Selecting a Good Pet Store
Determining the Quality of the Pet Supply Resources in Your Community
(The First Tank Guide)
Here are some tips on choosing a good pet store from which to purchase your fish and aquarium supplies. Many of these suggestions are valid for selecting any retail establishment with which you wish to do business, while others are specific to the pet trade.
- A good pet store will have you greeted by an employee promptly upon entering the store and ask if you need assistance with anything or if you have any questions. You will be at least acknowledged if all the employees are currently helping other patrons.
- A good pet store should be neat and clean, well lit, and should have aisles wide enough to easily navigate. The cages of any animals should be clean and appropriately lit, and there should be evidence of cage cleaning.
- A good pet store will take measures to ensure the health of their animals. Though it is very rare to find a pet shop where there are no sick animals, there should not be an excess of sick animals on the floor. Likewise, though it is rare to find a fish department that does not have a few dead fish daily, these fish should be being promptly removed from their tanks by employees. However, if the same fish corpse is in the same tank for long periods of time or on repeat visits, or if there is a large number of dead fish in multiple tanks, this may be an indication of poor animal care.
- A good pet store will be a local pet shop rather than the pet
department of a department store or a local branch of a large
- Local shops are more likely to have healthy animals and often stock higher quality products.
- A local pet store is also more likely to pay attention to you as an individual customer and to be familiar with your tanks, your fish, and your needs.
- Furthermore, large chains are unable to adjust adequately to the needs of different communities, they just provided things that sell well nationally, or that their manufacturers tell them will sell well, or that are available at a discounted price, without consideration of the needs of their different customer bases in different locations (just because people in St. Paul need a particular product does not mean that people in Los Angeles and New York also need it, and conversely, just because people in New York and Los Angeles do not need a product does not mean that people in St. Paul also do not need it...).
- Additionally, the big chains often carry products under their own brand names that look like the same product as a major brand, but often these are either cheap imitations with much lower quality control or products made by the big manufacturer that are made with cheaper, less durable parts or that did not meet all the quality control points required to be sold under the manufacturer's name. These products are purchased en masse by the large chains at dictated prices so that the large stores can stock their shelves with inexpensive product - however, the savings is not passed on to the consumer because these products tend not to work as well and not to hold up as long, requiring the consumer to purchase replacements far more frequently than they should, or requiring them to purchase a quality product to replace the cheap one.
- Also, though the large chain stores frequently boast of the great savings you will receive in their branches, you will often find that the prices at local pet shops are very comparable to the big chain stores (after the chain has been open for a few months), and the quality of product and service is so much higher, that it will more than make up for any marginal cost increases. Of course, in some cases, you will find that the local store has better prices on many items of higher quality than those available at the so-called discount store!
- Furthermore, the staff turnover rates in the various branches of the big chains mandate that you will get poorer services from less knowledgeable staff. The staff is rarely in one position, or one store, or one department long enough to learn enough about the proper care of the animals to provide reliable service to those customers.
- A good pet store does not carry painted or dye injected fish.
- A good pet store will answer your questions directly and honestly, rather than giving you a misleading answer because it is what they think you want to hear or because it will improve sales.
- A good pet store will never recommend purchasing a bowl, a vase, or a tank under ten gallons for any purpose, and will frequently let a customer that has chosen a small tank know that starting with a small tank is not advisable and is often more expensive and typically much more work than a more reasonable sized tank.
- A good pet store will recommend that you take an ill pet to see a veterinarian, rather than trying to diagnose the animal themselves. This can save you a lot of money and heartache.
- A good pet store will encourage their patrons to purchase books on the care of their pets. A book can be a good resource for learning the basics, as well as a reference for the future with your pet.
- A good pet store will not carry dogs or cats because the vast majority of dogs and cats available to pet stores are coming from puppy mills, and the sale of these animals will only encourage this deplorable business. Instead, a good pet store will suggest that you visit the local Humane Society or animal shelter and review the classified ads in the local newspapers. Alternatively, if you are looking for a specific breed, a good pet store will recommend that you contact a breeder in your area. In all cases, when choosing a puppy or kitten, try to visit the breeder's facilities to see what conditions the animals are being kept in.
- A good pet store is unlikely to carry reptiles, unless they are a shop specialized in reptiles. Reptiles and amphibians are all very high maintenance animals and typically require a great deal of expensive and highly specialized equipment (you should expect to spend at least ten times the cost of the reptile on the minimum requirements for keeping that animal). Reptiles and amphibians also typically do not do well in high-stress or high-activity environments, such as a pet store.
- A good pet store will have a short guarantee on their fish, because they understand that the likelihood of fish loss when properly cared for is highly unlikely after the first couple of days after transport.
- A good pet store is unlikely to recommend catfish or algae eaters to help clean a tank, as the well trained employees at a good pet store will know that catfish and algae eaters will not (except in rare and abnormal cases) help keep a tank cleaner, but will, in fact, produce more waste and increase the necessary tank maintenance as well as increasing the population of the tank while doing nothing to increase the capacity of the tank.
- A good pet store will recommend that you NOT put the water from their tanks in your tank when introducing new fish to your tank.
- A good pet store is likely to have their Bettas in green or dark blue water, especially if the weather has been chilly and the Bettas temperature may have dropped below 74° Fahrenheit. This is to reduce the chances of contagion of fur coat syndrome, which the Bettas become highly susceptible to if they are ever chilled.
- A good pet store will never recommend feeder goldfish for cycling your aquarium.
- A good pet store will also not recommend feeder goldfish as a food for any fish.
- A good pet store, again, will not recommend feeder goldfish for pets.
- A good pet store will not belittle your pets, regardless of what they are. However, they may recommend more, better, or more appropriate equipment or maintenance for your pets, depending on what equipment you have, or what equipment has recently become available.
- A good pet store is unlikely to carry large birds, unless they are a shop that specializes in birds. Large birds are often very high maintenance and typically require a fair amount of specialized equipment to maintain their health and longevity. These animals also tend to be very destructive in the confines and cramped quarters of the typical pet store.
Not all stores will meet all of these requirements, but you will have to judge which of these you deem most important and evaluate the stores in your area for which one best suits your needs.
Here are some other tips on purchasing pets:
- NEVER purchase an animal because you feel sorry for it or because you think it is being mistreated or abused. Purchasing an animal under these conditions will only encourage the business that you purchased that animal from to order another one, which will, in turn, likely be mistreated in a similar manner.