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LBS just lost my business (rant)(18 posts)

LBS just lost my business (rant)killermustard
Mar 12, 2003 9:54 PM
What follows is a rant that may or may not have a point:

I have four LBSs that I try to support, but when their prices are over 20% higher on $100+ purchases, I head out about 15 miles to Supergo.

Anyway, I was at this one LBS (it's actually one of a chain of four in the LA area) and simply asked for the price of an Ultegra crank and BB. The guy told me the price and immediately pressured my by asking if he should pack it up for me. When I told him that I'm actually considering getting at a place that was significantly cheaper elsewhere, he asked me where. When I told him Supergo, he got pissed off.

He then went on a rant--that if I wanted to drive all that way that it was fine by him but he wouldn't do it because his time was more important than a few dollars and that price wasn't everything and what would I do if I needed service on the purchases and if others started acting like me people like him would go out of business.

I basically nodded and got the hell out of there. The last thing I needed was to have the owner (?) of a ritzy bike shop giving me a lecture about how money should not be important.

Look, I understand that a LBS has to make money and that a premium should be charged if they offer service that Supergo doesn't. But in this situation, (1) I did not try to haggle over the price, I simply asked him the price so that I could make my choice; (2) I don't need service, I do all my own mechanical work; and (3) the service at Supergo is actually much better than this LBS.

Of the four LBSs in my area, this one has the worst attitude. I've been in there a few times over the years when it was convenient or cheap, but I never felt comfortable. I don't know why the people at this place feel like I owe them something when they are in it for the money, just like any other business.

Anyway, I guess I'm down to three LBSs. I'm going to get a drink now.

p.s. After my club discount, the price I was quoted was still over $30 than the $118 charged by Supergo.
re: LBS just lost my business (rant)zooog
Mar 13, 2003 2:59 AM
I think that the LBS owner needs a drink. Screw him. With supergo so close by and other LBS you never have to step in there again. Seems the pressure of the slower economy and supergo may be getting to him
Common story on this board.Matno
Mar 13, 2003 3:57 AM
Even a lot of high-end bike shops, and most regular ones, are of no benefit to those of us who do our own wrenching. Since that includes a large percentage of people on this forum, it stands to reason that many of us are not going to be satisfied with LBSs. Add to that the fact that most of us are somewhat internet-savvy and know what deals are available before we buy, and we're not much of a source of income to a bike shop. (They make most of their money off of low-end stuff anyway).

Here in the Bronx, I recently had two very different experiences on the same day. I went to a Cannondale dealer to get some barrel adjusters (a C'dale part that's right there in their "kit list" on the website, but you have to order it through a dealer). They didn't know what I was talking about even after I pointed them out on a couple of their bikes! They treated me like I was stupid even though every time I've been in their shop, I've felt like I was the one teaching a beginner about bikes! (The last time I was there, I needed some headset spacers, which they told me they didn't have. I then found two different types of spacers hanging on the wall behind the counter, and when the guy was looking through his parts box, I saw even more sitting in there! I bought them even though they charged me an arm and a leg). It seems to be a farely common thing around here that when you don't know something, you try to hide your ignorance behind a wall of rudeness... At any rate, I left in disgust.

The second shop I visited doesn't really carry ANY high end bikes, but they have a lot of high-end small parts. They didn't have what I wanted, but the manager searched for about 30 minutes trying to find them ("I know I had some recently!"...) At any rate, he let me look through his big catalogue to find some other stuff, and was generally very helpful (even if not all that knowledgable). And the whole time he was very friendly.

Which shop do you think I'll be going to next time? I'm just bummed that the crappy shop is just down the street, while the good one is a good 15 minutes farther away... (Oh, and now that I have that C'dale part number, I'll be ordering it through my buddy who's a C'dale dealer out in Utah. Much easier than trying to work with the local idiots).
Common story of the retail experience in the USA in generalStupidLight
Mar 13, 2003 7:18 AM
The problem goes far beyond big shop/little shop: except for a very few big-ticket items (i.e. Prada suits, high-end audiophile gear, Mercedes, etc.) where sales personnel has an incentive to learn something about the product in the form of a nice fat commission, our consumer economy is an environment hostile to real retail expertise.

The sad thing is that even by investing very little advanced research, I generally know more about what I'm going to buy than the salespeople in pretty much _any_ retail establishment.

