10 ways to be a dick in your local bike shop

by 44

Sanny has been contemplating the world of the Local Bike Shop and the daily challenges they face from “challenging” customers. With the help of tame bike shop owner, Keith of Mugdock Country Cycles located on the outskirts of Glasgow, he’s come up with ten top tips how to avoid being a bit of a spanner.

As the Sphinx in Mystery Men put it so succinctly, “to stop being treated like a dick, one must first stop being a dick!”

In the world of internet forums where the ability to rant to an unknown audience in relative anonymity is an integral part of the sticky glue that binds the World Wide Web together (or is that porn? I forget!), it’s hard not to find someone criticising their LBS for some perceived slight that they claim to have suffered, albeit criticism that often crumbles in the face of reality. Invariably, their lack of self-awareness and overdeveloped sense of being in the right may blind them to the fact that they are, in reality, being a dick! Here are ten ways how not to lose friends and alienate those good people who run your local bike shop.

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Yes, this is an “offline” store

1: Product scanners

These are the tyre kickers of the bike trade. They are happy to come into the shop, have a good root about the products and take up valuable staff time with their various questions to help them with their purchasing decision before taking out their mobile device of choice, scanning it and then finding it cheaper online. Now you would hope that these people would have the good grace to at least try and conceal what they are doing but sadly in this age of global connectivity, many don’t even recognise that they are taking the piss.

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Better check the price on Amazon

2: The shoe buyer and clothes horse

Now it used to be that if you went into a shop and tried on a pair of shoes or clothes which fitted and you liked, you would buy them. However, in a digital age where price is valued above everything else, it’s not uncommon for a potential customer to try on something, make some feeble excuse about it not really fitting before turning up for a shop ride the following week with those self-same pair of shoes, shorts, socks, gloves etc. bought online. If this is you, have you ever taken a moment to reflect what you would do if everyone did this and your LBS closed down as a result? Nope, thought not! Congratulations, you are a dick!

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A bike shop isn’t a fitting room for online sales

3: Asking for a discount.

What is it about the bike trade that there are so many customers who will quite brazenly ask for a discount despite never having even been in the shop before? I would love to see the response they would get if they did this in Tesco. Being offered a discount is a perk of being a regular customer. It is a reflection of the value of your regular custom where by the time you are offered it, you may well be on first name terms with some of the staff or may go on regular shop rides. Shops appreciate regular custom with a small discount being a fair reflection of this. However, going in for the first time and expecting, nay demanding one, marks you out as something of a tool.

4: The online expert

How many times in a day does an LBS employee or owner the phrase “but I can get it cheaper online”? While that is indeed lovely for you, will your online provider be able to sell it to you there and then? Or fit it? Or provide advice about a product and whether it is really suitable for you or whether there may be a better or cheaper alternative?  Or help you with a warranty issue if things go wrong? No, thought not. Distilling every purchasing decision down to the lowest common denominator of price is a race to the bottom.

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You’re not in the keyboard wars now Dorothy!

5: Thinking you can pay for things in cake and biscuits.

Face it, everyone likes biscuits and cake. Oh and booze too! It’s a nice little perk when a customer brings such things in as a way of say thanking you. While it can no doubt grease the wheel of commerce, don’t over egg it. Cake and biscuits don’t pay the bills when suppliers and the tax man come knocking. Offering them in the expectation of getting something in return isn’t really the point. If you are going to do it, do it with no agenda and you may well find that karma pays you back down the line.

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Cakes are lovely but they don’t pay the bills.

 6: Asking for sponsorship with nothing to offer in return.

Picture the scene. A bike shop somewhere near you. “Yo, dude, I’m like this totally sick free-rider and I could totally big up your shop when I pull some massive hucks with my riding buddies. If you could just sponsor me with free shit, it would, like, totally be good for your shop”. What the shop owner hears is “I want some free shit but will end up giving you precious little in return”. If you have the bike skills, that isn’t enough. To get a deal, you need to be able to offer something tangible in return. Are you media savvy? Do you have a successful blog with lots of followers? Do you have a proven track record in races and events? Only by being able to demonstrate evidence of your success will you even be considered.

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Sooo rad!

7: The online flamer.

