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Chain Petstore Comedy

2280 Views 30 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  swylie
So, while in a national chain pet store last week, I was looking at some really impressive apple snails (blues and ivories!) and a woman was shopping for live plants right next to me. She picked out some cambomba, hornwort, and then asked the store employee if the corkscrew val would do well in her tank.

I have corkscrew val in my 5 gallon and it's taken off like nothing else, sending runners in every direction and completely taking the spotlife. But the store employee says to the customer "That? That's not really to grow... its just... like... food for fish." My mouth dropped. Classic! Do these employees receive any training whatsoever?

Then, during my long wait to get an apple snail (I was THIS close to sticking my hand in and picking out the one I wanted by myself), I overhear a man asking another employee whether he can keep tetras in his 50 degree 55 gallon tank. 50 degrees! He said all his silver dollars had died and he cant heat the tank because of the expense. The employee, thankfully, told the customer that he'd kill tetras or any other tropical fish in that tank. I actually went over to him later and told him that he absolutely needs a heater in that tank, and I gave him some advice on cooler water fish and plants....

Overall, an amazing experience. Truly classic.
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I try to have selective hearing most of the time. :(
...can't afford to heat the tank? Who is this joker. Shouldn't buy a 55 gallon tank if you can't afford the damn heater.
Sounds hard to understand the heater being the expense. One of the cheapest things to add and what did he keep his house at if the tank ran 50. I know with my home tank I had a heater break and it stayed above 70

yep, classic

Compatibility between species is usually another big downfall for them. I always refuse any help they offer too.
meh it's easy to laugh at people with less knowledge than you but it's not like anyone was born with aquarium know how. And big chain pet stores are not specialized and do not pay to hire knowledgeble empoylees. They compete by selling things cheaply I'm not sure what the surprise is here. If you don't like that don't shop there but those stores are under no obligation to do things differently. And let's not pretend that big chain stores are the only ones giving out incorrect information anyone who has done this long enough knows there are plenty of smaller guys who are just as bad.

Sorry if this is heavy handed but I get tired of reading snarky posts basically stating the obvious that those of us who dedicate a lot time reading and posting about fishkeeping know more than those who don't. Something like getting a heater may seem obvious but really it's not unless you've been told or researched it.

Additionally being in this hobby and spending money on it I think means accepting that there are many fish which are going to die mostly from incorrect care. You can't be offended or upset and then continue to put money into the industry. These "uniformed" hobbyist result in high enough volumes allowing prices to be much more reasonable then they otherwise would be.

Fish will go to people who will cause their death who then buy more fish and do the same. Yes it sucks and it's unpleasant to think about but we all benefit.
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Maybe we should come up with a forum sponsored "recommended reading fish keeping primer" -

One or two pages at the most- send it off to these big chain stores and hope they make their people read it- or even better, leave them for free on the counter and let people take them home- throw it in the bag with any new tank purchase. I bet they would consider it. Just simple things-

basics on what is a nitrogen cycle,
required water temps for tropical fish vs. goldfish,
don't swing your pH
Most fish will eat any other fish they can fit in their mouth, and some species have eyes bigger than their stomach.
No more than 1" of fish per gallon of water (I know, I know, but we have to start somewhere)
Most disease is caused by bad water conditions, the best way to stop your fish from getting sick is keep their water clean, and if they get sick, proper water changes are just as important as medication.
And a quick recommended list of places online to come for fish help, and maybe a list of fish that are appropriate for different tank sizes, a little chart where neons can go under the 10 gallon column, and koi and clown knives go under the 55 and up column.
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I think it would be worthwhile if there were enough people who cared to email the corporate office and ask them to have such a flyer aviable for free in their fish section. I would highlite that the more success new hobbyist have the more likely they are to stay active generating more return business. If you wanted to include a samle form that would work as well. It would probably take 100 people or so doing the same to get noticed and it may not work but atleast you're doing something active.
^ That is actually a great idea. I'd be willing to sign some kind of petition or something, if one were to be circulated.
I don't think petitions are very effective. better to come up with a generic email which everyone sends. Volume counts!

here is the link for petco

also if people are really serious about it, I would also send an email to PETA stating what you want (informational brochure included with fish purchase) and why. I don't agree with everything they do but there is really no denying their influence
If you don't like that don't shop there but those stores are under no obligation to do things differently.
ever heard of morals or ethics?
I'm trying to figure out how this guys tank stays at 50 degrees. Does he really live in a 50 degree house?. If you keep your thermostat at 68 degrees, your tanks should stay at 68 degrees......DC
Church - These incidents did take place in a Petco, and the store actually does have a stand with basic fish-keeping fliers and pamphlets on each of the most common species. I really can't bash the corporation as a whole since I was pleasantly surprised that they offered free information for customers. It looks like the company beat you to it. I'm not sure that every store has the pamphlets, but the one I shop at does, which is great. Every chain petstore should have free information for customers. The only thing I can fault the employee for is calling corkscrew val fish food

Fishscale/TX - In my conversation with the 50 degree-tank guy, he said that his heating bill went up by almost 40 dollars a month when he was heating the tank, so he had to unplug the heater. I can't see how that's even possible. The tank's got to be in an unheated porch/sunroom to get that cold.

