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RetailIamA Pet Care Specialist at PetSmart, AMA!

Feb 29th 2016 by PSCare • 25 Questions • 133 Points

I'm the person that you interact with when you need to purchase fish and/or live insect feeders. Most of my time, however, is spent taking care of all of the birds/small animals/reptiles/fish in the store. A lot of people hate us and a lot of people love us. So, go ahead and ask me anything you want!

Proof

Q:

Why must you keep Betta fish in 8 ounces of water? Why not dedicate 3-4 at least 5g tanks for just 3-4 bettas so they actually develop colors and look great?

A:

We get roughly 20-25 Bettas every week on shipment days. Bettas are not like regular fish, and they can be sold without my permission, you just take the cup and go. For the week or so that each Betta is with us they are okay in those cups. We change their water every two days so it is not dirty.

I love Bettas, and they are getting trendy recently. PetSmart has a lot of those .5-1 gallon tanks on clearance because I'm fairly sure we are getting rid of them completely. Most of the new Betta tanks I see are 2.5 gallon+ and come with a filter, a heater, a LED hood etc. I personally avoid selling the smaller gallon tanks to customers for bettas and suggest the larger ones, just a moral kind of thing I guess. Wife used to have the Betta Falls thing... what a piece of shit that is.

Fact of the matter is that PetSmart is a business and most of our animals are not kept in adequate terrarium/aquarium enclosures because 1: they sell quickly and 2: floor space. If we had proper tanks for everything it would take up the whole store. For example, you need at least a 30 gallon tank for a single goldfish, yet we will keep 5 or more of them in a 10 gallon cold water system.

Our local competitor tells customers that whole "Anything over 1 gallon will stress the betta out" myth to sell their tiny-ass Betta bowl things, and I would suspect so that the Betta dies quick and they come back for a new one. At our store we actually have morals and will definitely not do that to customers.


Q:

I refuse to believe that a single goldfish needs a 30 gallon tank all to itself

Edit: ok, I was wrong, I'm sorry, I've never kept goldfish before

A:

Keyword is eventually.

Goldfish can live for like 30 years, Koi up to 50.

I mean look at this son of a bitch

In a 10 gallon usually a year or two. In a goldfish bowl you got like a month before that thing shits itself to death.

But what happens is their organs keep growing with age but their bodies can't go any larger because the tank isn't large enough. Unfortunately this results in them literally exploding from the inside, their spine breaks and they die a painful slow death.


Q:

Why does Petsmart keep veiled chameleons in small glass tanks? I mean Petsmart sells the proper housing for them....

A:

We sell the proper housing for everything, but if all of the animals were in proper housing it would take up the whole store. Animals are not with us for very long and so we give them smaller housing.

Don't know about your local PetSmart(s) but our Veiled is just a young girl. If she was any larger we would definitely put her in one of the larger tanks, but we usually reserve those for groups of Beardies/Leopard geckos.

All of the animals are okay in their smaller housing we have at the store, but they quickly move into larger housing when customers buy them, and we are more than happy to help customers pick out all the supplies they'll need. I'd rather sell something knowing it is going to a good home.


Q:

are there any small pets that don't need too much attention (I have roughly 4-5 hours available to play) and are still happy to be carried and held? I used to have a hamster that was very loved and spoiled, but occasionally bit when I tried to hold her and cuddle her.

A:

Guinea Pigs don't need too much attention but only if you get at least two (of the same sex. We only sell same-sex animals at each store). They're actually very sociable. I've never been bit by one, they just kind of make cute little squealing noises for a second when you pick them up.

Honestly most people who have the small animals don't even have 4-5 hours, a lot of owners of things like hamsters/mice just like looking at them.

Dwarf Hamsters are my favourite as far as small pets, though. So cuddly and cute, and I've never been bit by one. The ones we have love to be handled. Haven't been bit by a regular hamster either but I can see how they would bite, I had one as a kid and I'm pretty sure she bit me.

A lot of people swear by rats, but as the person who has to full clean the rat enclosure every week... no thanks.


Q:

Actually, you really want teddy bear hamsters. Dwarfs tend to be more irritable than syrian breeds. They're kind of the assholes of the rodent world, right up there with gerbils.

