Why so much hate on pool store's water test?

Catanzaro

Platinum Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 30, 2014
3,401
Monmouth County, New Jersey
Re:  Why so much hate on pool store's water test?

From a recent experience, they tested my water at zero CYA last weekend. I added enough CYA based off that test to raise to 40ppm. When I got my test kit and tested it myself it was at 90ppm. Now I'm in the process of draining water to get it down. So I wasted money on chemicals and wasting time replacing water.
My friends, who now own the TF-100 Test Kit kept going to Leslie's. There was no convincing them. Last year, I gave them the Taylor K-1000 as a gift. For some strange reason, they were holding no chlorine and Leslie's kept providing them excellent results. CYA at 40. Well guess what, the CYA was actually under 20, maybe even lower. A week later, with stabilizer in the pool and a week's worth of SLAMMING, and they have not been back to the pool store since.

Wow, Taylor test kits at Leslie's and one of the most important test results was wrong. With hot weather, no wonder why they were not holding chlorine. At least in this case, no water needed to be drained, just $20 worth of stabilizer and a few gallons of bleach. The other tests were off as well, but not by that much. The amount of time back and forth waiting in line and expense was just not worth it.
 

AusJohn

Active member
I have had generally pretty fair results from my local pool shop for water analysis. The local guys have only had the business for 13 months and make no secret of a lack of experience. They came out to quote me for the replacement chlorinator and installation and thought my pool must be quite shallow because they could see the main drain so clearly. It's just on six feet deep there. These are the guys who are doing professional pool maintenance and they're not used to pools being that clear. That says a lot I think. My old test kit from last season had run out of reagents for CYA and the wife dropped in a sample for testing. The pool had just been refilled, and I knew how much salt and stabiliser I had added. I back calculated the volume of the pool for both salt and CYA concentrations reported and the two numbers agreed to a satisfactory degree of accuracy, so I'm comfortable that they got the analysis right despite the lack of time in the industry.

With respect to testing, I think the main issue is that most pool shops are providing a free service for testing here. Now if you are running a commercial lab, you are giving a guarantee on your results, there can be a lot of money involved in the accuracy of those results and so you run regular calibrations, reagent blanks, random check samples and that's just internal verification. While the testers may well be school leavers, they are thoroughly trained, monitored and those check samples will show if they're doing something wrong. All results are reviewed by a qualified chemist before reports are released and it's his job to pick up if something looks screwy. If you are certified with any of the national or international accreditations then you would also have to run their check samples and your results are compared with everyone elses, you get regularly audited to ensure that you're doing everything right and the whole shebang costs a buttload of money. Take your water sample to a commercial lab for analysis and you will probably get billed up to two hundred dollars for those tests, but you can be absolutely confident in the results.

In contrast the pool shop offers a free service and there is not a lot of checking and reviewing going on. I doubt that the kid on vacation break gets monitored very closely if at all. So the results will tend to vary depending on how much the person doing the tests knows and cares and how busy they are. Are there errors, almost certainly, they even happen in commercial labs, but the chances of the pool shop picking up that something is wrong are pretty small. It's not as if they keep a database of your water test results and can say, "Whoa there, what happened to all your stabiliser ? There was plenty last week." There probably are shonky operators and shonky chains, there are people like that in every industry. In some industries they dominate but that hasn't been my experience here. The tests are simple and reliable if you take your time and follow the instructions. Anybody can do it acceptably well. Getting some standards to check you accuracy is a very good idea too. Nobody will care as much about your pool as you do after all.
 

thebombardier

In The Industry
Jul 16, 2017
302
Massapequa, NY
I'll jump into the discussion as a pool store employee. My store actually does use very good testing equipment and software, Lamotte Waterlink Express and Datamate software to be exact, and we have a Lamotte Spinlab as a backup in the store and for our service to do water testing. It costs us $5 just in UDVs or Spinlab cartridges to run any given water test. The chlorine is tested using DPD.

However, I remember going into other local competition to get water tests done (my boss encourages employees going to competitors just to see how they do business) and there are definitely a lot of dip strip testers out there. So I can understand the frustration with less than reliable testing methods at pool stores. Water testing is a loss leader, so stores try to keep costs on that as low as possible.

However there is a training aspect to it as well. Your average pools tore employee probably got that job as their first job (I did), is being paid minimum wage (I was), and depending on the training or oversight may not know what exactly they are doing even with the best equipment in the world. Personally, it took me a whole Memorial Day to Labor day season to be 100% confident with what I was doing in the water lab. And half the time you're actually giving bad advice if you're just going off the sheet the computer spits out. The guy who's been there a month doesn't understand throwing 10 lbs of Alkalinity in your pool isn't going to fix cloudiness, but that's what the computer said to do.

