A couple of weeks ago I was smoking my way through a local cigar shop grand opening event when I bumped into a fellow named Dave. Dave, it turns out, is the former cigar shop owner and is now the author of a blog called Havana Bananas, which, as the website states, covers the topics of cigars, politics and life.
After talking about cigars and blogging for a while, he mentioned that one of his many projects is a book he self-publishes named the NACSF Guide For Cigar Store Freeloaders. I mentioned that I had actually heard of it, and was debating whether or not I should buy a copy. I joked that the newfound freeloading power I gained might corrupt me. Or at least finish the job. As it turns out, Dave had brought a few copies with him to give to the cigar shop owner, and handed me one. As my way of saying thanks for the generosity, I promised him I’d review it for one of my Saturday product reviews.
Weight: 6 oz
Dimensions: 8 1/2″ x 11″ x 1/4″
Price: $5.99 (buy it here)
I sat down with the book after the event, and blazed through its 20 pages in probably 30 or so minutes. It was an entertaining little read, and true to it’s title, I was full of clever ways to get free stuff out of your local cigar shop. I had expected it to be a little more little more sarcastic or maybe even an incredibly lengthy joke designed to pull one over on cigar store weasels and give proprietors a good laugh. And in an Andy Kaufman-esque way, perhaps it does that. But what I heard in the background as I read, in a voice that was both resigned and annoyed, was “You wanna know how to get a bunch of free stuff from your B&M? You really wanna know? Ok, fine. I’ll tell you.” The author comes pretty close to saying just that in the disclaimer on the last page: “This document speaks the truth about cigar store freeloaders. I felt that since I couldn’t beat them, I would join them and maybe make a few bucks for myself.”
The funny thing is for me is this became a what-not-to-do guide. Having learned a few new tricks, it dawned on me that these tricks must be pretty common knowledge to the savvy retailer. Let’s face it, the guy behind the counter at your B&M is an expert at the craft of selling cigars and dealing with customers. Five (or more) days a week for years on end hones their customer spidey-senses so that they can probably see you coming a mile away. Hey I like free stuff as much as the next guy, but I’d hate to think that owner of my local shop refers to me as “that weasel” when I’m not around. (Heck, they still might, you never know. I guess infamy is just another form of celebrity!)
Another interesting side effect of reading this book is that I’ve developed a bit of a freeloader-spidey sense myself. I get this tingling sensation whenever I’m around somebody who’s workin’ it for free smokes. Maybe it’s time for me to open up a cigar shop!
Ok, let’s break this down into some pros and cons.
What I liked
- It was entertaining. And it ends with a quiz!
- I learned some new ways to get free stuff at the local B&M. (Hey, free stuff is cool!)
- It was a quick read, very clear, covering the topics in a very straightforward manner.
- This would be excellent reading material for a new shop owner. In fact, I’d say it’s an absolute must read for anyone considering opening a cigar shop.
- It’s inexpensive.
What I didn’t like
- I learned some new ways to get free stuff at the local B&M. I’m really concerned that this book may encourage behavior that dishonest, and at worst, illegal.
- It was a quick read. I’m kinda hoping a second, expanded version comes out. But then again, I’m kinda hoping it doesn’t. (See previous bullet point.)
- I felt a little guilty about free stuff I’ve gotten in the past. (Hey, I try not to be a weasel, I really do.)
- No page numbers. Kinda nitpicky, but I’d love it if the pages had numbers at the bottom and the table of contents referenced those numbers. But hey, it’s only 20 pages.
- There were a few points where the text needed a bit of editing. I was a lit geek in college, so these things jump out at me.
Who should read it
- New cigar shop owners, and new employees in a cigar shop.
- Seasoned cigar shop owners. You might see something new, but most likely, you’ll just get a good chuckle.
- Customers with ethics. It is entertaining. And it may help you avoid being a weasel.
- Freeloaders. You stand to benefit most of all by reading this. But be warned, we will be having a chuckle at your antics!
I’d like to finish this review with another quote from the guide: “And please, take care of your local cigar stores… If the cigar smokers allow stores to close, where are we going to smoke an mingle?”