Do I Get The Best Prices?

Posted: December 19, 2012 in General
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I’ve been asked many questions about gun shows and quite a few while standing in line for a show.  One of the most common among people attending for the first time is whether or not they get the best prices on merchandise at a show.  The answer is, unfortunately, not clear.

Gun shows are like any other shopping venue.  You enter, you get interested in a product, then you have a chance to walk out the door with the product.  The latter observation is probably the primary driving factor in prices.  The vendors know that you paid to enter, which means you are probably more interested in purchasing than just looking and you will no doubt get excited about walking out with something the same day.

It’s also the case that a lot of the merchandise is not readily available in other stores.  For example, I’ve only seen Larry Lights at gun shows, so that’s where I purchase them.  Immediate availability, novelty, and short supply often increases the ‘get it here and get it now’ mentality.

So, there is natural economic incentive to drive prices upward, which is balanced by competitive pressure from other vendors at the same show, all of whom compete for the same base of prospective buyers.  This makes the pricing dynamic more complex.

Some dealers offer ‘show only’ specials, so like any other good shopper, you might best consider a gun show as one of many options for purchasing a product. I highly recommend doing research in advance and avoiding impulse purchases.   Don’t buy a product you know nothing about just because you can get it right now for what appears to be a great price.  Research the product and available prices before you attend the show.  If you see something really cool demoed, walk around the show for half an hour or so and think about it.  Is there another product that fits your anticipated need better?  You can always make a purchase on the way out.  The vendor isn’t going anywhere that day 🙂

Let me illustrate by example.  A couple months ago, I was in the market for a Micro-Vault MV 500 for my car.  First, I researched online and local store prices and they averaged from $100 to $110.  Walmart had the best deal if I arranged to pick up the item (no shipping charge) at a nearby store.  Their price was $89, but the wait time was significant.  I almost purchased from Walmart, but something distracted me.

The next weekend, I saw the product at a show for $100.  I was able to talk them into $95 out the door.  Some vendors will be flexible at shows and others will not.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Be nice, be professional, and don’t argue.  I was able to walk out the door that day with exactly what I wanted for a total price nearly the same as the best available from early research.

Now, if I had waited until black Friday, I could have stood in line at Bass Pro and taken my chances on being able to purchase one for $75.  But, I didn’t know that at the show, and I really wanted a good gun safe for my vehicle, so I purchased the model at the show.

Did I really get the absolute best possible price?  Not really.  In reality, I struck a balance between immediate availability and price level.  And, I helped a local, small business.

I’ve seen prices at gun shows ranging from absolutely outstanding to absolutely revolting.  You won’t know the difference unless you take the time to become an informed consumer before attending.  And, note that time of day can make a big difference.  Some of the best ‘quick deals’ are gone within the first hour on the first day.  Some of the best negotiations are obtained during the final hour of the final day.

See you at the next show!

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