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Guest Paper Tiger

What Should A Pet Store Employee Know?

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Guest Paper Tiger

Hey folks! It's been a while since I was last in here regularly, due to one seriously busy year, but I recently got a job at a pet store and thought I should drop back in.

First, I wanted to thank you folks for all I learned lurking around Koko's--it's come in quite handy and I hope you'll be happy to know that I'm spreading it around to the customers I help. The ten-gallon rule may not go over well, but the gospel of peas gets grateful giggles every time. ;)

Second, I wanted to expand my knowledge! What I learned here and what I learned on the job is great, but I know there are gaps, and I know that the things I should be telling a customer about the fish they're thinking of purchasing aren't necessarily so obvious after a few hours of tank scrubbing, rodent wrangling and cage cleaning.

So please, lend me your experience here! What kind of things do you wish your average pet store employee knew? What kind of things did you find out later and wish you'd been told them? General care, specific problems, odd trivia, anything at all!

And thanks again!

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I think its awsome your asking what customers would like the pet shop employees to know! Thats great!

Well, lets see.... Heres a few things I wish people would know when their selling a fish to someone.

They should advice them on the proper sized tank. I know you mentioned this, but I know sooo many pet stores that dont know a thing, and think you could put 5 goldies in a 5 gallon tank, and a ton of tropicals in a tiny tank... Just stuff like that.

I think they should know some basic info on the meds. They should advice salt for ick. I have never had a petshop advice that with ick, they always point me to the meds, which alot of the time dont work very well.

Also, know alittle bit about filters. Which ones are better, or more people like.

Know alittle bit about the fish their selling. Such as what fish go well with others. You probably already know that, but ive seen alot of people advice on two fish together, when they shouldnt be.

Also wished pet store empoy. knew more about different fish diseases. Just the basics. Like what symptoms go with what disease's. Stuff like that.

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Congratz on your job :) Okay let me thinkk...

1) tank sizes

2)diseases/treatments/symptoms

3)common problems with fancy goldies

4)how much to feed a fish exactly, dangers of over-feeding

5)what to do on vacation

6)importance of a varied diet

7)importance of filter

8)importance of clean water and cycling

lol :D hope that helps you :D

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Awesome idea!!

And aside from just fish there are tons of other pets in the store also!!

I guess whatever dept I was working in I would read up on books, magazines, ETC to find out as much as I could to be as helpful to the customer as possilbe.....Wish some of the employes were that helpful when I was buying my fish....Hence thats why I am here!!.....LOL

I think your on the right track here though....I am coming to your store to buy fish!! where do you live again?.........LOL :exactly

Glad to hear you are giving 110% at your job!!!

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Filter power is a big one. the 100 GPH per 10 gallons is a biggy in keeping the little guys healthy. :) i work in a petshop, and just try and remember, not everyone thinks of fish as animals. alot of people actualy TELL my their not animals. (then i get sassy and ask whether their a mineral or plant, they get upset and tell the manager....) They want them as toys, and you just cant change them all. i know, I tried...

and the sad fact if some people have to kill many fish before they learn that their tank/bowl is just to small for a goldfish.. and theres nothing you can do. they just dont care about the life. and they lie about how long theirs have lived. "Oh, i had a fish in there for 8 years!" "No mom, it was last year" "SHHH!!!" *slap* "Please leave the store if your going to abuse your child ma'am" "Get your manager" (an actual conversation)

oh, and parents often say their 3-7 year old HAS to have a goldfish, while the kid is walking up and down the tanks pointing to everyfish saying "I want that one and that one and that one" because the adult wants a goldfish.

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I know a lady who works at vvvv, and she refuses to sell common plecos to goldfish owners. She says they dont belong together, and she just wont sell them. LOL... and shes the supervisor of the fish department... but I think alot of people have complained about it. I thought it was pretty cool she was sticking up for the fish. Not many people do that!

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I think that just talking to a customer and not coming off as an "I know it all". I would love it if when I went in a petstore and someone came up to me and asked, "how may I help you today?" Most times I have to wait several minutes before someone approaches me(talking about when it's not busy). I walked up to this one guy, (who I harrass now), and informed him that I would like to get some service with a fish purchase. He looked at me like I was from another planet...lol...guess he never got approached like that. I was buying a a 29Gal tank, but I had seen a cute chocolate oranda that I just had to have. After I showed him the goldie I wanted, he looked at me and said, "I know you aren't going to put him in that tank buy himself." I simply replied, "His tank is all set up at home just waiting for him, I been raising goldfish for over 14 years, how long have you been working here?" He looked flustered. We are cool now though... :D Prior to me walking up to that guy, another fish dept worker saw my tank and said, "I hope thats not going to be your first tank." That really turned me sour a bit. But I'm glad to know there are good pet store people like you out there. Wish I could come visit you at work, we'd have lots of great convo.

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Guest squeeker

I work in a pet store, in the fish department, and have for the past year.

