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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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Many thanks to Mugdock Country Cycles