I am irritated. I received an email from a potential cave diving student who flat-out stated that my prices were too high, and that he could take a shorter course in Florida for $250 USD. For a few moments, I had to sit on my hands to avoid typing, "Well, go to Florida then!" After hearing my story, another instructor shared her stock response to this problem - "You want to pay 50% of the price? Great! I will teach you 50% of what you need to know to stay alive underwater." Brilliant. And maybe, not quite so much of an exaggeration as one might think.
Since poor or inadequate instruction may jeopardize a diver's life, divers should beware of shops or instructors offering courses that are suspiciously cheaper or shorter than the competition. In most cases, discount scuba courses are possible because the trainer increases the number of students, shortens the course length, and does the minimum required to pass students as quickly as possible. These courses may be easy to pass because less is expected of the students, but they do not offer the most complete instruction.
"Why do shops offer short, discounted courses? I suppose that greed overcomes common sense and they offer customers the short easy courses they want regardless of what is best, or even safest."
As an example, I have recently seen advertisements for discount Open Water Scuba Courses that take only two days to complete. Ridiculous. A student cannot learn and retain the great quantity of information presented in the open water course in such a short period of time. He will master only a percentage of the information he needs to stay alive underwater. Time, effort, and supervised practice are required for a student to become a proficient diver.
Why do shops offer short, discounted courses? I suppose that greed overcomes common sense and they offer their customers the short easy courses they want regardless of what is best (or even safest). The fault falls partially on ignorant clients who demand shorter courses at the expense of their personal safety, and partially on the dive professionals who bend to those demands.
Examples of the many topics covered in an Open Water Certification Course:
The best scuba instructors I know have spent years acquiring the skills and experience necessary to teach an excellent course. Dive professionals who have made this investment generally expect to be paid for it. Since I am unwilling to teach my students only part of what they need to survive, and refuse to pass them unless I think they are prepared and self-sufficient divers, I will continue to offer long expensive classes that actually teach people how to dive.
Why am I so worked up about this? Let's put it in perspective. How would you feel if you discovered that the pilot of the 747 you just boarded graduated from the cheapest, shortest flight school he could find - a school that is more concerned with churning out pilots as quickly as possible than actually training them to be exceptional pilots? Not good. Nobody wants to be in a plane flown by a discount pilot. In scuba diving, you are the pilot and you owe it to yourself to see that you get high-quality training, even if it costs a bit more.
Speak up! Do you think short discount courses can be effective?
Image copyright istockphoto.com, dstephens