Big Al's in Brampton is a decent store. Every store has it's downfalls at one point or another. The prices are generally higher than most other pet stores, but they have more rare species and far better selection. The thing that bothers me is their absolutely horrendous guarantee. Petsmart guarantees their fish for 14 days with full refund or exchange and no water sample necessary. Big Al's is 5 days, with water sample and they only replace HALF the value of the fish in store credit. HARDLY worth it, and there is no way that this guarantees their fish - many ailments can show after 5 days. If your fish very obviously died of a disease that presented itself after the stress of moving, why are they replacing only half of it? You are the one that has to make another trip there, wasting your time and gas to get there. It just isn't worth it and I never take my fish back.
The MAIN benefit of Big Al's is their plants!!! PJ's and Petsmart never have things like Cryptocorynes and Anubias. Big Al's gets some amazing, AMAZING plants. That yes, are more expensive than the other two major chains, BUT when you buy plants at PJ's and Petsmart, you are only ever buying cuttings of stem plants for the most part. Big Al's plants are always WELL rooted and potted in rockwool. The plants are generally healthy, large and established. Buying certain plants as unrooted cuttings from PJ's and Petsmart is alright, but it depends on the types of plants and their healthiness. If you catch a fresh delivery (which is rare with PJ's/Petsmart), you are golden. Big Al's gets plants in regularly, perhaps weekly or biweekly and there is always something new and beautiful that I want from there. Unfortunately, my tanks are STOCKED! Time to start a new one!
Suffice it to say, I have honestly had better luck with the fish I get from Petsmart and PJ's. Some locations are visibly better than others. The PJ's here in Brampton has a relatively small selection with few plants. The PJ's at Square One is amazing by comparison! They have dozens and dozens of planted tanks and a very large selection of plants and fish usually. They have many mature plants and fish for show/sale as well and some rarities. I got 4 beautiful, mature, pearlescent, long-fin, gold Angelfish last time I was there, for only $28 each. They were in such good shape that they have laid eggs twice and I have had them only a month!
My adivce, each store has it perks and drawbacks. Use them for what they're good for. If Petsmart has the fish you want, get them there if they are healthy. They have that 14 day guarantee which makes it all worth while, and they are less expensive usually. Get your plants at Big Al's.
Have fun with it and shop around. There's no better way to get the best of all worlds!