Think about the last time you needed a piece of gear. Think about how you felt walking into the gear shop, how your questions came across to the staff, and about any reflecting you did after making your purchase.
How did you feel? 1. Satisfied that you found a good deal? 2. Impressed with the gear selection and knowledge of the shop's staff? 3. Downtrodden and more than slightly pissed-off?
Option #3 ring any bells?
That's how I feel when I do my gear shopping in-person, when the gearhead I'm asking questions to hasn't seen years worth of purchases in the "previous orders" tab of my profile. That's how I feel when I walk into a shop, fresh off a workout in my pink running shoes and my messy, sweaty bun. Like I'm an idiot, like I don't belong, like I should sign up for the next "Hiking 101" tutorial they're offering.
Like I have no idea what I'm doing.
I avoid that feeling at all costs by shopping at the same shop, around the same time & day of the week, so I know that the person behind the counter will know who I am, will have talked to me about what I've done/am going to do, and isn't going to waste 30 minutes of my time trying to impress me with irrelevant name-dropping or grilling me on "why I'm buying ice screws" or "the differences between leather and synthetic climbing shoes."
It's an unfortunate truth, but it's with me every time I decide I do, in fact, need new gear. It's with me so much that I shop at one shop, and one shop only, in order to avoid the humiliation and frustration that come with meeting another new face that will profile my experience the minute I ask my first question.
Every time I walk into a gear shop with my significant other, I walk out amazed. Amazed that he was immediately respected by the staff, amazed that the questions he asked didn't get patronizing answers back, amazed that he didn't feel belittled or intimidated by the person standing behind the counter.
Every time I walk into a gear shop on my own, I walk out pissed off and ready to rant about my experience to anyone within earshot. I'm pissed off about how my questions are received, about the "knowledge" that is passed on to me, about how idiotic the staff behind the counter made me feel after I ask for their opinion. There is little to no difference between the questions I am asking and the questions my SO is asking. The only difference is my gender and the fact that the outdoor industry is still so dominated by men that, oftentimes, women are immediately judged as having inferior knowledge and skill. And frankly, I'm so tired of it that I avoid encounters with new staff members at new stores. I know when I walk in, I will not be looked upon as stupid, I will not be looked upon as a newb, and my brightly-colored running tights will not automatically toss me into the category of "Evolv Elektras and strap-on crampons only" please.