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(not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailers(29 posts)

(not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailersJS Haiku Shop
Apr 25, 2002 11:25 AM
in the market for 2 pair of black look pp296 pedals. checked around the web, the best price i could find was seems other online retailers have them:,,, each of whom i've had somewhat positive dealings with. is closed for an "employee holiday", so boom--they're gone., i didn't really check with them first.'ve given them two chances so far, they royally blew the first one, and the second was so-so.

get out the trusty calculator (actually, start/run/calc.exe) and check the math: (uk)
(($63.75 each) *2 = $127.50) + 22.50 shipping = $150 (boulder, co)
(($99.95 each) *2 = $199.90) + 8.00 shipping = $207.90

SOOOO, i get online (realtime chat) with and give them the math, ask them if they can even come close to that price. their answer was "the closest we can get to that price is the one listed on our website and in our catalog."

actually, i purchased a pair of these awhile back from, as well as some bottle cages, and other stuff. i did give Performance, CC, and Excel a chance to come somewhat close to this price first, and the either wouldn't budge without explanation, or wouldn't match an out-of-country price (Performance). so this was the second chance for all of these places. not like they're going out of business 'cuz my $150 is going overseas, but it just seems like it would be smart business to be a little competitive. now, after one crappy experience, one not-so-grand experience, and two refusals to even attempt to price match, i'm pretty sour on Excel Sports. but, it's not just them...

what gives?, though they double-charged me for my first order (rectified quite quickly), had the prices to beat everyone else, and shipped door-to-door (across the great pond) in three days. why would i even consider paying $103.95 each (including shipping) to get these from excel and wait a week for them when i can get 'em from for $75 each (including shipping) and have them within a couple days??? even with the huge $22 for shipping, i'm saving 28% by buying from the UK.

and, why won't they consider any price matching?
Middlemen/distributors in US are the culprits (nm)eschelon
Apr 25, 2002 11:34 AM
I don't even give US shops a chance anymore..straight to UK..chopper
Apr 25, 2002 11:40 AM
I've also heard that the distributors are the culprits. I just bought a pair of Sidi's and saved about 40% vs. US online shops.
I don't even give US shops a chance anymore..straight to UK..DWM
Apr 25, 2002 3:26 PM
Do you mind telling me where you bought from? I'm just about to order from Total Cycling. Thanks.
I don't even give US shops a chance anymore..straight to UK..chopper
Apr 25, 2002 3:39 PM
I order from,, (or something like that) and I also order from Dutch sites but if you don't read Dutch its kind of hard.
I don't think they can match the pricedjg
Apr 25, 2002 11:59 AM
through their usual distribution channnels. A local shop told me they paid their supplier more than I paid parker for a record group. Some things I buy locally. Some things--just don't even ask (can you sell me a pair of Tri-comps or GP3000s for 19 bucks each? no?)
re: (not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailersTJeanloz
Apr 25, 2002 12:40 PM
Your presumption is that the cost to Excel and TotalCycling was the same, and that it was lower than $150. While TotalCycling's cost was probably lower than $150, Excel Sports' was almost certainly higher.

One thing that will be a growing problem is that most product from overseas is technically 'gray market' and typically is not covered by a warranty. Most US distributers are willing to grant the warranty at this point- but as more people buy this stuff, they will become less inclined to provide warranty service.

So, my question to you is, should they price match out of principle, even if they lose money on it?
re: (not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailersJS Haiku Shop
Apr 25, 2002 12:56 PM
you're correct in your presumption of my assumption (grin).

i'm presuming that they are paying at or close to the same for the pedals. if the "middle man" is, in deed, jacking up the US prices before they hit the web retailer, then they obviously cannot match the price without losing money. i'll give you that. however, (for excel) to be snide about it, and not even budge on the prices...well, that's just unacceptable. perhaps they do so much business that they can afford to lose a few customers. last year they got around $1000 of my income. that's $1000 less they'll make in 2002.

