HAMILTON - Steve Strand, owner of the Hamilton RadioShack, may be reveling in the newfound fame brought on by his free gun promotion, but those at the RadioShack corporation are none too pleased.
RadioShack officials called Strand on Tuesday afternoon, and ordered him to immediately quit the promotion that gives new Dish Network subscribers a gift card for a free gun.
"RadioShack has taken the position that we're tarnishing their brand image with the promotion," Strand said. "I don't think this is a negative impact. I don't think they understand the way of life in Montana.
"I'm not doing anything wrong."
Since October, Strand has been offering either a Hi-Point .380-caliber pistol or a .20-gauge shotgun to customers who sign up for qualifying Dish Network packages. Those not interested in the gun can opt for a $50 Pizza Hut gift card.
Until the Ravalli Republic wrote about the promotion last week, and that story went global via the Associated Press and the Internet, officials at the corporate office made no objection.
That all changed on Tuesday.
Eric Bruner, RadioShack's director of communications, emphasized that Strand's store is an independent dealer and not owned by RadioShack Corp. Nonetheless, the company ordered an end to the gun giveaway.
"This offer is not consistent with our recommended marketing practices for independent dealers," Bruner wrote in an email. "We are in discussions with the dealer to end the promotion."
But Strand isn't backing down. He said he is prepared to stand up to RadioShack. Strand argues that he is an independent dealer and believes he has followed the protocol of his contract with the corporation.
"I want some legal representation," Strand said. "I think I'm within my legal rights as an independent dealer."
"How can a corporate company come down and beat up an independent like me?" Strand continued. "I thought we were in America. Free enterprise.
"Why are they picking on us at the local level?"
Strand said he hopes a high-powered lawyer, preferably a pro-gun advocate, takes up his case and helps him take on RadioShack.
To appease the corporation, though, he has taken down his now-famous sign: "Protect yourself with Dish Network. Sign up now, get free gun."
In its place: the announcement of a new website, GetaGun.net, which Strand set up detailing his promotion.
Since the story broke last week, Strand's gun giveaway caught on like wildfire.
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"It's created a tremendous amount of activity here," he said. "We didn't expect the national attention."
On Tuesday, Strand spent the morning with a reporter from CNN who was shooting a piece on his business.
The CNN reporter, he said, took the angle of perceptions of guns in rural areas, like the Bitterroot Valley, as opposed to urban settings.
"In these bigger cities, they have no idea you can go into a store and buy a gun," Strand said.
Strand was also interviewed by MSNBC, as well as countless other news organizations.
"It's hard for me to remember who all we've talked to," Strand said.
In fact, just while talking about the widespread reach of his giveaway, the Hamilton store received calls from radio shows in Alabama and Oregon, as well as a call from a reporter at BBC News in London.
Last week, Strand said he planned to do a similar promotion with DirecTV later this month. But in an email from Darris Gringeri, vice president of public relations for that company, said DirecTV will not allow any such giveaway.
"DirecTV is absolutely not following suit with the Dish Network promotion and immediately denied the request for such a promotion the moment it was brought to our attention," Gringeri wrote. "I can assure you that Mr. Strand will not be offering this deal to potential DirecTV customers."
With all the added attention to Strand's little store, business is brisk, and not just with satellite television customers. He said he's received multiple calls from people out of state wondering if they could take advantage of the gun promotion.
"The exposure's really helped us," Strand said.
Of all the calls Strand's store has received, he said only two have been negative - one angry call from someone within the RadioShack corporation and one from a RadioShack owner in New York.
"We're not looking to give RadioShack negative feedback at all," Strand said. "They feel like maybe we're spoiling their brand name. I think I'm bringing a lot of attention to their brand."
If Strand is able to continue with his promotion, he plans to lower the qualifications for the free firearms. He also said on top of the Bitterroot, he's targeting the Missoula market with his promotion.
"We want more guns out there," Strand said.
Reporter Whitney Bermes can be reached at 363-3300 or at email@example.com.