged with its enforcement explains the CYA manner in which it's followed by licensees.