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Bike Shop Employee No-No's(41 posts)

Bike Shop Employee No-No'sNewDayNewWay
Nov 12, 2002 5:29 PM
Below are some constructive thoughts about how bike shops can improve their customer service. All the examples are from my recent experiences visiting various shops while in the process of buying my first road bike.

1) Don't ever assume that you have the sale. Rode a bike at one shop and I think they were convinced that I was going to buy it. Overheard one bike shop guy tell another bike shop guy "I'm going to sell this bike to that guy over there." Guess what? No sale.

2) Don't be too trusting, but don't overly demonstrate a lack of trust for your customers. Thought I'd check out Giant, and went into a bike store to look around (but not ride). Saw a TCR carbon and told the guy I'd like to come back and ride it. He turned to my, and in an FBI tone said "That's fine, but we'll have to check you out." Never went back.

3) You don't need to know everything, but know some basics about the bikes your selling. Went into a bike store that had a lot of Treks. Asked my patented test question which is "Is it true that Trek measures theirs frames differently than other bike manufactures?" He said that he didn't know. (At least he was honest.) No bike sale for this store either.

4) Don't try and sell something that you know isn't right for the customer. Went to one bike shop and tried a Trek 5200 that was on sale for about $2,100. It was just too small, and I told the sales guy that, but he encouraged me to test ride it anyway. He said that they could put a longer stem on it if I wanted to buy it. No sale here either.

5) Treat your customers with respect. Went to another store and test rode a Lemond Zurich. When I returned to the store I had to chase down a sales guy that was riding a bike around the store to ask him some questions. He only half-listened to what I was saying. No sale.

I wonder if anyone else out there has some constructive advice for bike stores! Tell me, does the above all just reflect a fundamental lack of discipline in our society?
Common problems in "enthusiast" storesKerry
Nov 12, 2002 5:51 PM
I've seen this kind of problem for at least the past 30 years in ski shops, hi-fi stores, and bike shops. I assume things are similar with golf, tennis, fishing, camera, etc. specialty stores. Typically, there's one or two people who actually know the product and how to serve the customer, and the rest are "just working there". Often these people know enough to be dangerous or are trying to impose their "wisdom" on the unsuspecting public. It's hard to get good help at today's wages, so you hire that kid who's been hanging around the shop. The outcome is predictable. Not universal, but more the norm than the customer would like.
Common problems in "enthusiast" storesChainstay
Nov 12, 2002 6:45 PM
I agree. When you manage sales people you see problems like this all the time. I find I am better off being assertive and telling the sales person how to treat me. I get more of what I want that way and it saves the hassle of shopping around. Usually the shop owner is better so you can insist on dealing with him or her in some situations.
Bike Shop Yes Yes'sScot_Gore
Nov 12, 2002 7:14 PM
1) If they don't have it, they offer to order it.
2) Provide people, time, and equipment to charity ride events
3) Offer some kind of discount program ie membership, frequent buyer card, club affiliation break, whatever.
4) Sponsor competitive events.
5) Organize non-competitive group rides.
6) Remember your name. I'm amazed at how much mine remembers about me, my name, my bike, the purchase I'm thinking about, they ask about my next ride and remember to ask how it went on the next visit.
7) Some kind of community involvement with kids.
8) Race team sponsorship.
9) Participation in the Bikes Belong Coalition.

If an LBS does a few of the above, I can forgive them an oversights like not understanding geometry of bikes they don't carry, being excited about the possibility of a sale, wanting the same kind of info to lend me a bike as the library does to lend me a book, etc etc

my 2 cents

Bike Shop Yes Yes'smosovich
Nov 12, 2002 7:36 PM
Is there such shops around? Most that I know, have no idea about customer appreciation.
Nov 12, 2002 8:07 PM
Here's mine: Erik's Bike
1) It's been my personal experience
6) It's been my personal experience
8) I can't find it, they may have dropped their race team sponsorship or pulled the page for the season.

I'm sure I could put a similar list together for Penn Cycle, another good shop in my town, so that's at least two.

my 2 cents

Yes, mine is tooKristin
Nov 13, 2002 1:03 PM
I've had great luck at Arlington Bike. When I first moved in down the street, they were a small mom & pop shop that seemed to do most of its business in comfort bikes--primarily Schwinn. They have always been very active in the community had played a HUGE role in creating the network of bike routes in Arlington Heights. They are also home to the Flyers--who command respect. I was invited to join the Flyers Sunday romp; but all that getting dropped can be demoralizing.

