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Bloody dive shops...

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Divectionist, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Divectionist

    Divectionist Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Gold Coast, Australia
    I am wondering whether other SB members around the world experience the same issues I encounter with some dive shops. I deal with around 4-6 shops for various bits and the below is very common.

    Some are better than others, but few care to do a good job and there is a general sense of slack and some odd air of cheerful, unapologetic indifference about many of them, with disorganisation behind the scenes very apparent. You would think that in an industry where high standards, conscientiousness and safety should rank highly, sloppiness is below average. Yet I feel like it is the messiest industry I deal with.

    They never ever answer their emails.
    Shops more often than not fail to respond to email enquiries. It is like you need to beg for attention or service as a customer. This must result in a lot of lost business for these shops, and most of them do not appear like they wouldn't need it. As much as I would like to form a relationship with an LDS to order in equipment and pay a bit of a premium for it, I now exclusively rely on 2 online shops thousands of km away.

    They are forgetful and will not follow up.
    Even after you pick up the phone (since emails are futile) to schedule picking up a couple tanks "at 9am next Tuesday", a few days in advance, it happened a couple of times across two different operators that I rock up and they don't know about it, particularly annoying if they need extra notice for Nitrox or are out of filled tanks with nobody there to fill any. So you miss your dive if it was time sensitive. You know what that means if you haven't been able to make your schedule align with decent condition for weeks. Similarly, they will say they'll let you know when something arrives, and it sits there for days until you call to see why it is late. Or they'll say they'll let you know when the next night dive or whatever is scheduled, but nah.

    They are randomly not there during their opening hours.
    Also happened twice. You get to the shop during their usual opening hours to pick up or drop off something and the door is shut. Nobody around. Nobody answers the phone. No sign in the window. You'll get through and some mobile number and they'll be there in 2 hours, 'sorry'. Sorry indeed, if I just wasted 60min drive time and 15mins circling the shop like a thief.

    Their systems are outdated.
    Calendars, POS systems, record keeping, customer forms, everything seems more backwards, paper-based and manual than one would expect in 2019. There is clearly a lack of investment or appreciation of the long-term benefits of running a proper digital setup. It is probably behind some of the above issues, relying on people's memory rather than reminders and CRMs. The apparently high turnover of inexperienced staff/DMs does not help either. I guess a lot of them are seasonal, low paying jobs and not everyone has enough passion to worry about the level of perceived service.

    I am interested to hear about your general experience. Do you have a dream LDS to fall back on?
    markmud, rabe and Hethen57 like this.
  2. Rechno

    Rechno Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Germany
    1) Nope
    2) Nope
    3) Nope
    4) Maybe
    Lostdiver71 likes this.
  3. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

    Most of the folk who start up a dive shop are divers who fell in love with the idea of owning a dive shop. Maybe it's a husband and wife. Maybe there's a divorce. Maybe only one of them ends up working the shop. Maybe it was owned by partners that started fooling around, swapping spouses and such and the partnership fell apart until only one person left. The owner works all damn day almost every day with no relief except for underpaid dm interns who thought it would be fun to work in a dive op. Then one day they quit or get fired, meanwhile the solitary owner has an important appointment with the lawyer/doctor/indian chief and has to shut down for a couple of hours. Anyway after working for minimum 12 hours per day in the shop, the owner doesn't feel like doing the emails some days. Etc etc etc

    I'm not saying it's excusable but stuff happens.
    AfterDark, Wingy, Lostdiver71 and 5 others like this.
  4. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

    OP, your post sounds like the world I live in here in Belgium where business seem to believe they are doing the customer a favor for existing instead of the customer doing the business a favor by patronizing them. Crappy customer service is the mainstay here. Every time I try to support local commerce I get burned by long lead times, zero communication, excuses, delays, unexpected closures, etc. Plus the mentality here is that you can't just walk in to the store with a quick question like "did my stuff arrive yet?"...if there are 5 people ahead of you, one will find themselves waiting in the queue until it is your turn...could be 20min, could be 1.5hours, just to ask if your stuff has arrived and told "no"....FFS!!!

    The brick and mortar dive industry struggles because of a flawed mentality. Part of that mentality is that many shop owners have no business experience or savvy. Couple that with crappy industry distribution models and one has a recipe for disaster.

    The only saving grace here in Belgium is that lots of gear seems to have a higher price tag in the US for whatever reason (perhaps import fees)...Aqualung stuff is about 1/3rd to 1/2 half the cost here compared to the US...an AQ Fusion Bullet retails new between 1400 and 1600 euros, where is in the US it is about a $1000 more. I found the same with regulators.

    The industry seems to survive largely on the notion that there is something magical inside a regulator that is beyond the comprehension of the average individual to overhaul/service...part of the crappy distribution model is the lack of widespread availability of service parts to the consumer.

    Etc, Etc, Ect.

