Working with Fish and People
I work in a Petsmart and while I don't know a ton about fish, I do have common sense about what can be kept in which sized tanks. Every day we have people coming into the store who have absolutely NO CLUE about what they are talking about and assume that just because these are fish and they don't cost much, they can do what they like with them, with no regards to the fish's well being.
One woman came in who wanted to house a koi in a bowl......yep let that sink in....a bowl.....for a koi. I told her politely that koi belong in ponds and if she wanted a fish that could live in a bowl, she should get a betta. Even then, I always recommend the 1g or larger tanks for a betta. The woman would not listen. She kept asking if she could put different fish in a bowl. What about comet gold fish? she asked. No, you can't put comet gold fish in a bowl. They grow about a foot long and are major waste producers......She pauses and looks at me...."So they will die eventually if I put them in a bowl?" ...."Yes." ....."Well they are only 13 cents so I don't care if they die." I wanted to scream. Ugh!
Then you have the people who moan and complain when you tell them that no, those mollies are not going to live in a 1g tank. I don't care what your 3 year old child wants. No, you most certainly cannot put two male bettas in the same tank.
I just don't know what to do with these people. How best should I handle situations like this where the people are so certain that they know what they are doing, or won't take my advice. Oh they are just fish, so it doesn't matter if they die. I work with these fish almost every day of the week. I care for them, I feed them, clean their tanks, test their water, and I CARE if they die. My manager has given me the okay to tell people no if I feel it is in the best interest of the animal not to sell it to that person. But time and time again people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I can't sell them a fish if I know what kind of environment its going into and I don't agree with it. I even had a child have his big brother lie to me about the size of the tank. He had a 5 gallon tank with 3 goldfish in it. He wanted another goldfish and when I told him that 3 was already too much for that little tank and that I wouldn't sell him the goldfish for that tank, his big brother piped up (and while winking to his friend when he thought I didn't see him do it) "Oh well we have a big 55g too." The child looks at his big brother with a confused face and the brother gives him a look and says "Remember, that really big tank we have. That would be perfect for a new gold fish." Ugh!
What would you do in my shoes with these people? One woman even said I was stressing her out because every time she asked me if she could put a certain kind of fish in her tank, I said no. (She was trying to find fish to live in a 1g tank. Every single fish on our fish wall has a minimum of a 10g tank requirement)
Sorry for the rant, but do any of you work with fish and people and find that soooooo many people just don't do their research or simply don't care about the lives of these fish as long as they get to look at something pretty for a few days/weeks before it dies and they just come back with their receipt and get a new one.
If I owned or managed a pet shop, I wouldn't stock any bowls or teeny weeny tanks. Then people couldn't buy them and then they wouldn't be trying to squeeze fish in there. I'd sell the minimum size for a betta and then I'd only sell them a betta, IF they bought a heater and the right food and everything they'd need to properly look after it. I couldn't care less if I was considered a curmudgeon. If the pet wasn't going to a good home, I wouldn't sell it.
I'd create written checklists of vital information. Stuff about the cycle and frequency of water changes and then I'd just boss people around so that they'd do things properly. I'd make them take the information home with them. It's bad enough that people kill their fish through inadvertent ignorance and inexperience without throwing a huge dose of stupidity and wilful blindness on top.
From a business perspective, losing sales to people who'll only kill the fish and be returning expecting to get another for free wouldn't be that big of a cost to the business. You'd be better off selling food and water conditioner on an ongoing basis to people who are keeping their fish alive.
I wish I could just draw up checklists for people who are interested in certain fish with the correct information written on them so that they can see what they need, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do that with it being Petsmart. They like to use their own stuff and if I mentioned it to my manager he would say that we have enough care guides available and not to bother with it.
Each tank has a tag beneath it with some basic information about the species of fish in that tank. Take the comet goldfish for example. It gives you the common name, scientific name, food requirements, temperature requirements, minimum tank size, etc. The minimum tank size recommended by Petsmart for a comet goldfish is 29g. In a 29g tank, you can basically house only 1-2 comet goldfish, correct? If you are putting fancy gold fish which only get up to 6-8 inches, you could possibly house 2-3, yes (and even that is pushing it) ? Yet, we sell a 1g tank specifically marketed for goldfish. It has goldfish written in big letters across the front of the box, yet the filtration system sucks and its only 1 gallon.
