Any advice for a fish store employee?

  • #1
So I am a pet store employee my job consists mostly of helping customers take care of their pets, and giving advice and personal recommendations to them. My favorite area of the store is our fish department, because that is where my passion lies and where I feel most knowledge able and comfortable. I love introducing new people to the hobby and even helping people set up simple tanks that they only want as a decoration for their home or office. I love to go above and beyond my job descriptions, I cannot count how much stuff I have purchased from my store simply to try it out just so I can give a personal recommendation to any and all future customers. I am not the type of person to sell someone a product just for my store to make a few extra bucks, I will recommend little tips and tricks and sell products I KNOW 100% will work to people all day long.

I believe working in a pet store is more of a lifestyle than just a career, because I have spent more time online researching things about animals and pets (mostly fish ) than I actually have working at my store, it is completely unlike any other retail job where all you have to do is fold clothes, stock shelves, type on a computer, or run a cash register: I have to be as knowledgeable and helpful as possible (and don't forget friendly!!!!!) to everyone who walks through our door.

I have read so much online, both on this forum, and other sites, about different peoples terrible experiences in pet and fish stores, and how much wrong knowledge has been passed on to customers by employees who either simply didn't know any better, or were jsut trying to sell a product to someone when they really didnt need it. I would like to NOT be the cause of one of those stories, I would like to be one of the few pet store employees that people actually are proud to go to and feel comfortable going to, knowing that I can help them.

So does anyone have any advice or tips for me, or any pet/ fish store employee, that could help us make other people's fish shopping and hobbying a better and more enjoyable experience?

Also, if any other fish/ pet store employees stumble across this thread, I would especially appreciate input from you guys/ gals, and even any stories/ experiences you would like to share.
  • #2
TheJpeg, Welcome to Fishlore!

There are a few members employed by big box or small LFS's I'm sure they will chime in later. I appreciate that you have a sincere interest in your customers. IMO, you're already doing the right thing! if I could make a recommendation, pass on your enthusiasm of learning and fishkeeping to your fellow coworkers, make it contagious! it can only benefit your workplace. Again Welcome! We share both good and bad experiences on here, so don't be discouraged. Thanks.
  • #3
You know we have this one person we go to for fish & fish items, he works for petco and I would say I much prefer asking him about things than the local high end pet store, they weren't knowledgeable about the fish they were selling me, or the equipment. however, what we like about this person is he's honest, when I knew nothing about cories he was honest about rather or not different kinds would school, or what fish might pick on my others. He also is passionate when he talks about his own aquariums, which is good to hear. Also be gentle with the fish! I was buying a tetra the other day and they lady was just excessively rough with the poor guy, he even tore a fin a bit! I understand its no easy task moving fish, however I have no respect for someone who can be excessively rough with an innocent creature that's terrified. you seem like you have great enthusiasm and respect for fish, I'm sure you're going to do great! People will pick up on that energy
  • #4
I am an employee at the local small pet store in town. I've only been working there about 6 months but have some tips for you.

1. Always no what your talking about. Never lie to a customer.

2. When talking to customers try not to say um too much. The customer will think you are not knowledgeable and become disinterested.

3. Never talk aggressively to a customer. For example a customer comes in and asks for a bowl and 5 goldfish or they want to keep their budgie in a tiny cage. Rather then tell them they can not do that, tell them that it is possible but could cause some problems and will need to be cleaned more often in the future. If they accept this than point them towards a larger tank or a tank and different fish.

4. As catfish lady mentioned do not be rough on the animals.

5. Research, Research, Research.

In my 6 months of working there I have learnt so much. I too am the Go to fish person at the store and do spend a lot of my spare time looking at the equipment and fish

Good luck with your job!
  • #5
Definitely get to know some of your more loyal customers. Me, another customer, and the fish guy at my local LFS had a 30 min conversation just because we could. We talked about what we had, and what we wanted, and I was introduced to vampire plecos! Customers will be much more likely to return when they feel like they are visiting a friend, instead of talking to an employee. And who knows? You may end up making a lifelong friend, or they may do you a favor when you are down
  • #6
My main thing is to not overload the customer with knowledge. Don't just drone on about the nitrogen cycle. Dumb it down for them. Make it quick and simple. Give them a care guide.

Do not hesitate to take advantage of the fact that you can refuse a sale. Even if they threaten to talk to your manager. I had a lady that wanted a few Oscars for a 40 gallon and said "if I have the money you have to give them to me" haha.. nope. Got my manager to back me up on that one.

Customers are a huge focus but the animals should always come first no matter what. Don't let someone stop you while you are in the middle of caring for an animal. Ask them to wait until you are finished but encourage them to still talk to you about their needs while you are finishing up your job.

Hamsters always need to have extra eyes on them. Some decide to go cannibalistic. Then there's wet tail.

Just be you.. don't let your job and crazy customers ruin it.
  • #7
I'll throw in my tiny bit of info I have to offer...

I've wanted Axolotls for YEARS and I've done my fair share of research and studies on them...

Well, my go to LFS finally got adolescent axolotls in stock, and I got (2) $10/each...

I went back the next day to buy sand substrate since I picked up a 20gal long tank for them... And I was advised that normal aquarium gravel and warm water would be fine for them... Which is WRONG information...

it it rather annoyed me, but not everyone does research, especially if they rarely get any in stock...

