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What gives with all the attitude at LBS's...(22 posts)

What gives with all the attitude at LBS's...Djudd
Aug 8, 2002 7:34 AM
I buy a lot of used parts for rebuilds on old frames and have been for years. Lately I've noticed and increasing snide attitude by folks who work at LBS's. I don't know if it is just this area (DC) but asking questions about parts that I am going to buy seems to bother folks. I do buy new bikes (infrequently) but parts are my thing. What's with the attitude? I used to hang out a bike shops when I was a kid and people buying parts was a big trade, has this changed?
my guess...Steve_0
Aug 8, 2002 7:50 AM
having an expensive steed is very trendy right now; The new breed of riders tend to tire of their old machines long before parts wear. Sometimes even when the part wears, its a good excuse to buy new kit (jeez, why pay 250 bucks for new STI, a mere 1300 bucks more, i can have the bike i REALLY want).

I'm guessing the LBS's arent seeing a lot of parts purchases, and dont know how to react/satisfy the customers needs. They often think said customer doesnt know whats good for himself.
Are you getting old and cranky?cory
Aug 8, 2002 7:54 AM
Same thing's happening to me....
I used to buy mainly used bikes, and most of the shops around here carried at least a few trade-ins. In college and right after I got married, I always managed to find something decent that I could afford. Now only one bike in our area handles used stuff regularly, and it's often junk.
Aside from the old-days factor ("Things were better in MY day, by cracky!"), a couple of other possibilities:
--lots of small LBS's are under big-time pressure from the Internet and large retailers like REI. They can't carry stuff that doesn't pay off.
--after years of very little change, Shimano and to a degree Campy have discovered planned obsolescence. Ten years ago I could put a 20-year-old derailleur on a bike and be pretty sure it would work. Today I can't find shifters for a bike I bought new three years ago. Bike shops often have a fast employee turnover, so seven-speed and even eight-speed stuff is like wooden wheels to the new mechanics.
--Many cyclists don't do their own work. I have a friend who knocks off 15 or 20 centuries a year, but he takes his bike to the shop for EVERYTHING, including installing new tires. He has no interest in parts, tools, anything. A shop can make a lot more money from somebody like him than from somebody like me, who wants a $10 part and 2 bucks off because I'm a regular customer.
I tried to avoid the " young whippersnapper" tirade but...Djudd
Aug 8, 2002 8:02 AM
Also your point about pressure from internet sales is spot-on. Old bikes and parts have to be signicantly less profitable then the new high muckey-muck souped up $400 brake caliper. Maybe that is why fewer riders do their own work.
fewer riders doing their own work is ok by me.Steve_0
Aug 8, 2002 8:06 AM
When Tyler upgrades to DA calipers, I'll buy his slightly used 105 from my LBS for about 5 bucks.
I'll bet also that few of the people you are talking to knowbill
Aug 8, 2002 8:22 AM
anything about parts. Or anything at all, for that matter. Even in the shops that I like (I'm also in the D.C. area) it seems that it is hard to find, at any given time, more than one person present at a shop who knows anything. If that person is busy, you're stuck with someone who would rather not let on how little he knows. Better you look like a dumbsh*t for asking.
I also agree that the absolute dollars are probably pretty slim in the parts department, even if the margin is there, making them less likely to want to spend time on parts. Those with enlightened self-interest understand that you're going to buy the part. They may as well blow a little time on you in the hope that you'll blow more dollars there in the future.
re: What gives with all the attitude at LBS's...Rob March
Aug 8, 2002 8:32 AM
I guess I should feel lucky about my LBS then. The guys there are all very helpful, and often don't even charge for the little fixes that I occasionally ask for help with. As I am pretty new to cycling, I am trying to learn how to perform my own maintenance. Thus, I've been hanging out at the store a bit, getting advice.

When I needed to get new tires, I brought the bike in and had them give me a lesson in how to do it right. They did some of the work, but basically let me use their tools (they had a free workstand that day). Actually, I think I am at the point where I need to buy myself a general repair book, and more tools.

