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

YippeeSkippy

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 17, 2012
11,668
Evans, Georgia
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. 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!
Excellent advice and honest point of view, JamesCox. Thankyou for sharing this, and welcome to posting at TFP!

Maddie :flower:
 

duraleigh

Admin
Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
In The Industry
Apr 1, 2007
32,859
Sebring, Florida
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!
Very candid post! jamescox, would you ever consider getting a TF-100 and testing precisely once and for all and not have to worry about the vagaries of your current testing?

EDIT: The depth from which the sample is taken is not particularly relative to the CYA test. Good idea to sample a foot or more deep for all tests but CYA remains uniform throughout the depth of the pool.
 

needsajet

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 4, 2016
4,698
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Welcome, excellent post, and thank you!! I would go to your store any day. Here's wishing you great business this summer, and looking forward to your posts. Thanks for recommending TFP to your customers :)
 

jeffchap

Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 26, 2012
1,760
Edmond OK
James, kudos to you, but I suspect you are more the exception rather than the rule. Even in your store, does anyone besides you perform water testing, and if so, do they possess the same level of expertise and professionalism that you do?
 

jamescox

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2017
4
Ocean Springs, MS
Very candid post! jamescox, would you ever consider getting a TF-100 and testing precisely once and for all and not have to worry about the vagaries of your current testing?

EDIT: The depth from which the sample is taken is not particularly relative to the CYA test. Good idea to sample a foot or more deep for all tests but CYA remains uniform throughout the depth of the pool.
Thanks for the clarification! I'll take your word for it. I've had conflicting information on that. As for the TF-100, we actually have an employee with a pool that has a test kit, and we compare results periodically. Our machine seems reasonably precise, and according to LaMotte, it self calibrates every test because it has a calibrating slot on the discs. But I have had some wildly inaccurate tests (obvious by the crazy results), and running it a second time usually returns accurate numbers.

James, kudos to you, but I suspect you are more the exception rather than the rule. Even in your store, does anyone besides you perform water testing, and if so, do they possess the same level of expertise and professionalism that you do?
Other employees run tests, but generally refer to me for questions. I am working on training my long time employees one at a time, though.

Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!
 

Rich G

Active member
Apr 7, 2018
38
WPB, FL
Here’s my experience... I had my pool built and it was finished in December. I have been taking my sample to them since then and overall they always just said I had to add acid... the nerd in me decided to buy a test just to play around with and I noticed my CH was 80ppm... I took a sample in to the store again to see if they would confirm and nothing, just add acid.....

from what ive been reading, a CH that low destroys plaster pools but the pool store never told me about it..
 

Pool_Medic

In The Industry
Apr 1, 2018
1,181
Bangor Maine
99% of pool store staff is poorly trained, never owned a pool and is there to increase sales and profit. They do not understand why you are so fussy, why you want your water clear, nor why you are panicking about your family pool party next weekend. If you rely on them to test your water then be prepared for extra unneeded over priced chemical purchases. The fact that anyone googles pool info and finds themselves here, clearly shows you have an interest in your pool. Once you gain some simple knowledge from this site you can take true ownership of your pool.
 

PoolguyinCT

In The Industry
Jul 21, 2014
3,083
Connecticut
99% of pool store staff is poorly trained, never owned a pool and is there to increase sales and profit. They do not understand why you are so fussy, why you want your water clear, nor why you are panicking about your family pool party next weekend. If you rely on them to test your water then be prepared for extra unneeded over priced chemical purchases. The fact that anyone googles pool info and finds themselves here, clearly shows you have an interest in your pool. Once you gain some simple knowledge from this site you can take true ownership of your pool.

Majority are so poorly trained, they don’t even know/realize profit is the goal.. they are just showing up & waiting for payday.
 

frogabog

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 16, 2010
2,833
Portland, Oregon
Oh what a thrilling read! It did take a while, but since I've been gone for half a decade... Was interesting to say the least. We don't have pool stores here. Very few, if any actually have pools. I think there are more seasonal pools here than inground. Our season is shorter than most, this year is proving to be even less so than the past 5-8y.

While this ended a while ago, before the update to the site, I still found it interesting. The best part was the 2 pool store people who "got it". It gives me faith in mankind (humankind).