In the last three years they've:
*Opened two new stores. One in Barrington and one in Downers Grove--just down the street from my office. Woohoo.
*Hired some some great people
*Launched the new Arlington Heights Criterium

Here's how they score on Scot's list:

1) They didn't have a Campy 13-26 cassette and they ordered it, but it still hasn't come in...that was in August. They could have done better, but I'm not hurting for the cassette either so why gripe.
2) Yes
3) Don't know, but they've given me discounts. Their prices are competative with the net.
5) The Flyers (they say its non-competative)
6) Yes
7) Not sure
8) They have a team, but not a team website and I've never been able to remember their name.
9) Arlington Bicycle Avisory Board
10) They've spent plenty of time with me helping me understand this or that and to make a decision. I've been blown off by other shops after taking up much less of their time. Its paid off. I'll buy my next bike at Arlington, no question. Additionally, when an installation took longer than expected--even though they had to stay late to get it done, they offered me a discount.
Bike Shop Yes Yes's..about SchwagSpunout
Nov 13, 2002 4:42 AM
Just spent $3K at my LBS to put together my bike. Didn't get a free waterbottle out of it. Could have had their name on it, even a jersey! What an investment ($30) for free advertising!
more on this...gregario
Nov 13, 2002 7:02 AM
we spent over $4,000 on a new tandem this year. On the day we were picking it up I asked them to put on a chainstay protector. The owner said sure then half mumbled something about just throwing it in as he walked away, but was not clear about it. He ended up charging me for it. Another $10. Look, I don't expect free stuff, but I had just spent a LOT of money and he still wanted to nickel and dime me. It left a really bad taste in my mouth.
who's "nickel and diming" whom?peter1
Nov 13, 2002 8:55 AM
I'd say you were trying to nickel and dime him. After all, you just spent $4k there. Why should he give you anything for free? When's the last time a car dealer threw in free accessories, even after you spend $20 or $30K there? Why expect a poor bike shop owner to forgo a sale?

Believe me, very few of the shop owners I've met could spend that much on a bike, or anything else for that matter.

As I've gotten older, I appreciate more and more the dedication of folks who run small, high-end bike shops (I make a distinction between those shops and Bike Line, Performance and other chains).

When I was a dedicated surfer, my buddies and I took pride that we never paid for a bar of wax. And when we ordered a board, we'd expect to get $30 leash thrown in for free. But after I started earning a bit more money, and found out that most surf shops earn just $50 on a $400 board, I started paying for wax and leashes.

Sometimes my bike shop owner will flow me a tube or let me use a tool, and I always offer to pay. I know he's there six days a week, mostly by himself, and he and his wife sponsor a team and run cyclocross events.

my .02

oh pleasegregario
Nov 13, 2002 9:14 AM
this was lousy chainstay protector. Probably cost him a buck or two, AND he mumbled something about throwing it in gratis. Like I said, I don't expect much and I assure you he didn't lose money on me. I paid list for everything. At that point it was more of a gesture than anything else, and he chose to charge me another $10 instead.

There are other shops that routinely give me a discount without asking, and I'm certainly not spending as much money there than when I bought that tandem. Guess who will get my business in the future?
oh pleasebugleboy
Nov 13, 2002 6:02 PM
Thats the problem, once you get a deal you always expect it.
re: Bike Shop CUSTOMER No-No'steoteoteo
Nov 12, 2002 7:50 PM
Below are some constructive thoughts on how consumers can improve their service level at the local IBD. All the samples below represent true examples of things that have happened to me ove the past few weeks.

1) Don't ask for free labor on a tire installation that was a special order and tire cost only $8 to begin with. Especially when you have picked two tires out of QBP and then refused them once they arrived. It gets more laughable when you return two hours later with the third tire after deciding it wasn't what you had ordered...."oh yeah I can't take the tire off either so can you get a mechanic"

2)Never schedule a fit for your mail order bike and throw a tantrum when I can't take your stem and handlebar into MY stock. Especially when I don't carry the brand, and even more when they are so obscure I would only special order them to begin with.

