Bend Over Please

Over the years I have written numerous bits about the (lack) of service from bike shops. It’s not a pet peeve but it does get my back up, after having spent the past 10 odd years selling to the ‘cycling community’ and now being on the front line, steering a mountain bike marquee. So that I am writing about it again, in a sad sort of way, tells me that for some of the ‘bike shops’ out there, how they view their customers could be similar to the way I view their so called customer service.

It was time to buy the Lad his first real bike. The past year or so in his ‘like-a-bike’ proved time well spent as his sense of balance grew to the point that he needed something more to do than push. Now I know buying a ‘kid’s bike’ is fraught with all sorts of dangers, mostly to do with the total crap they pass off as kid’s bikes these days. So rather than going to some big box store and picking one up cheap, I decided to the the ‘right thing’ and go to my local bike shop… LBS. Now where I live in Sydney I have several choices. Towards the city, down Oxford Street, is the well executed store that’s bang on the demographic for the areas it’s in. They have kid’s bikes but based on my past experiences with them, their ‘too cool for school’ attitude, means you basically have a target painted on you the minute you walk in (read paying them $100 service charge for shortening brake hoses), so there was little chance I was going back. The other option was the smaller, much less cool shop in the opposite direction up in Bondi Junction, where I bought the ‘like-a-bike’ in the first place. They seemed OK then, so why not again?

Be it a mistake or not, a week ago I headed down with the Lad to scope out the options. While there was next to no choice, something that didn’t bug me because at that level and price, the only thing that changes is the colour, we found a bike that looked like it fitted the bill. We (the Lad and I) stood around, looked at the blue and decided the green rocket on it is a definite feature. The (what I presume was the owner) and I discussed the machinations of kid’s bikes, had a look at the 2010 colour options and decided that with a wee discount, the blue was not a bad option. More to the point, the Lad decided that the blue was the go… but I think that was more because he thought liking the colour there and then would deliver some instant gratification. Well, no, the shop guy (SG) said he’d build a fresh one sans training wheels and if he could find one, throw on a kick stand instead. Good deal as I noticed some nice scratches on the floor model.

A week later and I realise I’d better go get the bike, there was riding to be had on the weekend! Back to the shop on the Thursday afternoon to pick up the bike I put a deposit on but what panned out I have grown increasingly pissed off about.

With a smile I say that I’m there to collect the bike I ordered the previous week. What I got back was that a new one was not built, as promised, because when the time came there was not one in stock to be built (so much for onscreen inventory). Apparently the distributor as well was plum out, though at the time the SG thought they had a wad of stock and was considering picking the lot up. Instead I was getting the one on the floor. OK, right. Sort of unimpressed because if this was the case, he made no effort to call me and ask me if I’d be happy with that – they had all my contact details and there’s a big difference between a brand new one and a floor model, especially when it has scratches; but maybe he thought the wee little discount (for last year’s stock) meant he didn’t have to? Running the sale through the till, I expected a better discount, the SG may not have noticed at the time, but originally I noticed the floor model had a $165 price tag on it. Instead, they tried to run it through at the ‘new’ price, quite a bit more than the sticker price which had since been removed from the frame.

“So that’s the price for the scratches too?” I jibed to the nice chap behind the counter.

“That bike has no scratches, I put it together before the gentleman arrived”, SG says from behind the work stand.

So I walk over, get the bike and point out the scratch that’s down to the metal on the head tube. “Oh yea… OK, I’ll take another $5 off”


The final price was around $50 odd more than the original sticker price of the ‘floor model’. No small amount when the entire bike was sub $300.

I feel pissed that I was ‘taken’. Maybe not intentionally, that’s a speculation, but taken definitely by a ‘they are schmucks so won’t notice’ attitude held by a segment who work in bike shops, SG being one such person. I could have made more of a deal about it and if the bike was a bigger bike I would have. But I get the feeling SG knew I needed the bike, knew the Lad had his heart on it and knew I’d ultimately go with it to not let the Lad down. In other words, I think he knew he was taking me for a ride (no pun intended). And he got away with it. What shits me more is that today, when out and about with the bike, I noticed several other to the metal scratches on the frame, not to mention the shitty assembly job I discovered when doing some adjustments.

When I walked in the shop originally, he was bemoaning to another customer the fact that he recently had to relocate and rent was costing him double and while I guess there are shafters in every segment of society, I hate seeing it in the bike industry because there is no need for it. Instead though of choosing to do a stellar job in keeping me as a customer, SG chose to shaft me and as a result I’ll never set foot in the shop again, period.

The upside of all of this is that the Lad loves his bike and has a brand new head bruise to prove it. He didn’t notice the scratches and I made sure everything else was right. I think he’ll be a rocket when he finds his wings and really, his smile is that’s all that counts :)