I gravitated to TFP because the science made sense. Like... immediately. So many years ago. I've never been "pool stored". I've never seen a "Leslies", or any chain pool store. I think our pool stores are "hot tub" stores actually. I went into one once, bought a comparator block, DPD powder, R-0871, R-0003 and left. No one thought twice or asked if I needed anything else. My "pool stored" version is my ex husband in charge of the pools. He spent hundreds. Things were "ok", but never perfect. He was always adding this or that or whatever. He likes to buy stuff.

Once I took over, things were much better. To the point where I was the only one who appropriated chemicals. I've been a lifer for TFP ever since. On my hiatus I had a spa with cracks that oozed black algae. This is not a good thing. It can't be halted in a 40yo fiberglass spa, no matter how many layers of gel coat you apply over sanded cracks. Done, no spa for us and the new owner demolished it anyway. Found a mummified cat underneath... no clue who's cat that was.

I'm sure this is not supposed to be "brought back to life", but I don't see the harm in it honestly, because it's such an epic thread. Interesting to read, and actually full of hope towards the end with pool store people being honest. I like that. So, thanks for sticking around while I wasn't around for a few years, TFP.
 

Pool_Medic

In The Industry
Apr 1, 2018
1,181
Bangor Maine
The LaMaotte spin disk system actually has a separate disk that they will send to you that helps calibrate it. Every soin disk has a set amount of chemical powders in it, when you inject the pool water and place it in the spinner, this then get mixed and light is what allows the machine to read the different colours. Now we all know that things go wrong on a Chinese assembly line, so what if you are giving information on what the pool owner should do and the actual readings are wrong? Titration can’t and won’t give you wrong information. It’s one colour changing to another. Sure you might be off by 10-20 ppm on deciding when the colour changed but that small a discrepancy would have minimal affect on the balance in the water. The spin disk imo having used it thousands of times gives bad readings a lot, no it’s not user error, the ph is horrendously wrong 50% of the time if not more. It’s a brutally expensive way to test and it’s not worth it for any store.
 

tim5055

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 11, 2014
10,415
Franklin, NC
Titration can’t and won’t give you wrong information.
When done correctly, yes, titration gives accurate, repeatable test results.

I have personally watched store "experts" who make basic errors like minimal if no swirling or "squirting" the reagents in instead of actually counting the drops.

In a busy store on a Saturday morning speed is king and accuracy can go out the window.

I have a friend in Ft. Lauderdale who swears by his pool store. To be honest, I never believed him until a visit last year. If they treat all customers like him he found the diamond....

They are slow and methodical in testing, do a brisk business in liquid chlorine and have a minimal stock of questionable "magic potions". They have a good selection of parts/toys and appear to do a good businesses in repairs of pumps and cleaners. Just standing around listening the "summer help" did not try to appear to be an expert and referred questions to the full time staff. The couple of questions I did hear were answered after consideration of the symptoms and test results.
 
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Pool_Medic

In The Industry
Apr 1, 2018
1,181
Bangor Maine
Titration is a drop method, if staff are properly taught they will do it right. Staff can also be taught tfp methodology. In my opinion it is not counter productive to a good business model. In fact I’ve run my business this way since Ben Powell first Opened our eyes on the pool forum. Sheisty business people will always try to take advantage of people’s wallets.
 

Jbrillo

Gold Supporter
Jun 11, 2018
327
League City, Texas
I have to admit that I do go to Leslie’s to have my water tested once a month. I only do it because Pebbletec requires third party testing if I ever need to make a warranty claim. I was going every two weeks for awhile but decided last month that once a month should be good enough. I got tired of them asking me if I had any Perfect Weekly or Phosfree. I’ve told them before that I only come because I need 3rd party testing for my Pebbletec warranty. I guess they forget. I have found that their testing is sometimes close to what I get but sometimes it’s pretty far off. One of the first samples I had tested when our pool just got filled showed a CYA of 40 and I hadn’t even added any CYA yet. At least the guys there have always been nice and never rude. If I didn’t have to though, I would probably never go there.
 

Palpatine

Well-known member
Sep 3, 2019
87
West Hills, CA
Haha @Jbrillo , I just remodeled my pool and before I filled it with water I took a sample of tap water to Leslie's. I didn't tell them it was tap water. It came back with CYA at 50, lol. Then I told them it was tap water... are you sure that is correct? He said there must have been some water left in the tube from the previous test.

