Many new divers ask the question:
Should I puchase online or support my local dive shop?
What about warranty’s and air fills?
If you stay with the largest of the online retailers they either offer manufacturers warrantees (they are authorized by that brand) or they offer their own warrantee that is equal to the manufacturers warrantee. I’ve dealt with Leisurepro, Scuba.com, Scubatoys and a few others without any problems and most will give you some sort of sizing warrantee program so you can try on and exchange. Just don’t actually use the item if you may need to return it.
The local dive shops like to play hardball with us threatening the diver with not being able to get fills if they go out of business. The facts are however a bit different. A good local shop can and should compete for your business and earn it. In many cases they can and do but you don’t owe them any special preference you wouldn’t show any other business. If you walked into a shoe store and tried on some shoes you’d find the correct size you need and your brand and model preference. if you then looked at the price and it seemed high you would take your business elsewhere without a second thought. You may that evening look into pricing on the internet and find you where correct and you can purchase for less. Given that knowledge you have choices. You can go back to the local dealer and bargain with them, you can try another local dealer or knowing your size you can look for the best price and purchase online.
First let me say although it has happened that the closest shop to a local has closed, it is far more likely that they would change their business model to one that makes more use of service, training and travel to support itself and relies less on the retail equipment sales. Having a local to try gear on for size and purchase when the deal is good and convienient but not required today. Simple business economics will tell you the local shop with the best policies will survive the longest but without enough business it too may close but in that event you could find or organize divers to set up a fill station. The fire dept or a paintball shop may be able to help you. They use air at the same pressures as scuba divers but not as well filtered. You may be able to purchase a filter stack and have them fill your tanks for you. Finally you or a group of divers in your area could opt to purchase a compressor for your own use and then not need a local shop for fills.
I am the owner of a club in Arizona that is based on a altered business model. Our club embraces the online retailer in fact our members have a purchase program that in many most cases saves them beyond the posted website price from 2 of the above mentioned online retailers. So our club isn’t in the retail sales model but we do offer the other services of a local dive shop such as gear service, travel, training and air fills. I’ve installed a compressor that is actually larger than that of most of our local competing shops and it sees the same air quality testing. Our program is designed so our active members see a savings after paying for their annual membership compared to dealing with one of the many local shops in our area. This is accomplished through discounts on everything a diver needs like tank visual inspections, Hydrostatic testing, equipment overhaul and inspection, travel needs, and training classes.
So the bottom line is you shouldn’t feel the need to support your local dive shop unless they support your needs as a diver. Make use of the alternate means to train, maintain and equip yourself if it makes sense for your needs. It’s business, you are the customer and the customer is always right regardless of how much the business objects. It’s their job to find a business model that works for you not your responsibility to make their business model work for them.