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Old 05-19-2015, 09:07 PM   #1
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How to Improve Big Pet Store Chains

Okay, I am looking for ideas.

I am a school teacher M-F. Paying a mortgage and living alone makes my money go pretty quickly. So, I applied for a job at a local, big chain pet store; I am not going to name it, but I bet you could guess.

Anyway, they hired me as an aquatic specialist and have given me control of the fish department, as there are not a lot of people there with any experience.

Before I went in for the interview, I took a hard look at all their tanks and took a lot of mental notes. Frankly, the place has a lot of issues and I am kind of excited to go in there and fix it up.

The first order of business will be to put a stop to sales from one group of 12 tanks. The way they are set up, the tanks share water in groups of 12. This one group of 12 had ich as well as a fish with a fungal infection. I checked their water test results, and they showed zero across the board, which is very unlikely. They are still selling fish from these 12 tanks and not treating!!

Aside from fixing the current issues, I want to come up with ideas/suggestions for improving the department. What would you like to see at a chain store?

A couple things I am planning to do so far are: refuse sales of fish that are not appropriate for the customer's tank, educate people on how to cycle their tank and what that means, and suggest quality products.

I also have a couple other ideas. I want to keep a tank for seeded media. This would likely entail a perpetual fishless cycle and running a lot of ammonia through an empty tank and maintaining a huge bacteria colony. Then squeezing out media into bags for people starting off.

Another idea I have is to try to improve the quality of life for the Bettas. They have a large display of them, all in tiny plastic bowls. Some of them have been there for a long time. I would like to reduce the number of Bettas they keep in the store. I also would like to set up a couple of tanks as displays, examples of happy-Betta setups.

I am not really sure how much I will be allowed to do. I was only offered the job today and have not begun working there, yet...but I am hopeful that they will give me some freedom to do good work. If they don't, then I will just quit. That is the beauty of a job that I do not really need.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. Please do offer suggestions on what you would like to see the big chain stores do differently.
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:19 PM   #2
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That's great you want to make improvements but be aware of this:

Bad customers will just go to the manager to get their fish from you. I've seen it happen quite a few times. The employees at my LFS know that it's not compatible or won't work but they want to keep their jobs. Unless you have a very understanding manager you might have to let some slip to be on the good side of management and not let go within days.

When I was all angry at chain stores once upon a time I had a great idea of making brochures that explain the importance of cycling and basic fish care. They should be handed out with each fish sale and advise customers to read it.

That's my 2


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Old 05-19-2015, 09:26 PM   #3
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Thanks, Caleb. I was assured that I will have authority to refuse sales and to override sales of other employees. Still, it would be naive to think they are going to let me have full control...but ****, if I am not going to do things my way. I have zero worries about telling them to go kick rocks.

I was actually thinking about handing out info on the cycling process. Do you think that keeping a tank of seeded media could work? Hell, it could be a plastic tub in a closet.
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:29 PM   #4
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I could see a manager giving me trouble over this...but I am not going to let any slip while I am there. If that means I quit on day 1, then I am ok with that.
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:38 PM   #5
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Right on thing fish,
Hope you can make a difference
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Old 05-19-2015, 10:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thing fish View Post
I could see a manager giving me trouble over this...but I am not going to let any slip while I am there. If that means I quit on day 1, then I am ok with that.

If anything you might could let some slip and let management know you are knowledgeable and know what you are doing then they may let you make the critical decisions more often.


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Old 05-19-2015, 10:50 PM   #7
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This is cool that you're doing this, and I really admire you for taking up the challenge. It's going to be hard but I'm sure you can make a difference. As far as it goes with bettas, it's going to be hard to set up a tank for a single fish, even just a few. I doubt that the managers even care. To be honest, my local big box store is not the best. There's only one guy who actually knows what he's doing, and he doesn't talk to a lot of people. Really the only reason behind having fish for the pet stores is money. They don't care about quality of fish or health, just $$$$$. That's the difference between a good LFS and just the average big box store. As far as improvements go (After you help the fish, of course) I'd work on plants. Plants can also get a lot of money and people like them. Plants are probably what I would base my LFS off of if I had one. Anyway, good luck and please keep us posted!
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Old 05-20-2015, 12:08 AM   #8
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My first suggestion would be to educate your fellow employees so that they can educate their customers as well. There is more to fish keeping than just cycling a tank. Yes, that's the start but it's hardly the end. Long term care is where most chain store customers are being short changed (IMO)
There's a + & - to keeping an established tank for cycling other tanks. There is the possibility of you inadvertently adding a disease or problem into a customer's tank via your live BB transfer which can cost the store a customer and give the store a bad reputation. I suggest educating the customer on fish in and fish less cycling and let them decide how they want to do it and where they can get their own BB cultures that are "safer" to use. Have the products available for them to purchase.
As for Bettas, if you do not want to keep them in the containers, put them in your display tanks to show customers that they CAN be kept with other fish but not with each other. HOWEVER, you will find, if you sell enough of them, the containers are the way to go. I'd just assign someone "water change duty" more frequently.

Fish selection is usually where Mom & Pop shops outshine Chain stores. If you can become a model store for "hobbyists" opposed to the general public and make the store more money, it may change things. ( You can't make a lot of money on $.99 fish but you can with higher ticket items if they are kept properly and advertised properly.)
Lastly, did I mention EDUCATE your employees? They are the direct link between the store and a happy customer or a mad customer/ ex customer.

These are just a few things. Wish you much success at the job. Hopefully "corporate" will listen.
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Old 05-20-2015, 10:23 AM   #9
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That would be a great thing if you can achieve. IMO if you could focus on key issues first, rather than trying to make it 100% perfect might be a better way to go.

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Old 05-20-2015, 12:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nils View Post
This is cool that you're doing this, and I really admire you for taking up the challenge. It's going to be hard but I'm sure you can make a difference. As far as it goes with bettas, it's going to be hard to set up a tank for a single fish, even just a few. I doubt that the managers even care. To be honest, my local big box store is not the best. There's only one guy who actually knows what he's doing, and he doesn't talk to a lot of people. Really the only reason behind having fish for the pet stores is money. They don't care about quality of fish or health, just $$$$$. That's the difference between a good LFS and just the average big box store. As far as improvements go (After you help the fish, of course) I'd work on plants. Plants can also get a lot of money and people like them. Plants are probably what I would base my LFS off of if I had one. Anyway, good luck and please keep us posted!
I agree that managers only care about $$$$. That's their job and its what their pay and bonuses are based on. I would try to find out how their performance is measured. If it's pure revenue, then you may have a harder time, and your manager may just want you to push fish no matter what. All depends on the corporate structure. Remember your manager it just taking orders from his manager.

That being said, it would be your job to educate you manager that selling fish to a bad environment would probably be a dead fish returned and after a couple of rounds of that now you are losing big $$$ based on the returned fish and lost business. It will hit your bottom line. Remember they hired you for your expertise and try to not let them be too short sighted.

I could write pages for you, but I don't want to bore you.
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