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July 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What’s the Price of an Air Fill? Pretty Cheap

from the July, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

There's a considerable cost to dive shops for providing air, but they price it all over the place, based on different marketing strategies. To update the air-fill prices they researched back in 2007, Dive Center Business recently surveyed dive shops nationwide and received answers from 397 of them. They found that what one dive shop in Seattle charges may be drastically higher than what another one in Sarasota charges.

The average price for a standard air fill is $6.75, and a standard nitrox fill averages $12.75. Hawaii dive shops charge the least for air fills, a cheap $4.68. In the Continental U.S., dive shops in the Southeast typically charge the lowest for air and Nitrox fills, at $6.06 and $11.14, respectively, while those next door, in the South Central area (New Mexico to Louisiana), have the highest average cost for both, at $7.42 and $13.72, respectively. Overall, the typical U.S. dive shop fills 2,195 tanks per year, with 19 percent of those being Nitrox fills.

The price has changed slightly over the past decade, but not much, and when adjusted for inflation, it's actually less. Most dive shops know that, but apparently they feel their hands are tied when it comes to raising prices. Here are a few comments that dive shops gave to Dive Center Business.

"Here's what's not funny. I remember this survey from 2007 because I remember telling myself it was time to raise the price from $5. What is that? Seven years ago? I'm still at $5. What a dumbass. Seven years at an extra $3 for the number of tanks I fill, and I would have an additional $38,000 in the bank. Wake up and smell the checkbook, scuba whores."

"Pricing airfills has always been a problem in the scuba industry. All of us in the industry allow the clients to set the pricing of our fills -- a bad policy. Airfills cost less than the average craft beer and can be enjoyed longer (a half-hour dive), but yet clients scream about our "outrageous" pricing."

"We charge all fills by the cubic foot, i.e., an aluminum 80 that has 1500 psi in it is only charged for 40 cubic feet after being filled."

"I firmly believe that airfills should be around $12 to $15 to make a small profit, considering that I pay my staff between $9.50 and $15 per hour."

"I find it funny that paint ballers find it cheaper to get airfills at the dive shop."

"People in this business have used airfills as a loss leader without thought to maintenance, filter costs, electricity or wear and tear on their compressors. Airfills should be up around $15 and enriched air should be $25 to make money on fills. Store owners drive this profit center into a loss center."

"We know of a shop that gives free airfills for life when you buy a cylinder from them. Then people come to us and think they should get free air. Some customers think that if they only need 1000 psi to top off their cylinders, they shouldn't have to pay for it or pay the standard price."

"The Internet does not fill tanks! It's the last commodity we have; even education is online."

So enjoy those cheap fills. If the "scuba whores" played tough, you'd be paying double what you pay now. But dive shops are staying quiet, keeping this potential profit center as a big loss leader -- just to keep your business.

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