/ How much do you rely on shop assistants?

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PPP - on 10 Jan 2014
I know I am a gear junkie and I know more than climber or hill-walker (myself) would need to know. If I buy something, I need to know about technologies used. Sometimes I just spend some time wandering around outdoor shops and looking at some stuff. Sometimes I need some help from assistants as my memory is not as good as my curiosity.

So here I am, at one shop. At that time I was interested in Suunto watches, I wanted to look at them and decide whether I really need one (have a Casio G-shock at the moment which hasn't any of ABC functions). I could not remember how waterproof this watch is and asked the assistant. So we figured out it's "30M". He claimed that this is diving depth, so I could basically dive up to 30 meters with this watch. I know it's not true and the water resistance claimed on watch is not directly related to diving depth. I tried to explain that to him, he said that watches aren't his speciality, but never agreed that he was wrong. I didn't care about it too much.

Now I am looking for B1 rated shoes as my boots are worn out and I definitely need new ones. Months passed, I forgot what happened and went to the same store again. A girl approached and asked if I need any help. Indeed, I did - from 50 or more boots I can't tell boot ratings just by looking at them. She didn't seem to be sure about these ratings, admitted that and said she will ask for another assistant to help me. Okay. The same "not watches guy" came. So I said I need B1 boots for all-year round use. He pointed out that crampon compatible boots will be tiring in the summer just to hill walk. He insisted me on trying Scarpa Manta boots, which are B2 boots. I said these aren't B1 boots, but it seemed he didn't want to hear that. I assumed he thought that as long as boots are crampon compatible, they are all the same. Then he gave me Salomon Quest 4D boots to feel the difference. Of course, it might be a little bit weird to tackle Scottish munros in summer wearing B2 boots, but I know that some people use B1 boots in summer for scrambling and hill walking without many troubles (my previous boots weren't supportive enough, that's why I need B1's).

So I will never go to that store again, that is for sure. What about others? What if someone was told that they can dive with watch which has "Water Resistant 30M" label? What if person wants B1 boots and buys B2 instead (nothing bad will happen, though)?

So, how much do you rely on shop assistants? Do you find them helpful?
SethChili - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

I have very little disposable income , so I tend to read every review , and research everything before I go the shop . Some chains ( Cotswold outdoor , go outdoors , snow and rock ) will have trained their assistants to a reasonable level , but I still go into a shop already almost certain of what I want .
When it comes to specialist equipment , I would if possible to a 'serious' shop such as Needlesports , Trekkit or Joe Brown who have used the gear in nasty places and know what they are on about .
The Norris - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

I went into Nevisports in manchester for some ski equipment, The shop assistant (i think it was actually the manager to be fair) spent over an hour talking about the pro's and cons of certain items and what would likely to be best for me given my build, and didnt really try and sell any one particular product.

It was really really useful! I bought more than i had planned (although i did need the items). So i would say yes, when you get a good one, shop assistants can be an invaluable source of information.
Jonny2vests - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

Not much. My favorite whinge right now is PC World. Hopelessly un-technical staff in what is obviously a technical field. I normally avoid the place like the plague, but had to put together a machine for my parents whilst home at Christmas. Some of the 'advice' was staggeringly bad.

There seems to be no high street alternative though, hence why they get away with employing monkeys on peanuts.

I'm with you on footwear, there's still no shortage of shop assistants who persist with the zombie rumour that rock shoes should 2 sizes below your normal size.
forcan - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

Sometimes it feels like I should be charging the outdoor shop for the training I'm giving their assistants...

It doesn't take too long to suss out how much the assistant knows!
martinph78 on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

Pop back and try on the Scarpa SL Activ, should suit your B1 all-round needs
PPP - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to Martin1978:

I about to try Scarpa Cristallo GTX as they are slightly cheaper . Thanks for an advice, read few reviews about SL Activ boots today.
TobyA on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

The whole B1, B2 thing is getting really silly now. It was a good idea when it came out in the mid-90s I think, but people need to understand it's just a label some brands decide to use and others don't. It's not like it's an EN or CE standard with whole document of testing methodology and classification levels behind it.

I think you've become way too focused on the B-rating, it's just a very rough guide. Try the boots on and see how comfy they feel and what flex they have in them and make your own decision.
AlanLittle - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

> So, how much do you rely on shop assistants? Do you find them helpful?