Because of this, people are always so confused when I tell them that no that little 1g tank labled as a goldfish tank is not big enough for a goldfish. Maybe I could write to corporate about maybe having some better care guides and checklists made?
What you have here are impulse buyers, its hard to reason with impulse buyers until they have gotten what they want and are out of the store, your best option is going to be to give the buyer what they want when they want it but also put something in the back of their mind so later when they are watching their fish they remember what you said.
It won't work for all of them but should work for a good portion of them. Try this;
Next time someone wants to put a goldfish in a small bowl say something along the line "Yea they are a great fish aren't they? You know I had one years ago and he was fun to watch, he started out in a bowl like that one but boy... when finally got him a bigger tank he was so much happier! He would always swim around and have fun, plus he had friends he would play with!"
Ok that last part sounded lame, but you get my meaning, first of all you can't change an impulse buyers mind. They already have decided when they walk into the store what they want usually, some might find a compromise but most not. So instead of telling the impulse buyer what to do let them come to your conclusion, they will take the bowl and fish home and watch it for a couple of days then start coming to the realization that their fish isn't as active as the one you described.
And hopefully with in a week or two you will see them back in the store looking for a bigger tank (you can only hope anyways).
I would just straightforward tell them the reasons why goldfish can't live in bowls, appeal to their compassion as perspective pet owners if they have any, and if they don't ... heck Petsmart sells feeder goldfish don't they? You know THEY are going to die! I'd guess many customers are thinking "what's the difference"?
And I never said to say anything untruthful to these people, the story I wrote is just an example of how to talk to these people and to change the argument from logic to emotion. I don't know if twitch has ever kept a fish in a small bowl but I'm sure working at petsmart they know of someone who has and came to regret it, which is what the experience they need to push forward to these people.
That person is going to walk out of the store with that bowl and fish whether you like it or not all you can do is help them come to the conclusion that they made a mistake quicker, hopefully before the fish dies.
You know its funny that I came across this post because I was thinking about trying to get a job in the fish section of petsmart but I thought you would have to deal with a lot of ignorance and it would be more of a headache than anything.
I recently gave a presentation at my college on basic fish keeping and after it was over everyone was like ohhh thats why my fish died. The thing is well #1 the marketing that companies use to keep tanks that look pretty with no cords for heater and filters which is a necessity to a life. The companies only care about making a buck and not whats at stake. I agree with Tanker on the types of tank that should be sold. But also it is still the same as it was when i was a teen and went to buy my first fish...NO WHERE DOES IT SAY IN ANY FISH STORE THAT YOU EVEN NEED TO CYCLE A TANK. (this was before the Internet was accessable to me..and also people buying fish today don't have the access to do the research if they wanted to) I already know the answer to why it is not posted but it needs to change..it's called responsibility. If that message was posted in the store all the lazy people would think its too much of a hassle and end up not buying fish which means no money for the business. So obviously they would never post it.
It's really going to take a lot of petitions and people choosing not to buy aquariums they shouldn't be selling. They have to hurt in the pocket.
My best advice is in that position realize you are doing the right thing...no matter how pissed people get, you will know that your integrity has not been broken like big corporations. I personally would rather feel good about my decisions.
Keep your patience, some people don't know and WANT to learn... the others you may not be able to change.
Hope this gives you a good perspective,
refer them here so we can help them or knock some sense into them!!! what you and you manager did was the right thing to do.not sure what you boss will think but that depends on him/her own view of the situation. in the largest lfs here we have card like yours telling the people whats needed for the particular fish sometimes i ask for added info but not all people do that an i'll be so happy if someone like you told me no i don't think this will suit your tank.
Not everyone will go off with the huge goldfish and little bowl. Some people will accept that it is not ideal and go for something more suitable. As Danielle said, some people want to learn. Even if as few people as one in 10 or even one in 20 don't make a mistake you'll have achieved something, even if others ignore your advice. Every fish not sold into poor conditions is an achievement, no matter how small.
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