Also, getting a Guinea pig is the worst idea ever in my opinion. All they do is squeel, whistle and poop. They are like giant hamsters except loud, lazy, stinky, unfriendly and not cuddly at all. Basically a distillation of everything negative about hamsters, crammed into one giant ugly rodent pig which requires a giant rodent cage to keep and clean. It's all the work of keeping a rabbit, but all you get is a furry lump instead. I've heard they taste OK in a pinch though.

A:

I don't disagree with you. Those fuckers throw hay all over the god damn place.


Q:

I can't count how much time I've wasted sweeping hay out from under the isolation room and NA room small animal racks.

A:

It sucks but I still like it better than having to remove the bird cages completely and sweep out the old seeds from the shelf.


Q:

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

A:

African or European?


Q:

European.

A:

11 meters per second


Q:

What if it were carrying a coconut?

A:

It can't carry a coconut. A swallow is about eight inches long and weighs five ounces, and you'd be lucky to find a coconut under a pound.


Q:

Why does your pamphlets say red ear sliders have a life expectancy of 10 years when it's really 40+?

A:

No idea. Some of the info in those pamphlets is okay, most is wrong. We don't really refer customers to them here, we don't read them, and our manager doesn't care if they run out and we don't refill the slots where they are housed.

Classic corporate people who don't know anything about anything trying to be smart. Just know that nobody who works in the stores are responsible for those things.


Q:

How can I keep my dog's diaper on when she wags her tail so hard it comes off? The diaper not the tail. She is on lasix.

A:

I don't work in the canine department but I have heard of harnesses that you can purchase that keep the diapers on. I don't think we carry them, though.

If my mother bought one for her dog she would probably bite the thing apart, lol.


Q:

Damn, you really know your crabs. Is PetSmart pay commensurate at all with the knowledge you need to have on all these random animals? Do those skills transfer elsewhere?

A:

Some people here go to vet tech for college after, or zookeeping. My manager used to be a zookeeper. Pay was better as a manager at PetSmart.

I get 11 bucks an hour part time. Its okay for how my life is now, but people expect way too much out of me. I don't know everything about everything, but customers seem to think I do lol.


Q:

i've seen some petsmarts that offer shots, and other veterinary services. would you recommend taking my pet here, or should i take my pet somewhere else?

A:

That's the Banfield places. We don't have one here, but I have heard some horror stories.

I'd imagine the vets there don't care much because they're most likely underpaid. I'd recommend somewhere else. Veterinarians don't strike me as a good mix with the corporate world... seems like it needs people with a bit more freedom and morals.


Q:

Current PetSmart PCA as well. Banfield wellness plans are fantastic and the service techs/clerks compensated decently. In my region, it's not uncommon to see store associates intern or straight up rehire at Banfield.

A:

Pretty awesome. Didn't know, thanks.


Q:

What's the oddest thing to happen to you at Petsmart?

A:

A guy brought back a chameleon that he bought for his girlfriend. She didn't know how to care for it, it was a surprise for her birthday or something.

The guy was in his 30s.

The girlfriend was like 12.

Most of the really weird stuff happens up front, and I'm usually with the fish on busy days or out in the back room washing tanks or dishes or something.


Q:

I used tap water and water conditioner - would bottled water be better?

A:

Some people swear by the bottled water. My Betta acts strange if I use the recommended amount of water conditioner in his water, and I can visibly notice a film of residue on the top of the tank when I do. Because of this I started using less than what is recommended (for tap water) and he has been fine since.

We have this stupid "Betta water" stuff in store, it's like 8 dollars for a bottle. I've made it my mission to make sure nobody buys that stuff, lol.


Q:

They need to get her groomed at a vet who will do a form of anesthetic . The reason corporate groomers won't do her groom is because she's shows one or more signs of critical stress that policy and procedure dictate service is discontinued and she is given vet attention.

A:

Signs of stress are part of Salon training, and if you see a dog in distress you are supposed to take them immediately to the vet. Of course there's some logic here and if the dog is just nervous and they know it they ain't going to rush it to the vet, so they'd just deny service instead of causing it harm. One slip and it can cut the dogs tail off, things like that have happened before.

I'd recommend a private groomer who works out of his/her home. Less dogs, less people, less stress.


Q:

Is it Pets' Mart, or is it Pet Smart?

A:

Pet Smart. It used to be PetsMart but the company changed the name to differentiate themselves from the "marts" (stores such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target etc) and to dedicate themselves into "Smart" solutions for "Pet Parents", or so they tell us.

PetSmart just sounds nicer to me, though.