Jeremy in OR - You're right on many points. I'm all in favor of large chain pet stores, especially given that numerous products are much cheaper when purchased in bulk. I do think that there's a place for smaller LFS's as well. And honestly, I've seen some of the most disgusting diseased tanks at small local owned pet stores. Rather than attack the national chains as a whole (I like them!), I was merely sharing shopping experience. And, I wasn't offended or upset, really, I was amused. If that makes me callous or a bad person, I don't know, but I was amused nonetheless. I did try to educate the one customer, who was very very nice, and was genuinely interested in keeping his last fish alive. I just think that a grown adult fishkeeper with a 55 gallon tank, and someone who works in a pet store (even if its for $7 an hour), should take a few minutes to read up on what it is they're buying or selling. I'm not talking about children here. But again, I totally see your points and agree with you overall.
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Ok... 40 dollars a month heating a tank is impossible..Everything seems impossble.
I really dont understand why this topic is always resurrected every so often. I think we all know that the knowledge at alot of the stores is sub-par and if it is...why shop there and support them? The main problem I have with large stores is that they drive the good pet stores out of buisness. One of my favorite stores about 5 minutes from me is in almost ruins because a Pet Supplies Plus opened up down the road a year ago. I think this is a never ending topic that is almost useless to debate it all has been said before.
be nice

ok this topic is always fun, I've worked in pet stores before, and oddly in both places (and states) that I worked, I was essentially the fish guru, employees would always dump customers off on me when they didn't know how to answer. As far as 50 degrees, the man must live in an icebox, I live the furthest from the ac in my house and during the summer my room stays comforatable, and the water stays about 80 degrees, without heaters, in the winter they stay about 60 without heaters (but I put heaters in there).

There are some great cold water fish that they could always place in there, white clouds are great, if they want small fish. Or if you're like me and want coldfish and plants on a budget, go catch minnows (gambusia where I live), sunfish, eels, etc... and pull up plants from the water (anachris grows in most places) and viola, you have a great freshwater/coldwater tank, with beautiful fish....

Back to the topic though, what an employee know's is based upon what they want to know, many people I've worked with don't know b/c they don't care...they have guides and books to read during training, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I never read the books, I was just placed in the department, but I already knew a lot about fish and other animals, and anything I didn't know I would grab a book or careguide and read it on my break so I could learn.

Basically, don't be arrogant b/c of someone's ignorance, you make enemies very fast that way. If you know more than the employees offer to give them help, most people won't refuse help if it's given humbly. There have been customers come in sometimes and knew a heck of a lot more than I did at the time and they helped me help the person through some problems with their turtle tanks (the person bred turtles, who knew?). So employees are usually willing to let you help as long as your not bossy, arrogant, and a know-it-all, just like most of you wouldn't like it if someone got in your face either. By the way, I never was afraid to redirect a rude person to a lesser quality pet store, I figured if they couldn't have manners, I couldn't have sympathy...just a thought....
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Ok, first off, like said before, not every pet store employee is retarded. I work at a petco (I am on leave for college now), but I know my fair share of fish and have bred many darts frogs, tree frogs, misc frogs, reptiles, etc. for about 8 years now. I have a 72g bow front reef tank, 58 gallon african cichlid tank, and then a 75 community tank that belongs to the mom. I would also get customers dumped on me and what not, but the training is beneficial to some. If you are an idiot prick that doesnt pay attention, then petco teaching you the nitrogen cycle does no good.

Another issue that I had was about the schedules. I was full time, but since petco is open so long, there was someone else that would take over when I left. I had to train them so our store did not get the bad image like others when I was gone. And you should see some of the customer base as well. I was always refreshed when we got in customers like you guys that new what an ammonia spike was or how to cycle a tank with or without fish. When someone would mention c02, i got excited...

I easily got burnt out answering dumb little questions. Imagine a beginner forum in real life and you cannot click out of a dumb thread, ha. Some days you just want to go home and not deal with it.

I am certified in "aquatics" and "reptiles" in the store and the tests in order to become certified are pretty much a joke, but the training sessions at the beginning were nice. They brought in people from different stores to teach people about fish stuff and all other aspects. I have worked in three different pet stores and petco being the only corporate one. The mom/pop ones hire you off of background knowledge, the petco I worked at actually tried to help the employees help the customers.

With that being said, i have returned to the store a couple times while I have been gone this semester. The salt water system, which was solely under my care is infested with ick, has a red slime algae problem, etc. Some cichlids have hole-in-head, and the tetras are swimming in a fin rot breeding pool. I return for christmas work here in about two weeks. I will have my work cut out for me.......:proud:
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Here is my problem with chain pet stores:

They do not hire people with experience or knowledge of the subject. This is because people with experience and knowledge cost more, and they should, shouldn't they? They are qualified. Instead, every time I stop inside a petco or petsmart or some other place, there is some sullen 15 year old kid who couldn't give a rat turd about fish (which seems very odd, why would you work in a pet store if you're not even interested in animals) working for minimum wage. If you are lucky, you will find someone who is inexperienced and misinformed, but enthusiastic about the subject. This is as good as it gets, and if I am blessed enough to find such an employee, I will probably politely explain the difference between what petco/petsmart has told them and what is the correct information. However, paying unqualified people minimum wage drives legitimate fish stores out of business, since those stores pay a premium by hiring qualified employees.