3)Don't bring your "expert" friend who begins to claim what a piece of crap threadless stems are. Especially when "expert" begins to claim that they weigh more and are a bad idea--along with carbon forks. He follows up telling you that the 55cm is too big for his 5'11" body because his wife is 5'3" and needs a you need a 53.

4)Don't come in insistant on a discount bike that I have that does not fit. "My expert friend says you can put a 70 stem on that 58 and make it fit my 5'6" frame"

5)Don't act super annoyed I can't help after you've interupted my legit sale with another customer, because you've now decided that you do need some help with the road bikes. Especially when I tried twice to engage you in conversation before another customer came in that took up my offer for help. Now I have help you when I am done or when the next person is free.

6)Don't buy parts at the shop in order to get them in a hurry, then mail order the same parts. Especially when you are going to return the mail order parts to me as soon as they come. Meanwhile I lose a couple percent on the whole deal due to visa costs and labor.

I'm not trying to bust anyone's chops too bad. I work at a great shop that while not perfect, is waaaay beyond average on the positive side. It's just that consumers pull some seriously funny stuff too.
i once had a guy try to return an item..._rt_
Nov 13, 2002 8:16 AM
to the shop i was working at with a receipt for the item FROM THE RIVAL SHOP DOWN THE STREET!! when i pointed out that he hadn't bought the item from us in the first place he responded "well, can't i return it here? you guys sell this too".

the concept of inventory records was lost on this guy.

"well, can't i return it here? you guys sell this too".elviento
Nov 13, 2002 11:14 AM
Obviously he couldn't tell "buy" from "sell"...
those are very confusing concepts..._rt_
Nov 13, 2002 11:28 AM
just like the difference between 40% off the original price vs. 40% of the original price. i dealt with a guy who could not figure out the difference between the 2. even when we showed him the actual math he didn't get it.....needless to say, he got frustrated with our "stupidity" and didn't buy the item.

working in a bike shop was so entertaining! ;-)

Its Walmart mentalityKristin
Nov 13, 2002 1:26 PM
Thanks to Walmart & SAMS club people think they can return anything and everything. I'm actually pretty bad when it comes to Walmart, but its partially their own damn fault, and I would never do try these things at my LBS. Walmart deserves it because they invite it.

In the past three months I've returned the following items to Walmart for store credit:

1. Braun Interplak electric flosser, originally purchased at Target in 2000. It came with 50 refill tips, but before the tips were all used up, some studies came out showing that the Interplak was not more beneficial than tradtional floss. Sales dropped and the you could now only buy replacement tips online for $19.95 +shipping. When I was packing up to move I decided to take it back to Walmart. I explained to the clerk that I didn't have a receipt for it and that I did use it, but that no one carries tips anymore so I wanted to return it. No problem.

2. 5 Rubbermaid storage containers that I had purchsed some time in 1999. I no longer have a place to store these between moves and need some smaller storage boxes. They were used but not damaged in anyway. I just wiped them down and brought them back to the store. (I did buy all of these at Walmart originally.) No problem.

3. An opened Quicken package. (If I had removed and kept the CD, she would never have known.) This was more legit. The software didn't meet my needs, so I exchanged it for another product. Most stores typically won't refund open software.

Go ahead spank me for being a bad girl. I deserve it. But so does Walmart.
Sounds like a guy from the ...Allez Rouge
Nov 13, 2002 11:32 AM
... George Carlin school of thought on shopping: "You can only take each item off the shelf in one specific place. But you can put it back ANYWHERE ..."
re: Bike Shop CUSTOMER No-No'sbugleboy
Nov 13, 2002 6:11 PM
My favorite is we do a charity thing usually every year with a local business and the police department where we sell the bikes to the business at cost and then the police department delivers them to the children. They get the bikes for free. Every year at least one will come back and try and get "their" money back.
you're expecting a lot for $7 an hour...gtx
Nov 12, 2002 8:05 PM
which is what most sales guys make. And they don't get a commission, either. Most of the guys who know bikes wrench (for a little more money), but they usually aren't the ones who deal with customers very well or stay current on the latest marketing drivel. The average bike shop employee could write up a much longer list of "constructive thoughts" for customers and shop owners.
a few thoughts from an ex-shop ratj-son
Nov 12, 2002 8:30 PM
I worked in a shop during undergrad and grad school. That experience has permanently biased my perceptions. But probably not how you think: I can barely walk in a bike shop these days without getting pissed off. Don't mean to sound ani-LBS, but here goes.