I only realised afterwards that the person advising me on trad gear in V12 last time I was in Llanberis was Emma Twyford.

She did seem to know what she was talking about ...
The New NickB - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

I try not to, the couple of times in the last few years that I have asked a question, they have not known the answer (which is fair enough, won't be a straightforward question) or they have talked obvious bollocks, which I don't like.

It is the same in a lot of specialist shops, especially chains, although the running shop I use is a Sheatshop, but has a few very good staff, often very good runners so I know what sort of training and racing they are doing.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:
> I only realised afterwards that the person advising me on trad gear in V12 last time I was in Llanberis was Emma Twyford.

> She did seem to know what she was talking about ...

Oh yeah I saw that, you were like, "Bitch please! What do YOU know about trad anyway?"

True story;)
Post edited at 21:01
Dave Ferguson - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

as an ex shop assistant you sound a bit of a nightmare, some shop assistants talk boll*cks but believe me customers talk boll*cks x 10.
It really doesn't matter how the boot is "rated", try it on and then shop around. Sounds like "watches guy" was trying to help you, but you weren't listening as you were fixated on the "rating" which lets face it is a manufacturers gimmick.

MG - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to Dave Ferguson:
as you were fixated on the "rating" which lets face it is a manufacturers gimmick.

Strange that anyone want to take a altimeter watch diving too!
emmathefish - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

shop assistants get payed from around £6.50 to £10.50 (give or take) an hour, so thats usually relative to the service you will usually get. Also, in outdoors shops there are the types of employees that are involved in outdoor activity that will usually know what they are on about, and the other type that will see the job as a retail job and will not know everything there is to know about...everything. Also sometimes customers (not referring to you) are too demanding, and this will inevitable deflate any human being that is working a 10 hour shift. So basically don't expect the royal treatment from every single shop assistant, but appreciate it when you do get it.
PPP - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to Dave Ferguson:
Well, I have been working in customer service for almost half a decade (oh, I am 20 years old...) and I know how difficult is that.

Talking about boot rating, I assume that if we talk about the same brand, the rating tells a little bit about stiffness. Like Scarpa Cristallo are B1 and Scarpa Manta are B2, so you usually would expect Cristallo to be slightly more flexible. I have noticed Manta's easily, but could not identify any B1 boots which would be more flexible and hence more suitable for summer use. Am I wrong about that? So my idea was to try two kind of boots, like B1 and B2 and compare if there is any significant difference.

In addition, I did not make arguments with that guy as I am sometimes afraid to be wrong while telling that someone else is wrong. I am also a little bit shy to talk with strangers as English is not my first language. In these situations I was upset, not angry - I rarely show angriness at public, to be honest.
Post edited at 22:12
PPP - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to emmathefish:

Well, I do not expect them to be nice and smile all the time, but I do not appreciate if I have to listen to lies.

That is the reason why I usually shop at Cotswold. I am always happy with their service.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to MG:

> as you were fixated on the "rating" which lets face it is a manufacturers gimmick.

> Strange that anyone want to take a altimeter watch diving too!

Obviously the shop assistant could've given him a bit of advice and explained this to him. But didn't. If it was go outdoors, I think they're trained to say that B2 are a good middle ground if your are buying your first set of crampon compatible boots.

He's asking about the waterproofness of a watch. I imagine that a good level (above merely splash proof) would be a pretty good idea in the hills. Never said he wanted to go diving with it but if he did happen to take it swimming or snorkeling and bust it due to a shop assistant talking out his arse, I don't know about you but I'd be pissed off.
AlanLittle - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

> True story;)

Shit, I'm busted.

Didn't Andy K used to work in Outside in Hathersage?

