A couple of weeks ago, after I decided to take the plunge and start another reef tank, I took a Saturday to visit as many reef/ fish stores I could in the east valley of Phoenix. I’m a big believer in buying local when possible, and supporting my local mom’n’pop shops. I’m also a big believer in having a professional help and guide you in any venture to which you yourself are not a professional.
To many in this hobby, the DYI thing is 1/2 the fun, and given the cost of some of these systems, sometimes the DIY thing is an absolute necessity! For me, I’d much rather pay someone to work with me in designing and installing the system based on my long-term goals. I too love the maintenance of a tank, the balancing of the water chemistry, etc., but I think it’s just simply too important to get off on the right foot, especially with a big, expensive system.
Visits to the stores allowed me to talk to people in person; to interview them- if you will. It gave me a sense of their knowledge base, their business sense, their ability to listen to a customer and understand my wants/needs, as well as allowing me to see their stores, check out the animals, and quite frankly- see if I liked any of them. If the store was filthy, or if it was a bunch of no-nothing kids working the counter- I was out of there! If the store looked good, animals looked good, and the staff appeared knowledgable then I let them know my desires.
I made it to seven different stores that Saturday, before I ran out of daylight. Four of them I requested quotes from. Of the four, only one of them asked if he could come to the house to do a site evaluation. Coming from a field where I too like to do site evaluations, this impressed me greatly. No one else offered this service. I knew right then-and-there that was the quote I was going to accept, barring the quote being waaaay out of line from the others… and it was the first shop I went to on my hunt. Oh, well.
I told the guys at the store the basics of what I wanted, but when the owner came out and did the site visit, it allowed him to take extra steps the others couldn’t. We of course looked at simple things like the wall I wanted to put the tank on, how they’d get the tank in the house and into position, etc., but he also noticed I had a spare bath on the other side of the wall next to my pantry, and that we could plumb from there for an auto top-off RO system, for a drainage line for water changes, and other things the other stores weren’t even discussing with me in their quotes. Again, it’s things like this that make me a believer in getting off on the right foot, with the right company/person to help make your dreams come to life… and as smoothly as possible.
After a couple of tweaks to the original quote… I accepted the offer.