Recently I was in Paragon sports, a stand-alone Manhattan retailer of high-end outdoor sporting gear, and one of their "specialists" came up to me and began to extoll the virtues of the "teflon technology" of newer skiwear. I can only assume he was attempting to reproduce a sales pitch he had picked up second hand from a buddy about fabric treatments used in conjunction with waterproof-
breathable laminates - or maybe he used to sell frying pans at Macy's...

I actually felt sorry for the guy. Back when I was a student, I used to work in Alpine sporting retail, and they actually used to train us by holding a whole series of clinics every season with reps. Either Paragon no longer bothers with such "costly" measures, or this kid just hadn't been around long enough to be trained.

It seems the problem is that retail jobs selling most mass-produced consumer goods are miserably paid these days and are thus high-turnover jobs that employ an endless chain of terminally underqualified labor.

I've also worked in bike shops and know that there are a few exceptional shops out there where people are working there for the love of the sport and because they genuinely like helping folks. There are even shops like The Bike Co. in CA (http://road.bikeco.com/) that are set up as employee-owned co-ops -- an inspired move intended to help counteract the high-turnover / low-pay / no benefits dimension of the business.

Unfortunately, my own experience from "inside" the bike business suggests that the young employees who are in it for the love of the sport and the shop discounts either outgrow the pitiful earning potential of their job, or stick around and become shop managers. In my experience, the more qualified and intelligent these managers are, the more bitter they tend to become about having chosen a business with such miserable profit margins (even at full pop, bikes don't bring in over 15%), and no prospects of advancement.

There will always be exceptions: exceptions at the big end like Supergo where business-savvy individuals create an efficient retail model and pass on some of the savings to us, and at the small end, where convenience, expertise, and the personal factor come together to make a good LBS.

Quite frankly, unless there is a major change in how we structure and train our workforce (the Europeans, for example, have a system of 3-year apprenticeships for most jobs, in which people are actually taught the tools of a trade) I don't see things changing any time soon.
re: LBS just lost my business (rant)mtnb1kr
Mar 13, 2003 4:32 AM
If Supergo is only 15 miles away I 'd consider that my LBS. I live in the country and have to drive 10 miles minimum to any shop. One other poster is correct, if you do your own wrenching the LBS is much less important. The only thing I end up there for anymore is real small parts and cables and stuff. I haven't bought anything bigger or more expensive than a derailleur in years.
It's Always about price.Leroy
Mar 13, 2003 6:54 AM
My two LBS are excel sports and branfordbike and I live in Texas. All for the reasons set out - I tried to give the locals a chance but they're just too unreasonable. For me, the high-end business is all on line. They can have the parent-child, new rider, comfort bike, etc. stuff and more power to them. They can screw the people that don't know any better.
I have a somewhat similar situationRickC5
Mar 13, 2003 6:07 AM
The LBSs near my home in Aurora are just not very good to deal with for similar reasons: high prices and bad attitudes. So, I drive to the other side of Denver, about 20 miles away, to visit Wheat Ridge Cyclery, which, IMHO, is one of the best LBSs I have ever encountered. Even though their prices aren't much lower (if at all), their attitudes and customer service are outstanding.

I also do the majority of my parts purchases over the phone or via the web. I like to save a buck as much as anyone else.
some LBS's need to learnFrith
Mar 13, 2003 7:19 AM
a) if they can't beat price they need to use good service and good attitude to beat the supergos and online retailers.
b) Occasionally someone is going to walk through the doors with more knowledge than them. In fact if a customer comes in for a very specific reason then it is often the customer who has done the most research in that area.
c) Loyal customers need to be treated like loyal customers. Learn their name use it to greet the customer. Throw a loyal customer a really good deal once in a while to show that they're valued. This is an advantage they have over large chains. If they choose not to use it they will suffer.
d) drop the holier than thou attitude. Someone coming into the shop doesn't want to be made to look like an idiot.
Bad LBS's made me a mechanicRJF
Mar 13, 2003 7:20 AM
I had been sick of the poor service and bad attitudes I encountered at every damn LBS I went into for a long time. The final straw was when I paid for a "tune up" that resulted in brake shoes that hit the spokes, not the rim. I bought a book and learned how to do my own wrenching and never let an LBS touch my bikes again.