But, they don't seem to have much used stuff. They've got a couple of bikes on consignment, and they let locals advertise their used bikes on a bulletin board. As I don't go scrounging for parts (yet, maybe), I can't really rate their part selection.

better serviceDougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 8:37 AM
You tend to get better service after you have spent around $20,000 at the shop, particularly if the owner knows you and you have sent several hundred customers his way. That's all it takes.

re: What gives with all the attitude at LBS's...bcm119
Aug 8, 2002 8:46 AM
I have had enough of the attitude as well. Lately, I can't find a single shop that offers constructive advice to me. Its always a "who cares" attitude- just buy the part and get out of here. For example, I walk into a shop and ask if they have a 110mm threadless 90 deg stem. The guy brings out about 8 stems, none of which are 90 deg. The guy thought I was crazy for not buying any of them. Am I supposed to compromise my bike fit because they don't have what I want? I'll always buy clothing and whole bikes from a LBS, but for parts I'm running out of reasons to not use the internet. I'd like to support the local businesses, but they've got to try a little harder to help us out.
Parts is a lousy business...TJeanloz
Aug 8, 2002 9:43 AM
While you don't define 'parts', I'll give a definition and an explaination.

'Parts' are anything made by Shimano, or preferably, Campagnolo. The category also includes stems, handlebars, and saddles, mostly made by companies other than S or C. It does not include sundries like tires and tubes, handlebar tape, water bottle cages etc.

Parts have the lowest margin of anything in the shop, with the exception of complete road bikes (whose low margin is offset by high total price). The [gross] markup on Record and Dura-Ace is 50%, and gets progressively higher for lower end groups. This seems like a lot, but once you've paid the rent and some sales people, the gross margin goes away pretty fast. Keep in mind, that while these parts are largely sold at a break-even or small profit, you have a large group of customers who complain about the price being too high, because Excel and Pricepoint charge roughly the same as QBP.

Shops [or at least the one I managed] stay alive day-to-day on good repair service. You pay a mechanic $10/hour and he bills out about $50/hour. That's a reasonable gross margin. The parts that you have in stock are largely there to support your service department, because you are likely to lose a service customer if things take too long because you don't have a part in stock. Selling these parts, without selling the service component is rather undesirable.

This is why shops don't love to sell parts. Of course it doesn't excuse any attitude they give you. I'd guess the attitude comes from asking questions that they don't know the answer to. The world of bike parts is quite complicated, with different eras, standards, and manufacturers all entering the mix. Everybody thinks their question is relatively easy, and too many people think their shop is too stupid. Some day there will be a thread here that says: "my shop tells me that a 26" tire won't fit on a 650c rim, can you believe those morons, how can I tolerate such incompetance from the bike shop". There is, however, no excuse for attitude.
Which begs the question:scottfree
Aug 8, 2002 10:06 AM
Why do shops hate it when you bring your own parts in, esp. if it's a part they don't stock? You're bringing your high-return service business in, they're freed of the hassle of getting your part (or pissing you off because you have to wait for them to get it).

I know I'd take more wrench work in if the shop welcomed me more happily when I walk in carrying my new Phil Wood BB and needing an install. As is, I get such disapproval that I just muddle through myself.
I don't know...TJeanloz
Aug 8, 2002 10:46 AM
We frequently recommended that people go over to Excel to buy their parts and have us install them if they wanted to save some cash. Especially if it was a part we didn't have in stock.

With Phil Wood, there could be an issue because it requires a special tool (which any shop worth its salt should have, but many do not).

The big drawback to people who bring in their own parts, particularly bottom brackets, is that they too often have the wrong size/style, and want to trade for what you have in inventory (which we almost always refused to do).
I admire your attitude. My wrench, who isscottfree
Aug 8, 2002 10:54 AM
a fine fellow in every way, nevertheless looks at me askance when I bring my own parts in. "It's like bringing your own eggs and bread into a restaurant and asking them to cook up scrambled eggs and toast for you," he says.
And the embarrassing mistake...TJeanloz
Aug 8, 2002 11:08 AM
A couple of times we made the mistake of charging people for parts that they brought in. It was always a completely honest slip-up, but I don't think the customers saw it that way...

We would co-mingle parts they bought with parts they brought, and end up charging for the whole bundle because we didn't label what parts they had brought, and there was some convoluted snafu whereby the person who wrote up the repair and knew what was going on was not able to ring it up. It's never good to get the phone call though: "My wife picked up my bike this afternoon, and you charged her for a headset that I brought in...."

