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Cigar 101

How to Shop for a Cigar

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

For cigar lovers, the aroma that hits your nostrils when you walk into a premium retail cigar shop is a borderline religious experience. The woody, rich, and leathery scent of premium tobacco entices the second the door swings open. We’ve gone over the best etiquette for smoking a cigar and some unspoken rules to consider when you’re hanging out in a cigar lounge. But what about how to shop for a cigar? 

If you’re new to cigars or you’re buying a gift for someone, going into a premium cigar shop can be intimidating. The best cigar shops are staffed with friendly and knowledgeable professionals who are eager to help you. Here’s a few do’s and don’ts for your next cigar shopping trip. 

Things You Should Do

1. Introduce Yourself & Say Hello

In professional smokeshops, members of the sales crew greet their customers when they walk in, but don’t be afraid to say hi and let them know you’re there to browse. The staff can point out the brands you’re looking for.

2.  Ask Questions

Never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how basic you think they are. “Why do you have to cut a cigar? Are the cigars rolled here? What’s the best cigar? Do you have any Cubans?” We’ve hear them all the time and no good salesperson will ever make you feel foolish for asking questions. Plus, when you ask questions, you’re actually giving the store owner and staff information they can use to assist you in your purchase.

3. Ask If Smoking Is Permitted

A lot of diehard cigar lovers want to smoke the second they get inside a cigar shop. If you’re going into a new store for the first time, it’s considerate to ask if it’s okay to smoke a cigar before you light up. Different states and municipalities have different policies regarding smoking in public, and in some locations it may not be permitted, even in a cigar store.

4. Pay for Your Cigar Before Cutting and Lighting It

If you want to smoke while you shop, pay for your cigar before you cut and light it. Most cigars have barcodes on the cellophane. The sales associate needs to scan the barcode to add it to your purchase. He or she might simply start a tab for you, but at least your cigars are accounted for before you smoke them. It’s rude to light up a cigar you haven’t paid for.

5. Be Courteous & Patient

Like in any retail environment, be courteous and respectful. If the store is busy, be patient. A staff member will get to you as soon as he or she is free. The staff should acknowledge your arrival, but browse around until it’s your turn. On the flipside, if you feel you’re being ignored or treated rudely, don’t feel obligated to make a purchase. There are plenty of cigar shops that would love to earn your business with a welcoming attitude. Customer service is king.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

1. Avoid Handling Cigars You Don’t Plan to Buy

It’s tempting to pick up one cigar after the other to decide if you should buy it. That’s a no-no, especially nowadays, when sanitation and hygiene are essential everywhere you go. It’s inconsiderate to rummage through a box or a display tray of cigars to find the perfect one. If you feel compelled to do so, ask a staff member to handle the cigars for you.

2. Don’t Rub Cigars Under Your Nose

Would you eat a carrot that somebody wiped their nose on? No. Don’t rub any cigars under your nose in a cigar store. You can’t smell a cigar through its cellophane sleeve, no matter how close it is to your nose. If you have to massage your cigars with your face, buy them first.

3. Don’t Squeeze the Cigars on a Store Shelf

Don’t fall for the misconception that softer or spongier cigars are fresher. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Nonetheless, plenty of shoppers can’t resist the urge to squeeze cigars while they’re picking them out, looking for the softest specimens.

Cigars that are too soft are under-filled. This isn’t common among premium brands, but occasionally a cigar roller might accidentally use too little tobacco. When a salesperson notices that a cigar is under-filled, he or she will inspect the rest of the box and send them back if need be. In any case, when you squeeze a cigar, you’re interfering with its integrity and construction and you’re potentially damaging it for someone else to purchase. 

Pick out your cigars and bring them to the sales counter to pay for them. If you’re concerned about their firmness or freshness, address your concerns with the sales associate at that time. It’s far more courteous than rifling through the store’s inventory like a bull in a china shop.

4. Don’t Smoke Cigars You Purchased Somewhere Else

When you’re in a cigar store or lounge, it’s an unspoken rule – and in many shops a requirement – that you buy a cigar if you want to hang out and smoke. Don’t bring in cigars that your purchased somewhere else to smoke on the premises. For a store owner whose overhead expenses include rent, staff, utilities, and inventory, smoking a cigar that you bought somewhere else is the ultimate insult. Many shop owners are very accommodating if you want to smoke in their store or lounge as long as you buy a cigar.

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