Speak Up or Stay Silent?

My name is Chris and I frequent sporting goods stores. No, seriously. It is frequent. Probably three times a week into each of the two big box stores near me. I don’t buy very often but I am always scanning for a clearance deal, new bait or some hidden gem. Both of these stores sell kayaks so I often spend some time looking at the entry level kayaks. I know folks are going to be asking about them on the forums and Facebook so it’s better to know what they are talking about in order to give an informed answer.

This loitering causes me some problems. From an early age I have had to learn to keep my mouth shut. Invariably if it stays open long enough, a foot will fly into it. I’ve gotten better at it but the control factor has me wondering if I am not saying enough. In certain situations anyway.

This week I was in one of the big box retailers and saw a father and son purchasing a kayak. The store associate helping them asked if they needed a paddle or lifejacket to go with it. I waited for the answer, standing in the middle of the aisle staring as if Bill Dance and Hank Parker just offered to buy me lunch. The dad says “No, we have a friend with a paddle we can use and my boy knows how to swim.” I wanted to scream but before I could say anything (the shock took a minute to wear off), they were at the checkout line.

I had a huge battle going on in my head. I was debating back and forth whether to approach them and explain the dangers of kayaking without a PFD. I might risk making them angry. Dad was in his mid to late 40s so a younger guy telling him how to parent might not go over so well. A migraine was developing from all the internal dialogue.

Do I speak up or stay silent?

Though I feel regret now, I stayed silent. I kept my mouth shut, my feet on the ground and left. It’s torture to want to educate people but at the same time, is a public retail shop with strangers the best place to try to correct a mistake in progress? Hopefully someone talks some sense into these folks. It should have been me.

What would you do? What will you do?


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Chris Payne

A lifelong Texan, Chris Payne has been an outdoor enthusiast his entire life and has spent the last 15 years fishing mainly from a kayak. He is known for his thorough and helpful reviews as well as how to articles for nearly everything kayak fishing related. If you have questions or comments, you can leave them on this post or email Chris at: paynefish@gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Speak Up or Stay Silent?

  • August 8, 2013 at 9:57 am

    That is a great question, Chris. I have, multiple times, given advice to buyers after I overheard an employee give them advice that wasn't very good. I would like to think that I would have said something, but it is easier to think that in theory than in practice – especially if they already seem like they are strapped for cash.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Good question Chris. Made me think about that ABC show "What would you do?" I'm an outspoken person so by nature, I would have most likely said something, but very tactfully and delicately. I would have politely introduced myself and congratulated them on their purchase. Carefully though not to invade their privacy. Then just get into a discussion about the pros and cons of kayaking overall and tell them a little about myself and how I got into the sport. Maybe I would've "oh by way" informed them of the state laws that require PFD and whistle. Probably would've invited them to visit the kayaking forums on TFF or even showed them myself. Difficult situation for sure though.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for weighing in Drew. I'm hoping that this will bring it to the forefront of some people's minds so when it does happen, they have a plan of how to approach it. Don't want that deer in the headlights action.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Good thoughts for sure James. I got so caught off guard I froze. Hearing a parent so nonchalant about safety just stunned me. Next time will be different.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I would like to think the stores would make a recommendation to the patrons, but this is difficult as it sounds like you are trying to get more money from patron.

    I have been on the water for most of my life in one form or another and a PFD has been present nearly 100% of the time. It's not because I can't swim, I can, very well. As a navy diver, civilian dive master, red cross lifeguard and avid water sports enthusiast, I am very comfortable in/on the water. I believe it comes down to education. Wearing a PFD doesn't mean you cannot swim; it means you can stay afloat if you are in the water; regardless of whether you are conscious or unconscious. This is the message the stores need to pass to patrons. If the family seemed to be in a crunch for cash, the store could have provided a cheap orange PFD at no cost to further stress the importance of being safe on the water. There is a way to do this without embarrassing the parent in front of the child. Speak up.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:30 am

    "If the family seemed to be in a crunch for cash, the store could have provided a cheap orange PFD at no cost to further stress the importance of being safe on the water. There is a way to do this without embarrassing the parent in front of the child. Speak up."

    John, excellent point you make here. Blame the store associate.

  • August 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

    "John, excellent point you make here. Blame the store associate."

    I think the stores have a responsibility. Some stores offer classes to a client after the purchase of a kayak. I would like to think the store would like have a return customer due to their efforts.

    If the child was a minor, it is/was the parents' responsibility to make the decision. Sounded like he needed the education. My $0.02.

    As a Rescue Diver, I have never pulled a body out of the water wearing a PFD.

  • August 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    "As a Rescue Diver, I have never pulled a body out of the water wearing a PFD"

    That says it all right there.

    Thanks for weighing in guys. I like the free PFD idea for stores as well. I may see if I can get some traction on that.

  • August 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Bert! It's started a lot of conversations today which is always a good thing.

  • August 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I know it's stupid but I often don't wear mine depending on the water conditions, however there is no way in hell my kids are getting on the kayak without one.

  • August 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

    You did the right thing – you minded your business.

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