I agree with those posters above. Why should I pay a premium of 20%+ when I get nothing in return? Parts and components to me are a commodity. Commodities are bought on price.
I talked to the manager/ownertheeatkins
Mar 13, 2003 7:42 AM
I had a somewhat similar experience with a local LBS. I was in the market for new bike and had set a price of about $4K.
This was not your ordinary bike. I went in to ask questions and all I got was attitude. I just stopped the conversation in the middle and walked out. I went back the next day and asked for the manager ( which turned out to be the owner ). I proceeded to tell him that I just went and spent 4 grand on a bike that could have been from his shop. I told him of the attitude displayed be an employee ( though I would not say who ). I went back once more to show him the $4700 bike I bought from a competitor. Maybe it was not right of me, but I felt justified in pointing out that "attitude" does count. I have since moved on to another bike. Again, not from that shop.
OMG...you win.Frith
Mar 13, 2003 7:53 AM
Did everybody feel that? It was the cosmic force of justice jolting back into place.
Congratulations theeatkins... you did what many of us wish we had the guts to do.
Man the world is suddenly a fairer place.
A few thoughts.Len J
Mar 13, 2003 8:10 AM
You are lucky that you have a choice. Those of us that don't live in a large Metro area have more limited choices.

If (& only if) the LBS I'm dealing with is a good wrench that can take care of things that I can't (because of either experience or tools) then I would have paid the extra $30 (or negotiated with him to split the difference. It is worth the extra money to keep the LBS around for the few times I need really need him. A great wrench is worth the investment.

As to "Attitude" in LBS's I think that the poster above with the $4,700 bike handled it wrong. If I get attitude from an employee, I immediatly ask for the manager (9 times out of 10 it is the owner). I explain the situitation & judge the shop by the owners response. Either you learn where the attitude comes from (In which case you move on) or you learn that the owner does care & appreciates that you brought it to his attention (in which case you have made a friend & your purchase will get the best attention). To walk out & then rub his face in the lost business by bringing the bike you bought somewhere else back without giving him the courtesy of telling him that he has a problem in his store says more about the person who does it that about the LBS. Just my oponion. Now if the "attitude" comes from the owner, well I vote with my feet.

LBS's are only important to some people when they need them. I don't think that Supergo will stay late to fix a broken spoke on your only set of wheels the night before you leave on a trip so you will have it (Like a good LBS that you have developed a relationship with would do). I have had LBS's who have done amazing things for me when I've had an untimely mechanical that saved a ride for me, and all because I invested in them. It's a two way street.

Len
Bring 'em beer...asphalt assault
Mar 13, 2003 9:23 AM
The guys at my local shop know that I'm a mailorder guy and build/repair my bikes myself. Occasionally I need a HS pressed in or a BB shell chased, something that requires a special tool that I havn't aquired yet. The standard labor charge is a 12 of Corona and a lime...naturally I stay and help them drink it (just to be sociable).

Politics, plain and simple.
Bring 'em beer...Fez
Mar 13, 2003 9:47 AM
Is this after hours? My bike store would probably frown if I supplied beer during business hours.

I usually just try to be nice and offer a $10 tip (so he can buy his own beer for later) for most small jobs. I still get charged - I'm not trying to get free service. I just want the guy to do a good job and figure a little tip every time keeps things happy.
pizza works great too ! nmthe bull
Mar 13, 2003 9:56 AM
yep!rockbender
Mar 13, 2003 12:05 PM
I agree.

I told two younger guys at a LBS that spent a lot of time with me taking bikes out for test rides and figuring fits that no matter what, they were getting a sixer from me.

I ended up buying a bike from the RBR classifieds, and took the guys a couple six packs, and they were totally grateful. It's definately one way to make sure they remember your face!

Another LBS rant - went into same shop the other day to get some cables and a chain. The guy was very pressuring, not helpful, charged me for 2' of housing when he only gave me about 1.6' (I measured it when I got home)... and then he added up the price wrong and was trying to charge me $5 more for everything! Jackass! I'll just walk out when that guy is working.
Sounds like you went to Helens MDR.....Stinky Hippie
Mar 13, 2003 12:09 PM
...Scott still running that place?

Regardless, I don't blame ya. I'm getting tired of self-righteousness of LBS owners , myself.

Feel the gin
Support yer local sheriffpmf1
Mar 14, 2003 5:27 AM
They're a business just like any other. Would you patronize a local restaurant that serves lousy food and has a rude waiter just because its local?

The small independent shops have the service niche IMO. If they can't take advantage of that, they're doomed.