warranty work? i hadn't considered that. but...the problems i'd had with excel before were with the quality of some domestically-manufactured clothing-type accessories. i went back and forth with them by e-mail and telephone, and the final result was "we cannot (read: refuse to-) help you, deal with the manufacturer." so, specific to excel: no, if they cannot stand behind what they sell in-house, manufactured in the US, i would certainly not expect them to be more (or less) helpful in a warranty issue than a UK web-retailer.

that said, it's a simple numbers game: these folks are going to have to wake up and learn that the world is much smaller than it was 10 years ago (or even 10 days,...or 10 minutes ago). (perhaps this is a sweeping generalization.) if i can have the same product on my doorstep for 30% less, 50% faster, from a UK (ok, northern ireland) versus US retailer, then so be it. i was willing to pay a little more to keep the money "in the family", as it were, but they (excel) were not willing to budge. same principle (here we go) for the LBS accessory sales versus web-retailers as a whole: i'm not paying $24 for an item i can get online for $16. if i'm going to pay $8 for shipping, i'll throw in some tubes and cables (which are going to cost 20-40% less from the online source) to spread the shipping charges across these items. the only things i don't get are immediate gratification, and a super-quick exchange process when something is defective.

now, this is totally (mostly) different when you consider the way specialized does business. a pair of their current-year road shoes that are $99 online are $99 at the LBS. only difference is tax versus shipping, and perhaps the stock on hand. caveat here is that the (my resident) LBS that carries specialized doesn't often have mark-downs or sales, so one is not likely to find a $55 pair of last year's mtb shoes for $9.99 in the bargain bin (as they have online). if this is a matter of specialized controlling who can sell their gear, and how, then that's smart business.
Specialized, etc..TJeanloz
Apr 25, 2002 1:13 PM
Specialized is a very interesting case. They're dealers actually own equity in and any profits from the site are divided among the dealers (by geographic region). It's a very interesting program.

With warranty issues, it works a little differently. If you bought something at Excel, and it breaks, you can take it to your local dealer for warranty. If you have a receipt, the dealer can't refuse to warranty the product (even if you didn't buy it from them). However, if you bought it from overseas, there is generally no warranty (for example with LOOK, the US warranty is offered by Veltec, the importer, not LOOK, the manufacturer). So if you bring them a pair of pedals that they didn't import, they might balk at warrantying them (and rightly so).

On the issue of haggling and price matching, I just don't understand. We have price tags, and price lists that show the price we are willing to sell goods at. It is INSULTING to me to have a customer say "I can get a better price, so you should match that." This isn't a Turkish Bazaar.
turkish bazaarJS Haiku Shop
Apr 25, 2002 1:33 PM
true. but, it's a free market. i gave excel a chance to make a few (less) bucks off me before i gave the other even less for the product. they didn't want it. so be it.

now, on the haggling, it's common knowledge (at least 'round town) that the list price is simply an asking price, and not written in stone. i don't go into the LBS to argue them down to a lower price on a bottle of lube. but, we're talking about catalog and online shops here, many of which market themselves as price-matchers and price-beaters. if (virtually) direct competitors cannot be competitive with each other, guess who gets the sale? colorado and northern ireland are in virtually the same 15" on my screen.

did you pay the sticker price for your most recent new car?

otoh, when local shops arbitrarily give non-shop-affiliated cycling clubs discounts (key: arbitrary, as in all clubs don't get the same treatment), or give 10% and 15% off-the-cuff reductions without rhyme or reason, then i'm not uncomfortable haggling. for example: the lake winter cycling shoes are (let's just make up a number) $130 online. these are $195 in the stores. we're talking about last year's stuff here. when in the LBS purchasing some stuff (gift certificates, mind you), i inquired about their prices for the shoes, which they didn't stock, even though they're a lake retailer. i was told--get this--nine days later that they could get the shoes for a special rate of just $155, since they were last year's shoe, but only in a size 45. when i indicated i wasn't interested, they knocked another 10% off. i wear 46 (they knew this before knocking another 10% off), and can get them in three days from a number of places online for the everyday price of $130, plus shipping.

