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Old 12-01-2013, 12:17 PM   #1
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Post What do you Look for in a Pet store?

Hello every one! I am new to Forums and this Site. I currently work for a Big chain kinda Pet store and I am the Aquatics specialist. I have kept fish for about a year then took 4 years off of the hobby. I am Just starting to get back into it bc of my new job and I want to know WHAT you guys would like to see in pet stores such as pet co pet smart and other stores. Every thing from how the tanks look to the attitude you want to be met with by the people working there, and even the typ of fish stocked in the store. I am in charge or ordering the live stock now and I mean as awesome as Guppys and mollys are What are some other fish on all levels and sizes of the aquarium.

I am looking for feedback, story's, and advice from you peoples. any thing to make sure every one is happy in my department.

I am doing this because I want to make sure I can order what people want to buy for their tanks and start ordering something other pet stores Don't normally carry. I cant wait to see what you guys tell me.
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Old 12-01-2013, 01:21 PM   #2
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First thing I look for is dead fish and/or dirty tanks. If I see it, I"M GONE!
Another pet peeve is dimly lit tanks that make it hard to see & study the fish really good.
Presentation is everything in retail. Make sure each tank's glass is clean and modestly (due to frequent netting) decorate the tank with a little gravel and a small hardscape. Let's face it, a bare glass tank is pretty ugly.
Personnel wise-(if you are in management) make sure your people believe in and respect what they are doing for the fish and the customers. If someone shows they're not on board, get rid of them promptly. Your staff is the very face of your company.
Educate- have at least weekly sessions to train your people on fishkeeping, species knowledge, compatibility. You want people who know what their talking about but don't come off to the customer as a "know-it-all". Teach your staff to ask questions. Learn the customer's set up and desires before you advise.
Good luck, Lord knows we need good staff at our fish stores. Especially the more vulnerable beginners that need good guidance. OS.
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Old 12-01-2013, 02:02 PM   #3
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I look at the variety of fish presented and how they're stocked. This shows me how much the store cares about the fish. For instance, I wouldn't support a store that has new world cichlids mixed with old world cichlids.
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Old 12-01-2013, 02:14 PM   #4
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I don't know if you're in charge of any hiring but I would shoot to employ people who already have an interest in fish keeping. I used to work for a chain pet store and if yours is anything like mine, the pay rate for a regular employee isn't great. Its going to be hard to get your average employee to go out of their way to learn if they're making $8/hr. Biggest thing you can do is teach them if they don't know the answer to find someone who does.
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Old 12-01-2013, 02:19 PM   #5
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Do more saltwater likes bigger selection an do some frag tanks cause I live in Alaska an the selection isn't that great you guys could open up a pet store in wasilla so I don't have to drive 2 hours to my lfs
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Old 12-01-2013, 02:54 PM   #6
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I would add that having a firm grasp on the cycling process would be a large step up from what I typically run into at the big box stores.

Like Old Scales mentioned, dead fish are a big turn off. I understand that fish are going to die for any number of reasons, but when I see one (or more!) floating about.. Sometimes half eaten.. it tells me that nobody is paying enough attention.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:17 PM   #7
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Mainly just make sure that everybody knows about the fish and knows what they need to be cared for because I have seen people at some chain stores walk out of the door with a new 1 gallon bowl and a goldfish. Also make sure that employees know about the aquatic plants In store and at least know the basics of a planted tank so that they can advise people better about live plants. Also just make sure that there are no sick or dead fish in the tanks, I hate going to a pet store and finding dead fish in the tanks because it makes me afraid that other fish in those tanks are unhealthy or diseased and that just makes me not want to buy any of the fish at the store.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:25 PM   #8
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I have to agree with the dead fish in the tank! I went into a store on Friday and not only was there dead fish but they were in there long enough that the other fish had begun to eat the dead fish! I get that it was busy but that should have been done be fore the store even opened and dead and dying fish should be removed asap when they are seen.
Education!!!! I have a girl that works at my local petsmart that is awesome She knows her stuff and if she doesn't she doesn't pretend to. She knows about the equipment that they carry and what will work and what doesn't. She understands proper stocking, and properly cycling before adding fish. But I went in the other day to buy my daughter's Christmas present a 36g bowfront and my girl wasn't there. The girl that was there was very nice but she didn't know her a** from a hole in the ground when it came to fish. She kept asking me if I wanted to pick some fish out for the tank that I was buying! Really? I started looking for some Eco complete and the girl had no idea if the carried it They had fluorite but only one bag that was not even close to what I wanted. So I bought my tank and a few of the little bag plants that my daughter asked for and went on to petco a block away and that just got stupid. I had to hunt down a girl to help me to get a few plants. While the plants I choose where really nice looking I noticed some on the other side of the tank that had the worst case of bba I had ever seen! I asked if the were at least treating with either excel or h2o2 and she said they don't fertilize the plants they just add tap and a water conditioner. Shaking my head I decided ask her if they had Eco-complete, she started looking for fertilizer. I told her "No it's a plant substrate for aquariums", She took me in the reptile section and tried to give me this coca husk stuff for the bottom of a reptile cage. I figured I would just cut my losses, after dead fish being eaten, fish for an uncycled tank, and coca husk stuff being offered instead of what I asked for. I ended up buying play sand from Lowes and went home. That was just on Friday. So education is a big one. And yes pay them better so that good employees will be able to afford to stay working there. Trying to deal with High school kids that really don't care if you kill your fish or not, just gets old.
As far as stocking goes I would like to see more different types of raspboras I can't find the chilis anywhere, and more plants! Lots of different types not just the standard ones, that everybody starts with.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:50 PM   #9
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At my local petco, they have a TRUE hobbiest working in the fish section. The tanks are pristine, and the fish are all healthy. I have only seen a couple dead fish and sick fish. But when you have 100s of fish that would be hard to avoid. I like him because he is really smart and helpful, and helps pick out the right fish and plants for your tank. He also doesn't sell you products that you don't need or don't work. He's helping me with my algae problem! He has helped me a lot. I only wish all petcos and petsmarts had employees like him.
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Old 12-01-2013, 05:09 PM   #10
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Hi there,
Thank you for asking us!
These are the things that will ensure I never return to a shop:
- Selling sick fish.
- Fish are kept in filthy and/or bare tanks.
- The staff are rough with the fish.
- The staff are unhelpful.
- The staff have no knowledge.
- The staff have attitude.
- There is a poor selection of accessories.