I don't necessarily have an issue with the employees or the customers (except for the arrogant rude ones), but I do have a problem with how these companies are run. Employees tell customers anything to get them to buy stuff, and they aren't paid on commission! I understand this may vary from store to store, but I have been to quite a few, and they all have given me the same impression. They would sell binoculars to a blind person.

And what the hell, FORTY DOLLARS from the heater? That dude needs to call the power company or revisit basic arithmetic. I pay 70 for my entire apartment, and that is split among three people. That runs 2 10gs, a 55g with a collective 300W of light and 350W of heaters, 5 computers, 3 refrigerators, and any other crap that is in this apartment. Ridiculous.
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Another issue that I had was about the schedules. I was full time, but since petco is open so long, there was someone else that would take over when I left. I had to train them so our store did not get the bad image like others when I was gone.
This is exactly what I'm talking about. YOU were left to train them so your PARTICULAR store did not get a bad image. Where was Petco? It should not be your responsibility to train them. It was very nice of you to do so, but Petco should be responsible for training. If they want you to train people, they should pay you more.

I easily got burnt out answering dumb little questions. Imagine a beginner forum in real life and you cannot click out of a dumb thread, ha. Some days you just want to go home and not deal with it.
Those are the questions you need to deal with though. Beginner questions pop up on this forum, too. Either someone will tell them to use the search function, post a link, or take the time to explain it. Everyone starts from scratch. This is what petco pays you for, although they don't compensate you well enough for you to do it, bringing me back to my original point.

The mom/pop ones hire you off of background knowledge, the petco I worked at actually tried to help the employees help the customers.
EXACTLY. It is difficult for these mom and pop stores to stay in business because they have to compete with petco with regard to employee compensation. Petco doesn't care about employee retention, so their employees usually end up leaving sooner or later. Are you going to stay at Petco? Even if you decided that the LFS industry is what you want to do, wouldn't you try to find work elsewhere? You'd probably look for better pay and a better store, wouldn't you? That makes the better stores have higher prices, which will send the uneducated back to the arms of Petco. Terrible cycle.
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Wow, that got the thread hustling didn't it? Anyway, that wasn't meant to make anyone defenisve towards anything.

However, as far as being paid minimum wage, that is usually false, almost ever chain store starts their employees at least a $1.50 more than MW.

Secondly, even though chain stores "train" employees, it is really left up to the more experienced employees to train them. I've had to train or help train at least 10 people since I started working a year ago at my current petstore. It's sad, but the corporate offices aren't going to waste money by extensive training, they just rely on a trickle effect to happen... Unfortunately, many even in the corporate sector haven ever worked in a store before, they're just hired b/c of qualifications such as management positions. For instance, when I worked in Maryland, the District Service Manager for Pet Care had only worked for Petsmart 8 months, and when she was hired she knew absolutely nothing. She learned over time, but they never really trained her one on one.

I also understand getting burned out by the same questions every day. The problem is not that we don't care to answer, but people don't care to read. The most common question I get is "How do you use Aquarium Salt?" Every time I've told them the directions are on the box they come back 5 minutes later reading the foreign language side and asking me again how to use it...sad but true...

Unfortunately, most people believe myths they've heard their whole life (goldfish in 1/2 gallon bowls, fish only grow as large as their aquarium, no bettas can be together [females can], all catfish are scavengers, you get the point). It can be very frustrating when someone insists on putting a 3 inch oscar in a 10 gallon aquarium, or they get a load of livebearers (being informed of the baby issue) and call the store 2 months later wanting to return the babies, etc... No matter what you say to some people however they won't listen...

The point is, some people don't care b/c they put up with this all the time and they just grow tired and burned out b/c of it. I dread seeing some customers, b/c they insult my intelligence and act like what is being described in previous posts. They think I'm just in it for a buck to sell them something or that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

At least weekly I have someone argue with me about something b/c someone else told them something (like someone argued with me over cycling fish one time, just b/c I only recommended 3, whereas another store recommended 5 -we don't even have the same fish as the other chain store). It's stuff like that, that make people not want to work at chain stores any more.

Stores have their policies however, I don't like a lot of them, but I have to abide (or appear to) by them in order to keep my job. Corporate policy for my store is to feed bettas Freeze Dried Bloodworms, but that gives them terrible constipation if thats the only food, and it can cause swim bladder disorder, but can I do anything about it without losing my job? Not really, but I can sure as heck try to act otherwise for the fishes' best interest.

The point I guess we are all trying to make is that chain stores have their issues in the fact that they can hire indescriminately, whereas private LFS's hire more qualified individuals b/c that is their livelyhood. However, both places end up dealing with the same customers, and both sets of employees can become burned out b/c of the stupidity that runs through some people's heads.
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