long story short i'm still using plastic baggies and neoprene shoe covers.

if i were running a business, i'd expect success or failure based upon my competitive edge. whether that edge be price, customer service, knowledge, ability, turnaround time, silly shoes and a red nose, whatever--if someone else is enterprising enough to beat it, then i don't deserve the success, do i? if one online retailer offers the item for $100 plus shipping and another offers it at "if you can beat our price, we'll give you the better price, plus 10% of the difference"...who's going to get the sale?
If it's common practice,TJeanloz
Apr 26, 2002 5:07 AM
If where you live, haggling in the bike shop is standard practice, by all means, do it. But for a cataloger, it is not normal to move on price. And in our bike shop, there was no price moving. Period. The implication with a haggler is "I think you are charging me too much, and therefore cheating me, so will you please be honest and charge me a better price?"

It is very grating to be on the other side of that. And this group is invariably the group of people who pump you for information so that they can buy the right part, cheaper somewhere else.
thanks, it's nice to get a different view. nmJS Haiku Shop
Apr 26, 2002 5:19 AM
Why should they?BipedZed
Apr 25, 2002 12:53 PM
Great haiku or not, it's cheap tightwads like you that make most people want to get out of bike retail. If you value lowest cost above EVERYTHING else then by all means purchase at the lowest cost vendor, but don't expect another business to match that cost or kiss your ass explaining why they can't.

Excel Sports leases warehouse space so they can carry a sufficient inventory to have most items in-stock at all times. They employ a staff to handle the tasks of running a large mail order retail business including purchasing, marketing, catalog production, order taking, and shipping. Product is bought through US distribution channels so that Excel can offer a very generous exchange service and product warranty. Excel also sponsors a local road and mountain bike race team and supports local racing by offering prizes and other freebies. But you don't care about any of that and why should you? You don't live in Colorado and you don't see what Excel gives back to the cycling community, fair enough. Contrast all that to a one man operation in Ireland working with grey market Euro distribution.

I don't work for Excel but I am a loyal customer. I also have 5 years of experience working in bike shops right when Bike Nashbar and Performance popularized mail-order bike retail 12 years ago. It was people like you being indignant about why couldn't you match prices that were lower than the bike shop wholesale that made me give up my dream of owning a bike shop.

There's a lot of consumers who are only looking for the bottom line. By all means go to the vendor offering the lowest price. Great businesses should have great customer service, but if you could just see how offensive and insulting it is to have price matching waived in your face like a right, maybe you'd think twice about making that call.

For all the other cheap tightwads that I've offended with this post, be sure to know that I'm crying you a river right now.
opinion appreciated. personal insults not appreciated. nmJS Haiku Shop
Apr 25, 2002 1:00 PM
Apr 25, 2002 1:10 PM
name for bipedzed's bike shop....Spokes II.....chopper
Apr 25, 2002 1:21 PM
that was uncalled for,weiwentg
Apr 25, 2002 1:49 PM
all of you. JS asked why online retailers aren't willing to COME CLOSE to UK websites' prices. if they can't come close, why can't they drop their prices a little? some of those stores already match retail prices in the US (and cheap tightwad bastard that I am, I've asked performance to do that quite a bit). can't they at least make a reduction considering what UK websites are offering?
flexibility is good. always.
Capitalistic Whinersodade
Apr 25, 2002 3:45 PM
So you're an aspiring capitalist who is whining about the harsh, cold reality of the free market system.

I find your "store" loyalty quite touching - not! How can you be loyal to a catalog business anyway?
The voice of reason.Ahimsa
Apr 25, 2002 4:38 PM
Good show Sodade. Right on the money (pun intended).


A. (Low prices and good service are all anyone can ask for in a free market I'm afraid)
Tightwads? LOL!mmaggi
Apr 26, 2002 7:42 AM
You've got to be kidding me!

