April 7th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Such a deal I got!
By John W. Colburn

The other night in a rag-chewing session among a bunch of us fly fishers, fly tyers, and hangers-on, the subject of buying fly fishing gear came up and branched into buying on the Internet, particularly on e-Bay. Some were bragging about the lower than list prices available that way, citing some of the deals they made.

An objection was raised that these good deals and the -Mart buys were taking business away from the local fly tackle shops - an objection that was hooted down by those concerned with getting the best price without considering the ultimate price they're going to pay.

Many of the PPTU members have always pumped their own gas and can't remember the days when the pump-jockey washed the windshield and checked the oil and the tires while the gas was pumping - at no extra charge, all for the price of the gas. All of this is history now - gone because of gas shortages, higher overhead, and the "bargain" prices. Gone too are the guys who would change windshield wiper blades and fan belts for the price of the parts; who could give you directions to almost any place within a ten mile radius; who would tell you road conditions or where the next motel was; who gave you a friendly smile and a cheery greeting. And every once in a while, the guy was a gal. (I know that you don't pump your own gas in some states, but try getting any service from that minimum wage slave who pumped your gas.)

Now, with a credit card, you don't have to come face to face with a real person, and if you ask directions or road conditions, you get a dazed look and a "Huh?" If you want a light bulb, wiper blade, or fan belt replaced, you're lucky if you can by paying a hefty "service" charge, even if you furnish the part, and you usually have to. Often you have to get it done at a dealer's garage - and then paying for overhead charge and more.

Well, folks, while I'm not denying that the price of rods, reels, lines, and everything else is too high, it's not the local dealer who sets those prices, when you buy that stuff on eBay or at -Mart, you're denying that profit margin that keeps his shop in business. The minute profit from flies and tippet material and other small items won't pay the rent, light bill, small salaries, insurance, and all the ther expenses required to keep a shop open. And you wonder why, when you bring in that line you got at -Mart and want it loaded on the reel you got for 55% of list on eBay, the guy behind the counter makes you pay for the backing that was often free when you bought the reel and line at the shop.

Try finding out what's working on Muddy Creek or when the shad run will start on the river on eBay. Ask the clerk at -Mart, if you can find one, to rig up that rod and reel outfit you got for such a bargain. These and all the other free services you used to get at the local shop aren't available on-line or at -Mart.

As more people do their major item buying do so on eBay and at -Mart, that friendly guy at the fly shop is going to go the way of the pump-jock of recent history. What are you going to do then?

Such a deal I got! ~ John Colburn

Such a Deal II

I didn't realize when I wrote that "Such a Deal I Got" Last Word column in the January '03 issue that I was being prophetic. Today I got a newsletter from Fly Country Outfitters, the fly shop in Salem, OR, where I worked before moving to the Soldiers' Home in Washington. George Hadley, the owner and a good friend, wrote in part:

"Fly Country Outfitters is closing its retail store...February 25, 2003. Many of you have asked why...here are the reasons:

    1. The sales have declined this last year due to the recession, not too surprising.

    2. The Big Box Warehouse [a discount warehouse] in town has drawn off more of our customers than we originally thought would happen. People just can't resist the pull of those cheap flies and stuff. Example: A friend of mine just had to buy a dozen of those cheap flies and one of my very expensive $1.95 flies. He called me after his fishing trip to confirm my worth fear. The cheap flies lasted about three casts and then fell apart and did not produce a single fish but that very expensive $1.95 fly caught 13 fish. Go figure. Get this one: We spent 1.5 hrs helping a "customer" understand what he and his wife needed to begin their fly fishing adventures. We said we would include a 1 hr casting lesson with the purchase of a complete rod & reel outfit from our store. [Probably a $165.00 value-Ed.] They said they would think about it. The next day they stopped by for their free casting lesson after they had purchased their stuff at the Big Box Warehouse. By the way they were mad at us for not giving them a FREE Casting Lesson.

    3. The Biggest Reason that really made us decide to close was that The Orvis Company decided to break the tradition of only putting their products in the Pro Shops like ours. They decided to start putting their products in G I Joe's in Portland, OR. [A chain of general hook-and-bullet sporting goods stores in the Northwest, usually selling below the suggested retail price-Ed.] A BIG BOX store. It appears to me that they [Orvis] want to sell a lot of stuff and really don't care if YOU the Customer can ask questions of the professional to find out if your purchase is correct for you. Trial and error on your part means you will have to spend more money to get the correct product OR you can be very wise and purchase your fly fishing products at a pro-shop that can advise [sic] you, assemble your products and give you advise on where to use your products safely. Skip the Big Box Stores and purchase your products in the future at Pro-Shops. Think you really save money at Big Box Stores? Think again when you need to know:

    1. Where to go
    2. What to use
    3. How to use it
    4. And what is the best equipment to do the job, unless you like to throw away a lot of time and poor equipment having a "good" time." [All emphasis above is in the original except where noted.-Ed.]

[Editor's note: Fly Country Outfitters is/was a full-service Orvis dealership. They had a contract with Orvis that required that they sell only Orvis rods, reels, waders, and other major items and at the Orvis catalog price. In turn, Orvis gave them a slightly better break on wholesale prices. For instance, FCO could not sell Sage or Winston fly rods or Hardy or Scientific Angler reels, Simms waders, or any product that directly competed with Orvis. Incidentally, all these manufacturers or suppliers require their products be sold at the suggested price.]

I guess the only thing I can say is "Such a deal the flyfishers of Salem, OR, got."

John Colburn
FFF Mid-Atlantic Council
Copyright andcopy; 2002 John W. Colburn

[From The Conservationist; the newsletter of the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Silver Spring, MD, thanks John!]

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