Good Price vs. Good Service

1 Sep

It seems you have two options anymore when dealing with retail:

Really Good Price


Really Good Service

And the two shall not meet.

For example, I have been shopping for a starfish to add to my aquarium. They are anywhere between $10 to $50 depending on size and breed. Not a major expense, but still something you should shop around for and I needed some advice on feeding and caring. I have two choices: the nationwide pet chain PetCo or the independent World Wide Corals.

Guess which is cheaper?

Of course, PetCo.

So first stop: PetCo.

Been to PetCo many times, it’s your standard dog toy, cat toy, 40 smelly hamsters in an aquarium, 3 rows of fish-tank-tiki-god-head-decoration shelf storage, big old biting bird on display, average pet store. The fish section is in the middle of the store with fresh water fish on one side and salt water fish on the other side, and of course, not a fish worker in site.

While hoping for some help, I grabbed some replacement cartridges for my tank’s filtration system.

I looked around the fish area to see if anyone had shown up. Nope.

I then looked at some fan thingys that help the tank’s water circulate like the ocean. They are really expensive, so just looking today. Mine broke, but it’s either feed the kids or circulate 40 gallons of water. (Stupid kids and their need to eat. What about my needs? I need to circulate water!)

Then I looked around the fish area to see if anyone had shown up. Still nope.

They had two tanks of different kinds of starfish, so I went over to look at them. One said it was reef safe and one said it was not. We are hoping to grow corals, so the none reef safe starfish are out. They were some ugly things anyway. Chocolate Chip starfish is what they were called, they looked more like Herpes Simplex 2 starfish. The reef safe ones were dinky little tiny red starfish. They were $12. Not bad. There was about 5 of them at the bottom of the tank with their legs in the air, like they had little starfish boners. They kind of looked dead.

I looked around once more in the fish area to see if anyone had shown up. Survey says: no.

Suddenly, a guy shows up carrying that classic little green fish net. He went to retrieve a dead clown fish from the tank above me. The poor fish had gotten stuck in the filter, probably by accident. He was probably trying to show of his acting skills in recreating a one fish version of Finding Nemo. (Own it today before it goes back into the Disney vault!)

My wife says to the guy, “How much for the dead one?”

He coolly replies, “Huh, what? Ugh….”

Seeing that the guy has completely missed the joke, my wife then says, “We are thinking about getting a starfish, but were curious as to what they eat?”

Then ever so helpful fish expert says, “Um, starfish food. It’s over there.”

He leaves. Well, he not so much leaves as disappears in a puff of smoke.

One important note: When he says, “Um, starfish food. It’s over there”; he never points in any direction. We are in the middle of the store, so there could be 12 different possible compass points of “over there.”

So, we wonder to a shelf that has many types of fish food, some flaky, some tablet like, some shrimp enhanced, some liquidity, some in big bottles, some in small containers, none that say starfish food…or could be feed to starfish in addition to other fish…or have a picture of a starfish on the package.

“What do you want to do?” my wife asks.

“Do you have any flares?” I ask.

“Let’s go to World Wide Corals and ask them,” she suggests. “Even if they don’t sell starfish, they might know what they eat.”

5 short miles later we are at  World Of Coral.

As soon as we open the door, a guy greets us, “Hello, welcome. Have you ever been here before?”

“Why yes we have,” I say but in my head I’m thinking; “Someone has acknowledged my existence and it’s only been like 2 seconds.”

The guy hands us a sale flyer and asks us if we have any questions or are we looking for something in particular….

I just can’t believe someone cares enough to try to sell me something.

“Do you sell starfish,” my wife asks.

The guy says they do, but we should talk to Dave, (I don’t remember the name he actually said, but I think a Dave might work in a fish store.) he was their fish expert.

“These guys have a fish expert,” I say to my wife.

The guy then does something strange, he shows us who Dave is, which made it much easier than randomly asking the dozen or so people in the place if they were Dave.

Dave answered all of our questions, even the stupid ones, helped us research prices on a hood light, told us how to prime the water for corals, and showed us where everything was that we needed in the store.

My starfish cost $23, which is more than I wanted to spend, but he is much bigger than anything PetCo offered. Also we found out the starfish just eat whatever, they are scavengers like my teenagers.

Sadly, this is what the retail world has come to…price or service.

Every week I debate:

Do I want to shop at Walmart – long lines, crowded aisles,  palettes of food that need stocked everywhere, cheap prices, 50 registers/3 cashiers…


Do I want to shop at Publix Grocery Store – wide aisles, stocked shelves, fast cashiers, a grocery bagger, fresh sushi, expensive prices, samples…

I’m a family of six. Some weeks money is tight. Walmart usually wins, but it’s not because I enjoy it, it’s because I can afford it. I will tell you one thing though, they may get my grocery dollar, but I am in and out of the store fast. If they improved their service just a tiny bit, I maybe more likely to browse and buy more, instead of just the bare essentials.


Here’s my starfish:


One Response to “Good Price vs. Good Service”

  1. graysonjack September 8, 2011 at 12:16 AM #

    Great post. I would add one option though…the trying way too hard to get a sell guy. He’s usually found at clothing stores and car lots. Im not looking for something specific so please leave me the hell alone so I can shop. Its difficult to find the right mixture of service and price. I just hate shopping.

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