That's all, and thanks for trying to make fish keeping great for everyone!
  • #8
HI JPeg and welcome to Fishlore!
It is so refreshing to hear that somebody is willing to be honest and helpful at the LFS instead of worrying about just making the sale.
I totally agree with Makena95GT. If somebody is being unrealistic about the fish they want and the environment they want to keep them in, somebody mentioned 5 goldfish in a bowl, you should absolutely inform them of the requirements of the fish in question and if they don't budge, refuse the sale.
A person has every right to full disclosure when it comes to the living creatures they are opting to be responsible for and if they are misinformed or ignorant, give them good information. Not everybody is so selfish that they won't size up the tank for their fish, or change their minds when it comes to learning what their favorite requires.
I have accepted the fact that I will never have a blue mandarin.
I have also sized up when I learned what goldfish require and again when I learned what size tank KuhlI Loaches will be truly happy in.
Sure, there are selfish, stubborn people out there, but there are also real descent ones. When people learn that you know your stuff, you will gain a following.
A man who worked in the fish department at a chain here in town left and started his own place. All of the knowledgeable regular customers followed him. I'm going there today to pick up some fish he ordered for me.

Again, welcome! And thank you for being concerned enough to research and ask us for advice!
  • #9
If I owned a fish store, these are just a few of the things I would do;

1: Place a pamphlet in the bag with every purchase that goes into detail about the Nitrogen Cycle

2: Have pamphlets readily available on the walls/shelves everywhere in the store about the Nitrogen Cycle

3: Stock all products by Dr Tim.

4: Instruct all employees to presale One & Only or Tetra Safe Start for all first time fish buyers, along with a pamphlet about the nitrogen Cycle

5: Make notes on ALL tanks the (correct) minimum tank sizes for each fish.

6: Make notes on ALL tanks which fish are community fish, semI aggressive, and aggressive.

7: Make notes on ALL tanks for each fish about proper group numbers

8: Instruct all employees to offer info about compatible tank mates for the fish they're buying; "Would you like more info about compatible tank mates for your new fish?".

9: Id have learning materials all throughout the store.

10: Never order any goldfish bowls

11: Have an isle in the store dedicated to items and information about quarantine tanks. Perhaps even offer a QT bundled package.

There's a bunch more that Id do, but to list the last thing... Id offer a short class on the basics of keeping fish (nitrogen cycle, fishless cycling, fish-in cycling, tank maintenance, filter maintenance, and some common fish illnesses).
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
I do try my best to be as honest as possible to everyone that comes in, if I do not know something I will tell them straight up that I do not know. But I do make a note of everything so that I can go and research it when I get home, so that I would know better for next time.

I hate when people want to put gold fish in a bowl, I tell them that they really SHOULD be put in a tank, but if they are adament in putting one in a bowl, ill let them, but I do make a point of warning them of all the health risks and reduced life span of the goldfish. Only about half of the people who I tell goldfish belong in a decent sized tank actually buy a good tank, but others are just too stubborn.

mamajin, I would love to go to your fish store every day of the week, forever hahaha. Most people who come in just want decoration tanks, and not hobbiests, so most people don't want to go thru all of the effort of setting up a QT tank, I do tell customers the benefits of having one, but most just don't want to deal with it.
  • #11
I wonder what the goldfish bowl people would think if you told them what happens to a goldfish when they are crammed into a bowl.
Start off with the myth "that fish only grow to fit the tank" and destroy it. Fish may or may not become stunted in there outer growth, but their internal organs continue to grow no matter what. As the innards of the fish grow, but the fish's body stays small, it slowly gets smothered and choked on it's own internal organs. Do you still want to put that goldfish in a bowl?
  • #12
I wonder what the goldfish bowl people would think if you told them what happens to a goldfish when they are crammed into a bowl.
Start off with the myth "that fish only grow to fit the tank" and destroy it. Fish may or may not become stunted in there outer growth, but their internal organs continue to grow no matter what. As the innards of the fish grow, but the fish's body stays small, it slowly gets smothered and choked on it's own internal organs. Do you still want to put that goldfish in a bowl?

I think so many people jump into buying fish, and actually don't even believe the truth because of so many misconceptions by big pet stores... I.e. Selling "gold fish bowls" when goldfish need a 20gal tank for 1 fish.
  • #13
One thing that no LFS employee ever asked me, and which I wish one had, is, "How long do you want to have a fish as a pet?" I had no idea that some of these guys were going to require 10-15 years of commitment or more, just like a dog, a cat, even a child. That's way longer than many marriages last. And how am I going to run away from home and go to Tahiti? I should have stuck with guppies
  • #14
One myth that I heard often from my first LFS (This was back in San Juan, PR) was the fish who could live "without filters" so I lost many a gourami and betta this time. And the whole common pleco thing as they grow huge and don't do a good job of cleaning algae.

I think it is good to ask people their setups. Some folks are open about it but maybe ask them in a polite manner how big is your tank, etc? Then you can segue into recommendations of the fish or even upsell products, i.e someone new that needs TSS, etc. When going to a new store I am surprised at how little I am asked to describe my current build.
  • #15
I don't know about everyone but I know I appreciate an employee who's honest and informative. My first experience was a disaster. I hadn't done any research, which is partially my own fault, and wandered into the local pet smart and left with a 5 gallon tank and 3 mollies. If the employee that helped me had even suggested that a larger tank would have been easier to maintain and better for the fish I would have happily bought one. At the time they were having a sale and I could have easily gotten a 20 gallon for near the same cost. In my uneducated state I thought that a smaller tank would be an easier start! Boy was I wrong! That said there are plenty of good honest employees. Recently my mom decided she wanted her own tank for goldfish. She has a 20 gallon and I informed her she should have no more than 1 goldfish. She didn't believe me so she asked the employee, he backed up everything I told her and was completely honest about it and explained to her that the conditions they keep them in at the store are not a precedent for your tank at home.


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