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The other side of the LFS <long>
Having dealt with fish and plants "trade-ins" for nearly 30 years at the
retail store I manage, maybe I can offer a little insight, and perhaps even
a few tips on how to get the most value out of your unwanted stock.
We're all familiar with supply and demand, but this principle can be
stretched to the extreme when it comes to certain fish and plants commonly
raised by hobbyists. For example, the amount of Rotala macranda I could
harvest monthly from just one of my display tanks probably exceeds the
amount I can sell in that month, even in our very large and busy store.
Even dropping the price won't increase demand in this case, since I'd bet
that no more than one in fifty of my customers has adequate lighting for
this species - and that one either already had it and doesn't want it again,
or keeps it successfully and wants me to buy his cuttings! As I said
already, my own production already keeps up with demand, so how often do I
really "need" to buy it? - just about never.
Which brings me to my next point: timing can be worth a lot. Several
posters have mentioned that their pruning schedule doesn't always line up
with club auctions or trading sessions. Well, it's entirely possible, and
downright likely, that it doesn't line up with the dealer's needs, either.
If someone came knocking on your door selling vacuum cleaner bags, you might
buy a few - IF they were the kind you needed, and either the price or
quality was better than you could get at the local department store. But if
somebody else came by the next day selling the same product, you'd be less
likely to buy again unless it was a real bargain. And if enough salesmen
come by often enough, you might even start passing up the bargains; there's
a limit on just how many of any item you need at a given time.
Of course, the retailer's situation is a bit more ticklish. Since the
seller in this case is also my customer, I can't simply tell him to come
back again another day - especially after the hobbyist has gone to all the
trouble of packing up and bringing in the specimens. As such, I'm left with
two less-than-desirable alternatives: pay a "normal" wholesale rate and
warehouse the stock at my own expense until needed, or pay a discounted rate
that reflects the cost of storing and caring for the items until sold.
Paying in merchandise rather than cash can help this situation somewhat, as
several posters have noted, but at some point it gets hard to justify paying
anything at all on a slow-moving item that I already have in abundance.
Things I can't sell take up time, space and other forms of money I could be
spending on things I can sell.
I'm not trying to defend any of the LFSs mentioned, and I'm aware that there
is sometimes an "attitude" problem with stores - just as there can be with
hobbysits - but I am trying to say that putting a value on these sorts of
trade-ins can be a tough call. In addition to the above factors, there are
several things I've noticed that influence my decisions considerably:
1. I am more likely to pay a higher price to people that I recognize as
regular customers (especially if they don't always come in with a bucket o'
something in their hands). If you're planning to trade or sell your stock,
it might make sense to seek out whoever will pay you and make sure he sees
you making purchases. And no, just telling me you're a "regular customer"
isn't the same.
2. I'm likely to pay more if I know ahead of time something's coming. If I
know you're bringing in a dozen bunches of hornwort, I can skip ordering it
this week, making it more likely I'll "need" it when you get here.
3. I'm also likely to pay more if the product looks good on arrival. I've
got one customer that regularly brings in about a dozen bunches of Ludwigia,
bundled much like the wholesalers do, only hers are a little larger, and a
lot healthier looking. Another customer brings in a bucket full of assorted
cuttings, some mostly leggy stem, others pretty nice - but all tangled in a
huge mass that I have to sort through and bundle for sale. It's hardly
surprising that I'm a bit more interested in the first customer's merchandise.