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5 Common Mistakes Pet Retailers Make with First-Time Reptile Keepers

Advising only store bought food is just one of the common mistakes made when selling reptiles.

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AS A PET RETAILER, you’re probably aware of the important role you play in selling an animal to a first-time pet owner. Especially if a customer is looking to buy a reptile for the first time, they’re probably relying on you to provide them with the information they need to have a successful experience with their new pet.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes that pet retailers make when advising and selling to first-time reptile owners.

Mistake No. 1: Advising Only Store-Bought Food

Like other animals, reptiles need a balanced diet. A common mistake that reptile retailers make when advising first-time reptile owners is suggesting that store-bought food is sufficient for reptiles.

Although store-bought reptile food — often composed of mainly dehydrated mealworms or crickets — does contain important nutrients for your reptile, especially protein, it should not be the only thing fed to a reptile. When advising a first-time reptile owner, recommend feeding the reptile small quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables — such as squash, apples and bananas — alongside their store-bought food to maintain a balanced diet.

Mistake No. 2: Advising Too Small of a Tank

Many reptiles can grow to be twice or even three times the size they were when they were a baby. It’s likely, though, that first-time reptile owners don’t know this, and may be inclined to buy a small tank for their pet. One mistake among reptile retailers is recommending a tank that the reptile will outgrow.

As a reptile retailer, you should inform your customers of the size the reptile will reach. For example, baby bearded dragons are about 4 inches in length, but by adulthood they reach between 15 and 20 inches. It’s wiser to advise your customers to purchase a larger tank that will suit their reptile when they reach their full size. This will improve your customers’ experience with their reptile and will help you form a sense of trust with your customers by saving them money in the long run.

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Mistake No. 3: Advising Complicated Reptiles

Like most pets, reptiles vary from species-to-species in terms of how difficult they are to take care of. For example, although beautiful, an iguana is not a good choice for a first-time reptile owner because of their dietary needs and their tendency toward aggressive behavior. It’s important, therefore, for you as a reptile retailer to know which reptiles are suitable for beginners and which ones are not, and to advise your customers accordingly.

For first-time reptile owners, you should recommend reptile species that are easier to care for, require less stringent habitat needs, and are more tolerant of being touched and held. Leopard geckos, bearded dragons and corn snakes are all great choices for someone that is new to keeping reptiles. Remind your customers, however, that while these species may be easier to care for, they still require lots of attention and care.

Mistake No. 4: Withholding the Reptile’s Health History

While reptiles are generally easy to care for, this doesn’t mean that they are exempt from the possibility of falling ill. If a reptile you’ve sold to a customer should fall ill, it’s important for your customer to have sufficient information on the health and history of their pet to provide to their veterinarian. A mistake often made by reptile retailers is failing to provide their customers with such information.

Although federal law doesn’t require pet retailers to disclose the health history of the animals they sell, there has recently been in a push in many state governments to create laws that do require retailers to be transparent about such information. So, even though it’s not required by law, it’s still wise to inform your customers about the health and history of the pet they’re purchasing, including where the reptile was shipped from and if it was bred in captivity or not. This information will be helpful for vets if the pet becomes ill and will help you gain the trust and respect of your customers

Mistake No. 5: Misunderstanding the Customer

In any retail position, it’s critical to understand your buyer in order to make a solid and educated sale. When selling a pet reptile to a first-time customer, it’s common for reptile retailers to make an ill-advised sale due to a lack of information about the buyer.

As a reptile retailer, you should ask yourself the following questions when selling to a first-time reptile owner:

  • How much time is the customer willing to dedicate to caring for their pet?
  • What is their family life like? Are any of their family members children or senior citizens?
  • How much space do they have in their home for the pet?
  • Do they have other pets?

Asking these questions is important not only for the sake of your reptiles’ health and safety, but for the health and safety of your customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet reptiles are known to sometimes carry salmonella. While this doesn’t pose a huge risk to healthy individuals, children under the age of five, people over the age of 65, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to fall ill and require hospitalization if exposed to salmonella germs.

Selling a reptile to a first-time owner can be difficult and requires you to have a solid knowledge about both your reptiles and the person you’re selling to. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to give your reptiles a safe and loving home and to form a solid and long-lasting bond with your customers.

Johnathan David has been a reptile hobbyist since childhood. He has years of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for geckos (two gargoyles), skinks (blue tongue) and a frog (poison dart). David is the editor-in-chief at everythingreptiles.com.

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