Why should you support your Local Dive Shop?

By: Chris Russello, Worldwide Master Instructor Trainer.
ALOHA DIVE-Director of Training

January, 2018

I recently read an article where in 2017 over 7000 retail stores closed across the United States. I thought to myself, “In my opinion, technology has made the consumer a couch potato!” Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I think it is great that you can press a button on your phone, lap top, tablet, or computer and get information on consumer products and prices; but as you know, the e-commerce giants like Amazon have put many stores out of business, including a lot of brick and mortar dive stores.

I believe competition is the essence of good business. However, when it comes to e-commerce, Scuba Diving Retail stores are at a disadvantage. E-commerce does not have the overhead costs associated with retail brick and mortar stores, therefore e-commerce can offer lower prices on equipment. Is that good or bad?

It’s good for consumers who may, or may not, receive better prices and it’s bad for brick and mortar stores where they may have to lower their prices to compete with e-commerce, which in turn lowers their margins and profit. If customers do not visit the retail store and the store does not make a profit, guess what happens? You’re right they close their doors.

Here is why brick and mortar Scuba Diving Stores are so important!
· Dealer protection: When you purchase from “on line” the vendor may not be an authorized dealer for that product. If it is defective or recalled you are out of luck.
· Expert knowledge: You get more from a live person who has expert knowledge on the equipment you are buying not just some random scuba blog.
· Equipment is assembled and tested by a professional: When you buy on e-commence it comes in boxes. Who will assemble and test your gear?
· Professional fitting: With e-commence, if it doesn’t fit then you have to ship it back

Those are just some of the reasons why brick and mortar store are so important. I am of the opinion, if this trend continues, more and more brick and mortar Scuba stores will close or will downsize dramatically becoming maybe a place where you can receive an air fill, maybe rent gear, maybe get training or repairs. Dive Stores, in my opinion, cannot survive just by certification training, air fills, etc. They need to sell you the right Scuba Equipment and turn you into a diver.

GET OFF THE COUCH, VISIT AND SUPPORT YOUR DIVE SHOP BEFORE IT’S TO LATE!!
ALOHA DIVE IS YOUR FULL SERVICE SCUBA DIVING STORE

DISCOUNT SCUBA CERTIFICATION – WHAT IS YOUR LIFE WORTH?

In this era of “internet surfing” for discount pricing, scuba certification is no exception.  However, are you getting “good training” or just minimum standard scuba certification training?  In my opinion, you get what you pay for!

 

I have been teaching Scuba Certification training for many years. The question I get asked quite often is “can you give me a discount on my training?” My answer is “yes, I can, I will give you the bear minimum training according to scuba certification standards.”  The look on a person’s face is “priceless” when you tell them that! Then the next question I get asked “is your training safe?” My answer is “yes, but again, if you want me to discount my price, I will discount my training services to bear minimum training standards.  If you cannot complete the course within the time schedule provided and according to the minimum training standards, then you will have to pay more for completion.”

 

Scuba Diving is a safe sport, provided you have the proper training by a trained professional, hopefully with experience in my opinion. I also am of the opinion people have this idea that Scuba Diving “can’t be that hard…all you have to do is strap on a tank and breathe underwater.” Really? Let’s see, we are going from a natural environment to an unnatural environment!  So my question is?  Why would a person want to pay for minimum scuba diving certification standards?  Maybe they are penny wise and maybe pound foolish in my opinion!

 

A very famous hamburger chain serves square hamburgers. When the original owner was asked why he served square hamburgers, his answer was “we don’t cut corners, we serve quality”.

 

As the owner of ALOHA DIVE, I train my professional leaders NOT TO CUT CORNERS when it comes to Scuba Certification Training because safety is #1 with us.  All of us here at ALOHA DIVE pride ourselves “Quality & Experience you can Trust”

 

I welcome your questions and opinions.

ARE YOU GETTING A GOOD DEAL BUYING SCUBA EQUIPMENT WITH AN ON-LINE RETAILER? MAYBE OR MAYBE NOT?