* I needed to have my cranks tightened to the proper torque, so I went to the LBS only to discover that not only did the teenage mechanic not know what a torque wrench was but that the shop didn't even own one

* My wife wants to surpise me with a nice new helmet, she rides a lot (and strongly, I might add) but doesn't keep up with the marketing side of the sport. So, she knows Giro is a good brand and asks the LBS dude for the top of the line Giro. He hands her a Boreas and says its Giro's best helmet. And then charges her $150. This was about 6 months. A full model year after the Boreas had been discontinued. And the helmet he sold her at FULL price was manufactured over a year before it was sold.

*Needed mtn bike tires. Go to the LBS. They have three kevlar bead tires in the entire store. Three. All ridiculously expensive and outdated.

*Constant rudeness from the staff. The staff, such as it is, is more interested in listening to Limp Bizkit back in the shop than engaging and maybe helping customers. It's not unusual to wander around with parts in hand looking for someone to ring up the sale.

*And my favorite line: "We don't have that in stock ... but we can order it." Yeah right, charge me full retail, plus sales tax, plus shipping and I get the privelege of waiting for an extra week. Most recent example: Speedplay cleats would have cost $50 and taken 2 weeks to get. Nah, $30 from Performance and in my mailbox in three days.

Needless to say, I only shop at this LBS (sadly the only game in town) when I absolutely need it now.

I generally hold my tongue (or keyboard) when the pro-LBS zealots spout off about customer service, the evil that is mail order et cetera. LBS customer service in my experience sucks.

I've had superb customer service from Speedgoat and Excel. I don't have a complaint about either operation.
Good points from BOTH sides of the sales counterAllez Rouge
Nov 13, 2002 5:25 AM
Kerry is correct in noting that these problems aren't limited to bike shop employees. I would add that the "kid hanging around the shop" who gets hired is often very long on enthusiasm and might even be well-meaning, but being young he's not yet learned the importance of doing his homework so that he REALLY knows his products. He may also not yet understand that what he, personally, thinks is Way Cool and is diligently saving up his money to buy is not necessarily the right answer for everyone who walks in the door.

gtx's point about expecting a lot for $7/hr is also correct, I'd hate to try to raise a family on what I've heard and read bike shop employees make. Then again, if the mindset of the employee is, "Pay me more and THEN I'll do more, care more, try harder" then that employee needs a reality check 'cause that ain't how it works, kids.

If there was a shop in my town run by teoteoteo, he'd have 100% of my business. You betcha.

Unfortunately, my experience with the one local LBS has all too often been much like j-son describes.
Good points from BOTH sides of the sales countergtx
Nov 13, 2002 6:52 AM
I worked in shops for 10 years. I can't really stand to go into them anymore. Well, there's one I can deal with, but they rarely have what I'm looking for. Like j-son, Colorado Cyclist, Excel and Speedgoat get most of my business.
Expecting a lot for $7/hour,TJeanloz
Nov 13, 2002 8:46 AM
It's been about a year since I stopped being a bike shop salesperson, and I like to think that I did a respectable job of it. I do recognize that I occasionally fell into traps on certain things- but we had a shop 'line' on what was good, what was not so good, and why. I did have one very unhappy customer in 4 years, and I'm not really sure that anything could have changed that situation. Bottom line, I like to think that I was a knowledgeable and helpful salesperson, but I recognize that I f*cked up a couple of sales- it goes with the territory.

