This report appeared in Dive magazine (UK) in February 2001:
Instead of renting, I had decided to buy a drysuit and other gear to take on a trip to California. Or so I said when I visited Northern Diver.
Would its staff resist the chance to sell this naive diver some unnecessarily expensive equipment?
I put on my bewildered face as Neil, one of four assistants on the shop floor that day, greeted me. He asked the right questions to ascertain my needs and showed me the store's range of drysuits.
Neil explained the pros and cons of membrane and neoprene suits, described how the seals worked, the valves available and what type of diving each was best used for.
All his advice was factually correct and allowed me to make my own informed decisions without any biased recommendations. He even asked if I wanted to watch drysuits being made in the factory at the rear of the store.
When I appeared confused, Neil recommended that one of the cheapest suits would fit my needs as well as one of the more expensive.
The first BC he showed me was Northern Diver's own brand, The Guardian. Reduced to £165, it seemed a bargain. But before I got carried away, Neil compared it to more expensive BCs. He explained about integrated weights, the materials used in construction and the fact that the NDiver BC had less left capacity than some more popular brands. I was beginning to trust Neil.
Regulators on display were made by Scubapro and Apeks. Neil admitted a Scubapro bias, but I had said I was reluctant to dive past 30m, so he recommended the Apeks TX40 and said if I decided to go deeper regularly the TX50 would be better.
I pleaded ignorance about the 'knobs' on the regulators. Neil accurately explained the breathing resistance controls and even demonstrated on a cylinder he rigged up.
On to computers. Neil asked if I was likely to use Nitrox. I said no and he recommended the Aladin Pro, a good choice from those available, and promised to match prices from any other store.
What discount could I obtain if I bought a drysuit, BC, regulator and computer? The regs were already heavily discounted, but I got about 15 percent off the total price.
The store is very spacious and well stocked, with a good variety of gear. Neil knew his stuff and his service was faultless. It was almost as if he knew he was being assessed; impossible!
Northern Diver boasts about its Quality management awards; if Neil is representative, I can see why it achieved them.