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I became OW certified about a month ago with a LDS that was recommended. However, I actually began the certification nearly a year ago.
It started when my wife and I saw a groupon for a really good deal to get certified. We both had wanted (me more than her) to get certified for a while now. The probelm was that in about three months I was having surgery on my shoulder through the VA, and the VA does not let you reschedule these things... not easily. So prior to buying the groupon (which included everything from equipment rentals to dives) I went down to the shop to check availability. I told them my timeline and how after the surgery I would not be able to dive for a good 8 months. They said there would not be a problem and put me in a class that did its final dive about two weeks prior to the surgery.
We looked around the store before we left and noticed everything seemed a little expensive so we shopped around before buying our gear (mask, fins, weights, etc.). Another dive shop was having its scuba anual sale at the time, everything was a good 30-40% cheaper, so of course I bought my stuff there. This is when I got a bad taste in my mouth for the LDS that I was getting certified at. We showed up to the first class, half hour early, every one of the students were there, and we started an hour late, they didn't know where they were teaching it, there were only half enough chairs etc.
Then, after explaining that we need to tip the instructors, they looked out our gear and an instructor said (rudely) "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?!"... I told him that another place had a big sale. Instead of being professional he said " WHY DID YOU DO THAT!?" he threw his hands in the air and said look, from now on, you buy everything from here. Can you believe that?!
So after he told me to give him my money on tips (you can mention it with more tact if you think people dont realize you should consider tipping) he told me where to buy my stuff, he acted like a child. During the first lesson he mentioned another five times ,at least, to tip. Now, on principle, I will not buy anything from these guys even if they are cheaper.
After this, the classes did go ok. Though I was already jaded toward the instructor and the store, they did a decent job having everything ready and giving attention to students. But another problem arose. After the first OW dive (which was a cluster F###) and they begged for money, they claimed there boat engine blew.. I called up there to see when I could get my dive in, since I had one week before my surgery. One guy said "boat engine? No the boats fine" blah blah. In the end I did not get to do the dive...ever. I had my surgery and kept contact with the DM/ Captain. 8 or so months later, (last April) I call them and tell them I'm ok to finish up. They tell me they dont do the groupon anymore, and I have to pay for a refresher course with them. WTF! This was there fault from the beginning, they were to unorganised to get me on another dive, they could have made it happen, a boat did go out that weekend I missed out on, put another assistant in the water if you have to!
So, I paid $90 for a short pool refresher, then I had to pay for a dive that I had already paid for a year ago. Then guess what advice the DM gave me when I was picking up my equipment (which I had to pay for)? "My advice for the dive tomorrow, bring some extra cash for the guys". Wow, thats your F-ing advice, give you more money even though you are basically robbing already? Nothing about bringing water, or snacks, or ...anything!?
This place gets worse, I bought a BC from a friend and it was leaking, they charged me $37 to fix it, but then they told me they can only look at it, they cant fix it because they are not an authorized parts dealer for that brand...
I guess I dont really have a question, this is more of a rant..But what are people thoughts on my experience and my reaction? I'm pissed, thats my reaction btw.
Since I firmly believe that tipping ought to be something that you do because you are inspired to do it by good service, I would also have found being hounded about tipping to be annoying. On the other hand, I think most students are unaware that, in some venues, the certified assistants and the DMs on boats receive no pay at all, so the only reward they get for their work is your thanks and any tips you are motivated to give. My husband does inform his students of this and suggest that tips are very welcome, but he doesn't go on about it.
The behavior about your gear was unprofessional. It is true that the personal gear for OW students is often highly profitable for the shop, and helps make up for the losses incurred by offering heavily discounted classes (which Groupon deals are). But the only thing the instructor should have done was inspect your purchases for suitability and safety, and let it go. If they had made a friend of you, they might have made further sales if you decided to buy gear after your class. Now, they certainly won't. They had already lost the money for the personal gear, and made sure they wouldn't make any money off you, ever. All too common behavior for dive shops, and terribly short-sighted.
I do wonder a bit why you took a used BC to that particular shop for service, though . . . And they shouldn't have charged you anything with that, if they do not work on that brand (although, unless there's an octo-inflator or something complex about it, there isn't much to servicing a BC).
The boat thing doesn't sound great, either -- it sounds as though someone made an easy excuse for a problem. Perhaps they couldn't get enough help to run safe ratios? And reneging on the Groupon agreement is certainly not classy, either.
