Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
The various chain stores are actually different quality, depending on the manager. They do get policy handed down from above, but there is a certain amount of leeway in how that policy is implemented.
Near me (50 mile radius) there are half a dozen Pet Smart stores that I have been into, and all but one are pretty good, two are outstanding. The worst of the bunch closed a couple of years ago. To me, that suggests that I would be more willing to go into any Pet Smart and probably not be disappointed.
Also near me are a similar number of Pet Co stores. 100% bad as far as live fish go. I am also not thrilled about their selection of other things such as dog food, cat food, supplements for any of my animals or almost anything else. Maybe I go in there once a year, and half the time do not buy anything. Again, IMO this means that all the Pet Co stores are not worth wasting my time.
Basically, though the Pet Co is 1 mile from me, and in a direction I go often (grocery store is across the street) I will drive about 5 miles to go the the Pet Smart instead.
I do not think the help is worth much, though, in either chain. Very rare for any of the stores to hire help that knows anything about fish except what is handed down from above. And that is not fish keeping, it is product selling.
Other stores around here are Mom 'n' Pop types of stores. They also have their good and bad.
Some are so good that they are worth the trip (up to 50 miles).
Some are as bad as the worst of the chain stores.
I think it really is up to the individual to get to know the stores in the area they are willing to travel. Then keep up with what the stores are up to. Change of manager? Change in owner? Moving? Closing? (couple of the best near me have closed :-( )