Latest posts by Delton Childs (see all)
- How I’m Selling Vaporizers That Cost Over $100 - October 26, 2015
- Bernie Sanders Wants To Reform Cannabis Prohibition - October 14, 2015
- My First Smoke Shop Disaster - October 7, 2015
- How Was The eJuice Manufactured? - October 2, 2015
Working at a smoke shop is pretty damn intense and there’s a deep philosophical spirit that you have to learn and embrace. I thought I was pretty hip to the cultural lifestyle from adventures in my 20’s and I’ve worked closely with Supernova Smoke Shop in San Antonio Texas for about half a decade as well as many other local underground projects. I work with many other smoke shops around the US as well. I considered myself well indoctrinated when it comes to alternative culture but working at a smoke shop requires a level of knowledge about hidden cultural taboos that’s not easily acquired. I discovered there’s a unique level and hidden professionalism and discretion that is one of the few things today that is still only passed down person to person. If you don’t or have never worked at a smoke shop, you have no idea. Working at a smoke shop is a job of modesty as well as luxury. At a smoke shop it’s the fringe behaviors, the social and cultural taboos that come out into the air freely. A smoke shop is the environment where people feed their vices and talk about them. People will explain to you and explain their obsessive compulsive preferences in detail. This is the only time they’re probably ever spoken. These are all the things people only whisper and only speak about among close friends. It’s crazy.
Being an expert at web development and then becoming a beginner in an industry like retail can be frustrating and humbling. It reminded me of the old Karate Kid movie and how frustrated Daniel-san felt inside while performing the minimal tasks assigned by Mr. Miyagi. These task are secretly designed to help familiarize you and strengthen you with regards to the every-day motions. I put price tags on stock, arranged items neatly on shelves and migrated entire shelves of tiny e-juice bottles. These tasks where very humbling but I embraced them and they really help familiarize me with the products. Pricing items taught me more about the prices, In every retail job you need to properly front items on the shelve so it doesn’t look like you work in a garbage dump and migrating those ejuice bottles, well, that is a very complex section, knowing those juices is essential to selling them.
So, the first lesson I learned is that people expect you to know a whole lot of shit when you work at a smoke shop. This ranges from digital scale calibration to the biological details of body detoxification & panel tests, which papers are best, all about about cheap and fine cigars, the list goes on. You only have to know this stuff if you want to really sell things. Not just depend on someone who needs what you have at the right second finding you, seeing the item and having the money. All these desperate variables falling into place a the right time. I’m not a salesperson. In my mind’s eye I can always see myself as a customer, I am actually a customer after all. I try my best to become the person I think would be most helpful. It was very difficult because similar to a gas station or wal-mart smoke shops have thousands of products and little nooks with hidden gems. Mistakes where made. I distinctly recall someone asking me for a cigar cutter. I made the mistake of looking where the small humidors and other boxes are located and said no. This was not near the small cigar section we have inside a display case. Doing little things around the shop helped teach me the shop and help customers better and only comes with familiarity.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Smoke Shop
Most locations in this specific chain (Supernova Smoke Shop) are in higher traffic areas and see more groups of customers in and out the door every 5 min than the specific location I’m in. I’m in a lower volume shop, a small-ish shop. This shop is part of a small chain of 4 smoke shops that rank #1 in the search engine result pages like Google in the city of San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the U.S.A. at the time of writing this chronicle. We can and do get found on search so that’s not the issue thankfully. This shop is the smallest and most neglected of the 4 shop chain though. We have good reviews on google for this specific location as well so we’re sitting pretty on web. The signage on the street isn’t great. We commonly get people who live in the area tell us they didn’t even know we were here.
We have oil burners (which are best sellers), tattoo machines, jewelry bags in more sizes than you’d believe and plenty of glassware from low to high quality. Between the 4 locations, we have it.
This Is The State Of Things
I want to write about this experience because I want to be sure to get a few of the details of how things are right now for posterity in the smoke shop industry. Looking back, there weren’t many smoke shops around when I was in my teens and 20’s. Today there are over 30 smoke shops in the city. Probably a lot more than I’m aware of. I can think of 5 in my area. I’m excluding Vape Shops from my calculations. If you count vape shops the numbers probably double. Things are very fragmented right now in the smoke shop industry with regards to vape. This is what must be going on:
- People Who Visit Smoke & Vape Shops – (Smoke & Vape Customers – SVC)
- People Who Only Visit Smoke Shops (Non-Vape Customers – NVC)
- People Who Visit Only Vape Shops (Vape Exclusive Customers – VEC)
- People Who Don’t Visit Either (They don’t know what they’re missing out on)
Working at a smoke shop I don’t ever see the group that only goes to vape shops but they’ve got to be out there. My job in this regard is to make these people aware of our location and that we carry vape supplies for them. There are way to many people buying Omg (Zero MG Nicotine) Juices and young vapers walking in that have never smoked cigarettes to ignore this vape only segment of the market. The people who only visit smoke shops and don’t vape, this is a complex segment of the customer base because some of these people smoke tobacco as well as dry herbs and you have the opportunity to convert them to vapor users as well, especially with the rise of CBD oils, other extracts, dry herb vaporizers and wax vaporizers. A vapor only store is a much different experience than a smoke shop and can’t cross all those boundaries easily. Many smoke shops are incorporating very beautiful vape sections to bridge this gap. An example would be our new client Smoke’n Rays in Reno NV. It’s my belief that people who are experienced with vape will visit a vape only shop as well as your smoke shop. I’ve visited a few vape only shops just to have that experience but that’s a conversation for another time. All of this needs to be examined further and greater degrees of granularity need to be pulled out of each of these basic customer segments but that’ll do for now.
I invite any comments or suggestions!