Drying Off From The Wet Spot

There is always a sense of profound sadness when you go into one of your favourite places and everything has changed:  it is just like learning that Santa is not real and that it’s actually mum and dad putting the presents under the tree and in the stocking.  But I never, ever, expected to find myself walking out of The Wet Spot, my (ex)favourite tropical fish store, pretty much promising myself to never set foot in there again.

Now managing to stick to that promise is another thing entirely since specialist tropical fish stores are not exactly on every block.  But fortunately for me, and unfortunately for The Wet Spot, I do have the luxury of being able to go to another tropical fish store that while not necessarily as well stocked as The Wet Spot, is closer and much, much friendlier to be inside.

Dare I say it; they actually want to provide service and answer questions and even ask about my tanks.  So why I didn’t just go to The World Of Wet Pets in the first place is now a question that I am asking.  The simple answer is that my daughter wanted me to take her out to breakfast and then she wanted to go clothes shopping and shoe shopping.

And since her tastes are rather eclectic and tend to the used and vintage, we decided to make the trek to the east side of town and have breakfast at the Hawthorne Café and then check out Buffalo Exchange and Red Light.  All in all, she was most successful in her endeavours.

On the other hand, I had a most unsuccessful journey to the other side of town.  My sole reason for agreeing to go to the Hawthorne District was so that I could swing down Cesar Chavez to Sandy and on to The Wet Spot.  This was done after a rather good breakfast of smoked salmon eggs benedict and coffee; followed by the privilege of pretending to be enthusiastic about vintage t-shirts and high heel boots, rare Converse All-Stars and most important of all, the light up Skechers in an adult size.

Half the fun of going to the tropical fish store after clothes shopping with a hyperactive eighteen year old is that it is such good payback for that time spent sitting outside the changing room waiting for her to try on all of the clothes she took in, and take pictures and text them to her thirty or forty closest friends:  honestly, there are so many flashes from the changing area that it looks like the night sky over Baghdad during the bombing.

She has long curly red hair that the 275% humidity in The Wet Spot immediately “poodlizes” and she ends up with Texas Big Hair.  Having sweat beads running down my arse crack from the heat and humidity in the store is a small price to pay for her turning into Fifi.  And for some reason, even though it was still a mild 60 degrees outside today, the heat and humidity inside the store was far worse than usual.  The store was not even crowded today either which is rather unusual on a Saturday afternoon.

And yet, I could not get any help from the employees. I consider it a major victory that I even managed to get the churlish individual running the front counter to even acknowledge my presence.  Of course the acknowledgment was accompanied with a deep sigh to make sure that I understood how much I was inconveniencing her. But I have an eighteen year old daughter, and one who used to be eighteen, I can slough off the deep sigh, stamped foot and pouty lips and go back for seconds any day of the week.

The second time I went to the counter I did not even warrant this treatment and was ignored for several minutes.  This was probably to show me who’s the boss.  So I went back and camped out by the fish tank from which I really wished to purchase some of its piscatorial contents along with several other (not inexpensive) items to help buffer my discus tank.  I was then in danger of getting whip lash as employee after employee went by and refused to help.  It was suggested that I go ask for help at the front counter – hmmmmmm, how well did that work the first two times?

And identifying Wet Spot employees is not difficult as they tend to be individuals with a preponderance of body art, piercings, funky hair and wearing a t-shirt proclaiming that they “work” at The Wet Spot.  But trying to get one of these individuals to actually stop and help is a whole other issue. So I ended up putting most items back on the shelf and bought the one thing I knew that I could not get that day at World Of Wet Pets  and then me, myself and the not inconsiderable wad of dollars in my back pocket and pissed off back across the Marquam Bridge.  (No worries though, I did not forget the daughter.)

When I first started getting into aquariums and tropical fish ten years ago, a trip to NE Portland and The Wet Spot was an adventure and the experience of going into the store made me want to get more and more into being an aquarist and really getting into the art and science of having fish as pets.  And it is a commitment of time and money – do not be under any illusion about that.

And a large quantity of that money has been spent at The Wet Spot in my attempts to recreate something that Takashi Amano would be proud of.  Thousands of my hobby dollars have been gratefully given over as I strive to create something special.  But several years ago, I began to find my trips there less and less productive.  Getting help from the help was not so easy.  And so it progressed in a downward spiral.

It is a shame really. There is so much that they do right.  Their website is awesome and the weekly blogs spots are brilliant.  The store has an incredible selection of fish:  African Cichlids, New World Cichlids and discus fish, tetras of every imaginable flavour and colour.  But if no-one will give a customer the time of day then it is all a waste.  I used to go to The Wet Spot twice a month but now it is more like once every three months or so.  And this is all due to what I perceive to be a lack of service in the store.

Everything has to revolve around service in something that specialized.  This was apparent when I went to World Of Wet Pets this morning and got the fish that I originally went over the bridge to get.  As soon as I walked in, I was welcomed by name and asked about my fish tanks.  We discussed what I was looking for (and why) and my Cory Cats were procured and my discus tank is getting cleaned by them even as I type.

There were also some new plants that came in last week that she showed me and so I got several new types of plants for the two planted aquariums and we discussed some of the issues that have been plaguing my tanks; most notably buffering the discus tank to keep the pH low enough.  This has been a growing problem as my wood has aged.  They will now stock the black water extract for me that I like to use.

We then discussed what I was looking to do later on in the summer to the tanks and the girl took some notes so that if she or Eric got something in that I might want such as a rare discus fish, they could get hold of me.  This store probably gets 80% of my fish dollars now and it looks likely to be getting 100% of the dollars soon.  And to think that I discovered it by accident… what now seems to be a most fortuitous and happy accident.

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4 Responses

  1. It was a happy day indeed …

    You should send in this blog to the local papers who review the businesses. It’s (pardon the pun) spot-on!

  2. I’ll stand by my Ginger aquarium master and stay away…

  3. So, in the interest of fairness, and to see if I just ran into the staff on a bad day, I revisited The Wet Spot last weekend to show my mother the shop. And, yep, the service still sucked as bad.

    Nobody so much as looked at us, let alone talked to us – which was really sad as I had afair number of $100 bills in my pocket as I need to replace my largest tank as it has worn out. This money will end up at The World Of Wet Pets: possibly as soon as this weekend.

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