Before you put fingers to keyboard about some slight you have experienced from your LBS, take a moment to consider what actually happened. Did your three month old cracked carbon frame just crack as you rode along or did you actually hit something at speed and cause the damage yourself? Were you entirely honest with your LBS or did you leave out some key facts. As you type your invective strewn tirade after you left the shop in a flounce, threatening to flame them online, do you think it will help or hinder your plight? Sometimes a little sugar goes an awfully long way. Have a look at the work of other online flamers – notice how most of the time they leave out the whole truth and get found out in the end? No LBS wants a dis-satisfied customer but if your approach is confrontational from the start, be prepared to get nowhere and lose friends and respect in the process.

8: The information gatherer.

Rather like the product scanner, this customer will happily make multiple trips and take up the time of employees in their quest to make what must be the single most important purchase in the history of important purchases. They will be obsessed with weight, performance, compounds and mid strokes. Hours can be wasted on them as they draw the employee in to a discourse from which there is no escape. A word of advice: just buy the sodding tyre!

9: The warranty requester.

Is it me but is there something about the bike trade that makes customers think that because you sell a product from a particular manufacturer that if they have a warranty issue, even though they either didn’t buy it from the shop or even bought it second hand, that they should ask the shop to help them with their warranty? Seriously, wtf? If I bought a toaster in Currys but took it back to Asda, they would very rightly chase me. The same rules should apply with bikes. If you were too cheap to buy from the shop, don’t be surprised if they say no.

10: The tool borrower.

Not content with not buying from their LBS, their tightness and sheer brass neck show no bounds when they come into the shop and ask to borrow tools. Now of course they could actually buy their own tools and use them at home or, heaven forbid, book their bike in to be fixed by a qualified mechanic who actually knows what they are doing. Sadly, that thought has probably never crossed their cheapskate mind.

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Don’t buy everything online and expect the local shop to lend you their tools for free.

So there you have it. Ten sure-fire ways to be a total tool in your local bike shop. By avoiding these schoolboy errors, you might just find that you enjoy great service from friendly staff who will go out of their way to help you when you need their help and advice. As the Sphinx in Mystery Men put it so succinctly, “to stop being treated like a dick, one must first stop being a dick!”

Can’t see the video? Click here

Many thanks to Mugdock Country Cycles 

David Gould

Singletrack Contributor

By day, Sanny plies his trade as a Chartered Accountant and Non-Executive Director. By night, however, give him a map and the merest whisper of a trail "that might go" and he'll be off faster than a rat up a drainpipe on some damn fool mission to discover new places to ride. Rarely without his trusty Nikon D5600, he likes nothing better than being in the big mountains, an inappropriately heavy bike on his back, taking pics and soaking up the scenery. He also likes to ride his bike there too although rumours that he is currently working on his next book, "Walks with my bike", are untrue (mostly).

Fat biking, gravel riding, bikepacking, road biking, e biking, big mountain adventures - as long as two wheels are involved, you'll find him with a grin on his face as he dives off the side of a mountain, down a narrow lane or into deep undergrowth in search of hidden trails and new adventures.

His favourite food is ham and mushroom pizza and he is on a mission to ride all of the Munros, mostly as it allows him to indulge in eating more pizza.

He has no five year plan, is a big fan of the writing of Charlie Connelly and reckons that Kermode and Mayo's Film Review Podcast is quite possibly the finest bit of broadcasting around.

Comments (44)

    Generally agree, apart from on the warranty point. I contacted SRAM about warranty on something I bought online from abroad, and SRAM told me to take it to a LBS. Incidentally, they sorted it out for me with no quibbles and agreed that it was fine to do this rather than post it back to Germany.

    How about some blue stilton to go with that?

    How about bike shops that charge RRP+ for last years kit because they are at a trail head and have a customer who is stuck and desperate?
    Is that ok because it’s “supply and demand”? Or are they being dicks too?
    #devilsadvocate

    It depends. If they inflate the price as you get to the till, then that’s not right. If they’re still selling last year’s kit for full price, then I reckon that’s fine. It’s not like mountain bike kit goes off… Plus the trailhead is often far from any other passing traffic they might have and their footfall might be very seasonal. The same as coffee in a cafe at the top of a mountain tends to cost more than coffee at the bottom.

    “The same as coffee in a cafe at the top of a mountain tends to cost more than coffee at the bottom.”

    They both taste great, in their own way 🙂

    Keith – did you catch him?