Unless you know the guy behind the counter has a little experience under his belt, take everything with a grain of salt. Know if your local store actually had good equipment. And most importantly go easy on the guy behind the counter, chances are he's only been working a few months depending how short or long your pool season is.
 
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YippeeSkippy

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 17, 2012
11,668
Evans, Georgia
Thank you for your honest post, TheBombardier.

So if you only use the DPD for FC....what do you tell them when its obviously more than just the 5 ppm the test block tops out at?

Maddie :flower:
 

thebombardier

In The Industry
Jul 16, 2017
302
Massapequa, NY
Thank you for your honest post, TheBombardier.

So if you only use the DPD for FC....what do you tell them when its obviously more than just the 5 ppm the test block tops out at?

Maddie :flower:
The reader will say "OVER RANGE" or top out at 5. Assuming they haven't just shocked the pool, at that point I'll usually say something along the lines of "Your chlorine's pretty high, pull the pucks out/turn down the chlorinator and don't add any shock for a couple days. Come back for a follow up test or test the chlorine tomorrow yourself." It's obviously pretty hard to troubleshoot a pool that's not in your backyard and you can't monitor every 12-24 hours. Also most of our customers are using pucks in a chlorinator/skimmer and not the typical method people around here like to use of putting in a little liquid shock every day. Also they probably won't come back for a follow up and then get mad when their pool turns green because they forgot to put the chlorine back in.

Honestly though, I usually don't even consider high FC to be a real issue. It's not uncommon to see CYA levels at or above 50 so a high FC can usually be justified. If I see something along the lines of FC-5 TC-5 pH-7.2 TA-100 CH-200 CYA-50 Cu-0 Fe-0 that's one of the better pools I'm seeing that day.
 
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BattleOfYakima

TFP Guide
Apr 15, 2016
1,683
Central Florida
They came out (...) and thought my pool must be quite shallow because they could see the main drain so clearly. It's just on six feet deep there. These are the guys who are doing professional pool maintenance and they're not used to pools being that clear. That says a lot I think.
:lovetfp:

I'll jump into the discussion as a pool store employee. My store actually does use very good testing equipment and software, Lamotte Waterlink Express and Datamate software to be exact, and we have a Lamotte Spinlab as a backup in the store and for our service to do water testing. It costs us $5 just in UDVs or Spinlab cartridges to run any given water test.
Thank you for the store cost information. I've been to a pool store that used Lamotte testing and they charged $10 for a water sample analysis (waived if you purchased chemicals). I wondered how reasonable the price was, and now I know it is quite fair for people unwilling/uninterested to invest in their own kit or unable to perform the tests themselves give that it is both $5 materials and variable employee time running the actual tests and then conducting the resultant conversation that may or may not end in sales beyond the testing fee.
 

thebombardier

In The Industry
Jul 16, 2017
302
Massapequa, NY
Thank you for the store cost information. I've been to a pool store that used Lamotte testing and they charged $10 for a water sample analysis (waived if you purchased chemicals). I wondered how reasonable the price was, and now I know it is quite fair for people unwilling/uninterested to invest in their own kit or unable to perform the tests themselves give that it is both $5 materials and variable employee time running the actual tests and then conducting the resultant conversation that may or may not end in sales beyond the testing fee.
We charge $5, also waived if you buy chemicals (very rarely enforced though tbh). We want to at least recoup the materials cost from the people who are going to use our test then go buy stabilizer chlorine tabs at BJ's or Costco. I've had people walk out when they read the sign, chances are they don't want to be my customer anyway. No loss.
 

thebombardier

In The Industry
Jul 16, 2017
302
Massapequa, NY
Fair enough! Just curious - does the Lamotte software suggest FC levels based on CYA level? (similar to [FC/CYA][/FC/CYA])
No it just has preloaded ranges that don't change unless you go into the options and change them manually. FC and TC are always 2-4. However we are trained when doing water tests to recognize higher stabilizer levels and to advise customers to more or less double their FC when the stabilizer is over 60. Again, that's just the level of customer service my boss strives for where if you just read the paper you're doing a bad job. And over 100, the printout won't even have any other instructions other than "Stabilizer High: Drain and Refill".

The machine is smart enough though to make adjustments to reading based on other chemical levels though. It's been a while since I've done a water test because of the winter so I forget which ones exactly get adjusted but you'll see on the printout Alkalinity will have "with adjustment for X" next to it.
 

