Growing up in the Garden State, I often heard Sy Syms say “An educated consumer is our best customer.” I’m not sure that his stores, SYMS and Filene’s Basement, ended up filing for bankruptcy speaks to the quality of the stores or the quality of his educational efforts (or of course something else.) But frankly, Mr. Syms’ experience worries me.
For too long quality run pet care facilities, be they independents like Pet Camp, or a small regional chain, have been silently watching as app-based pet care and corporate giants like the Mars Corporation take a bigger and bigger share of the pet care market.
Now I’m a believer in healthy competition, but for there to be truly healthy competition there needs to be an educated consumer, and we as an industry have failed to educate the consumer. This failing is on us in the industry – it is not the consumer’s fault.
So here’s lesson 1 in trying to create an educated pet parent and hopefully our next best customer.
- My name is Mark Klaiman. You can reach me at 415-282-0700 or via email at email@example.com. That’s right, I am accountable for the quality of care Pet Camp provides. You as a pet parent have a right to quality care and to know that there is a person you can contact with any questions or concerns. You can visit with us, take a tour, and meet the counselors who will be providing your pet’s care. Just try and call the Mars Corporation or the equity investors in the Wag! dog walking app and ask to speak with the person who will be providing the care for your pet because you have some questions.
- Training matters. Sure, the gig economy providers might have some online training for the person who will be taking care of your pet (mostly dogs), but there are some things you just can’t learn online! Hands on experience matters when it comes to pet care. Yes, we use online training as part of Pet Camp’s training and on-boarding process, but this is in addition to the hours and hours of hands-on training the counselors get at Pet Camp. We know that educating our counselors is essential for providing amazing pet care.
- Infrastructure and Investments matter. Having your pet stay at someone else’s house while you’re away sounds like a wonderful option at first. But what about the most basic health and safety issues? Does this house have ventilation designed for pets, NOT for people? What is this house’s disinfecting protocols and equipment? How about flooring – will it reject the absorption of liquids or will it harbor pathogens? And heaven forbid, something goes wrong, are they really insured to be taking care of your dog (i.e., running a business) in their home?
- Seven hours is longer than 30 minutes. This might seem obvious but we (meaning pet care providers) need to do a better job reminding pet parents that having your dog sit at home all day waiting for the 30-minute on leash walk from someone you met online is simply not the same as a day of doggie daycare, and it should not be a shock that one costs more than the other.
- Quality actually does cost more. Let’s face it, San Francisco is not a cheap place to live or to run a business. Investing in a building that is designed for the health and safety of your pet costs money, training the counselors costs money, and paying a living wage and providing benefits like health care and a retirement plan costs money. We think that all of this adds up to a better experience for BOTH the counselors and the pets, but yes, this is why a place like Pet Camp costs more than the person you can hire online who, sadly, may not even have a San Francisco business license so they can legally even take care of your pet (you can probably skip asking if the app you hired them through offers training, a living wage or health insurance)
Granted, I’m no Sy Syms and Pet Camp will probably never have a T.V. commercial that you remember 45 years after it debuted, but I really do think that quality pet care providers do owe you an explanation of why we are different and better.
Thanks for reading.