It happens. Thankfully, we can all look back and laugh about it.
Question, TJeanloz, about used parts...Djudd
Aug 8, 2002 12:16 PM
I buy and use a lot of used parts. I get(pay) them generally from a LBS that has tons of them. Is this not profitable for the shop as the parts are usually giveaways from bikes left and so on? I am open about my needs and that I am a loyal customer (clothes and other ancillaries). It's just lately that I get funny looks and snippy remarks from the younger wrenches.
It dependsTJeanloz
Aug 8, 2002 1:27 PM
I don't know how your shop procures used parts- we would give away used parts in good condition, but not sell them because we didn't know what kind of life they had left in them.

My guess is that your eccentricities make you something of a pain in the ass for the employees. I'm not saying it's bad, just that some salespeople/wrenches (particularly the young and inexperienced) speak only in the language of Dura-Ace and XTR.
How about I bake them some bread, this always worked...Djudd
Aug 8, 2002 1:38 PM
for a grandma. One loaf and everyone was in a good mood.
and a car guy says...DougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 12:22 PM
I have a friend who owns an auto repair business. About once a day someone calls up and wants to use the parts they bought at Walmart (or wherever) and have them installed. He always refuses, primarily because of warranty issues. If it goes bad, who pays? Was it the part or the installation? What if it breaks during installation? It's a big mess. Plus, in that business there is a substantial markup on parts.

At my LBS, I would never bring in parts to have them do the labor. The exception was when I bought my Cervelo through them, and they could not get the Zipp wheels; I bought them separately and brought them in. They really wanted to put it together for me, for some reason (at no charge).

Want customer service? Answer: be willing to pay more.94Nole
Aug 8, 2002 12:21 PM
The problem is that we are no longer willing to pay for customer service. That's why we pump our own gas/petrol for our autos. That's the real problem. But we expect someone to give us the trade secrets and knowledge without our paying for it. The shopowners can't afford to pay people who probably used to earn their livings in the backroom of a LBS building, repairing, upgrading bikes.

An analogy...
As a CPA, once the client has the answer, my advice is of little or no value. They don't realize that the effort comes in determining the answer. And why is the answer worth less if I just spent 2 weeks researching the same issue for someone else? Another asks the same question and because of my experience and increased knowledge recently obtained, the client doesn't believe that the answer is worth as much because the work was already done.

You truly do get what you pay for. If you want customer service, pay up.
no excuse.....julio
Aug 8, 2002 1:15 PM
I understand the "pay more" philosophy and agree with it to a point. But there is no excuse for rude employees who are totally ignorant about the products they're selling. If I have a question you don't have the answer to you should at least point me in the right direction (website, catalog, etc.) not act like I'm an asshole for asking it. Way too many shops let you stand around if you don't look like a yuppie sucker ready to throw down the plastic.

My advice is to find one good shop, and go there exclusively. I have a good local shop that will give me some used hardware, check out my bike, and give advice for free and it turn I only go to them. Because they help me out I don't haggle on prices with them for the new stuff I do buy even if it's a few bucks cheaper mailorder. I do most of my own work but guess where I buy the tools. Now when I can actually afford a new bike guess where I'm going.
no excuse.....94Nole
Aug 8, 2002 2:09 PM

I understand and totally agree but it's the inability of shops to be able to afford knowledgeable staff (because people aren't willing to pay more for that knowledge and courtesy) that results in your issue, the fast food employee this week; LBS employee next week.

And I couldn't agree more with your one shop approach and that is what was suggested to me when i started getting into cycling, albeit my bike shop history is much shorter than most of you. The shop I frequent has the owner (very knowledgeable and great customer service) and one other knowledgeable guy there, primarily the wrench of the shop. If neither of these guys are there when I arrive, I come back. I have the luxury of working right across the street from my LBS which doesn't present an inconvenience for me. And, I want the shopowner to know I've been there which hopefully will result in even better customer service.
Hey, could someone be our Click and Crack?rengaracchi
Aug 8, 2002 3:07 PM
Another reason why we need the "bicycle" version of Click and Crack. They don't need to be brothers, but I wish there were such people on NPR!