Wow...there's alot of opinions on this issue. Here's my 2 pence worth. All be it, everything usually starts off at the local dive shop, certification, rental gear, etc. The local dive dive shop needs to be aware of the needs of new prospective client that has just walked into the door, and how are they going to retain that customer...period. With the over abundance of product information that is available and the means to purchase them should be an indicator to that shop owner what the playing field is. It is up to the shop owner to adapt to the buyer, not the other way around. I find it offensive, (and have in the past) to see business owners to lay responsibility of the consumer of their failing businesses...that makes no sense. I bought the bulk of my NEW gear online (regs, BCD, dive computer) I saved 50 to 60% off retail price, shipping included. Yes I do have warranty on all the equipment. I spent roughly about $1200 on the gear, I saved about $700. The local shop owner must realize that this the new market place, people will research everything and do anything to save what they can. I cannot understand the arguement put forward by the shop owner (Buy from me or I'll lose my business!) It is a fact that my gear will need professional servicing, am I to understand that the shop owner will decline to service my gear because I didn't buy from him?...is it getting that personal? MY BCD was $400 retail, I got it under $250. Is the shop owner upset with because I got a better price somewhere else?...heck he may have sold me if he could have been a bit more flexible....But I guess those who do their homework, and inform themselves will get blacklisted...is this in the small business operating manual? Conclusion: It's up to the local shop owner to adapt to the market place, and to stop making excuses attempt to dictate where I should buy my gear. If your business is hurting from bulk distributors, I suggest consultation with the customer retention chapter of the business manual. Obviously the bulk distibutor will not offer the one-on-one service like a local shop owner, however at what cost for adequate customer service? Is it worth $150 for the mark-up on just the BCD? or an extra $200 I saved on the regs? Surely $200 is a bit much for one yearly inspection of my regulators.