Usually I have some pretty long rants, I mean, Commentary articles. This one, I’m thinking, is going to be short and sweet. Let’s see how it goes. The subject of certain T-shirts being worn at the track has bothered me for a long time. What T-shirts? Is someone wearing something offensive? Not really. At least not offensive in the traditional sense.
I’m talking about mail order company T-shirts. Okay, I’ll put the brakes on one offshoot of this commentary right now by making it perfectly clear that I am not against mail order. They undeniably serve a purpose. Plenty of people can enjoy the hobby and never set foot in a brick and mortar hobby store. So why do I have a hair across my you-know-what about these t-shirts? It just puzzles me when I see local racers sporting their favorite mail order company across their chest. I see it a lot.
At one of my local hobby store/tracks, you have to have your head pretty far, um, in the sand to not realize keeping the doors open is a big challenge in this economy. It’s a small store and a small track, and the owners make it a point to get to know everyone. They treat everyone like a friend and it’s sincere. That’s their point of difference (Business 101) that you can’t get online. When my son goes there, he feels like a king. Point is a six-year old probably isn’t their best customer, but they treat him like he drops bills like a rap star at a strip club. So, I have to scratch my head when I see a guy—a local yokel who expects to race there every weekend–walking around the pits sporting a shirt that essentially advertises their competition. Not only does this weekend warrior racer expect to have a place to race, he wants reasonable race fees.
I was recently at another track. This time out of state. Much bigger store with more tracks, more stock, more staff and, of course, more overhead. I was playing in the dirt outside, but had to venture inside to, well, use the facilities, but that part’s not important. As I walked by the indoor on-road track, I spied a gentleman with his arsenal of equipment spread out across a few pit tables as he tuned, tweaked and practiced for hours—for free. He was, of course, sporting the mail order company logo proudly across his chest as he leaned back in his chair giving me the hairy eyeball. The T-shirt might as well said “I Didn’t Buy Any Of This Stuff Here.” I just don’t get it! Isn’t the conflict obvious? This guy will probably be the first to complain [Edit] if the track starts enforcing a pay to play fee or, worse, goes out of business. You see, tracks–as in race fees–aren’t a viable primary source of revenue for a hobby store. When you factor in the substantial overhead directly attached to a track, the track side of the business may not even break even.
I’m not here to preach for everyone to support the local hobby store (Can I get an Amen?!). Okay, maybe I am a little, but the reality is how you spend your money is your business. It’s not my business and it’s not even the local hobby store owner’s business. Just don’t rub his nose in it.