ZionLG

In The Industry
Feb 12, 2018
2
Port Charlotte, FL
I actually work in a pool store as well. I also service pools. In our store we use the Taylor K-2005 standard reagents with the exception of alkalinity and calcium hardness. With those tests we have a titration system set up with the speed stirs. For our CYA test we use the pentair CYA test tube with the movable black dot you move up and down rather than pouring the solution in until it disappears. I have tested at home with my tf-100 and then tested at the store to compare and the only test that I see a discernible difference in is the CYA. Of course, at the store I test that indoors so that's likely the reason. Our results are pretty darn accurate. I have gone to several local competitors though and some of their results have been comical.
 

Texas Splash

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
ZionLG, the fact that you have a TF-100 and are able to confirm relatively consistent results is promising. As you pointed-out, not all facilities offer that type of testing accuracy and/or reliability, which is why we encourage pool owners to obtain a TF-100 or Taylor K-2006C of their own. For your customers, it's good that you have some proven reliability to help them with.
 

ZionLG

In The Industry
Feb 12, 2018
2
Port Charlotte, FL
Really nice to hear about some good pool stores, thanks again you guys!
There are some of us out here that know our stuff. I learned everything I know from reading the forums here and servicing pools for the first hand experience to verify. I have never posted before, but I have researched extensively through the forums to educate myself so I could do my job better and help customers solve their problems more effectively.
 

needsajet

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 4, 2016
4,698
Sydney, NSW, Australia
When I type pool $tore, I hope it's interpreted as disdain and frustration, but not hate. I applaud the good people in the pool industry who speak out within their industry.

As long as more chems and gadgets can be sold when poor advice is provided, I doubt anything will change. I think the same is true in most retail. It used to be that you had to watch out for few bad eggs, but inside corporate nowadays, if a spreadsheet somewhere shows that another $1000 can be made, and no one can prove it wrong, it happens. It's just the nature of the beast until more buyers vote with their feet than those who also buy a shovel to take up the manure.
 

thebombardier

In The Industry
Jul 16, 2017
302
Massapequa, NY
When I type pool $tore, I hope it's interpreted as disdain and frustration, but not hate. I applaud the good people in the pool industry who speak out within their industry.

As long as more chems and gadgets can be sold when poor advice is provided, I doubt anything will change. I think the same is true in most retail. It used to be that you had to watch out for few bad eggs, but inside corporate nowadays, if a spreadsheet somewhere shows that another $1000 can be made, and no one can prove it wrong, it happens. It's just the nature of the beast until more buyers vote with their feet than those who also buy a shovel to take up the manure.
I know your frustration. I deal with customers on a near daily basis in season who have had nothing but frustration dealing with some local competition that will go unnamed. The business is built on selling snake oil and cheap Chinese equipment, and it's no secret on this side of the counter how shady some of their business practices are (in fact, the previous owner of my store helped the owner of that store start his business and left when he saw the direction it was going). Not to mention their service and repairs give customers the infinite runaround so they don't have to fix anything ,to the point Aquabot has literally told people to not take their warranty repairs there because they "have no idea what they're doing".
 

jamescox

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2017
4
Ocean Springs, MS
I would like to contribute to this thread from the perspective of a hardware store manager :D... We use a Waterlink Spinlab from LaMotte. I've been pretty happy with it, but there have been times when I would test a sample twice in a row and get drastically different results. But I know when the results are off, because I talk to my customers and ask them what they've done recently, think about weather, look at previous results, etc. To me, as a hardware store manager, it's important to:


  • know which equipment works best (and/or what you can afford), and the limitations of what you do have
  • know how to recognize faults in the readings
  • spend a lot of time lurking on TFP learning from all the vast experience and expertise, rather than relying on the chemical sales rep's biased information
  • teach the homeowner about pool chemistry basics, and give them the power to learn more by sending them to TFP
  • use control samples to compare results periodically to physical strip tests and other stores to check whether calibration might be needed
  • not be a jerk and just hand people the recommendations on the sheet without explaining, crossing things out, explaining timing, etc.

To homeowners and pool managers: It's ok to go to the pool store if you know what YOU'RE doing, so you can tell if the person you're buying from knows what SHE'S/HE'S doing and isn't just trying to sell you chemicals, and if you're willing to pay a premium for things you can buy at a cheaper price at grocery/hardware stores. Any test can be off, especially if you're inconsistent about taking samples. I had a customer that was getting high CYA readings and was about to drain water off their pool, but it turned out they were taking samples from the very top of the pool!

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that I am selling you chemicals, and I can confirm that we are biased sources of information. Our information comes from our sales reps and blanket coverage recommendations from testing equipment companies, and even if you get a knowledgeable "veteran", there's still a good chance they will be biased. Learn how to check us!
 
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