    Lets face facts, as a novice/beginner rider your first foray into the bicycle world will start with very little knowledge and understanding and will put your LBS’ noses out. You will try to navigate through what is a mine field of standards and compatabilities with little comprehension only exacerbate the owners increasing distaste for your caution!

    By this point your friendly LBS will most likely pigeon hole you into the “dick” category from here in, and if that doesn’t help snub your growing enthusiasm for your LBS, they most likely will have a poorly paid mechanic with little experience screw something up!

    After all in this age of internet price competion a Local Bike Shop format (not at the trail head) becomes little more than a charity and thus should be refered to as your Local Bike Charity Shop LBCS, from here in.

    LBCS? “Bollox!”, he said pithily in reply……. :-))

    I’ve had a thought. Why not help customers with informal training on bike knowledge, maybe with the pretense of doing it themselves! Thus increasing the shops levels of business as they screw there bike up, with little chance of getting any one part to work with another. And ultimiltly learn respect for there LBS being there when needed and by this point maybe having some rapport!

    Beginners/novices are LBS’s bread and butter – they are the best customers. No reason for LBS’s nose to be put out.

    It’s the guys who think they’re experts (but understand little) who understandably upset the LBS by hoovering up time without spending money, or even saying thanks.

    Bike shops are being squeezed from every direction at the moment – they deserve your support (where earned) rather than derision.

    It’s “their”, not “there”. Garrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Oh and it is “ultimately” and not ultimitly. And “pretence”………..

    Sillyoldman has hit the nail squarely on the head. I wonder whether the Internet generation will ever wake up and smell the coffee? Cheap does not equal best.

    Id love to meet someone who didnt think they knew it all about 2 wheels, a frame and that thing that goes across the top you hold really tight!

    This country’s foundation Is governed by experts. Sorry “Dicks”

    If you don’t ask you don’t get, its a competitive market place, but always remember if its a chain its fair game, if a local guy trying to make a living get to know him be loyal and cut him some slack for a few quid.

    “I’d”, not Id! Arggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    has that massive chip got a barcode too?

    who wrote this article? Congratulations, you are a dick!

    Of course you don’t ask for a discount in tesco because the person who sets the prices isn’t standing in front of you, but he is in an LBS. You don’t ask, you don’t get, whats the harm in asking, he’s free to say no and I’m free to take my business elsewhere. Perhaps if he gives me a discount on a shimano rotor today when I need my rear wheel rebuilding he’ll be the first person I turn to next month.

    Don’t like people using your shop to try clothes on? fuck off and open a coffee shop instead, Congratulations, you are a dick!

    “Don’t like people using your shop to try clothes on? fuck off and open a coffee shop instead, Congratulations, you are a dick!”
    Really? Good to see no swear filter out here in the wild west.

    To all those who can’t seem to understand the relevance of a local shop I say this: I helped a customer in buying their first proper full suspension bike, as a mtb’r for 20 years, a racer and a professional mechanic I had a good chat and guided him through the various options I thought would best suit his needs. In the end we settled on a giant reign 27.5 2 because it was capable beyond his current skill set and would allow him to progress, is a stable platform which can be easily tuned and fettled, the running gear may not be the most exotic but the deore gearing is hard wearing and reliable and lastly it has practical touches like a dropper post and the frame is bang up to date for future upgrading.

    Once I’d built the bike I helped him understand the suspension and a bit about why the settings should be used in certain ways for different terrain and riding. I then set the suspension and guided him on how to do this and gave him advice on maintenance and mechanical sympathy!

    He’s since come back to me to tell me my advice has changed his riding for the better and he’s enjoying it more than he ever has as it’s pushed his confidence and he’s riding terrain he struggled with before. I’ve told him of some choice local riding spots too to get away and try something different from his usual woods.

    I’d like to think this level of service is worth fighting for and perhaps just as importantly worth my wage and my career and my future. But, some people don’t and I can’t begrudge them saving a few quid, bike shop employees are hardly millionaires. However respect is mutual, you don’t have to buy much, or anything if you don’t want just come in with a good attitude and realise were just like you, we love riding bikes and ultimately we just want more cyclists in the world because that would be awesome. I don’t speak for everyone in the trade but if you find that nice helpful shop with nice staff buy some socks or a much once in a while and start a friendship and strengthen your community, make friends, ride bikes and be happy.

    Yeah surprised me too.

    I just want someone to define for me what this mythical LBS is.