The things I talk to people about most are:

Cycling (they think I'm either talking about the chemical Cycle, or filtration... a good graph or diagram really comes in handy)

Frequency of water changes (I promote once weekly, or once every other week as a last resort, and every 3 days during the first month a tank is set up) and the use of a gravel vacuum

What fish belong together (at our store we have them grouped into areas, with compatible fish next to other compatible fish)

Tank size for certain fish (inch per gallon for tropicals, and I promote the ten gallon rule, but I'll cave for five gallons minimum for a goldie, which is WAY better than a bowl... anything less than 5 gallons per goldie and the customer does not get the 15 day health guarantee)

One important thing I've learned is that if you have to say no, have an alternative ready! For example, if someone just HAS to pack 5 goldfish in a 10 gallon tank, I'll point out the platys or balloon mollies. They're super colorful, and when I tell them they can have more than 1, they usually change their mind. Or, when someone wants to put the goldies in a bowl, I'll point out the bettas instead. We usually have a number of bettas in the main tanks with other peaceful fish, and when I point them out, the customers get really excited and buy a small tank.

Customers also really appreciate when you're honest. If a product isn't necessary, I tell them. If a product doesn't work, I tell them. If there's a cheaper/more efficient alternative, I tell them. If I've never used a product, I tell them what I have tried, and I tell them what works best for me. Yah, maybe I don't have the BEST business sense, but it builds trust. Then, when you tell them the 10 gallon rule, they will be more receptive.

Above all, don't be snobby or know-it-all-ish. It never gets you anywhere!

Have fun in your job!

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Excellent advice! I hope you are enjoying your job. Somehow Ive been workign in a pet store for over 2 1/2 years now and some days are better than others. The number one thing I constantly have to ask people and advise them about is tank cycling! NO ONE knows what cycling is! There are also the people who ask me to get them fish, and they have a 10 gallon setup right there in the cart. I have to explain to them how you need to have the tank set up and running first.

People are always impatient and want to cram the tank full immediately. People also dont seemt o understand that fish grow. Most fish sold at pet stores are young and will grow larger. That is probably the second most important thing?read up on the fish you are selling so you can tell people how large they will get. That will save so many hassles!

Some of the most popular fish that most people seem to be uninformed about

:

Pacus?they are sold as tiny quarter sized fish and can grow to reach almost 2 feet long. No one wants them when they are that big so they are hard to get rid of?dont buy them in the first place unless you have a several hundred gallon tank!

Same goes for Oscars?they get very large. Also, oscars and other cichlids do NOT need live feeder fish in their diet; rather it can actually be harmful to them. Pellets are the best.

Bala sharks?everyone loves these little silver and black sharks but dont realize they can reach about a foot long. They are very skittish fish by nature and need very large tanks. I would advise them to be kept in at least a 50 gallon and preferably a 100 gallon.

Dyed fish?I dont know if your store sells them but ours does and ever week we seem to get a new novelty fish in! I tell all my customers that they are dyed and not natural. Most of the time that ends the sale for them. The most popular fish that are dyed are skirted tetras, oscars, parrot fish and even koi now. :( My rule is, if you didnt know a freshwater fish came in that color, then it probably doesnt!

I subscribe to fish magazines and just pore through them every month, reading every little bit. I have learned SO much from them. My favorite is Tropical Fish Hobbyist and I also like Aquarium Fish Magazine. Hope this helps!

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COOl, congrats on your new job...i think ill try to get a job at my LPS too :) ..tho they probaly dont need any part-time workers..but what the hay!

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Same as Squeeker and Jenny, the most common advice I give is about the cycle--not many people know about it, but most are pretty receptive. I also let them know that we test water samples for free.

The other question I'm often asked is how to control algae-- especially green water in ponds. I try to offer the more natural solutions over chemicals. Same for treating diseases/ailments-- if I know aquarium salt will do the trick, I recommend that over other (usually pricier) treatments, plus the value of good water conditions.

Potential size of fish, too, and compatible tank mates.

Honesty is always the best policy-- If I don't know the answer, I never guess-- I will ask a more senior staff member for help.

I also try to greet everyone, that way they know I work there (we don't have a uniform shirt) and it's an opening if they need assistance, it doesn't come off as pushy if they just want to browse-- some folk like to be asked if they need help, while others find it annoying to be approached, and would rather seek out the employee if they need help.

For people buying goldies, I try to tell them about how much they enjoy veggies, especially frozen peas. Many are delighted and surprised that goldies like other things besides their staple food. If they are really enthusiastic about goldfish, I direct them to this website :)

Like everyone else has said-- a good attitude, and sincerity goes a long way. Pushiness or know-it-allness scares people away from fishkeeping, and is just plain annoying.

When dealing with difficult customers, always remain polite and professional-- do not raise your voice or interrupt. Usually this will help to calm the situation, if not-- offer the assistance of your manager, and try not to take it personally if the customer is upset about something you have no control over. Sometimes they're just having a bad day and use you as an object to vent on.

Good luck at your new job, I'm sure you'll do great!

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