I am in Melbourne, Australia. I don't have much of a choice in good LFS, but the above list is a turn off for me - particularly the first half of the list.

Happy to help further.

Good luck
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Old 12-01-2013, 05:41 PM   #11
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Haha I just figured out how to reply to all not just pm. I like your tips and advice!! It's hard being a big box store to care for the 100s of fish, and the reptiles, small animals and birds. I don't agree with all the polices we have. I shouldn't be stocking dog food I should be caring for fish and animals. I'm not making excuses. You guys are helping pinpoint what I need to know. I'm not a manager.. At least not yet. Please keep the comments and every thing coming. Ideas or anything you can add! I'M going to show this to my boss after I get enough posts.
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Old 12-01-2013, 05:47 PM   #12
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Having worked retail myself in the past, I can accept and understand that employees aren't going to have a depth of knowledge about every product the store carries. I think to expect otherwise is unreasonable. Especially true when many of the employees are low paid. It's not like they are going to spend their free time researching fish, guinea pigs, birds, cats and dogs (because remember, people - there are OTHER animals serviced at the pet store too)

That said, there has to be some basic level of information if now KNOWN by the employee, then AVAILABLE to them.
This could be as easy as a "cheat sheet" binder that the supervisor of the area can put together with a reference list of standard species - their minimum space requirement, temp requirement, minimum # needed together, temperament, specific tankmate requirements, etc. Then at least if the employee has no clue they can whip out their "fish binder" and look it up when a customer asks "is it ok for me to have one clown loach in a 5g?"

But I wouldn't expect an employee to know this stuff on their own. At a LFS, yes I would. At a big box store, I would not. I actually think it's the responsibility of the customer to have some clue when going to a generalized large store.
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Old 12-01-2013, 08:37 PM   #13
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Hi!

Please, please please educate your staff EXTREMELY well. Also, ensure they are kind and gentle to the fish. Make sure all of the tanks stay clean and pretty. Make sure all of the fish are happy and healthy, and there are no dead fish in the tanks. Have a wide selection, but please don't have any useless junk (such as bacterial in a bottle).
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Old 12-02-2013, 03:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polkadots View Post
Hi! Please, please please educate your staff EXTREMELY well. Also, ensure they are kind and gentle to the fish. Make sure all of the tanks stay clean and pretty. Make sure all of the fish are happy and healthy, and there are no dead fish in the tanks. Have a wide selection, but please don't have any useless junk (such as bacterial in a bottle).

+1

It is a major turn off for me if I think the staff are unkind and rough to their fish stock, and the fish look miserable. I recently went to such a store and was so upset by what I saw, that I made a report to the RSPCA. I am still upset by it even now, weeks later :-(
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Old 12-02-2013, 03:35 AM   #15
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Not sure how useful my input is as I'm down here in South Africa so maybe my experience is very different -

Apart from the things that have already been mentioned - good labelling impresses me. Very often, there is no way I can figure out what kind of fish there are in a tank because there is either no label, or an out of date label. This is especially true for plants!

I think Threnjen's comment is spot on - much as it would be fantastic to have more knowledgeable staff, maybe having "cheat sheets" or a file that customers and staff can refer to, or even just a wall poster with the basics of how cycling works - that kind of thing.
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Old 12-02-2013, 06:40 AM   #16
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Everything i think has been covered, but i also don't think things are going to change, my local big branch store Pets at Home is great, i've only ever seen a few dead fish in there, which i don't see as a massive problem, as long as it's not huge number and obvious disease, they treat diseased fish etc and do not sell them whilst receiving treatment.