To be fair, they've been pretty friendly... and I've been taking water samples in to cross-check my own numbers the last few days and they haven't told me to beat it yet. The guy today did tell me that there's no need to check your water but every 4 days and anything less is a waste... even on a start up. Not sure if that's true or not but, yeah, their prices are ridiculous. I bought some Alkalinity Up from them... just so that I could buy something... and 10 lbs was $30.

Really glad to have found this forum. Everyone here has been tremendously helpful and I've gained a ton of knowledge so far.
 
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bmoreswim

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Jul 16, 2012
5,430
Central MD
Haha @Jbrillo , I just remodeled my pool and before I filled it with water I took a sample of tap water to Leslie's. I didn't tell them it was tap water. It came back with CYA at 50, lol. Then I told them it was tap water... are you sure that is correct? He said there must have been some water left in the tube from the previous test.

To be fair, they've been pretty friendly... and I've been taking water samples in to cross-check my own numbers the last few days and they haven't told me to beat it yet. The guy today did tell me that there's no need to check your water but every 4 days and anything less is a waste... even on a start up. Not sure if that's true or not but, yeah, their prices are ridiculous. I bought some Alkalinity Up from them... just so that I could buy something... and 10 lbs was $30.

Really glad to have found this forum. Everyone here has been tremendously helpful and I've gained a ton of knowledge so far.
I'd recommend not cross-checking with a pool store. That's akin to double-checking morality thoughts with the guy that just stole your dog. Unfortunately friendly doesn't provide accurate test results. Only you can do that consistently. I'd absolutely be checking my water daily on a startup.
 

thefloatqueen

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
411
Columbus, OH
Never had my water tested at a pool store but I have a pool store story to tell and it’s a good one lol....

When I first opened my pool this summer, I swung by a local mom and pops pool store that has been family owned and operated for generations, so I thought they were reputable. The guy asked me what kind of pool I have and I told him an Intex frame vinyl pool. His response....”oh, one of those Walmart pools?” Umm.....yeah I guess you could call it that but Geezus, way to make me feel like white trash lol. When going around to pick out starter chemicals, he picked out an algae chemical that... get ready for it.....HAS COPPER IN IT!!!!!

I’m convinced he did this so I would ruin my pool and have to come back and (by his own wishful thinking) buy one of his custom built ones or spend more money on useless chemicals. I told him thanks but no thanks. I didn’t want to argue about never using a copper algaecide in a vinyl pool (or any pool for that matter). He also INSISTED I needed test strips even though I told him I have a very good Taylor (TF-100) test kit. I am a first time pool owner and he tried to take advantage of that!

THAT is why I will never return to another pool store. With the help of the amazing TFP community, I maintained my pool the right way and have had gorgeous, sparkling, crystal clear water since setting up/opening my new pool and haven’t had even the slightest speck of algae.

EDIT: I realize this post is about pool stores’ water tests and not pool stores in general but I just HAD to share this experience lol!
 
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Catanzaro

Platinum Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 30, 2014
3,401
Monmouth County, New Jersey
When I first opened my pool this summer, I swung by a local mom and pops pool store that has been family owned and operated for generations, so I thought they were reputable. The guy asked me what kind of pool I have and I told him an Intex frame vinyl pool. His response....”oh, one of those Walmart pools?” Umm.....yeah I guess you could call it that but Geezus, way to make me feel like white trash lol. When going around to pick out starter chemicals, he picked out an algae chemical that... get ready for it.....HAS COPPER IN IT!!!!!
You have to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He probably meant no harm, but this is what Wal-Mart is famous for. We had an Intex Pool and quite honestly, did not care one bit about what people thought. No one is here to judge on what pools people own, etc. It was probably just conversation. Personally, I would have asked him what he meant by the statement, as I would be confused. And the copper bit, just sheer ignorance.

Pool store employee's know no better. There training is poor at the least.

Picture a mom and pop store with a few items on the shelf:

1) Bleach
2) Baking Soda
3) Borax
4) Muriatic Acid
5) The TF-100 Test Kit + Speed Stir & Accessories

Incidentals that your pool could need (Hardware, that is). Now, remove all the magic potions that you really do not need, and one could operate a mom and pop store in a store front property that is 400 square feet. Now, walk into a Leslie's and you are talking 2,000-4,000 square feet. There is one in Freehold, NJ that is at least 4,000 square feet, with things you really do not need.

The testing may not be off by that much, but they always are recommending products that just are not needed. Take care and good luck!
 
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