In today’s e-commence world of on line shopping, scuba equipment is no exception. The scuba equipment manufacturers have made it easy for you to roll out of bed, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and sit down in your favorite chair without getting dressed and “surf” the internet for prices on scuba equipment.

This makes is tougher for scuba “brick and mortar” retailers to lure customers into their store to purchase equipment. However, does the consumer really know what to purchase when it comes to buying scuba equipment? Maybe or maybe not!

There are many variables when it comes to on-line stores, i.e. “gray” market equipment. It may or may not be an authorized dealer. Refurbished or return items? Discontinued Items? May or may not have manufactures warranty? Just to name a few.

Let’s say the on-line store is an authorized dealer for a scuba regulator system. You order it and they ship it right to your door in boxes; now what? Who is going to assemble and test it for you? Maybe your local dive store? If they do and don’t charge you a fee, you are lucky. However, most dive stores will charge a set up and test fee. When you add up the total cost did you save money from the on-line store?

You make a few dives then your equipment has problems, now what? If you bought from an on-line store you have to send it back to them, pay for shipping and wait for them to return it to you. However, if you bought it from your local brick and mortar dive shop, they will help you fix the issue and possibly immediately. If it needs to be sent back to the manufacturer, maybe without having you pay for additional shipping or down time, isn’t that worth something? How about if the item has a recall? If you did not purchase from an authorized dealer, you might NEVER know about the recall. Again, if it is recalled, you will need an authorized dealer to send it back to the manufacturer.

I only bring this up because a customer of mine recently bought a computer from an on-line store at a friend’s recommendation. This on-line store was not an authorized dealer for this computer and it failed. He came to me with this problem; I informed him that the computer must be sent to the manufacturer from an authorized dealer in order for the warranty to be valid. Since he did not purchase this item from an authorized dealer there was nothing I could do for him as I don’t carry this brand in my store. I informed him to contact the on-line retailer he purchased it from. My customer informed me he did and there is nothing they could do for him. Unfortunately, in my opinion, he owns a very expensive paper weight.

Scuba equipment is “life support” so my question is, why would you buy life support equipment on-line just to save maybe a few dollars? If you took up sky diving, would you buy a parachute online to save a few dollars? I cannot believe how many people say no to that but still buy a regulator system on-line.

Your local “brick and mortar” dive stores are professionals when it comes to life support equipment. They dive the equipment, service it and train divers. When it comes to price, they usually match on-line prices. Trust the professionals and support your local dive store, you will be glad you did.

This is the opinion of the writer. I welcome your questions, comments or views.

Please contact me at aloha@dive-aloha.com

Until next time…dive safe.

WINTER TIME DIVING

WINTER TIME DIVING by Chris Russello Master Instructor Trainer

In all my years of diving I am still wondering, why does scuba diving slow down in the winter months? I know, I have heard all the excuses in the world like “it’s too cold…Weather is bad”, bah, bah bah.
Ok, for all you 90 day wonder divers, ya know the divers who dive from June through August and maybe a little in September…guess what, you are missing some of the best diving in Southern California. I am talking… about Winter Time…yes WINTER TIME.
I understand the water is a little colder, about 6 to 10 degrees and of course the air temperature is too, however, since the water is cooler the kelp grows and thrives. In addition the visibility is great since there is no plankton bloom.
I was out diving the other day. The water temp was about 59, the air was around 61-62 but the diving conditions were fabulous. The ocean was calm, visibility was 40-50 feet and the kept forest was amazing. You don’t get these conditions to often in the spring/summer months when the water is warmer. Usually, when the water starts to get warmer in spring time you get a plankton bloom, which of course turns the water green. Then as the water continues to heat up the kelp starts to die off and visibility is not the greatest.
I am of the opinion that people are funny. They won’t go diving in the winter time claiming it is too cold, but they will drive up to the mountains, wear heavy clothing to keep warm and then slide down a mountain on top of that white stuff called snow. To me, snow is just frozen water I haven’t dived yet. Maybe it is a good thing people don’t dive in the winter time, the boats and dive sites are less crowded, the divers who do dive all year round are dedicated divers and are better divers, in my opinion. All of us at ALOHA DIVE enjoy diving year round. Come join us. I welcome your opinions and views.

