So often, people come into the store with questions.  Lots of questions.  Sometimes an hour of questions and sometimes all day!  Most of us are happy to answer them if we have the time.   Our job is to teach you what we have learned and to help you become successful at keeping Tropical Fish.  There is a steep learning curve and mistakes are bound to happen when first starting out. It may be necessary to come in many times to have your water checked or to go over some of the details about the Biological Cycle.  Let me be clear, we are here to help you and we welcome your questions.  It is very exciting for us to witness someone really getting into the hobby.  They come to the store a few times a week and are eager to see what’s new, ask questions, and learn!

However, there are some people that ask questions without ever listening to the answer.   While we are trying to answer one, they bombard us with another; as you try to answer that one then they ask another…and so it goes.  “Yes, I know that!”  they say.  But then they ask yet another one which confirms that they really didn’t understand the answer to the first question which, of course, they didn’t have to listen to because they already knew it.

You can see their eyes cloud over as the boredom sets in.  Their eyes actually lose focus and literally cloud over almost like a second eyelid.  We watch it happen all the time.  They don’t really want to know anything.  They are too busy trying to think of another question to  keep this game going.  Every one of my staff experiences this on a regular basis.  I usually get out of it by saying “Why don’t you just think about this while I help that customer over there that has been waiting for 15 minutes.”  Losing their audience instills panic and they begin their search for another unsuspecting member of the staff to ask all the same questions. This can take hours and hours.  We shoot each other sideways glances and nod in sympathy.  “Your turn” we silently mouth.  The younger staff are not as experienced as some of the older staff and become monopolized by the person.  They eventually learn the signs.  The repetition of the same question,  glancing at their phones to see if they have just received a text while we are in mid sentence trying to answer their repeated questions, or gazing off into an aquarium with sleepy cat eyes to stare at a fish.  Yes, I know, no question is stupid.  That’s how we learn.  But the point of asking a question is to be willing to hear the answer and to learn something new.  Unfortunately these are often the people who have the most problems.  They go ahead and do things their own way and then constantly complain when it doesn’t work out.  No sooner have they left the store then they are calling us on their phones reciting a litany of  revised questions about the exact thing we had already discussed.   I want to scream at the top of my lungs “PLEASE LISTEN TO ME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”

And then there are the ones that ask a question but already know the answer.  They have just spent their afternoon, week, month and in some cases years, researching every possible scenario of something or other and basically want to show off by asking a question and then proceeding to answer it themselves.    Once there was a woman who had a Doctorate Degree in Marine Biology (I later found out) asking me “What is the Biological Cycle all about?”  Why ask when you definitely know more than I do.  As I try to explain, in layman’s terms, she spews out formulas for photosynthesis and rattles off things from the scientific table.  Really!  And this woman would come back every week with a notebook of questions that she probably wrote the textbooks for.

Harry Selfridge of Selfridge’s Department store in London, England came up with the slogan “The Customer is always right.”  In this business this is certainly not the case and letting someone believe that they are right at the expense of a living creature simply to make a sale, is not in any way shape or form worth it.  That sort of customer attention is patronizing and counter productive.  Our ethics simply do not allow this.

Allowing the customer to always be right even when they are wrong is wrong.  When something goes wrong, which it inevitably does, they tell all their friends about it, who tell their friends and on and on.  The fault for their deaf ears becomes our fault for giving bad advice.  Their friends have no way of knowing that they simply didn’t listen!

I can’t say enough about experience.  It is one thing to read something on a forum or website, it is quite another to try to keep thousands of fish alive 24 -7!  So many people think that having one aquarium makes them an expert.  Some think that because they had a few fish when they were a child and the fish bred, this makes them experts in breeding tropical fish!  “I was a fish breeder” they say.  We begin by asking, “What type of fish did you breed?  Apistogrammas? Discus? Cichlids? Catfish?  Tell me more.”  and they reply “I had Guppies that bred!…once!”  I hate to tell you this, but that doesn’t make you a fish breeder.  That all happened without any input from you.  Just like humans love to have a lot of sex, so do fish.

But then there are the ones that really know what they are talking about and have made a serious study of the subject.  I had a couple of customers that really got into a particular species of fish and eventually wrote a book all about them which was published by a well known and respected publisher (by the way, I have their book for sale in the store).  Even though I carried some of the species, they knew EVERYTHING about them and were willing to share their knowledge with me.  I love learning from my customers.  So many have a completely different experience than I do.  We can all learn from each other because nobody knows everything, (actually, I find the older I get the more I realize that I don’t know much at all) and I would never pretend that I do.  So for all you “know-it-alls” out there…Just stop already!