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what I look for in a LFS

Hi folks:
    I am surrounded by 3 stores that retail for the
aquarium hobby including fish.  My favorite one has
people working in it that have been there a long time
and will be there for a long time, (not just the
owners).  I have struck up a relationship with the
plant guy and both sell them plants and buy whatever
is new or strikes my curiosity.  The plant guy (an
employee who worked in green houses and loves raising
fish as well) can talk to customers at all levels due
to his knowledge and experience.  
    This same fish store also purchases and sells a
nicer collection of fresh water tropicals although the
selection at any one time is limited due to an
extensive display of saltwater specimens.  
    When I ask about something I want or need they
will special order it without that special high price
for doing so.  When I walk in they will show me what
is new and might interest me because they know I am
there to buy even though I don't spend a fortune all
at one time.  Like many others I buy online for the
big stuff that is often too pricey at the LFS, like
filters, heaters etc. 
    Knowledgable help that is also experienced and
really interested in what they do is what seperates
the better LFS from the rest.  It is reflected in the
tanks being in good shape with healthy fish and plant
selection.  And I make a clear distinction between
truly knowledgable and experienced advice vs
opinionated clap-trap which is what the poorer stores
have to offer.  My favorite store won't try and sell
me fish that are sick or incompatable with my type of
tanks just to make a puny sale and loose me as a
customer over the long haul.    
     So, thanks to the plant guy at Mid-Hudson
Tropicals in Newburgh, I am also developing an
interest in salt water tanks and orchids.  Its amazing
how one persons' enthusiasm and years of knowledge can
be so inspiring and compelling.  And it is obvious
that my money follows my interests.  
     The most successful pet shops I have been in are
operated by people who really love what they do and
are wanting to have their customers succeed with thier
pets or pet interests.  So they are always learning
themselves and sharing with the customer base when
they drop in to look or buy.  Although they are in
business to make money, they also seem to be doing
something they love and want to share with others. 
The sharing part is what turns a fish store into a
community of hobbiests who return because the advice
and products are reliable and the relationship is
     Its amazing how many disinterested people are
hired to brutally scoop out fish and shock them with
the roiling downpour into the bag which is well shaken
as they seal and rubber band the hapless fishbait and
smack it down on the counter.  All this after they
swear that those nice Cardinal Tetras will make
excellent community fish for your African Cichlids
crouching in their caves. That is a true story!  I was
there.  This is what they tell newcomers to the hobby,
who eventually end up giving away all their tanks and
equipment to people like me.  What a way to promote
your industry - make sure people fail so they won't
come back.  
     If you can advise and inform your customers when
they inquire as to what to look for in a healthy
fish/pet, what you are doing in essence is letting
that lousy fish store with cloudy water, dazed fish
trailing parasites and sporting white pom-poms on
their bodies send you customers.  When asked, I tell
friends where they can buy fish that will live after
they buy them and where to buy fish that will die if
they buy them.
    Even though I like selection when it comes to the
hardware part of the hobby.  If it were me, I would
only stock stuff I would want to have my own kid buy. 
If you know your stuff you know the hokey crap from
the good quality.  You don't need to carry 10 brands
of filters (Like a big franchise) when you know the
the top 5 which your lasting customers have used and
would recommend.  Your kid customers are your future
as well.  And if everthing in the kids tanks dies
because you sold them a funcky peice of junk, new fad
item off the shelf, you also loose Mom and Dad's money
which is what that kid is spending.  Helping to
educate your customers as they grow with the hobby is
your investment in your business.  It is not just
money that you put into it.
     Also, too many LFS aren't mindful that they are
not only competing with other LFS but with the
internet as well.  Basically the poor service and
advice from bad stores is what drove me to the
internet.  They are so bad that the internet ends up
being the only place I can buy and talk to helpful
people.  I think that pet shops need to understand
they must fill a space that the internet sales can't
touch - hands on purchasing.  And if I could buy for
only a few dollars more than what might be seen on the
internet I would do so.  I really do want to patronize
and support my local community.  While I try to save
on the price of filters, heaters and other hardware I
am willing to pay a good price for good and healthy
specimens, fish and plants.  I do not buy livestock on
line.  I visit the places I buy livestock from.  So, I
really need to find a place with good selection. For
all the lousy stores I see succeeding and staying in
business I really wonder why good businesses with
experienced and knowledgable help can't be developed
and maintained?  Their is a niche out there to be
filled and some have fallen into it and are doing
well.  My general impression is that it is not enough
to love the hobby, you need to be interested in
business and what it takes to succeed as a business. 
The guy who did the pet rock thing proved something
about what knowledge in marketing, business and people
can do.  He made millions trying to prove a point.   
    That's my 2 cents worth.  

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