When driving down U.S. Highway 93 through Hamilton, there's no need to do a double-take when you see the sign hanging above the Radio Shack Super Store.
You read it right. Customers who buy Dish Network will be rewarded with a firearm.
"I think it really, really fits the Bitterroot Valley," said Steve Strand, who has owned Hamilton's Radio Shack for about seven years.
Strand, along with store manager Fabian Levy, wanted to generate more foot traffic at their location. So far, the gun giveaway has worked like a charm.
"It's been really successful," Levy said.
According to Strand, it has tripled his business since the promotion started last October. And, he said, easily hundreds of people have stopped in to see what the sign is all about. "Protect yourself with Dish Network. Sign up now, get free gun," the sign reads.
"We have people literally stop in to take pictures of the sign," Levy said.
Qualifying customers have the choice between a Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun.
The deal is only good for new Dish Network customers and they must buy a certain amount of equipment to qualify for the free gun.
After the customer signs a service contract and sets up an install date, they are given a gift certificate for their gun. They can also opt for a $50 gift card from Pizza Hut if they prefer, Strand said. And customers who purchase new Dish Network service that don't qualify for a firearm are still given the Pizza Hut gift card.
The gift certificate is good at Frontier Guns & Ammo, located north of Hamilton on Sheafman Creek Road. They are then put through a background check, also free with the promotion, before receiving their gun.
"We're not just giving guns to felons," Levy said.
The idea for the promotion wasn't anything scientific. A friend of Strand's made the suggestion and, "I thought, ‘Why don't we?' " Strand said.
With all the interest his promotion has garnered, there was one trend.
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"You'd be surprised how many women are interested in guns," Strand said, noting he has had many women in their 60s and 70s drop in to learn about the promotion.
"I was quite surprised,"Strand said.
Strand said since starting the promotion, he has gotten good feedback.
"We've received a tremendous amount of positive reactions," Strand said.
He said of the hundreds of people who have stopped by because of the sign, only one person reacted negatively.
"They didn't understand how it works," he said.
Strand also said that other Radio Shack owners he has talked to across the state, in places like Havre and Malta, are too scared to try similar promotions.
"There is a risk involved," Strand said.
Dish Network allots advertising dollars to the store to promote Dish, but the gun promotion has made them skittish.
"They've never had a gun promotion before, so they're a little nervous about it," Strand said. "It's been an uphill battle with Dish."
After a few months of volleying with the company, however, Strand was given the go-ahead to start advertising.
"If we can get that promotion out there, things could go crazy," Strand said.
They aren't sure how much longer they will continue the promotion, but they will be doing the same deal next month with Direct TV packages.
"I kind of thought this promotion was a joke at first, but as things picked up, I realized it was working," Levy said.
Reach reporter Whitney Bermes at 363-3300 or email@example.com.