Ok everyone, now for something positive. We have 3 major "pro" stores in Calgary and several that deal in used stuff. All but 1 is a great place with super staff. In most cases the sales people know what they are talking about and actually use the stuff. One store in particular "The Camera Store" has a number of experts in each area, such as digital cameras, printers, LF, MF etc. When you ask for that special dodad someone will know exactly what you are talking about and if it's not out front they go to the back and rummage around to find it. They also stock lots of LF film and the usual darkroom stuff you need.
I do not go to the chain stores as it is a waste of my time, and theirs. The staff at the chain stores typically get paid minimum wage + spiffs. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I don't fault them for not knowing much as they will probably only work there for a couple of months and then on to the next low paying job. The people that deal with these kinds of stores know as little as the salespeople so therefore it's the blind leading the blind.
One store in town I refuse to go into as I feel they are crooks and one other that sells used stuff I will go into to look for specific stuff but will not get into any chit chat with the staff as I have seen them outright lie to rookies who know no better. These guys work on commission. The staff at The Camera Store on the other hand are on salary.
Obviously The Camera Stores get the lionshare of my business. Even if it's a few bucks more it's worth it to me have deal with knowledgeable staff. In this era of Wal Mart mentality where everyone wants it for the lowest possible dollar you can't expect to get service along with cheap prices.
We of all people should recognize that to produce a quality product takes time, money and effort. If you have a good store in town with knowledgeable people, support them. That's the only way they will be able to maintain their staff and inventory. Just because you can get it for a couple of bucks cheaper on eBay or some out of town store will not support the continued success of your local store. After awhile you will see the good staff let go and inventories reduced for the products you want. Lets face it, we account for probably only 10% of their sales, maybe less, but the overhead to keep us happy is considerable. Craftsmanship in product production (photographs, furniture etc) and superior salesmanship costs money. If you want it, pay for it.