IS GROUPON OR LIVING SOCIAL GIVING YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOTAL COST OF A SCUBA CERTIFICATION COURSE? MAYBE OR MAYBE NOT! YOU DECIDE!

ARE GROUPON OR LIVING SOCIAL ADS GIVING YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOTAL COST OF A SCUBA CERTIFICATION COURSE?
MAYBE OR MAYBE NOT!
YOU DECIDE!
By: Chris Russello, Worldwide Master Instructor Trainer
Certified Diver since 1972
In today’s “I want good, fast and cheap” internet market place, scuba certification courses are no exception, but what happens when you try to get “good, fast and cheap” scuba classes via Groupon or Living Social?  Are they giving you the “total amount” you pay or just a “hook” to get you to purchase it then the dive retailer hits you with additional costs.  Let’s find out.
When I first signed up for my scuba certification course, over 44 years ago, I had eight classrooms sessions (2 per week for 4 weeks), three pool sessions and 8 open water ocean dives (4 at the beach and 4 on a boat).  Back then, the equipment wasn’t as good as it is today, so we had to have more intensive training. Not everyone was fit to become a scuba diver, but those who finished turned out to be good trained divers.  Now let’s fast forward to current times. The minimum standards with most certification agencies are less time in the classroom, if any.  Why?   You guessed it, on-line training.  Also, less skill training in the pool.  Why?   You guessed it again; equipment is much better.   But I don’t agree with less open water ocean dives. Does doing 4 open water oceans dives really train a person to become a scuba diver?  This author says NO.  A Scuba Certification Agency located in Southern California though it was a good idea to increase diver certification, so they lower their minimum standards and therefore all the other agencies had to lower their minimum standards in order to compete.
Now, in the age of on-line shopping, Groupon and Living Social have emerged. You shop around the internet looking for the “best deal” to get scuba certified. You are “surfing around” looking at Groupon or Living Social and come across a “Groupon Deal for a Catalina Island Weekend Getaway”.  Does it include “total cost” of the scuba certification course or it is just a “hook” to get you to purchase it and then they “hit” you with additional costs.  My opinion, it’s a “hook”.
In advertising this “deal”, does is mention the “total cost” of the certification…NO.
There are “hidden” fees.  For instance, when you read the details, you take the Catalina Express, however is doesn’t mention there is an additional fee for 2 days parking. Is the total cost of food included for the weekend? It talks about an additional fee for equipment rental on the island.  What specific equipment are they talking about? Is there any additional equipment needed, and if so, how much?  Does this ad mention the experience of the scuba instructors? Class size?  
How long the dive shop has been in business?
Also, the ad mentions “the course is over two weekends”, one weekend is class and pool, but what happens if you cannot complete the required classroom academics or pool skills required for ocean dives within that weekend? Do you pay extra to transfer to another class or what?  
It is the opinion of this author; the merchants who post “deals” on Groupon or Living Social DO NOT disclose the TOTAL cost of your scuba certification. There are “hidden fees” but what the merchants are hoping for is that you purchase the Groupon Deal and then after you are “hooked” they tell you about all the additional hidden fees that are not included.  The merchants believe you will pay the additional fees since you have already committed to the on-line purchase.
Don’t be fooled, do your due diligence homework. Before you purchase Groupon or Living Social, call the merchant and ask what the deal includes and if there are any additional costs. Maybe the merchant has a better deal for you that fits your needs. If you don’t ask you may not know until you are “hooked” and by then it may cost you more that you had originally planned to spend!

Customer Loyalty: Does it Still Exist? Maybe or Maybe Not?

In one of my past articles I mentioned that I had a conversation with a friend of mine and we were talking about a person who walks into a dive shop to gather information about a certain product or service with NO intention whatsoever of purchasing either.

