So here we are having gone through a number of posts talking about dusty hunting. This last post will cover some safety and etiquette practices to employ when hunting.
Keep in mind that retail store owners are looking to make a buck so don't get too greedy when looking to score the big dusty. While I've negotiated the price down on bulk purchases, I don't make insulting offers but am simply looking for fair prices. On the flip side, it's not your job to educate the owners on what they have. You've done the research and leg work so there should be some reward for arming yourself with the relevant bourbon information.
To set the environment, most of my hunting is done is stores that have bars on the windows and scratched up Plexiglas between me and the cashier so the clientele are what's to be expected in a place like this. It's good practice to strike up a conversation with the proprietor on mundane topics; weather, latest football game, etc. assuming they're open to chatting. If the store is busy, I'll tend to stand back and scan the shelves before approaching the counter and engaging in conversation. What I want will take time whereas most other customers are looking to purchase their Wild Irish Rose and a lotto ticket. There's been many times I'll just wander about waiting for the lotto line to die down before asking to see a bottle of bourbon. When engaging the owner or cashier, be open and friendly. If I see something of interest, sometimes I'll buy a soda and chips or candy bar and snack before getting down to business. Don't be anxious or pushy as many folks will be curious or guarded toward you at first. I've found that most store cashiers or owners have no clue about bourbon so when asking to see a particular bottle, expect that they will grab the wrong one or be unsure what you are asking for. Be patient in directing them to what you want to see. It's key to not appear too excited about the bottle and showing indifference will many times help with the total sale price in the end. There may be instances where you experience a language barrier and trying to get the bottle you want can be difficult. Again, have patience and be respectful; in the end this will help you achieve your overall purchase. Be sure to thank the store clerk for assisting you along the way. There's been many times once the comfort level sets in where the owners or clerks will begin to help you find additional bottles. When you get to that point, it's a simple process of digging through all the shelves or back store rooms to find those elusive dusty's. Remember, if they don't feel threatened or irritated by you, chances of getting behind the counter or storage room are pretty high.
Let's talk safety. The reality is, many of the best bottles are found in the nastiest places. I wouldn't recommend hunting alone in areas that are prone to violence or drug problems. Having someone along with you projects strength in numbers. There are times when I've shopped with 2 or 3 other guys and we're left alone for the most part. When you shop is important, especially in more dangerous areas. Most of my shopping is done on Saturday mornings shortly after stores open, usually around 10:00 a.m. Most folks that are up and around early on a Saturday and most likely going to work or shopping. The baddies are typically sleeping off all their rabble rousing from the night before. Shopping at night is not recommended. Keep in mind that if you hit a store that has a good selection of dusty's, chances are you will be buying quite a few bottles and doing so will attract attention. Finalizing your purchase and getting back on the road is a good thing. Hanging around, not so much. Finally, use common sense and if you feel uncomfortable in a certain area or feel something isn't right, listen to that inner voice and move on. You can always go back another day.
Hunting for old bottles is fun and certainly thrilling when you hit the mother lode. When shopping you may not be able to purchase everything you see as has been my case. I take notes as I shop, recording the store name, address and what was left behind.
Have fun hunting but please use common sense when doing so.