This past weekend I witnessed New Jersey Audubon at it’s best. The occasion was the Bird Expo at the Philadelphia Expo Center. The experience underscored why I have dedicated 34 years of my life to this organization.
The Expo Center is large enough to host a skeet competition but it was overflowing with booths representing the ecotourism potential of half a hundred countries. There were artists, book publishers, and of course optics companies–all of the major players.
That’s where New Jersey Audubon’s staff took the stage. Recognized far and wide as the region’s optics authority, CMBO store manager Brian Moscatello and his band of associates and volunteers adroitly and expeditiously dealt with the hundreds of convention goers that came prepared to buy. Me? I more or less sat on the bench while Brian’s well oiled glass factory put smiles on the faces of buyers. Our objective at NJA is to put binoculars in people’s hands that make them say “WOW,” but at a price that won’t make them say “Ouch.” Given today’s array of birder calibrated optic’s array, this is not an impossible endeavor.
While not everyone has the same ouch threshold. It’s fair to say that a binocular retailing under $100 fits most household budgets. The biggest problem buyers face is not budget, it’s selection. With so many choices, it’s easy to get lost in the formulas and figures. “Forget the numbers,” we’d counsel, “there is only one test of a binocular” You bring them to your eyes, you see things quickly and easily. If the glass works for you, that’s all there is to it.
Using this simple principle, several hundred buyers went out the Convention Center door equipped to engage the natural world with a degree of intimacy the had never known before. Fact: If your binocular is more than ten years old, you are cheating yourself every time you bring them to your eyes. Yes glass has gotten that good! Even entry level bins are capable of focusing down to 4 ½ feet without image nullifying parallax. Four and a half feet, that’s supernatural intimacy with birds, butterflies and flowers.
Fortunately the American orchid society had a booth nearby. Viewed at a distance of four feet, and at 8x magnification it was like stepping into a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. The “WOWs” were so thick the plants leaned forward to suck up the surge of exhaled CO2.
And while the inventory-wide show discount certainly helped with sales, it was the quality of the glass and quality of the sales force that forged new alliances between people and optics at the rate of about one happy owner every five minutes.
While Birding Expos come but once a year, New Jersey Audubon stores are here to serve you year round, conferring the same high level of expertise and attention upon every buyer, no matter what your budget or need.
Remember, selling optics is not our job, it’s part of our mission.
“Wow,” is just the starting point.
NJ Audubon Birding Ambassador
Author Birds of Prey and coauthor Hawks in Flight