Most important, keeps tanks and fish healthy, clean and nice looking - this is retail after all, you never see clothes stores selling worn out clothes off untidy or clean shelves.
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Old 12-02-2013, 10:14 AM   #17
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Everything I look for is already covered, but my big sticking points are:
-Knowledge (at least the basics and general fish knowledge)
-Cleanliness (no dead fish/algae)
-Signage (Picture of fish with some information about it)
-Attentiveness/responsiveness to customers (I've been greeted by staff then they disappear for 10-15min)

As far as stocking, don't think I can be much help. I would say keep a good variety of tetras and some danios. Also have a few different types of bottom feeders and algae eaters (there are differences in each type). TCC (theCommunityCichlid) could probably help with cichlids.
Ask any questions you have and they will be answered here.
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Old 12-02-2013, 11:40 AM   #18
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I don't know if you can do this but it would be great if big stores would order fish in for a specific customer.
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Old 12-03-2013, 03:04 AM   #19
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I work in a big box pet store too, it's what got me into the hobby actually, so this answer is coming from a fellow employee and also a customer to other fish stores.

Be available but don't bug them. I always greet my customers, ask if they need help, and tell them that I'll be around if they have any questions. Other than that, I leave them alone unless they look extremely confused. I expect the same from other pet stores and I honestly get kind of offended if a worker clearly notices me and doesn't at least say hi.

What someone else said about good labeling! This ties in to the first one. When someone new to fishkeeping is picking out what fish they like, I always show them four things on the label so they can make their own smart decisions easier. 1) What community the fish belongs in, 2) If the fish is schooling or not, 3) Minimum tank size for the fish, and 4) Adult size the fish gets. This way the person can learn as they go instead of cluelessly pointing to fish or asking you 1000 questions. We (Petsmart) also have care guides hanging on a rack near the fish and I tell them to take as many as they want.

Don't just push sales. To me this means suggesting better methods than adding a bottle of chemicals to their tank (heat for ich, changing light schedule for algae, etc), not selling them fish unsuited to their tanks...that one is a big one for me and I'm sure my managers aren't always happy. I always ask how big of a tank they have, what other fish they have, how long it's been running, etc, but not in an interrogating way. I just try to make friendly conversation and also figure out how knowledgeable they are, and if their tank is suited for whatever fish they want me to catch. Then, remember the customer's faces so you're not asking them every time lol! I also tell people often to wait on certain fish either if I have noticed a particular tank has been unhealthy lately, or if they want to add sensitive fish to an uncycled tank.

New employees should shadow learned ones for a lot longer than you'd think. I know, I know, payroll doesn't always allow it. And you might not be in control of this. But they seriously threw me out onto the floor with the most basic understanding of fish and in turn I had to give customers advice on. Thankfully I learned, but it sucks for everyone involved if the employee doesn't fully understand what they're preaching.

Effort!!! I went to a different store the other week and asked the employee to dig around in the gravel of ONE tank to see if any khuli loaches were hiding in there as I couldn't see any...he looked at me like I was the devil incarnate but lo and behold, there were 3 little munchkins burrowed in there and I got to take them all home. Don't be like him. Always be willing to give the customer what they want, even if you have to stick your whole arm in the water.

Like others have said, dirty tanks or dead fish. I completely understand that taking care of a pet store is a lot of work, and a lot of people don't realize how little time we get to clean ALL the animals, not just fish, as well as a ton of other tasks and THEN on top of it, making sure no customer goes unnoticed. Time management is a big thing. There will always be something that you're slacking on, but try not to let it get too bad. If I see a section of tanks with a ton of algae on the glass, I'll take 3 seconds to half-assedly wipe them down so they at least look presentable.

Isolate unhealthy fish. There will always be some. Put them somewhere else.

As far as stocking goes, I would just look around these boards to see what you hear a lot of buzz about. I think the top sales at my store are livebearers, neon tetras, and cory catfish. Oh, and "sucker fish." Everyone wants a fish to clean for them. Having a stock of SMALL plecos (bristlenose, rubberlip) and otocinclus will be good because you can steer them in that direction instead of grossly overstocking their tank with a common pleco.

On the topic of stock, it also turns me off when I go to a store and they have 100 tanks of different cichlids, and then 10 of tropical community fish. Having different communities is important so you can appeal to a larger amount of people! At Petsmart we have a goldfish section, african cichlid, south american cichlid, semi-aggressive, and tropical community.

I'm trying not to make this too long as I have a tendency to be wordy, so I'll stop now lol...PM me if you want anything else!
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Old 12-03-2013, 10:26 AM   #20
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^^^^^That.

On a side note, can you come to the Petsmarts up here and train them?
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