Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I've worked with dive shops since I first learned how to dive. Some of them are great! As with many things we're looking to buy, especially things that we don't know much about, a lot of us refer to the internet to give us some general insight -- what we want, where to get it, and what will it cost. While some may come across a dive shop through sheer luck, others just pick the first at the top of the page or pick the cheapest. Scuba diving is not one of those products that the consumer should opt for the cheapest, easiest or quickest. Fit is important and you should buy within the price range that you want and for the type of diving you plan to do. There is also a high drop out rate in the industry -- people want to do other things with their time. If you are going to make an investment in scuba diving equipment, it should not be impulsive.
So, is it is okay to rent equipment? Of course. Some rental gear is quite good. Having your own equipment means that it is likely to fit you better, be the right kind of equipment for the places you are diving, be in perfect working order, and be modern. The best part about owning your own equipment means that you are probably going to be familiar with it because you are using the same equipment and configuration every time and you are likely to go diving more often than not. The thing you have to remember about rental gear is that the configuration may be different with each rental, each shop, and each location. This means that you have to be able to be flexible, be able to conform to it's limitations, be okay with poor fit, and expect that it will be well used. If the dive shop will rent it to you for your training, then it has to be safe enough to keep you from drowning. Equipment will perform differently diving to 10 feet in a warm pool than to 60 feet in the colder ocean. Also, remember that all of us are uniquely shaped and contoured!
So, is it okay to buy used equipment? Sometimes... As with all used scuba diving equipment, be sure to have a technician look at it, test it, and in the end, service it... I CAN DO THAT FOR YOU FOR FREE...!!! It is life support equipment, after all. A mask that doesn't fit you properly often leads to your whole dive experience being a bad one. There is a lot of pressure pushing against you when you're diving. If you have the wrong fins and are caught in current, will they help you swim to safety? Snorkeling and scuba diving equipment don't always cross-over. In the end, if you buy before finding out what kind of gear is going to work best for you, that decision may end up costing you more in the long run. While the dive shop is a great source of information, it isn't always the best one. Have you ever gone into a place to buy something and the sales person knows nothing about what they are selling? It happens in scuba diving, too. Don't let that old saying trap you either. "I've been doing this for 30 years!" The gear you buy is not going to be 30 years old and as equipment changes and improves, it is going to be different. Anyone that is not aware of all the current benefits and features cannot sell you the right equipment. That means that they have to know it, dive it, read the instruction manual, and in many cases, have taken it apart and serviced it!
As a professional dive instructor, I don't want you to be in "cheap" products. There is a difference between "cheap" and "inexpensive." I can help you find gear that fits you properly and is safe for you to use. "Is the glass in your mask tempered?" "Is your regulator balanced?" If you talk to fellow divers, friends and family, and even check online, it is likely that some of that information could be based on opinion, one person's personal experiences, myth, sales pressure, and some of it is just flat out wrong. See if you can get a consensus about the information you are looking to validate. It will help with the final decisions you make. Your instructor is the expert in his or her field. Their experiences, education, training, and perspective is invaluable. They've devoted their life to this industry!
If you can't find what you are looking for, ask the instructor or dive shop if they can recommend a person or place that can meet your needs. Yes, while I hate to admit it, I don't know everything! That doesn't mean that they are going to do the legwork for you, nor does it mean that you should patronize every shop in town or on the internet. There is an incredible value in developing a relationship with an instructor or two... a shop or two. Not only will you develop a trust and comfort, but you will have someone to dive with and perhaps even make some great friends! Diving is more than just a sport to many, it is their passion, and a lifestyle. Many have overcome fears, met challenges, achieved milestones and seen some of the most amazing and beautiful animals -- been to and seen some of the most amazing places on earth!
Some have argued that without the dive shop, diving would disappear. As the consumer, be assertive. Instructors and dive shops are authority figures. If you feel uncomfortable about something, tell them. Be sure to ask about their return or exchange policy on products, policy on canceling classes, or withdrawing from the program all together. While it is necessary for many instructors and shops to plan their month to month expenses on the students that enroll, equipment that is purchased, and day to day revenue, there must be responsibility on both parties -- ask if you don't know because they can't read your mind. Should I then just stick to buying everything on the internet? I would not. There are something's and sometimes when the internet is easy. The internet is not as fast as you think, either. If you buy something and it is not right for you, the time that it takes to return it and find something else eats away at valuable time that can be better spent. Most importantly, the internet does NOT always offer the best prices! YES, you heard me. There are times that the local dive shop will match or beat that price. I don't recommend walking into the shop and telling them what you will pay, but you can tell them what you can afford. Sometimes you might even get more bang for your buck and even better, as that relationship builds, there are face-to-face benefits that the internet just can't offer!
It's okay to ask for things in writing. Don't rely on "he said, she said." Send e-mails so that there is a paper trail. If you agree to their terms and conditions, it is fair for them to expect you to fulfill your part of the bargain. You can help to make your experience as fulfilling as possible by letting the one's you are working with know how things are going. Scuba is often totally new to the student. If it takes you a little longer to learn something, the instructor and dive shop will help you get there.
When you are ready to buy scuba gear, get a hold of me so I can sit down with you and go over everything that is right for you! It is free. You like FREE, don't you?