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I have to agree with Tom Barr on this. IME a quality LFS will deal,
frequently without much effort of your part. Regular trades for
bread-and-butter plants (most of what I grow - I don't do many exotics) are
beneficial to both sides. The store gets locally grown plants in good
condition, the hobbyist gets much reduced pricing and special orders without
hassle. Even without special order, there is routine access to uncommon
critters that I doubt would ever be seen in chains - the tiny rasboras and
Tetras, multiple inverts, high quality locally bread fish, constantly
changing oddballs, and not to be ignored - a complete selection of Eheims
and components for same. To me that list would prclude my being "robbed"
even if I were paying list. I'm not in the market for tanks full of
black-skirt Tetras, regardless of their dye job, nor painted anything. I
don't want to buy from a tank of "Mixed Cichlids" - can you say breeder
culls? Or "Mixed Rainbows", ditto.
Not always certainly, but locally for me I can get what I pay for, and I'd
rather have quality than cheap.