    Dive shops in general sell dive gear but they rarely sell "value", the ones that recognize this and do are the shops that develop relationships with their clientele and typically are more successful but they are very few and very far between.

  5. Divectionist

    Divectionist Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Gold Coast, Australia
    Good for you, I note that you are in Germany, I am in Australia, which is a much lazier place in general, but since I am German and over there a couple times a year, I actually have one dive shop I deal with there where I get major items from (much cheaper than here) and get services done (trust them more to do a thorough job). Can't complain about these guys.

    Did still ignore some emails though. I receive an incredible amount of emails per day for my work and know that they can be managed, so I do not have a lot of tolerance for businesses ignoring emails that are tied to revenue.

    I appreciate all that you are saying, and there will be cases like this that are understandable. However, the general pattern is a bit too strong for me to believe that everyone is dealing with misfortunes all the time.

    Here it's usually more than in the US, by a good margin. That's what you get in a country where you can't drive a bit and shop across the border or buy without import taxes on expensive stuff.

    Interesting to hear that you've got a similar experience in Central Europe.
    markmud likes this.
  6. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes
    Yes, I have a dream dive shop. DRIS is local to me. My only real issue is their lack of parking. They’re in a cute little downtown area and there’s only street parking. I can always drop tanks off in back if I can’t get a close spot on the street, though.

    My emails are answered within 24 hours. Shop is incredibly busy. If I need an answer quickly, I’ll call.

    They get bonus points for being open until 9pm on weekdays.

    There’s another shop I deal with that I use for air fills as they are close to my office. I drop tanks off at lunch and pick them up after work. DRIS is 100 miles round trip (bit less from my office). Run by one couple. If they’re on a shop sponsored trip, the shop is closed.
    AustinV, Lorenzoid, Dark Wolf and 4 others like this.
  7. Neilwood

    Neilwood Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Scotland
    I have a preferred shop that I use. Unfortunately for me it is about 2hrs drive.

    Interestingly the shop has almost ZERO turnover of instructors/DM/staff - they have exactly the same crew than when I first dealt with them 4 years ago.

    I have had quite a few dealings with other shops closer to me and unfortunately they are not quite as good with a lot of the problems you mention. That is the reason I tend to drive south for a lot of my gear buys.

    If and when you find that good shop, reward them with your business even if slightly more expensive otherwise you may find they disappear. My preferred shop wil often give me a good discount without even asking for it (to virtually the online price) because they know I will be back.
  8. Saboteur

    Saboteur Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Earth
    I like buying locally as I find prices are not that far off from online anyway. However one local shops policy is if they order it in for you it is yours, no returns. May as well buy from Amazon.
    Hethen57 likes this.

    CAPTAIN SINBAD Divemaster Candidate

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Woodbridge VA
    Dive shops are one of the very few surviving businesses that run on the "mom and pop" model. With the exception of a few, they have not been centralized into Walmarts. This has advantages and disadvantages for the customer. The bad side is pretty much what you listed. They do not have the same kind of standardized customer service that you may get when you walk into Barnes and Nobles. Most people who run such places are passionate about diving but have no business skills whatsoever. If you walk in there expecting a high level of customer service then you may find them lacking in so many areas.

    The good thing is that they are not a Walmart! Most of their repeat customers end up knowing the owner on a very personal level and this means that if you have a dive at 9:00 am tomorrow and you need an air fill and the shop is closed, you can call the owner. He or she may wake up drive up there really early in the morning to get you an air fill and any last minute accessories. Furthermore, as you get involved with the shop, you may have a say in where they plan their next travel and what type of trips they put on their calendar. A very few people can help steer the place in a direction of their own choosing.

    The short answer to your question is yes! Dive shops generally lack in those areas and many more that you did not even mention. The best way to approach them is to see them as interest clubs rather than "shops." This way, you will be able to get more from them.
    Wingy, Dark Wolf and chillyinCanada like this.
  10. Glenn Williams

    Glenn Williams Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Fort Worth, Texas
    Wow, my experience is about the same here in the US. I had a LDS, I used and it all went well until after My family and me were certified. Then it was just about money to them. I get it they are in the business of making money, after all it is a business but when you walk in and nobody is there but you and the person behind the counter it’s awkward when they just try to make money instead of talk shop. The reason I quit using them is they serviced my regulators which I bought online and I did as the shop suggested. The visual inspection was free and when it came time for the overhaul, the kit was supposed to be free, well all of a sudden since I didn’t purchase from them I had to pay for the kit and labor. Strike one. My wife got certified and I bought her a regulator setup and forgot the inflator hose. Went to the LDS. Bought a second hand hose for full retail, the quick disconnect would not work on her setup. Had to purchase another hose in Jamaica. Strike 2. Then when going back to the LDS to replace hose the guy just turned his back to me. Strike 3.

    Now we have another dive shop we use the people are friendly and we enjoy diving with them. Only issue now is slow service for some warranty work.
    Sam Miller III likes this.

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