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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 1, 2011

Livestock Guarantee?

By Patrick Donston

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Do you guarantee your aquatic livestock? I know this is a controversial subject in our industry, having participated in a number of discussions with colleagues at industry events. Arguments on both sides make sense, and even partial guarantees overtime can have valid results.

Having a livestock guarantee shows customers you stand behind your product. It allows your employees to settle problem disputes easier and without the burden of seeing management. Customers can be satisfied quickly with little animosity. I’ve heard of different forms of this policy, from a 3-day 100 percent guarantee to 100 percent in 24 hours, from 75 percent in 3 days to 50 percent in 7 days.

I think it should be imperative to require a water sample separate from the dead fish. You want to make sure it was not a water condition problem before giving out a replacement fish or it may just as well perish.

Our policy has always been NO guarantee on livestock. My management team, senior aquarists and I have had many debates on this policy. This is my argument: While I do agree with the above serviceable advantages, I also believe guarantees allow too much complacency on the consumer. We’re not talking about a mechanical thing here; we’re talking about an animal’s life.

To me, the value of that life has to be taken seriously between the seller of the fish and the “new” owner of the fish. I don’t want my customers to just bring in a dead fish and get a new one. Nor do I want my employees to just replace a loss without an investigation. I’m not being cheap here. I want my employees and customers to figure out why a life has been lost--and then we compensate. It may be a bad fish. It may be a water-condition problem or a compatibility issue. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. We’ll replace it once we’ve corrected the problem so another life is less likely lost.

I teach my staff to explain that while there is no guarantee on livestock, we encourage anyone with a problem to notify us right away. We’ll work it out with them, seeing to the problem first and fair compensation after. Always take the bitterness over money out of the equation by putting the focus on “compassion for life.” I want our customers to be happy and enjoy their experience with us. I also want them to take the animal’s life seriously regardless of how much is spent or compensated.

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Reader Comments
Our policy is conditional. If they do not follow our recommendations(tank is too new, incompatible tankmates, too small of a tank) we will not guarantee the fish. We tell them that we cannot guarantee something we do not recommend, and we mark it on their receipt.
We do not require a water sample, since too many things can affect them- i.e. what if they just did a water change after the fish died and used an ammonia-neutralizing dechlorinator? what if they collect the water sample in the morning before work, and do not bring it to us until the evening?
If a customer has multiple losses, we work with them to determine what is going wrong in their aquarium, and make sure it is fixed before replacing a fish.
We never give cash refunds, unless we determine the customer is a problem(scamming us) and we do not want them to return. We have then suggested they might have better luck from other stores(such as Walmart).
Rachel, Austin, TX
Posted: 4/26/2011 9:33:29 AM
The guarantee is really about keeping a customer , solving a problem, and keeping the dialog open. It is important to get the water tested and ask the questions such as what was the temperature, how old was the aquarium, what were the other fish, and checking PH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, KH, And GH? We can usually figure out what the problem was with this information and if we have had problems with that batch of fish we go past the half price replacement and give free replacement.
Keith, Richmond, VA
Posted: 4/26/2011 7:23:33 AM
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