Cabela’s Sends Competence and Selection Out the Door

Tonight we went to Cabela’s for a bit of random shopping and just to get out of the house. Sebastian wanted to look at a few miscellaneous shooting-related items, and I was happy to learn that I could exchange the shotgun shell Christmas lights in for a set that actually works. (We ordered two strings online, and one didn’t function at all. I was not pleased.) So yay for a Cabela’s trip, right? Uhhh…no. It’s not looking good for shooters who want somewhere to shop in person. Sadly, I think the non-hunting among us can look forward to mostly shopping online at other stores.

  1. Missing: Shooting Sports. Sebastian wants to try shooting jackets. Rather than having us wander all around, I always go find a salesperson and ask them because it’s typically faster. However, I made the mistake of assuming that a salesman in the shooting department actually knew there were more shooting sports than just trap. He didn’t even point us to the vests, he took us to the shell pouches and asked if that’s what we wanted. I reminded him a) shooting jacket, b) for competitive shooting. Deer in headlights with a suggestion to look near the back of the camo.
  2. Looking for a clue. I asked other salespeople hoping that he was just incompetent. One guy said they didn’t have anything remotely like that which, it turns out was partially true. However, I don’t exactly have full faith in their customer service at this point. A woman I spoke with said they don’t carry much of that type of stuff anymore. She actually gave me the most information, even noting that shooting pads and many of the other supplies for non-shotgun shooting sports were mostly catalog and online items now. They apparently weren’t very profitable in the stores. (Sebastian is instead going to take a nicer quality shooting vest that I had from a shotgun shoot and see if he can make that work for now.)
  3. Christmas lights. I wanted to return the Christmas lights that didn’t work. This is great. Remember to have about 10-30 minutes to spare if you need to go to the customer service desk. Every time we go, they are understaffed and the front line staff have managers interrupting them every few minutes so that they can’t get customers out quickly. (Hint: When more people are getting in line, it may not be the best time to start shutting down registers.) But good luck finding the holiday decor. Normally, it would be easily found along the major aisles, but not this time. Instead it was scattered into various little corners. And the lights? Not anywhere that I could find. That’s because the Christmas lights were in their own little corner. But then it gets better because it turns out that the shotgun shell Christmas lights are not 50% like all of the other holiday home decor. Our cashier informs us that since we could use them for things like camping, they are clearly not Christmas lights.
  4. Ornaments gone PC. Last year I found all sorts of gun-related ornaments at Cabela’s. This year, nothing. Not one. All I found were wildlife and Cabela’s-branded ornaments. I want a pro-gun tree, not a Cabela’s brand tree. So again, no sale.
  5. Baskets. They couldn’t be found. You know how they are great about putting out stacks of baskets near the back of the store in case you end up buying more than you plan to? Yeah, not anymore. Haul your fat butt up to the front and have staff just block your access while juggling lots of small stuff in your hands. At this point, I’m not thrilled. Oh, and did I mention it was about 80 degrees in there? When most of your customers are coming in from the cold wearing coats, it means they will overheat. I’m always cold and I thought I was going to pass out from how hot it was inside.
  6. Discounts. Those signs advertising discounts? You better watch your cashier like a hawk if you are expecting to get them. No, this isn’t because she believes that our purchase of a string of Christmas lights in December might covertly be used for camping. Sebastian bought three packs of socks because he was looking at two, but then found that they would discounted by about 20% if he bought a third pack. Why not? It’s not like he can’t use them. But they ring up at full price, and I kid you not, the cashier has to go through two circulars before decided to do the math herself by hand. (Apparently the cash registers have no calculation function.) I had to call her out on it even though she admitted that she knew they should have been discounted.
  7. Fudge. I was thinking that a box of fudge might make a nice small gift for some folks. But unless you wanted to haul up to the “general store” to get a custom box, good luck finding it. I did eventually find a holiday pack, but I put it back because it either cost $9.98, $4.99, or $.01. Given the level of staff competence so far, I wasn’t about to ask someone to figure it out. So no sale, and just more folks for the baking list instead.
  8. Tactical Camping. Sebastian also wanted to get a new holster for his SureFire flashlight. You guys know these things are tactical flashlights, not what your average Joe and Jane Camper want. But for some odd reason, SureFire products have been removed from the gun section of the store and put up with the camping supplies – behind locked cases. That would be fine if they actually had staff in the department. We waited in line beside on staffer as he helped someone else, the guy made eye contact with me, and then he just walked off. Instead of no soup for me, it was no service. We eventually managed to find someone who had to find someone else to help us.
  9. You can’t have! When we got home, Sebastian noticed that the Leatherman holster he bought wasn’t in the bag. We checked the car and couldn’t find it. Then I suggested he check the receipt. Sure enough, she never rang it up for us. (We were too busy watching the register since none of the sale items were ringing up correctly.) The up side is that she never charged us for it. The down side is that they lost yet another sale and Sebastian will be looking elsewhere to make his purchases.