Q:

I have so many questions.

Can you pinpoint the moment when your life began spiraling towards a career in pet retail?

If you could go back in time and change anything what would it be?

In all seriousness though, what is your dream career? Do you see yourself working towards vetrinary science, zoology, or something totally different? Where do you go from PetSmart?

Finally, between all the birds, small animals, reptiles and fish... who's crap is the grossest to clean up after? (serious question)

Edit: Another serious question, how much does PetSmart pay you guys? Is it worth cleaning the ferret cage?

A:
  1. Lmao! This ain't exactly a career, everyone here knows it. Only employees with full time (aka benefits) are managers, everyone here is just working part time as a single step in their long-ass life.

  2. I have absolutely no regrets in my life. Maybe how my hair looked in high-school.

  3. Dream career, I moving in July to go to college for Welding. I love welding, it's so much fun.

  4. Grossest crap is rats. Don't see much fish crap. Birds crap isn't so much gross as it is annoying (stop shitting in your own food dishes!). Reptiles crab is good, hardens easily and is easy to take out.

But rodents, specially the rats... I hate cleaning these guys. Awful. I get that rats are smart and stuff and can be trained, but I never really understood why you'd want one as a pet. Just an opinion of mine I guess.


Q:

Is it true that everyone hates PetSmart?

A:

Hah! Pretty much. Luckily there's an even worse pet store chain here and the hate is deflected to them.

Most hate stems from some bad stories/videos on YouTube, but with 1300+ stores it only takes one fuck up to ruin everything for everybody. For Pet things I'd personally trust our guys, cause I've been told some stupid shit about pets at other pet stores.


Q:

My daughter did basically your job at a PetCo. They treat their animals as a commodity, not as living beings.

For example, the guinea pigs have a respiratory infection that plagued the store for 2 years. Instead of stopping sales for a while, medicating the pigs, cleaning out the tanks and killing off the infection, they just dropped the price to sell them before they got really sick.

The manager in charge of taking animals to the vet would lie and say he called the vet but they couldn't see the animal till next week, he would re-use antibiotics from a reptile on a bird if there was extras, and he would sign off on giving animals their meds for days he wasn't even at work. Animals would basically sit back in the wellness room until they died, then they went into a freezer that was hauled to the dump when it got full.

We actually have a Jackson's chameleon that was in the wellness room for a month. It ended up in the wellness room because the reptile manager yanked it off the branch so hard that 2 of it's toenails were ripped out of its foot and the foot got infected. He was getting medicine so irregularly that it wasn't healing. We bought him and now he's fine.

A:

Jesus, that's really bad. I've heard some bad things about that store, we don't have them here in Canada so I have no experiences with them.


Q:

Banfields: worth it?

A:

Don't have one here but from what I've heard... no.

Not sure what the advantage of it would be, anyways. I like my little mom and pop vet that I take my cat to. I don't want corporate America involved in that shit.


Q:

Can't speak for OP but I also hold the position at my store. Pet Care Specialist is just a normal position in the store. I applied for the job on the website, got trained as a cashier and told the store I was interested. I was then trained in Pet Care. I just graduated college and this is my first "real" job outside of student teaching and work study.

PetSmart requires you to be 18 to apply but other than that, there wasn't much required.

A:

I applied for all of their positions and in the "Would you like to be placed in any other positions?" I listed them all. Example, I'd apply for cashier and say I wanted to be in pet care at the end, but then applied for pet care and say I could also be a cashier. Maximum chances for you to show up on their database.

Took my 9 months to get the job. Patience is all ya need. I went in a few times and asked for the manager, but that didn't seem to help that much.

Didn't really have much on my resume. Still a young guy, but they mostly care about the application process.


Q:

a guy and his son are looking at fish. 'ooh isn't that one pretty? which one do you like?'. the boy points to a jack dempsey. what do you do next?

A:

Ask their tank size. If it's for a kid it's usually something really small, so then I recommend the Danios and see their son die a little inside.


Q:

My dog was adopted from a shelter offering a two-week period where you could return and get your money back. My dog, was perfect for the first two weeks, but nowadays she barks at everyone and occasionally nips at our family. Any advice?

A:

She may need a bit of socialization training. Most PetSmarts have training classes that are more social than other training courses because they take place in the store. They get to socialize with other customers, walk around the store, see all of the other dogs etc.

Some training places do disciplinary training, and we do behavioural training, much more tame.