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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

February 15, 2012

Livestock Guarantees: Pro and Con

By Patrick Donston & David Lass


Livestock Guarantees: Pro
I'm in favor of a store having a guarantee on their freshwater fish; however a blanket guarantee on anything marine doesn’t make sense.

Getting and keeping new hobbyists is difficult enough, and without a guarantee on freshwater fish we would be having even more relatively new "starter tanks" out in yard sales. Replacing dead fish is an excellent opportunity for a store to educate a hobbyist, and it is certainly worth your cost for a couple of starter fish to 1) keep a new hobbyist happy; and 2) help them learn about fishkeeping.

The one thing to insist on is that they bring a water sample from the tank and the dead fish, if you want the corpse. You need a sign where you post your fish replacement policy, explaining that the reason for the water sample is that most problems with fish have to do with water quality, and if the pH or nitrogen cycle are off, you want to help them fix the problem before sending any more fish out to their probable demise.

Contract guarantee on fish

My bottom line on replacing freshwater fish is yes; but make the replacement process an opportunity for your store to educate your customer, and to increase the probability that they will stay with the hobby.

On the marine side of things, it doesn’t make sense for a store to have a blanket "If it dies in X days we will replace it" policy. There are just too many things that can go wrong with any marine animal, pretty much all of which are beyond the capacity of the store to control. While we clearly don't want to increase the "saltwater is much harder than fresh" complaint, I think it is important that hobbyists realize that marine animals are not as plentiful as freshwater ones, simply for the fact that most (may?) of them come from the wild, where almost all freshwater fish are commercially farmed. I suggest that your policy, stated clearly on a big sign in your marine section, be something like this:

"We really cannot take any responsibility for a marine fish or invert once it leaves our store. We do not sell any animal until we are confident that it is healthy. If you would like, we would be pleased to hold with a deposit any marine fish or invert for you for up to three weeks. We strive to do everything we can to make sure that your fishkeeping experience is fun, and that all of the animals in your care thrive."

Livestock Guarantees: Con
I’m against it. Yes, I know we should back up our quality of livestock and, most importantly, gain customer confidence. I do realize our clientele want the best value in their fish purchases; if the price exceeds their expectations, there goes the customer.

What I do not want is complacent clients and staff when it comes to the outcome of fishes’ lives. That is where I have problems with livestock guarantees. Customers may just “try it” knowing if the fish dies, I can replace it. A customer can bring back a dead fish and a shop clerk will replace it (or a portion of the cost) because that’s the policy. Usually, the clerk will not ask any questions or offer any thoughts on why the fish died.

There should be a “no guarantee on livestock” policy, although we always work liberally to replace anything a customer may have a problem with. In addition, only managers may replace livestock and then only after learning from the clerk and/or customer why a fish perished in the first place. By utilizing such tactics, we are less likely to lose fish in the future. Customers will take staff’s advice more seriously before making purchases when they know you don’t guarantee livestock. They’re less likely to say, “I hear you, but I’ll try it anyway—if it dies, I can replace it.”

As far as customer confidence is concerned, let your track record be the deciding factor. Do you and your staff give excellent husbandry and compatibility advice? Do you sell amazingly healthy fish? Or do you lose a lot of livestock in your shop? If the answers to the first two questions are positive and you see happy faces on your customers, you should be well assured they have confidence in the value of your services and livestock.


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