A Tale of Two Cigar Reps

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A Tale of Two Cigar Reps

Stogie Review - Cigar Roller

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to to tell you a little story about two cigar reps. Actually, it isn’t much in the way of a story – I just need a lead-in to a question and I’m very interested in your input on the matter. Anyway, back to the point…

I’d like you to take a moment and imagine yourself standing in your local cigar shop. Yourself and a couple of the shop regulars are standing around the cash register talking to the owner of this fine establishment. The aroma of well-blended cigars fills the air as a cloud of smoke slowly collects above your heads. Someone cracks a crude joke and you all laugh.

At this point in the story the front door opens and in walks a cigar rep. The product they represent is unimportant, all that matters is that they have a smile on their face and immediately introduce themselves.

Before long, the cigar rep has been drawn into the conversation and everyone is enjoying themselves. Topics change from the weather, to sports, to cigars, with a couple more crude jokes thrown in here and there.

Where there is a lull in the conversation, the rep offers a cigar to each of the guys. The rep does his best to select a cigar from his lineup that each individual might enjoy. “Oh, you like full bodied cigars – I have the one for you right here!” “So you like milder cigars, I don’t have one but you might enjoy this one. It is on the lower end of the medium range.”

Eventually everyone moves away from the cash register and finds a seat. With samples lit, a mini-focus group develops and conversation ensues.

The front door opens again. In walks another cigar rep. This rep also has a smile on their face. He walks over to the cash register and speaks with the shop owner for a few minutes before joining the other rep and the patrons in the lounge.

Not a single word is said to any of the patrons. Instead, the new rep sits down with the previous rep and the two of them hold a private conversation. As time stretches on there is an uncomfortable vibe in the room as the two reps talk amongst themselves. Nearly an hour goes by before patrons begin saying their goodbyes.

The purpose of this little story isn’t to praise one rep or bash another. I’d like to use it as an opportunity to have a little discussion. The topic being this – What are a Cigar Rep’s obligations to the patrons in a cigar shop?

Do we now live in a world where we feel entitled to a Rep’s time and a free sample? Does a cigar rep being cold to a customer hurt their brand in any way? Does the rep have any obligations whatsoever to the customers of a given shop?

enjoying cigars since 2005

15 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cigar Reps

  1. A cigar rep’s first obligation is to the consumer, and there should be no arguing that. It’s all fine and dandy for reps to have conversations amongst themselves. I don’t have a problem with that. But, if a sample IS offered out — even if it’s not a sample, but a core line — the rep DOES have a duty to ask the patrons their thoughts on the cigar. Just an assessment, and I hope many will agree. I think the consumer should be more aggressive with reps who give them the “cold” shoulder or are in their own world. Call the rep over to your group, jokingly say: “What’d you forget about us?”, ask questions about the blend, the company, the lines; invite them into your clique, just like he/she has theirs.

    1. That is an interesting look at it. I’ve always seen it as the rep’s first responsibility being to keep the retailer happy with the consumer coming next.

  2. The cigar rep’s primary obligation is to the shop owner and not the customer. You should not expect anything from a rep. Many companies are cutting back and teps can’t hand out samples. You are being a high maintenance customer. Just let the repair relax and enjoy their time as you get to enjoy yours.

    1. I can understand the idea behind that but I just can’t see that as being productive in the shop that I frequent. Free samples aside, the reps that are more outgoing and that interact with the consumers tend to have much better selling products than the reps that are withdrawn.

      Does the situation change during an event? Does the rep have an obligation to the consumer then?

  3. when a rep shows me he wants me to be a customer I am more apt to buy his cigars. if a rep shows no interest in me as a customer I would problably pass over his cigars in the humidor. a rep is about building relationships with everyone, they are the face of there company and the frontline of there sales force what they do and how they act says everything about who they work for.

    1. Matthew,
      For me, if a rep starts talking down about other brands he immediately looses credibility in my eyes. It bugs me when a sales person has to resort to badmouthing other brands to promote their product – regardless of how good their stuff is or bad another brand is.

      Other than that, I love meeting personable reps. They usually offer great insight into the brand and what is going on at other shops in the area (the ones you don’t get too as often as you’d like)

  4. I honestly don’t think the rep has an obligation to anyone. And the shop and patrons have no obligation to buy any of their smokes.

    At least in the part of the state (CA) I live in there is only one rep around. There must be more but no one I know has seen or heard of them. The one rep we do see comes by very infrequently. Our shop owner is really on top of things and basically calls his order in.

    I’ve never once seen the rep hand out anything. He’s nice enough at events though.

    You’ve got it good friend

    1. A lot has changed in the cigar industry in the last few years. 5 Years ago I used to run into reps pretty frequently at different shops in my area. These days I’m lucky to see one per month.

      Between the territory sizes and the number of shops they have to cover, it is no wonder I don’t see them like I used to. I miss it though, it was a great way to get news on a brand without having to rely on press releases.

  5. I have been on both sides of the fence with this, and from my perspective. Personally on the retail side I love a friendly rep that interacts with our customers as long as they respect the retailor customer relationship. As for being a customer I always enjoyed talking with the reps when they came in. I did not take it personal when a rep did not start up conversations with me as a customer. Ultimately the job of a cigar rep is to represent the manufacturer to the retailers. Events are a totally different if the rep is there they should be working the room helping the retailer. That’s my opinion

    1. Archie,
      You comment brings something else to mind.

      The other day I was talking to a guy in a cigar shop and he said something along the lines of “The rep should really ask the owner for permission before handing out a sample to customers. It eats into his sales”

      On the retailer end of that, how did you view free product?

  6. That’s a good point walt. Most reps will ask until they have relationship with the retailer and know how they feel. As far as samples go I always ask the rep to take care of our customers in the lounge. It’s a way to build good Will, and in some cases it can make someone’s day which is always a plus. It also allows me to hear what our customers have to say good, bad, or indifferent about the cigars. Which gives me perspective about the brand.

  7. I notice most reps going directly to the store manager or owner, trying to sell his smokes for the brand(s) he works for. If there is an event then I see the reps focus more on the consumer. I find most NW reps are very good people but they dont hang out much in the lounge with the customers/patrons they spend most of their time with the people working in the shop…unless of course there is an event and they will be hanging around for a period of time.

  8. Customer interaction is important. Samples are not. Theyre priority should be customer relations to their brand. Sells will follow with a positive attitude.

  9. The bottom line is that the reps job is to sell cigars. If they can sell them by working directly with the shop owner/purchaser without ever interacting with the consumer, then no problem. It really depends on the circumstances. Some may feel that they sell more by interacting with consumers and some may think it takes time away from hitting more shops.

    Part of that can depend on the brands philosophy, if the rep is an employee of that company or an independent that is representing multiple brands.

    Another point that was mentioned was whether or not a shop owner is OK with a rep giving free cigars as it does potentially take away sales. If reps for every brand were circulating in and out of the store, that’s a lot of potential free samples and lots of cigars not being sold.

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