    Trying to work out if this article is clickbait or dickbait..
    End of the day, it’s horses for courses. Some great LBS’ run by great guys, some not so good – Dave Hinde anyone?
    People who use the time and expertise of bike shops to research and then buy online are definitely big, fat hairy prehensile dicks. Fact.

    I regularly off road in Mugdock. It’s a great place, with some brilliant and challenging forest single track, and hardly ever publicised.

    If I were the owner of that shop, I’d generate more positive content about the place, maybe do some articles on the trails, or even maintain or sponsor one of them. He’d then be in pole position to reap the benefits as the only shop in the area.

    Poorly considered content at best … customers come in all shapes and sizes and it doesn’t feel like good karma to go negative.

    harrypalmer

    You do realise that this article is firmly tongue in cheek, don’t you? Keith is a great sport and played along with the joke. Sorry that you are taking it so seriously.

    Jekyll

    I wrote the article. Thank you for the continued support.

    Sanny

    I realised it was an attempted humour, yep. But it wasn’t great.

    I only subscribed to your magazine after reading a friend’s copy for a few months. I guess by your logic I stole something from you and then I am a tool too. But it’s ok to risk offending people you don’t know by calling them names, because it’s just a joke. They’ll obviously just get it, right?

    I won’t subscribe again. You’ve lost a repeat customer, I’ll just read my mate’s and go back to being a tool. But that’s ok, because it’s just a joke.

    And FYI, in commodity transactions, like buying a pair of shoes, or a t-shirt, cheap IS best. There is no other way to compare. My experience of the LBS over many years is mixed at best. Find a decent mech first and foremost.

    Price is king? Now that is where you and I disagree as you can probably guess from the tone and content of the article.

    As for taking offence, it’s regrettable that you feel that way. However, if you are going to do so, perhaps it should be for something I have written and not from your logic leap? I have at no point suggested that you are a tool. If that is how you feel, I’m sorry but there is nothing that I can do about that other than offer you a man hug. :-))))

    it doesn’t come across as tongue in cheek, it comes across like you’re insulting people who are just trying to get things a little cheaper, which is pretty much everyone afaics.

    Will there be a follow up article called ‘ how bike shops are dicks’? In the process of buying a bike and I can see how fed up people become by the process. Call me a stick in the mud but. I won’t buy a bike till I’ve a: seen in in person and b: sat on or riden it. In my size. Bike shops appear to misunderstand that I won’t order it on the basis of a picture, or a review by someone who gets money by prasing everything they review.

    Who are these mystery people who get money by praising everything they review?

    I feel pretty neutral about the content of the article, but I do have a couple of points to raise:

    – I’m not a great fan of the ‘X ways/things to..’ kind of articles, as it seems like editorial fluff that scrabbles around to populate an arbitrary list number. They are often repetitive (as above, which is basically 4-5 issues expanded with variations of people trying and not buying), and examples become simplistic or polarising in order to fit a list heading.
    – Sanny, you’ve written an article which has stirred up lots of debate. I think it’s best to stand by your creative belief and just let it go. Your authorial control is gone once published, and it’s a vain task to defend it so thoroughly in a comments section.

    Cheers for all the feedback.

    At the very heart of this piece is something that has been troubling me for sometime. As a customer, I’ve witnessed all of the behaviours highlighted in bike shops. It disappoints me that some customers think it is ok to use a bike shop as a place to look, feel and try bikes, kit and clothes before going online to find the cheapest possible price. Why is it apparently ok to try and drive down the price with a bricks and mortar shop by haggling and asking for a discount? The LBS is at the end of the supply chain. Why do some customers believe that it is ok to do this to a small, independent business? Margins are tight and being squeezed all the time. How many customers take a moment to reflect that their behaviour is taking the proverbial?

    The accountant in me thinks that if I was wanting to get into the bike trade, I would adopt a high volume, low margin, warehouse only approach, screw down the price and then when I have driven the competition out of business, I would raise the prices to full RRP. Tesco have adopted this approach with their smaller units and have succeeded in driving a lot of small, independent traders out of business.

    For now, the option is there to focus on price only. That is the right of every potential customer. However, don’t be surprised when in the long term you have no one to help you out, to offer advice and guidance and you find the cheap prices no longer exist.