But on the topic of pay: I loved my job at the shop, I worked 7 days a week, usually more than 8 hours a day, and I made ~$10/hour, which wasn't bad. In my current job (which I also love), I make, well, more than that. So, given the choice between two jobs that I liked equally well, the bike shop couldn't afford to keep me on. I've even considered working at a shop on Sunday afternoons, just to stay 'in the game'. But the reality is that to be a good bike shop salesperson, you need to be smart, engaging, and helpful- and those qualities are applicable to, and worth a lot more to other industries.
re: #3_rt_
Nov 13, 2002 7:57 AM
why would you count this bike shop out? as you said, at least he was honest. i agree that employees should know basics about the bikes they are selling but it's possible you could have caught that person on their first day. or maybe no one had ever asked this question before. it's not like new employees in a bike shop get an orientation to the stuff they are selling (at least not in my experience). working at a shop is a learn on the fly experience. if the guy had made up some complete b-s and lied through his teeth then i'd agree that you should count the shop out. but unless the guy said he didn't know and promptly walked away, i'd say he gave a good answer to your question.

when i worked at a shop i often responded to questions that i didnt' know the answer to with "i don't know but let me go ask/i can find out/etc". in my experience, people apprecited the honesty and were MORE likely to come back.

and a big no-no...._rt_
Nov 13, 2002 8:24 AM
DO NOT think that every female who walks into your shop is an ignorant moron who knows nothing about bikes, understands even less, and wishes she could have a date with YOU.

i could fill tomes with stories about my experiences in bike shops but suffice it to say females would like to be treated like the guys. many of us are knowledgeable and capeable (though spelling is obviously not my forte), and know what we want....and generally, it's not a date.

Nov 13, 2002 8:38 AM
boy that one really gets my goat. Fun to twist their tails by looking them dead in the eye while they're trying to sell you a comfort bike with spring seat, and ask what driveside spoke length works with a 1973 high flange Record hub mated to a Mavic Open CD rim.

On the rare occasions I deal outside Excel (our team sponsor), I simply ride my Centaur 10 equipped Dream Cross to the LBS and bring it in with me. As soon as the guys finish drooling over it and ask me where I got it, I tell them I built it. Saves a lot of time and hassle.
Nov 13, 2002 9:03 AM
my favorite was an lbs employee who tried to tell me that all seatposts are the same length....while i was HOLDING 2 different lenght seatposts!!

i find that male lbs employees seem to go deaf & dumb(er) when i enter a store. no matter how many times i tell them i built the bike i'm riding they seem to get that deer-in-headlights-it's-a-person-with-boobs-glazed look when i walk up to them. *sigh* ;-)

looks have something to do with it ;-)lonefrontranger
Nov 13, 2002 9:29 AM
I'm a short-haired, square-bodied no-nonsense bike racer chick with an attitude to match. Once the shop rat gets it that I'm for real, his gaze generally stays focused above my collar. Not much for them to look at below that helps, I admit ;)

A protege of mine (the first student I coached) bears a strong resemblance to Sophia Loren. She started racing as my teammate at the age of 17. Her father happens to be a Sicilian lawyer, and thoroughly interviewed my SO and me prior to her joining my team and supervision. I am *not* making this up. That seriously rated as the most unnerving experience I ever had. Fortunately she was and still is a great racer and person and was well worth the mental heebie jeebies incurred by taking a cherished member of "the family" into our care, however subtly implied.

So, in addition to closely chaperoning her at all bike races (carrying a mental 2x4 with nails in), my SO and I had to accompany her on all her LBS trips in order for her to get coherent service sans bs. Now that she's moved away, she simply shops mail order and builds her own.
lol! definately not a Sophia Loren look-alike ---->_rt_
Nov 13, 2002 10:22 AM
and lacking much to look at below the neck unless you're into flat-chested skinny females! ;-) my strategy is to go in and ask directly for what i want and then do battle with the assinine behavior that generally works. and if nothing else i usually get some stupid comment to laugh at later.

Nov 13, 2002 9:29 AM
There's good news and bad news, ladies ...Allez Rouge
Nov 13, 2002 9:56 AM
(I *can* assume y'all are ladies, right?)

The good news is, as men age, they become increasingly aware of how sexist our society is, realize they are part of the problem, and begin to take corrective steps WRT their own sorry behavior.

The bad news is, this process occurs naturally in only 2% of the male population, and rarely begins before age 45 in any case.

(Yes, this is all somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But only somewhat, sadly.)
who you callin' a lady?_rt_
Nov 13, 2002 10:24 AM
oh, right. nevermind.


Wow...Rode Warrior
Nov 13, 2002 1:26 PM
So that makes me a 1%er?
33, and somewhat enlightened (I won't claim that I know what women go through on a daily basis, but I try to keep my eyes open). It's amazing the amount of sexism, weightism, victimization that women are faced with on a daily basis. And many times it's caused by well meaning men. Go figure.