It sounds as though the shop owner regretted doing the Groupon deal, and really didn't care if the Groupon customers went away happy or not. Which is, again, short-sighted.
They asked for us to make sure we tip them prior to ever starting the first class, but I think they wanted the tips after the dives..It sucks because some of the guys there seem like good people, but I cannot support these guys. Every time I am in there I feel so much pressure to buy stuff, I was told by another shop that they work on commission, and thats why they are such persistent sales people.
But were they right to charge me for the dives and the refresher course? I think I can call groupon and maybe get some results that way..
I am just disappointed.
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I went back to that shop for the BC because I did not have my cert card yet and had to get air from them.. I still shouldnt have... I realize this now.
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Also, as far as tips, I did tip, but they did not do anything for gear and tanks, we had to drive to their store, rent all the stuff for dive the next day, and stow it all ourselves, no one touched anything but me. Also, mostly annoying, the dive ended at 9 am and their shop was supposed to open at 10, and I had to return the gear in person, not allowed to load it on their truck. ok, fine. But the shop opened over 30 mins late..I had to wait because the place is 40 mins away and I wasn't coming back. 30 mins is not a big deal, but i expect better from a place that claims this is their profession.
FWIW, my son worked in "such" a LDS - that I won't name because they don't deserve a Google Search link-up.
However - the OP could name that LDS - why hide it?
Here's the skinny:
- instructor is "for hire" not on the payroll of the LDS.
- LDS charges for all the course fees, and gives half (before taxes) to the instructor.
- As part of the "course" the instructor will walk you through the LDS equipment needed for the OW class, and explain the various technologies, etc.
This Is Important - the LDS "knows" that the instructor is building up "trust" with the students - 75% of the hard work for pumping up sales has been done!
- the instructor gets half of the commission on the items sold to "his" students
Many LDS will screw their instructors on this point (from the one shop I've known and from posting/sayings of others)
Saying that the "student" has to buy when the instructor is present - or else the shop keeps all the profit, etc
So you can imagine an instructor working hard to sell you the "proper" equipment for your needs, probably doing a great job too, then you "screw him" by buying elsewhere for cheaper! In my opinion, that isn't a good & decent instructor.
I was lucky enough to have really good instructors that didn't tell me to buy through the LDS - but to shop around. Probably because I paid for private classes for three students (myself, girlfriend & her 12yr old son), and gave a tip ca$h directly to the instructor. FWIW, on the last day, not upfront!
I still bought some gear from the LDS - because my son worked there and I bought through him, getting a % redux, and not having the hassle to shop around.
In retrospect - I should have shopped around - would have gotten cheaper elsewhere.
**** Im sure people in my area know this place, They still have my bc, so im not dropping a name right now.
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Also, I bought the equipment (mask etc.) based of a description of what I needed in the groupon, the LDS never went over anything until after I bought stuff. They "Screwed" themselves. They should have more business forsight.
My LDS was great during OW training and they still are in many respects. They did not push gear, actually they advised us to try out gear, of course we rented gear from them for almost a year trying different set ups. We finally decided on what we wanted and bought most of it through them.
Now that we are moving into more technical diving they can not even come close to most of the prices we find elsewhere, and almost have tried to talk us out of it. I realize they are mainly geared toward the recreational diver and that is fine, but to tell me that if I go take cave courses that I "need to go sidemount as that is how they do it in caves", and as we streamline our gear we could "just sling the big old console across our chest like a bandolier" (cant see that getting caught on a line ). All in all we remain civil and still frequent there, but hey its my money and there is another shop I can get air from if I wanted to, so I buy what I want. Now that I know what I want and that they are not the only resource.
Sounds like a shi$$y experience all around. I can understand the need for a refresher after being out of the water for so long, but 90$ is pretty steep. I'd recover your bc and take it somewhere else and cut all ties to that shop. They have alot to learn about customer service.
It seriously does disappoint and almost sadden me to hear of such terrible experiences from such a fantastic, relaxing, and fun sport. I'm blessed enough to have two great LDS's (one for my tech training, one for my recreational stuff and odds and ends) that have great, down to earth people. Many of these people I consider my friend.
Seriously though, if there is another LDS in your area with friendly, knowledgeable staff, by all means tell the current shop that you want your BCD back, take it to the other shop and make sure that in your social circle that particular shop gets blacklisted. You don't have to tell the name on the web and ruin their rep, however much they deserve it. But any one you meet that is considering that shop, be outright and let them know how unprofessional they are.