I felt like it was a less than rewarding trip, and we normally love Cabela’s. I don’t think we’ll be doing any shopping there for the foreseeable future. It’s too far to drive for crappy service and no selection. They can’t compete if they are going to move most of their non-shotgun shooting sports items online. Their online competition has a better selection and is cheaper. (In fact, Sebastian noted that even with shipping costs, Midway is still cheaper for ammo and components than Cabela’s in store purchases.)

It sucks because after stringing the shotgun shell Christmas lights up, we found we really need one more string. I suggested that on our way down to my mom’s that we swing by Bass Pro in Maryland if we go down 95. There’s also a Sportsman’s Warehouse near her place, as well as a Gander Mountain. (Though I tend to be anti-Gander since my first visit there with the expired and missing products.) I can definitely say that we won’t be ordering more from Cabela’s.

Are any other shooters who live near a Cabela’s finding that their selection of non-shotgun shooting sports supplies dwindling in the stores? Or do we suffer from being within driving distance of Jersey and Philly?

11 thoughts on “Cabela’s Sends Competence and Selection Out the Door”

  1. Dittos on the competence complaint. I had just finished listening to the NRA annual meeting on Cam & Company maybe a month or two before my trip to this fabled land of Cabela’s. I found nothing I wanted to buy, or couldn’t get cheaper at my local place. Still, they had announced at the meeting that Cabela’s was going to offer a donation program to NRA where you could round up your change to the nearest dollar or “add a buck” or something.

    3 bags of crappy beef jerky later, and 15 minutes of the cashier fumbling and asking for managers to help, and I decided I’ll just stick with my local Mom n’ Pop shops here in town, and send my money to the NRA directly.

  2. Mixed results at the local cabela’s
    I’ve attempted to attend a couple of their ‘in store seminars’ and they both failed to impress. The gun counter usually has lots of employees, but its hit or miss on their knowledge. Other areas are spotty for counter help but when I can find a name tag they usually know where things are located. Anyone I find with a good working knowledge seems to have picked it up outside of work. Last 2 trips I ended up with referrals to alternate retailers.

  3. Cabela’s is good for some things…when you order online and you know what you want. Lord knows I’ve chatted live with someone about this or that or what they need to do.

    One time, I wrote an email to their customer service regarding how one of their bow technicians set up a bow for a friend of mine, that took ME two hours to unfuck and set up correctly.

    They really aren’t hiring pros to man their shops; they’re hiring kids and retirees at minimum wage. The only other Cabela’s near me is the one in East Hartford, CT, and their gun selection leaves a lot to be desired. And since EBRs are banned in CT, you won’t find any on their gun racks.

    I just ordered 5000 rounds of CCI .22LR Subsonic bullets from MidwayUSA, even though they’re still advertising H-S Precision parts. I’m not going to boycott them just because they don’t know what H-S Precision did. And even if they did, if we systematically boycott every gun/ammo dealer around the country, that doesn’t do any good for us.

