by Dr. Thomas Powell:
Diving is a sport that inspires intrigue and a need to travel. As divers, we always want to see and experience the next location on our list of places we have not been. As we travel around the world, or even in our own local regions, the people and businesses with which we dive are often the factors that make an experience either positive or negative. With this realization, many travelers work hard to find quality and trustworthy dive groups to which they can give business. Many factors can affect the quality of a dive business, but the following are just a few to help any diver begin his or her search.
The first thing a traveler or shopper should look for is an open understanding of what he or she will be paying for. Does a dive package include a guide? What types of dive sites will you be visiting? What is included in the package? When these answers are vague, a diver will often venture forth on a trip expecting more than is guaranteed. The dive shop that wants repeat business should be willing to explain the services it provides and why there is value in doing business with that shop. Vague answers are often designed to make a traveler hopeful. Once you have paid for a package and arrived at your destination, refunds may not be available or the trip may be of a lesser quality than expected. The same circumstances apply to training. What are the details of the class and what are you really paying for? A student should begin a class knowing when and where money must be spent, and the true value of any dollars paid. If a dive facility can provide a clear understanding on these topics, you can feel more comfortable knowing it is attempting to be honest and forthright. In many cases, if the facility or organization charges higher prices than competitors but is honest in this fashion, they may truly provide a greater level of service that the facility feels is of a higher value.
When you communicate with a new dive operation, they should provide the type of feeling that you want from a dive center. This does not mean that one shop is better than another, but students, instructors, retailers, and buyers are often more comfortable with others who have specific personalities. As a diver, you should look for the type of dive center that puts forth that “vibe” that got you into, or made you stay in, diving. A dive operation should be a place where you want to go. For decades divers have used local dive shops as a “hang out” spot. This level of comfort between a diver and a dive facility promotes quality and trusting business. As a diver, you should look for the shops that suit your personality.
Communication is critical in both the scuba world and the retail world. As a shopper, you want to know when your product will arrive or what it may cost to partake in the next adventure. As a dive student or buddy diver, you need to feel comfortable communicating with buddies or dive professionals. Prior to traveling or starting new business with a dive shop, start a chain of communication. Go visit the business if possible, shoot the business an email, or just pick up the phone and call. Good communication is a sign of good business. Opening a channel of communication with a dive facility should help you better determine how well the shop will interact with you prior to spending any dollars.
No Hidden Fees
As mentioned earlier, understanding the value of service provided by a dive shop and open communication with a shop are critical to good business. Hidden fees are one of the factors that can spoil a good business interaction. When a shop lays out what you are purchasing or the program you want to buy, it should explain any possible ancillary costs. As a customer, remember to ask for these things and make sure you are not misunderstanding any expenses. Most people have paid for something at some point in life only to arrive at the purchase place and find out that there was an additional associated cost. These costs should be transparent. If they are truly hidden, look at other dive facilities and see how costs compare. Where one shop charges more money for a specific item or class, that shop may just be more honest about the cost to the customer.
Finally, a dive shop should provide a “fun and exhilarating experience” to its customers. Whether you are a traveler, a student, or just a local shop visitor, you should feel at home working with dive professionals. You should feel like they care about you, your group, and keeping divers in the sport. As you communicate with dive operations around the world you will know how you feel about the operation once you speak to its employees. When you spend dollars, you should feel like the money was worth spending. It always pays to read reviews about dive operations, but remember that most often, the bad reviews are the only ones available. People rarely post comments to the digital world about good times. For this reason, contact dive shops wherever you may end up and see how you feel. Do you feel like the shop operators go the extra mile for you and is it a place you want to send your family? If the answer is yes, then that shop is likely going to be a fun place in which you can do business.
Remember that diving is a bonus activity in your life. You should enjoy the sport, and the professionals with which you work should help you feel inspired to stay wet. This is the type of organization you are looking for. Look for the shop you can see yourself hanging out in on a day off, or the one where divers behave like friends and family. Shops of this type are the ones that best promote diving and make this sport more enjoyable. Look for diving family and learn to trust your gut. Most often, the way people behave reflects the way they will do business.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC