8 Characteristics of a Good LFS Customer

Sale tanks at Coral Reef in Perrysburg, OH

Sale tanks at Coral Reef in Perrysburg, OH

In a recent Marine Aquarium Acronyms post, we defined the term “LFS” (local fish store) and described eight key characteristics to look for when choosing one. Well, as they say, turnabout is fair play. In this post, we’re going to attempt to look at things the other way around—through the eyes of LFS owners all over the world. No doubt, they have an opinion or two about how we hobbyists behave when we go into customer mode.

We expect excellence from our LFS, but we seldom stop to think what kind of customer we’re being when we walk through their shop door. Remember, the customer-dealer relationship is reciprocal. You get out what you put in. So, if you want to curry good will with your LFS owner, you should:

#1 Recognize that personal service has its price

You may have to pay a bit more for certain products at a small LFS than you might at that big-box retail pet store, owing to their more limited buying power. But before you start grumbling about this, think what that modest additional investment may actually be purchasing. Expert advice, personalized service, and policy flexibility? Priceless!

#2 Treat staffers with respect

“The Golden Rule” doesn’t fly out the window just because we’re in customer status, and a little common courtesy goes a long way with oft-beleaguered sales staffers. Treating them with disrespect (e.g., addressing them with “Hey, you!” or accusing them of “just trying to make a sale”) may not earn you a “sneezer” as it might from an affronted restaurant food server, but it certainly won’t make them very eager to assist you either.

#3 Avoid demanding discounts

There’s certainly no harm in asking if there’s any wiggle room on a price or if the store offers price matching, but always demanding to pay less than the marked price for items is unreasonable and insulting. The average LFS operates on a pretty thin margin. They can’t cut prices at every turn and still pay their employees and cover all their other overhead. Not to mention, they deserve to make a profit!

#4 Respect their business hours

In our prior post on the characteristics of a good LFS, we mentioned that they should offer practical business hours, including at least some evening and weekend hours. That’s true enough, but as customers, we should respect the fact that dealers and their staffers have lives to attend to outside those hours. Unless you just plan to grab something off the shelf and head to the checkout, slipping in one minute before closing and expecting service won’t win you any favor with your LFS.

#5 Be reasonable when they’re busy

It’s an unavoidable reality that your LFS will be inundated with customers on certain days and at certain peak times. You might want to come back at a quieter time if you have a huge list of questions and concerns to discuss at length and need your dealer’s undivided attention.

#6 Actually buy something now and then

Don’t be an LFS Looky-Loo! In other words, don’t use your LFS only for free advice and stocking ideas and then do all your actual buying at a major chain pet store or online. If you value the expert, personalized service you get at your LFS, support it with your dollars.

#7 Show loyalty

This point dovetails with #6, but it bears emphasis. Not all local fish stores are created equal. If one proves to be a standout, give it your business consistently. Otherwise, it may not be there the next time you really need it.

#8 Refer your friends

If an LFS earns your trust and does right by you, don’t keep it a secret. Encourage your hobbyist friends to shop there too.

What have we missed?
Okay all you salty LFS owners, what have we overlooked here? Let us know what traits you appreciate in your customers in the comments section below.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. Paul Baldassano says

    If I am interested in a fish I will always say, I like that fish and if it eats, I will buy it. Then I ask if he will feed it something besides live brine shrimp which even I will eat if I am hungry enough.
    Then if it eats, I buy it.

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