I like getting a bargain on something and I will shop around, for a deal, in local shops, sometimes in distant shops (usually if traveling near one), and also at online dealers when looking to buy a firearm.
Some folks think it is best to buy from local dealers. I think it a good way to keep the local economy going and to help assure that the local dealer stays in business. Regardless of that though, sometimes still buy from an online dealer. While the reason for that can be the price, sometimes it is availability, other times it is customer service most times it is all three. It is not me doing a disservice to a local dealer by not buying from them when their prices are not competitive or are downright highly overpriced. Likewise, I am not doing a disservice to a local or online dealer when they do not offer, or will not order, a gun for which I am looking. Nor am I doing anything wrong when I avoid dealers who have less than at least good customer service.
While there are several criteria on which I base my decision to buy either from a local dealer or online dealer, one of the most important considerations is competitive pricing. I don't like getting ripped off, so I shop around to make sure the price is competitive. Included in the price are other considerations such as sales tax (locally, distant or online), shipping fees (online) and transfer fees (online). If I was going to buy a new gun online, and had to pay a transfer fee, I would shop around for the best value there too, I might even check to make sure that the shipping fee was reasonable. A few years ago, many FFL dealers or holders in my area were asking $50-$75 per transfer. I recently checked and found some, if not many, are now asking only $25-$35. I add that and shipping to the price of the firearm, from an online dealer, when I am doing price comparisons against local dealers. I will buy from a local dealer, even when paying a bit more than when buying elsewhere, but if the local dealer is still more than about 10% an online price as calculated above then guess from whom I buy.
Some of my local dealers had been selling Mosin Nagant 91/30 rifles, in very good to excellent arsenal refinish condition, for upwards of $175 each. When I inquired about buying one of those from a certain local dealer, with no other customers in the store, he acted as if I was being a pain in his backside for asking about it. That was over a year ago, I stopped shopping there since then. When I can buy the same rifle online for $100 plus about $20 shipping, from an online dealer who has given me great service in the past, which should I buy? It is easy for me to figure.
Recently though, at a gun show which I attended, one local dealer that was there had great prices on them, of $110 for hex receiver and $100 for round receiver models. I had been about to buy another online but when I saw his very competitive price, I considered buying one from the local guy. It was not price alone that got me to buying that rifle. First of all it was availability and display of them. Only after I saw them did I see the good price. When I went to the guys at the table and asked to look at one, I was a little leery of them. I had a bad experience with them, oh just over a year ago and had stopped shopping at their gun store. Yep, these were the same guys who made it seem painful when asked about a Nagant in their shop. Not only had I had a bad experience with their poor attitude but since they used to sell these rifles at inflated prices and I wondered why these were priced so competitively. Well, to my relief and surprise, I was treated attentively, respectfully and politely. They gave me time to look it over and took off the nylon tie that had been through the action and removed the bolt so I could look down the bore. They also took the time to discuss the rifle with me. So, a combination of availability, good service, and price convinced me to buy one from them. It seems they have changed their attitude toward customer service and that went a long way toward me making my purchase. They will keep me as a customer as long as they keep up the good pricing and good service. Others who had noted their deficiencies in the past have also noted their change for the better as of late. It seems their business may be improving in the near future as news of their improved service is spread by satisfied customers.
I often base my continued dealings with the local, distant and online dealers on past experience with them. If they price well is one thing but as I just pointed out, in the above example, there are other factors in my considerations. If they give good service is a big consideration. Things about their service that consider are: if they have been helpful, if they answer questions, if they are knowledgeable, if they stand behind what they sell, if online dealers ship promptly, if local dealers get something in when they say they will, return policy, if they treat the customer respectfully, if they don't act like the stereotyped pompous gun dealer, if they seem to be ethical, etc. Most dealers at which I no longer shop have not given good service in at least two or three of those areas. Why reward them with my continued patronage and my hard earned cash if they do not treat me well. I have to earn my money, so too should they and excellent customer service is one way to earn it.
So, when it comes down to it, it is not as simple as saying 'buy locally'. It is a matter of a dealer convincing me that I should buy from him other than buying from someone else. It is up to him whether or not he wants to do that convincing. That is one of the main aspects of capitalism and one of the reasons I like the capitalist system as much as I do like it. Competition is a good thing for the consumer in a free market.
All of the best,