My friend’s opinion was, this type of person, or customer, IF you want to call them that, is nothing but a user and a thief.  My opinion is that maybe the word thief is strong, but they take and use without paying and is this not stealing?  That type of person uses and takes the knowledge of a professional person and steals their time.  They give nothing in return.  They take the time of the person helping them and interfere with the establishment’s ability to help a “true” customer.  When I am helping a customer my phone calls go to voicemail and I ask the next person who walks into the shop to please be patient, I will be with them as soon as I am finished.  I give the person I am helping my undivided attention…hence I cannot help a true customer while this person is stealing my time.  I am of the opinion that time is a luxury we cannot afford to waste.

Another friend of mine, who has been in business for some time, and I were discussing our thoughts on “loyalty of customers” when it comes to small business.   My friend was of the opinion that there is no more loyalty in business any longer.  I asked him why, “how do you come to that conclusion?”  His answer was, “Modern age of technology, via the internet; more customers are price driven than loyalty driven”.   I disagree.  I am of the opinion there still is some customer loyalty with small business, maybe not as much as the past, but there is still some.

I believe small business are the backbone of any industry, and the same pertains to independent dive shop stores like ALOHA DIVE.  Many small business owners, including myself, spend years developing customer relations or “loyalty.”  You do have those certain customers who you think are loyal but then you find out differently.  Let me share a brief story about such a past customer with ALOHA DIVE.  We at ALOHA DIVE are continually working on perfecting our customer service and helping all of our customers.  With that being said, I had a previous customer who wanted to buy a wetsuit.  This “customer” stated that they needed some time to save the money, but didn’t want to stop diving.  I made a decision to let this person use one of our rental wetsuits, at no charge, for a period of time, to give them the time to save the money needed to purchase the wetsuit.  After a number of months, this person came into my store to drop off the wetsuit.  I asked “Are you ready to buy the suit you have been asking me about and the one you tried on?”  The person’s answer was “NO” I bought one from another dive shop.  Needless to say I was surprised, but asked why.  The answer was “I got it cheaper.”  I asked “why didn’t you come to me first, maybe I could have matched the price” and all I got was a “dumb look.”  This person took my time & knowledge to another shop and asked them to beat my price.  Why?

 

During the time when this person was “sucking my knowledge and time” out of me they also were asking me about dive computers.  Again, I was under the impression this person was a “loyal customer”, but as I learned later they also bought a computer from another dive shop.  A mutual friend of ours asked this person, “Why did you buy this equipment at other shop when ALOHA DIVE has been so giving and loyal to you?”  This person answer was “Loyalty doesn’t pay my bills!”  When I heard that, my answer was it pays mine and letting people use equipment without paying for it does not pay my bills.  Needless to say I fired that customer and I never want to see that person in my dive shop again.

 

It seems customers of today want things “Good, Fast and Cheap” and that’s ok if that’s what you want.  However, my feelings are you can only pick two.  You cannot have all three.  I.e. if it’s Good and Fast is not Cheap. If it’s fast and cheap it’s not good.

 

Any small business depends upon customer loyalty, that’s how they survive.  When a customer is loyal to any business you will be amazed how that business owner and their employee(s) will go above and beyond for you.  If the business charges a little bit more than a competitor, maybe it’s worth it because you have their support and help when you need it and that goes along way.

ALOHA DIVE has many loyal customers and I am very blessed for that.  ALOHA DIVE understands the modern technology via the internet is here to stay and customers are looking for the best value at the best price.  However, when it comes to scuba diving where you are going into another world that could be hostile, you need a dive professional.  ALOHA DIVE will give you expert professional training and sell you the right gear in order to reduce the risk of injury.  We will ask you and evaluate your long term goals and customize a package that is right for you!  We will be there to help you and will stand behind any product you purchase from us, and if you do find something for less, give us the chance to match or beat the price.

 

Our goal at ALOHA DIVE is to establish long term customer loyalty.  We will go the extra mile to ensure you get the best value for your dollar with expert training to ensure YOUR safety!

 

Scuba Diving is a safe, fun and enjoyable sport.  The formula is simple:

 

COMFORT + SAFETY= ENJOYMENT.

 

This article represents the opinion and views of Chris Russello, the President and Director of Training with ALOHA DIVE a worldwide Instructor trainer with over 43 years of diving experience.  He welcomes your comments and opinions.  You can contact him by Email at aloha@dive-aloha.com