November 2, 2014
Last weekend I had a day trip out of town and I just happened to be driving past a tack store. Like any true blooded equestrian, I was *required* to stop and browse.
It is a larger tack store, with a wide selection. It’s neatly set up and well organized. Mostly English riding, with a separate little room for saddles. There are clothes, both riding and equestrian style, a nice section of gloves and supplements, grooming equipment, blankets, and other odds and ends.
It’s not one of those huge warehouse style tack stores that’s more like a tent sale. And it’s not one of those big tack stores that’s been shoved into too small of a space where you can dig for that amazing deal on something you never expected to find. There are also no used items, so no diamonds in the rough. But it’s a good utilitarian tack shop.
I chatted with some other customers, both initiated by myself and by the other shoppers. Discussing the fit and sizing of a barn jacket another shopper was trying on, and then discussing the differences in non-slip pads with another customer. This is one of the charms about being in a tack store. Everyone else in there shares a similar crazy streak with each other. It’s not uncommon to butt into a conversation with your own opinion, or ask another customer which color looks better with a chestnut, navy or black?
Like a lot of equestrians visiting tack shops, I didn’t really *need* anything. Although I was interested in picking up a new saddle pad. I have plenty, but they are all getting ratty and worn, and it’s nice to spice up your ride with a little fresh color. So after a bit of tittering around I went to the saddle pad section. They had their own brand in both economy (read: thin and crappy) and middle of the road, along with a section of Roma pads all in dressage and all-purpose cuts. They had a lot of pads all together, but there were a lot of repeats and not really much variety. They had maybe three or four with a print, and the others were all solid colored with piping. And even the solid colors were mostly the main stream navy, hunter green, white and black. As you may have gathered I was a little disappointed.
I wondered around a bit more, checking out the gloves and socks, which there was a pretty impressive selection of. And then I went to check out. There was one customer ahead of me chatting with the store employee. They clearly were acquaintances outside of the shop. The employee seemed a little snarky towards the customer. I listened as she off handedly bragged about her daughter and how it was “so weird to go to the Washington International Horse Show when (Daughter-Super-Princess) so and so was not competing.” The customer did not seem to take any sort of offense and I assumed this was the employee’s general attitude and maybe some of her personal charm???Note: three question marks to represent my questionable sarcasm.
I put my purchase on the counter (a well-priced tube of ivermectin wormer and an overpriced black all-purpose pad with white piping). The employee asked if had found what I was looking for, and without waiting for an answer, or making eye contact with me, she looked up at the customer walking up behind me and greeted her. Then she began a conversation with this customer, while rushing through my check out. She asked me another question at the end of checkout, and then again, without waiting for a response returned her attention to the new customer and all but shoved my purchase into my hands and off the counter.
I have to say I was quite put out. Tack stores are one of the few places that still tend to have honest and often enthusiastic verbal exchanges between customer and employee. Generally even a lazy employee will ask a customer a simple question to make them feel at ease. “What type of horse do you ride?” “Which discipline do you take part in?” “Is this your show color?” Or, hell, comment on the weather, “It’s gorgeous outside today, did you get in a ride?” More often than not the employee can pick out something more specific about a shopper and know to ask something more pointed, “Do you ride at such and such barn?”, “Are you going up to the Washington International Horse Show this weekend?”, “Is your daughter in such and such Pony Club?” Or maybe “You must be an eventer.”
While continuing my multi hour drive after leaving the tack store, I thought back to previous visits I have made to this particular store. And you know, this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, I could not think of a single time I had been in that store and not left with an unpleasant vibe. Some of the employees, all adult ladies, have been nice to me, although never overly friendly like they generally are at other tack stores. But there has always been at least one petulant customer service agent working the register that has looked down her nose at me and made me feel inferior.
No equestrian should ever feel inferior in a tack shop.
I spent the rest of my drive composing the perfect blog post about this tack shop, but of course I quickly forgot it and started this one from scratch.
I will close by saying that I have purposefully left out the store’s name and location. Although I suppose if I were to expect mediocre customer service at a tack store, I suppose it would be from a chain (hint hint).