    There’s going to be a gun show at King Of Prussia on the 19th, 20th and 21st. I already told Sebastian that I was going to be there. Perhaps I’ll see you guys there. Maybe they’ll have the shooting jackets you want.

  4. I for one have loved all 3 trips to Cabela’s i have been on.

    Since i live in germany, it is often hard to find a good outdoors/hunting store. On my last 2 trips to the US, Kanasa and Washington, i went to both local stores, Olympia and Kansas City respectivly. I have had a great visit to both of them.

    And the best thing is that the Olympia(Lacey) store gave me the military discount even though i am just a DOD contractor. Bonus :D

  5. OrangeNeck, EBRs arent totally banned here in CT. Just like they didnt go away under the federal AWB. Cabela’s just chooses not to carry them.

    I’ve been inside exactly once, to see what all the hype is about. I actually tried to visit the PA one a few years ago when it opened. It was the weekend before Christmas and I got there like at 4:30-5:30pm and they were closing up. What major retailer closes that early right before Christmas?

    When they finally opened the Hartford store, we went and checked it out. Not really impressed. Just like the catalog, everything is overpriced. Some stuff seemed priced even higher then the catalog. It also seemed like a lot of people were using the store as a giant day-care center. There were dozens of seemingly parentless kids running around the store, and most of them had those pop guns. Now, it warms my heart to see kids playing with toy guns here in CT, but the constant Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! all over the store was really getting annoying. We didn’t shop as long as we might have because of it. Nope, don’t see myself doing that again any time soon. I’d rather do my shopping sitting on my sofa with my laptop.

  6. I live about a 10-15 minute drive from the Cabela’s in Buda, Texas so I go there all the time. Normally my experiences there are fine… I usually find what I want and then some (budget be damned!). I will say that sometimes if I need a salesperson it can be a chore to find one, but that doesn’t happen all that often. Still tho, some of what you said rings the same: the SureFires are now up in camping (tho they weren’t in a case last time I was there), can’t always find baskets in non-front-of-the-store locations. But overall my experiences have been pretty good. Maybe I’m lucky to be in Texas.

  7. Cabelas doesn’t stock competitive shooting equipment in the catalog, either.

    Try Creedmoor Sports online.

    Best regards,

  8. I also go to the Cabela’s in Buda. (That’s “Byoo-duh” in case you’re dying to say “boo-duh.” Don’t ask me about “Manor”…)

    I didn’t notice about the SureFires but I didn’t look. Last one I bought there was like maybe 1.5 years ago, and it was in the gun section.

    Cabela’s Buda has EBRs, no prob. Staff is basically whoever they can get to show up. I’m not crazy about having a Cabelan run a NICS check for me – that’s not something I care to have screwed up.

    Plenty of non shotgun items in store, last I noticed.

    OTOH, they have been uniformly nice to me at customer service. and they have a decent breakfast selection upstairs.

    The talky deer head creeped me out though. I’m glad he shut up/went away.

  9. Yep, no doubt Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops cater to the hunting crowd all right but some of the mom and pop shops in the Richmond area are the same – meaning you have a hard time finding competitive shooter supplies. DeGoff’s Guns is the only true “gun shop” as the other stores Greentop and Dance’s are “sporting goods” stores that also sell hunting and fishing supplies.

    I go to Bass Pro and Cabela’s for my hunting supplies simply because they have a larger selection and have good experiences with them (though I have to shop Cabela’s online as there is not a store close to VA – Richmond has a new Bass Pro store). I buy my guns from the mom and pop stores because I trust their employee product knowledge.

  10. Actually, stuff like shooting jackets and such is pretty esoteric, and I’ve never seen them outside of Champion’s Choice and catalog outfits catering specifically to the target shooting market.

    God knows I never stocked them; we only had about one customer per year ask.

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