If I pay $150 for cycling stuff overseas and a LBS (or Excel Sports for that matter) is offering it at $200 and I ask them to come down to $175, then what's the problem? You get insulted? LOL! I'm crying a river for you pal. You must be kidding me!

I'm a consumer which means I'm looking for a good deal. If I'm purchasing a complete bike or even a kit for another frame, you've got a point. Service is important and neccessary. If somehting goes wrong with a wheel or a frame, I bring it back to the LBS in question and chances are, they'll take care of it, free of charge. Mail order overseas, chances are you're screwed.

But how about purchasing clothing or tires? Why the hec should I pay $140-$150 for a team jersey and bib shorts when I can get it delievered to my house for $100 from overseas? For $160 delivered I can get the clothing and 2 Conti 3000 GP clinchers. I did just that last month. As a matter of fact, I've doing it for years and I've never had a problem.

As consumers, all we're asking from proprieters is to deal. I don't expect them to match. That's impossible. The price we're paying for the stuff overseas is slightly above their cost. All I'm asking is to show us you're willing to deal a bit.

I also purchased a pair of LOOK pp357 pedals, a saddle and tires last year from and had no problems whatsoever. Maybe I'm lucky and maybe my friends have been lucky too.

Why don't you try it? You'll save some $$$. :-)
Interesting turn of eventsterry b
Apr 25, 2002 1:42 PM
So two years ago we all started looking askance at our LBS because places like Excel and Colorado Cyclist were offering us anything we wanted for less money and 2 day shipping. Now, we're starting to look askance at Excel and CC because we can get it cheaper overseas with about the same shipping in about the same time. Funny how the internet economy is evolving our opinions.

I just finished doing a re-build project on one of my older bikes. Bought some stuff from Excel (fork, headset), some stuff from Sdeals (wheels, tires) and some stuff from Total Cycling (bar, stem.) Saved a huge amount of money from the UK outfits although the shipping was about 2x the cost. Delivery time was not great - 5 days from Total and nearly 2 weeks from Sdeals (who charged my card for wheels they did not have but came through at the last minute.) Excel of course was excellent as usual - on my doorstep in 2 days. Neither Total or Sdeals had the fork or HS I wanted, so that part was pretty clear. While the overseas shipping times I read about here sound great, they may not apply when you live out in the sticks like I do (village near ABQ, NM) whereas UPS or Fedex can be counted on for 2 day when you pay for it.

My learning from all this - for stuff manufactured in Europe (Mavic, Vredestein, TTT, ITM) I will absolutely use Sdeals and Total if I'm not in a rush. For Shimano, no le hace nada - prices seem about the same and I personally like maintaining a working relationship with Excel and CC. They've both done some great things for me in the past such as a free upgrade to overnight shipping on wheels that I did not ask for and certainly did not expect. For stuff I need fast - clearly Excel and CC, I'm willing to pay whatever premium I might have to and I would never in 1000 years dream of dickering with either when I know they cannot meet the price on items imported from Europe. My LBS - water bottle cages and tubes, and that's it.

It's kind of fun being a global consumer.
I do the same.....Dave Hickey
Apr 25, 2002 3:40 PM
I spread the wealth. For any Shimano component, I buy at Excel, CC, performance, nashbar, supergo,etc... My last 3 new framesets were purchased in the UK. Wheels are fomr the UK or smaller internet companies. Tires I buy from Rec.bicycles.marketplace. Tape,tubes, cables, lube, and some clothing is purchased at my LBS. I use Ebay for a lot of retro parts.

I totally agree with the statement " It's kind of fun being a global consumer."
re: (not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailerskilimanjaro
Apr 25, 2002 1:53 PM
I think the main culprit is the exchange rate. Currently the dollar is very high compared to European currencies like Euro and the British pound. Last year I ordered a custom 853 TIG welded cyclocross bike from a British builder w/ Daytona tripple, extra braze ons for racks, fenders, fr. open pro rims and Selle Italia century gel for around $1200 including shipping and excluding import duty (11%). The price of the frame was only slight more than a Surly Crosscheck.

