I have no problem with buying a healthy fish from a pet store. If the fish are kept in unheated cups, well, that's unavoidable--but those cups still need to be changed and kept in an area where the temperature is at least marginally acceptable. Sometimes fish stores get bad shipments, and we do need to acknowledge that, too. For whatever reason, sometimes a whole shipment of bettas will fall ill and it isn't the pet store's fault. However, if there are consistently multiple sick bettas, I certainly wouldn't buy from that store, and definitely not one of the sick ones. If nothing else is available, and the manager refuses to let obviously sick bettas go for free, I would go to the store on shipment day to be sure that the fish I purchased was at least healthy. There are bettas being given away on craigslist every day--if you want to rescue a mistreated fish without supporting a pet store, that's a great way to do it.
This will sound callous, but if a store's stock continually dies they will lose money, and they will either a) improve their care practices or b) stop selling the fish they're killing. The small cup dillemma seems to be an unavoidable symptom of bettas not getting along. I can't imagine even breeders are able to keep all their fish in actual tanks. I found a little aquarium store near me. They keep them in glass cups, but at least the water was clear, and the fish were active.
I agree with Adastra (as usual). Its hard not to take a sick fish home but all it does is put another in its place. It is far better to try to convince the store to begin taking better care of their fish. Some people don't want to deal with the conflict of that so they make themselves feel better by saying "well at least this fish will have a good life".
If you do buy a sick fish then that's your prerogative but don't call it a rescue. It is a sympathy buy.
I try to stay away from pet store fish altogether. I find it much more rewarding to support hobbyist breeders.
I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the big chain stores have all their shipments planned out. So even if you don't buy the fish, they will still get new ones.
I don't imagine any change would be immediate, but every store has policies that effect which items they carry. If an item doesn't sell, they stop carrying it. In this case, if the fish not staying alive is the reason they can't be sold then they might improve practices so they live longer.
I know this works! I have seen it happen with other exotics. There was a petsmart that took TERRIBLE care of it's birds, and that was their biggest selection--they had tons of parrots, budgies, finches..all sick and starving in dirty cages! People stopped buying because they looked so bad.. I went back a few months later, they don't sell birds anymore! All the birds go to the other petsmart a bit away, and they do a much better job!
I have actaully made a self pledge. I will only patronize stores that keep their fish and other animals in good conditions.
Petsmart? Haha nope.
Petco? Nope not here anyways.
Believe it or not... the one walmart here I actaully complimented them on the cleanliness of their betta tanks.
My number one store though is Kahoots. Betta cups are cleaned every other day I know this because I asked. They also clean their fish tanks EVERY day with the gravel vaccuum. So I will only shop at these two places I give almost all my business to kahoots. If I cannot find something I need at kahoots I will buy offline. I also like Kahoots because they also are responsible when it comes to all their other animals. Rodents and Birds all are hand raised they even get alot from local breeders (they even told me that they knew the person they got their bettas from I think) So now you know where I spend most my time... hehehe
I'm gonna apply for a job their wish me luck!
You're better than me. The prices draw me to the big chains for supplies, also the variety they have is better. The store I bought my betta at is a small one, however. I've also founded it listed on the sites of at least one local fish/aquatic club. I visited it several times and every time the betta cups looked clean. The owner's advice on bettas has been a little questionable, but he didn't encourage me to put them in a pint glass either. Sadly, he just doesn't have the variety of supplies there since it's a hole in the wall, though his prices are still competitive. Ramble, ramble... I haven't slept since 11pm last night, so I think I'm feeling a little overtired and chatty.
Online shopping is your best friend--prices on Foster & Smith Aquatics beat the snot out of most big chain stores unless they're having some kind of major sale. Even with shipping, you can still save a ton, and the variety can't be beaten. If you're going for livestock, LiveAquaria has a great variety of plants and fish, with a very reasonable $30 minimum purchase--this way you get fish right from the distributor and they don't have the chance to languish in a dirty pet store.
I'll have to check out all of the above, though sometimes you can't beat immediate gratification. You see something or want something and you have the grabbie hands and it just can't wait! I'm the same with books, my brain says, "You can get it cheaper online," and my hands say, "We have it now! Run!"