With the launch of Tannin Live! and the enthusiasm we've seen just far, it's been interesting to hear your feedback on the "business" of online tropical fish purchases. One of the things that I've had several discussions- some quite passionate- with different hobbyists and industry people lately is the concept of livestock guarantees. Specifically, why we are going with a 14-day guarantee.
Now, as a big supporter of both brick-and-mortar and online businesses, I realize the importance of both, and the extra confidence that such guarantees provide for the purchaser. We felt that it would be important for us to offer a significant guarantee (14 days from date of arrival) for our customers. We think that having such a long guarantee is important, as it takes away one of the major "stressors" about purchasing fishes- both online or in person.
Now, one of the interesting "counterpoints" preferred by a few industry friends I spoke with about the "dark side", if you will, of having a long guarantee on livestock was that it sort of takes away a certain degree of responsibility from the purchaser to provide careful acclimation, quarantine, and optimal conditions for his/her livestock. In other words, a customer could simply dump his/her new fishes into a brand new, unicycle aquarium, have them die in a matter of days from ammonia toxicity, and then invoke our guarantee to get a credit for new fishes.
In other words, having a (long) guarantee period could foster a certain form of irresponsibility. It's weird, because having been on both sides of the fence (hobbyist and vendor) for many years, I can see both sides of the argument clearly. However, like many things we do at Tannin, I felt that it's necessary to side with the consumer...almost to a fault, I suppose.
I just don't know if I buy the counterargument, logical though out may be.
My rationale for the long livestock guarantee is based on my interactions and involvement with the aquatic community, and the people who make up this hobby. Sure, there are a few irresponsible, dishonest, underhanded people who will look you right in the face while literally ripping you off...but the vast, vast majority of hobbyists are good, honest, caring people, who simply want quality fishes and will do everything in their power to do the right thing for them.
Sure, there are a few neophytes, who, through simple lack of experience, will make tragic mistakes. There are also some downright stupid people out there- as there are in any hobby! Fortunately, they're few and far in between. I recall a story related to me by a fellow coral vendor who had a customer who ordered hundreds of dollars worth of cool colonies over the course of a few weeks, only to have each one die in a matter of days. She would ask for refund after refund (he had a different policy)...Finally, my friend asked here about the procedures, conditions, etc. that she was using in her reef tank that resulted in the rapid death of so many corals.
Her response was priceless...Something to the effect that, "Maybe my Plecos are eating them or something?" And of course, he asked here about the tank and what she meant by "Plecos"- and she went on to explain that it couldn't be her Rams, "...because they were small fish..." To his astonishment, he realized that she was purchasing live coral for a freshwater aquarium! Yeah, that one takes the cake...but it's an extreme example of the "perils" of a guarantee for a vendor. You are, in effect, protecting- and one might argue, even fostering- acts of stupidity!
Offering an unconditional guarantee on aquatic livestock does have its "dark side", and the argument that it encourages a sort of "laissez faire" attitude by customers is, I suppose, legitimate. On the other hand, I think that anyone who is going to go to the trouble of ordering some quality fishes and paying a significant sum for shipping is more likely to be a typical, caring, responsible hobbyist who is simply looking to obtain great fishes, and will do all he or she can to create a successful outcome.
I just don't feel that you have to run a business based on fear of the actions of that tiny fraction of people that would happily rip you off "just because." I really see the good in most hobbyists, and I'm going to operate on the assumption that most fish people are cool, honest people who are great to work with. I realize that stuff can go wrong with live animals- on both ends. Shipments get delayed, a box gets damaged. A fish could die in quarantine. A fish may not acclimate well, etc. Variables. Risks. That's part of the game. We've chosen to play in this arena.
We play a "long game" at Tannin. Always have. We want long-term relationships with you- our customers. We've built up our community through trust, communication, and a commitment to doing what's right. We want you as a customer forever. When we screw up- we own it. When there is a issue, we fix it. It's that simple. Nothing is perfect. We've done our best to explain candidly and carefully the potential pitfalls of botanicals, and literally have posted blogs on topics like "How to kill your fishes with botanicals" and stuff like that- because you need to know the good and the bad. It's the way we've chosen to do business.
We've built our reputation on trust, compassion, integrity, communication, and owning our mistakes. And by fostering communication with our community.
And it's the same with livestock.
With fishes, it as simple as this: Stuff could happen. We'll cover it for 14 days. We won't give you a runaround. We won't argue with you. We might ask a question or two about what happened- so we can learn. But that's it. If you're stupid enough (yes) to put a Pencilfish in a saltwater aquarium, we'll give you a credit. But we reserve the right to ever sell you fishes again. That's a guarantee.
In the big picture, we kind of think that trust means something still. Integrity still matters.
You- our community, always matter. So that, in a nutshell, is why we offer the 14-day guarantee on our fishes.
Stay diligent. Stay honest. Stay caring. Stay compassionate. Stay smart.
And Stay Wet.