The situation will not last forevever. It is similar to early 90s when German cars were very expensive because of the exchange rate. It was about the same time the Japanese luxury cars gained popularity.

By the way. My experience is that the Euros do not have the same level of service. I ordered my bike in July of 2001. Originally it should take 8 weeks. It supposedly finished in late November, but I never received shipment. The builder could not tell me where the bike was even tough it was supposedly sent insured. I finally asked my credit card to reverse charges in late Feb 2002. I have meet happy customers of this builder on this website so I guess everyone's mileadge may very
Ditto on the exchange rate.Len J
Apr 26, 2002 4:56 AM
The main reason that excel (and other U.S. suppliers) can't compete with European suppliers on European made goods is the strength of the U.S. Dollar vs the european currencies.

They and excel are paying the same Euros for the goods, it's just costing excel more dollars to do it. It will turn around, it always does.

Compare prices on U.S. Made goods from these same retailers & I'll bet you get a different result.

re: (not) price matching: US vs. UK web retailersflying
Apr 25, 2002 6:27 PM
Who knows but I did the same & bought over seas.
Check this guy out.....

He has the for 65 but if you need something else he drops even lower.
I bought Sidi's from him with the 296 pedals got a great deal.
Fast cheap ship too.
Good Luck

PS: His stock comes & goes I see he hasn't much now.
But at times he has the best deals on shoes & even Look Frames.
How does V.A.T. enter in to all of this?Me Dot Org
Apr 25, 2002 9:46 PM
I don't know how exactly, but I have a sneaking suspicion it does. If you have to tack on 17.5% to your selling price in countries where the per person GNP is less than the U.S., you're going to be operating on smaller margins. That would make the U.S. a tempting market for distributors to get "well" on.

By the way, I just bought a Brooks Ti Swift saddle for $99 delivered (to California) from St. John's Cycles in England. Try finding a Ti Swift in the U.S. for under $120.
it doesn't unless you're in europe...merckx56
Apr 26, 2002 7:15 AM
the V.A.T. (value added tax) only applies to countries that belong to the european union. if you buy something and have it exported to the u.s., the v.a.t. tax doesn't apply.
it doesn't unless you're in europe...Me Dot Org
Apr 26, 2002 7:46 AM
Yes, I understand that V.A.T. doesn't apply if you buy in the U.S.

It is because there isn't a 17.5% markup on items sold in the U.S., and the market is more affluent than most of Europee, I suspect there is a push for higher markups and margins for U.S. distributors.
JS Haiku Shop, here is the deal.Ian
Apr 26, 2002 4:52 AM
Try not to look at this in terms of cycling items that your or anyone else is passionate about. Lets detach ourselves from the items being sold and call them "widgets".

The widgets are manufactured in a European country.

The widgets are then sent to authorized distributors / dealers in Europe and the US and probably everywhere around the world.

In Europe, there are widgets left over that the distributors want to get rid of. They are sold to places like These places are not authorized dealers. They are people stocking itmes at their houses, etc.

In the US, there can sometimes be widgets left over and they can end up in bitz4widgets hands.

So, when you go to buy a widget, the autorized dealer in the US will have obviously spent much more money bringing their product across the ocean than someone overseas who houses his product in a spare bedroom. It is not that they don't want your business, but you are asking them to sell to you for less than they paid. I don't know of ANYONE who would do that.

I happen to agree with the above poster that if you value price above all else, then shop at these places. But, remember those prices, because that is all you receive. There will be no after sales service, and in the case of totalwidgets and bitz4widgets, they are not authorized dealers, US or international, so you do not get a warranty, US or international. So, if something goes wrong, throw the part away and buy another one.

It is just basic economics. The business over here has much more time, money, effort, employees, overhead than a one man operation and they can't make money selling below their cost.