    I’ve never been to Sannys shop and probably won’t due to location. I’ve worked in 3 bike shops, one in the Midlands, one in Scotland and one in London. The issues raised in this are the same throughout. What I have seen is the increasing homegenisation of bike shops with no real defining differences between them. We need people with passion, if only to make our over PC too scared to offend society more interesting. I for one would like to go to Sannys shop and ask him for a discounted free tool borrow give him a pack of biscuits and then eat them all because his response would be amusing. I beleive it’s called a ” craik” or just a good Mickey take.

    When did I open a shop? That’s news to me? I’ve never worked in retail in my puff!

    If you eat the biscuits in front of me, I would probably sob gently in the corner…especially if it is Jaffa Cakes!

    “Who are these mystery people who get money by praising everything they review?”
    Call me a cynic but I have never seen a bad review for a Ribble in cycling weekly and they always have a double page advert. Maybe it is roadies who are without morals?

    Does Ribble make bad bikes then?

    Not the point really, I just wonder how hard it is to remain completely impartial when a portion of income comes from advertising? I do think Singletrack write balanced reviews and reading back my post it sounds like a troll to some extent but am genuinely interested to know how a long term advert and associated income might colour your/their opinion of a product. Is it therefore more difficult for small manufacturer to get positive reviews if they can’t afford to lend out?give kit away to be reviewed, or buy advertising?
    Oh and at the time I thought my Ribble Audax was a dog, turned out my legs were not strong enough though.

    My LBS closed a few years ago and became an online-only retailer instead. I certainly wish this hadn’t happened. Use ’em or lose ’em….

    I see some attitudes from bike shop staff as I see in some guitar shops (my other passion) – too cool for school. I’m spoilt for choice in Edinburgh and I have two favourites and that is driven by friendly and patient assistants. Being a dick works both ways.

    Jekyll

    Having just looked back over your first post, I think the irony of what you have written has perhaps been lost on you?

    Thanks for helping to illustrate some of the points made in the article. ;-)))))))))

    My LBS is brilliant; friendly, totally expert and . . . pretty much cheaper than / on par with the internet. Personally, I like to do my research on t’ web, and then source from my LBS, even if it is a few quid more – it’s worth it for the banter and a cuppa!

    Bodgy

    Good style, fella!

    Cheers

    Sanny

    I think it’s a good policy (it’s certainly my policy) to always buy at least few bits and bobs whenever I visit a bike shop, even if I’m really just browsing, just to them show some love. This isn’t usually a hardship…

    As a manufacturer for 13 years or so (before I got a grown up job) I sold my products direct to customers because dealing with bike shops was a royal pain in the back side. None of the UK shops paid on time, quite a few would come up with frankly daft reasons why they couldn’t pay and I had way too many problems with bike mechanics ruining the products attempting to install them compared to untrained customers. I found my USA business to business customers far better trained and understanding of their client base.

    The bike trade in the UK is broken. The big distributors have carved out their 23-26% margin with mostly bland uninteresting products while the same product lines are being sold direct to the big on line retailers at a lower margin than the shops can buy at. This huge markup does not happen in the US.

    I’ve seen so many snotty bike shop owners that just don’t understand their addressable market and are unable to adapt their businesses to out pace and beat the online retailers. At the end of the day, a bike shop owner has the benefit of the customer there on their premises.

    I think this article above was a bit unwise. If their customers are doing those things then the business model is not right and it is the shop that has to change, not the customers.

    Hello everyone. I remember when I first saw a Singletrack Magazine at a friends house, I borrowed it and I couldn’t believe I’d just found exactly the sort of mtb magazine I’d been looking for a long time. It looked great, every single article was either interesting and/or helpful, it was fun, with some great pictures and it was the first “mountain biking philosophy” magazine rather than just another boring mtb mag. That’s why I subscribed. For these same reason I find that some of the latest online Buzzfeed-esque content could be replaced by far more interesting, constructive and helpful content. Whether this specific article was deliberately tongue in cheek is not relevant, nor interesting, it’s just deliberately provoking, a reaction is to be expected surely. What Sannys aim was when writing this is still unclear and I’m not interested. I don’t get offended by it, I couldn’t care less, what I care about is that there is sooooo much more to write about, so many interesting subjects, or even just a different way of dealing with old subjects without getting offensive. I’ve read the sort of “10 ways to be a dick in your LBS” cliches a million times on the net and it’s old, boring and predictable. It’s a very serious subject and it deserves a serious article.

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