In the early days, the only real way to purchase e-cigs was to order them online. As the market expanded and their popularity grew, convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops started to carry the most basic, cigarette-like products. These days, you have a variety of options and dedicated retail shops (specializing in the most advanced personal vaporizers and vaping gear) are popping up around the country.
Although there are plenty of advantages to purchasing your e-cig and vaping supplies online, brick-and-mortar “vape shops” are providing a whole new level of convenience and support. Which option is right for you? Is it better to purchase vaping gear online or at a brick-and-mortar retail location?
The Rapid Explosion of Vape Shops
Over the past few years dedicated “vape shops” have been popping up across the nation. In my hometown alone, two new stores have opened within the last 6 months. Announcements litter the local papers, and it seems like everybody and their brother is opening a new vape shop. With rapid growth in the e-cigarette industry, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs and enthusiasts alike are jumping on the e-cigarette bandwagon, and the growth is likely to continue.
One advantage of the rapid growth is that you have more options than ever to satisfy your constantly evolving vaping needs. Live demos, free samples and knowledgeable staff make vape shops an obvious attraction for both newbies and dedicated enthusiasts. On the downside, rapid growth means that entrepreneurs, who often have very little knowledge or expertise, are jumping into the e-cig market to take advantage of the huge profit potential. Many of these shop owners offer low-quality, prepackaged products and very little technical support, leaving a lot to be desired in the education and training departments.
Finding the Right E-Cigarette Store
Finding the right vape shop is just like searching for any business in your area. Visit multiple locations (if possible), ask questions and get a feel for each operation. If you’re lucky enough to have several different locations to choose from, visit each one individually, evaluate their products and interact with staff.
Do they have the items you’re looking for? Are they friendly and courteous? Are they quick to provide assistance and answer your questions? Do they actually know what they’re talking about? If they have what you need and you’re satisfied with their level of knowledge and service – YOU HAVE A WINNER!
Pros & Cons of Vape Shops
- Live demonstrations – Viewing pictures and videos of a product is one thing, but touching it and feeling it is another. Live demos and in-person displays give you in-depth, hands-on experience.
- Free samples and e-juice testing – Rather than taking a shot in the dark and buying an item before you try it, most vapor shops, lounges and bars provide free e-juice samples and allow you to test out items in-person.
- Knowledgeable and experienced staff – Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced vaping enthusiast, having an expert to provide their input is a valuable incentive to shop at a local store.
- Full on-site support – Rather than dealing with an annoying customer service rep by phone or email, a local vape shop can provide on-site support and deal with your warranty claims in-person.
- Availability… RIGHT NOW! – When you shop at a vape store, the items are available on-the-spot. No need to pay for shipping and you won’t wait for days (or weeks) until your order arrives.
- Limited selection – Although some retail vapor stores carry a huge selection of products, others are limited and it’s impossible for most vape shops to carry every item that’s available online.
- Biased opinions and advice? – When you visit an e-cig shop it’s in their best interest to sell the items that they carry. Depending on what store you choose, you might not get the full story and their advice could easily be biased. Online shoppers can compare dozens of different products, view ratings and read reviews from a variety of unbiased resources.
- Higher costs – It’s typically more expensive to buy supplies at a local vapor store than online. There are certainly exceptions, but vape shops are responsible for staff and other overhead.
Buying Locally Vs. Shopping Online
The debate between purchasing online vs. buying locally is the same debate that occurs in almost every other industry. Buying locally helps to support your community and grows the local economy, but it comes at a cost.
You have a greater selection on the Internet and it’s often lower priced – void of sales tax or the need to leave your home. Dealing with a local business, on the other hand, provides a more personalized experience, with higher-quality, one-on-one support. There are valid points to both sides of the argument, but here are some situations where one may be better than another:
When to buy at a vape shop:
- When you’re new to the world of vaping and want to talk to an expert (in-person) about all of the available options
- When you’re looking for new flavors, gear or accessories, but aren’t willing to buy them online without seeing, touching, tasting or feeling first
- When you’re an avid vaping enthusiast looking for like-minded individuals to interact and share ideas or experiences with
- When you’re 100% dedicated to shopping at local businesses
When to buy on the Internet:
- When you know exactly what you want and would like to buy in bulk to save money
- When you’re short on cash and getting the lowest price is your main priority
- When you want to shop from the comfort of your home and are willing to purchase items without seeing or experiencing them firsthand
- When you don’t have a local e-cig shop in your area
If you have a vape shop in your area… go check it out! Nothing beats the personalized service, and who doesn’t love to test new products and e-juice flavors? Maybe you’re not satisfied with everything that they carry, and maybe some of the items are just too darn expensive, but it’s worth giving the local guys a shot before rushing straight to the Internet to buy your vaping gear.
Not only do vape shops provide a more direct way of doing business, but they offer a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for you to enjoy your favorite pastime. If you’re unsatisfied with the service, can’t find what you’re looking for, or just want to save some money, the Internet is available anytime, 365 days a year.