C-Cards, Decals, Patches and Stickers


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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A number of years ago, the manufacturer of my favorite regulator went out of business. Within a few years, there was a scarcity of spare parts for annual inspection. When my trusted dive shop ran out of parts and was no longer able to service my regulator, the service tech informed me that a dive shop in California had purchased all of the spare parts and, as such, had become the sole source of repair for this particular regulator.

I called the dive shop and they informed me that parts were available and that they could do my annual service. So, I sent 5 regulators (2 primary/secondary combinations with  consoles (each containing depth gauge, SPG, compass, and thermometer) and a regulator only used for lifting operations)  in  regulator bags to be serviced. When I had heard nothing in a month, I called the dive shop. The phone number had been disconnected and a letter of inquiry was returned as addressee unknown.

I found the shop via the internet;  it had changed its location, phone number and business name. I called the dive shop and was informed my regulators had arrived intact, but then had been "lost." When I asked what sort of remedy the dive shop was considering, they hung up on me. Repeated phone calls had the same response. There was no answer to a return-receipt-requested letter asking for an explanation and resolution. I called the local police to file a report and then found out there had been a number of "losses" of scuba gear at that particular business location. I filed a police report and an insurance claim.

At that particular time, I heard about another more local dive shop that was not-returning consumer gear left for annual inspection/repair. Although I strongly believe this inappropriate behavior is the responsibility of the individual dive shop involved, I sent a letter to the associated training agency so they could be apprised of the situation. They investigated the matter.

The bottom line is that the police considered this a theft; my insurance company sent me a check for more than $3000 (for replacement of stolen items) and the dive shops ... well, last I heard, they still have stickers on their doors proclaiming their long standing commitment to community business ethics.

In the 1970's,1980's and 1990's,  instructor C-cards were sold through the mail for $25.00. I have seen C-cards with photos of dogs, ducks and inanimate objects.  My favorite story about this practice involves instructor LeRoy Rix (LeRoy makes motors and Rix makes compressors). Allegedly, this instructor's C-card was pasted on a west coast dive shop's air filling station with a small sign that read "All disputes mediated by our Chief Instructor, LeRoy." 

Many specialty instructor ratings are simply purchased, with no demonstration of acquired knowledge, skill or experience.

Some instructors are not paid for teaching unless a C-card is issued in the allotted time. This places enormous pressure on the instructor, especially if scuba instruction is the sole source of income, to certify regardless of in-water comfort and skill. I have seen instructors told to consider recent substantial equipment purchases in their "evaluations" of students prior to certification.

The lady who attacked me while I tried to prevent her "escape to the surface" ( Battle Royale ) was a certified DiveCon.

Every day, I receive emails advising me that I can obtain a college degree, including a Ph. D. without meeting any criteria other than payment of a fee. I have been told that for additional funds, I can specify the name of the accredited institution that allegedly granted this degree. Even more money will supply a transcript consistent with the specific institution and chosen field of study. Finally, for top dollar, signatures and names on degrees and transcripts will be appropriate for the time-frame of the purchased degree.

The points of these comments are:

1.We have all heard that you cannot judge a book by its cover. In diving instruction this means that, while certainly a necessity, there is no guarantee  (since, in many cases, credentials have been purchased, rather than earned) that any C-card, decal, patch or sticker can be assumed to be an accurate and reliable measure of the claimed level of knowledge, skill and experience.

2. Assuming all C-cards accurately reflect reality can lead to in-water problems.

3. The only way to evaluate a student or diver is to listen to them, observe their ease and comfort during dive preparation and in-water diving. In other words, an evaluation of diving skills is simply not possible without doing the dive. It is the individual skills of the diver, not the plastic they carry, that determines their individual levels of expertise.

and as a corollary:

4. Your students should know by your "presence" (confident manner derived from knowledge, skill and experience) that you are a master of the skills being taught. If the only way a student knows you are an instructor is by a patch on your ball-cap, then everyone on the scene is in deep trouble.

and finally,

5.  There is a lot to be said for doing business, whenever possible, with a local, trusted dive shop!


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 200 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2024  by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education