End of partial rant,
Well, geesh, I'm glad SOMEone got the point ...Allez Rouge
Nov 13, 2002 2:04 PM
... I was trying to make. Or maybe others did "get it" but simply chose not to comment. IAC ... thanks, Steve. If at 33 you consider yourself enlightened at all on this issue then you are, no kidding, at least 12 years ahead of me because I was probably about 45 before I began to fully appreciate just how unintentionally obnoxious even generally polite and well-meaning men (which I hope includes me) can sometimes be to women.

I hate to blame our society because that seems like such a cop-out, but I don't know where else to point the finger. We're raised thinking it's okay to talk and act in certain ways, but it's not. It's just not. And I'm not talking about the blatantly obvious stuff, either. It's even there in the little, innocent things, like when a bike shop employee (he said, manfully trying to get the thread headed back somewhere close to topic) walks up to a M/F couple entering his shop and looks at the man and says, "May I help you, sir?"

(Granted, that's maybe not as bad as if the shop rat says those same words while staring open-mouthed at the woman's chest, but it's subtly sexist all the same.)
Well, geesh, I'm glad SOMEone got the point ...Rode Warrior
Nov 13, 2002 2:30 PM
I blame it on culture personally, but that's my opinion.
a story for you...._rt_
Nov 14, 2002 5:57 AM
when i bought my first mtn bike i noticed immediately that the bike pulled to the left. while i thought this was a little odd, i didn't think that bikes were like cars and so i tried to ignore the problem. then a friend of mine checked it out and noticed that the headset was loose. so i took the bike back to the shop where i bought it (with my [male] friend in tow for company).

we walked in, i told the wrench what the problem was, he smiled at me, said 'oh, that's easy to fix', whipped out a pair of headset wrenches (old threaded headset) and started cranking away. he cranks, and cranks, and cranks, and then gets a baffled look on his face....

the next thing i know he's got the bike in the stand, has taken the front end apart and is re-threading the fork! my friend turns to me and says, 'holy sh!t! they cross threaded your fork!'

about 45 mintues later (with no explanation of what was happening) the wrench has my bike back together, test rides it, hands it back to me & says "it's fixed".

so i say, "what was wrong with it?".

he responds, "it's fixed"

i say, "yes, but what was wrong?"

he responds, "it's good as new"

my friend then says, "i saw that you were rethreading the fork..."

the wrench then TURNS HIS BACK TO ME and proceeds to explain exactly what he did to my MALE friend.

needless to say, i never went back to that shop.

apparently neither did anyone else, since within a year the shop was no longer in business.

I consider Excel my local store, and I'm in Texas [nm]Leroy
Nov 13, 2002 9:50 AM
re: #3NewDayNewWay
Nov 14, 2002 6:37 AM
You can probably sense a hint of fascitiousness in my tone. This was not the only reason why I decided not to buy at this store. For example, they had almost nothing above a 1000, and I was looking in the $1,800 to $2,000 range (although the Giant I referred to above would have been a stretch, but I was excited at the time). This was a college-area bike shop that appeared to be targetting a consumers with less money than I have. They had two sales people, who I simply did not feel would be the types of people I would want to interact with when spending my hard earned cash on bike parts etc.
No saleSpoiler
Nov 13, 2002 1:11 PM
It doesn't sound like you were seriously looking to buy anything in the first place. You're trying out bikes with totally different geometries, and just "testing" employees. Employees that have spent any time in sales know your type, they can spot you a mile away. You're just out for a day of playing "Stump the shop rat."
They know you aren't interested in buying anything, you're just wasting their time, so they treat you accordingly.
No saleNewDayNewWay
Nov 14, 2002 6:29 AM
Well, actually I was seriously looking for a bike. I did eventually find the right shop (my going around was just as much to find a good bike shop as it was to find a good bike). I did find a decent place with some good folks (with a slightly older staff, coincidently), although I would also admit that by the time I went to this last place, I pretty much knew what I wanted. I basically went in the door, asked if they had such-and-such a bike in a certain size, they said yes, I test rode it, they showed due dilligence in treating me with respect, and I bought the bike ($1,900 w/ Tax for a Trek 2300). I would also note that this store is out of my way a little, but I will gladly go the extra distance to receive some service.