"I want to solo the Harlin on the Eiger in winter"

"Good idea sir, you'll be needing a string vest and half a dozen bird beaks"

Ben Sharp - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

Where I work we stock everything from air rifles to buoyancy aids and a whole load of camping and hiking stuff in between, there's a lot of stuff and you can't expect someone being paid minimum wage to spend their evenings reading up on the technical intricacies of all the products they stock plus all the products they don't stock to help you compare. It's not realistic for me to be able to give one customer detailed info about the different components of half a dozen rifles and then go on to give another customer detailed information about the different manufacturing processes of 10 different brands of footwear. The tech that goes into footwear is ridiculous. The reps don't visit as much as they used to as the companies can't afford it, the tech is constantly changing and every season you get a whole load of new stock in and it's down to individual shops to go through product info for dozens of items. Training from companies, while usually good, is irregular and some don't even bother at all. Add on to that that sales assistants who do a lot of outdoor pursuits tend to come and go quite quickly, the pay is less than you would get from cleaning the streets and they'll often be treated like shit by customers day in day out, so a lot of people who would be good at the job don't hang around very long so don't have the time to build up knowledge.

Take walking poles for example, there's very few shops that stock 3 or 4 decent brands of walking poles and it's very unlikely that you'll find one with a sales assistant who knows the technical specs of them all and has also tested them all. The internet can give you all that instantly. Sales assistants can help you if you don't know anything about something but if you're already a gear nut and you go into a shop having freshly read a lot of reviews and product info online then do you really expect them to be able to match that?

The guy you describe doesn't sound particularly good but remember you were expecting him to know detailed info about two pretty complex and disparate bits of kit. Of course in an ideal world he would have said "I'm not actually sure on that but I'll find out". In the real world, in a busy shop it's unlikely you'll have someone go off and phone suunto for you to get the product info when, after spending time trying to get through to the company the customer is probably going to "go and think about it" anyway (i.e. buy it online).
Ste Brom - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

Speaking as an ex minimum wage outdoor shop employee, you sound like the nightmare gear freak from hell we sought pleasure in goading.

I prefer the old days of gear shop employees who were employed on the basis that they actually climbed, and were suitably equipped with a contemptuous demeanour which implied 'who in the name of jehovah are you to purchase this piece of equipment?'.

Then you'd ask for discount for being in the cubs or something.
For your troll omni pants.

zephr - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to MG:
To be fair, some versions of the Core have Depth gauges on them for diving as well as altimeters for climbing... So you COULD take if diving if you wanted.
The New NickB - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to MG:

> Strange that anyone want to take a altimeter watch diving too!

The problem is, a watch with a 30m rating, isn't very waterproof at all, your wouldn't want to submerge it in water. I don't know why the ratings don't relate to reality, but it is the sort of thing I would expect someone selling them to know.
BAdhoc - on 11 Jan 2014

I work in one of those stores, and do try and keep up my knowledge (hence planning my first winter trip to actually get some first hand experience) but a lot of staff don't do that, they just wing it because it's minimum wage and minimum effort and they knew the HR manager.
It's very frustrating working there too.
nniff - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

My favourite incident occurred in a newly opened branch of one of the multiples, miles from anywhere mountainous. I was nosing around, examining a rucksack. A very enthusiastic young girl tried to sell it to me. I asked if the magnetic holder for a hydration thingy hose would not interfere with a compass. I was sort of expecting 'Yes, you need to be careful' or 'No, as long as the clip is fastened it's fine'. Instead I got 'Why would you need a compass?'

I ended up buying an ice screw and they were very excited because it was the first one they had sold.
PPP - on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to Ben Sharp:

Well, the store itself has a "not so bad" reputation around and after I asked whether they have any crampon compatible boots in another store, I was recommended to visit the store where I usually feel unlucky. They have higher end of products, not just cheap ones. So I would expect a little bit more than a general store.

I do not know how much do people in Cotswold get paid, but I was always happy being there. You can just chat with them about winter camping and it seems that most of them are experienced.
Hannes on 11 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

With the big chains it can be a it hit and miss with good staff. In fact the managers often have a nightmare finding decent staff to man the floor. I have worked in one of those chains on and off for some time though not for the last year and a half but I've seen enough of it to understand it. Some shops will be better than others, the three big ones around covent garden for example will have staff who generally know their stuff. Over the time I worked there we had plenty of experienced people from people who went on new routing trips to the greater ranges, greenland, 8000m peaks and others who had climbed e6. Obviously being an experienced climber may not make you a great shop assistant but at least you ought to know what you are talking about.
Panick - on 12 Jan 2014
In reply to PPP:

I was once told that the leg loops are the most important in a harness and should be the tightest...

Smaller more specialised shops will always = better knowledge though.

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