Sunday, 26 July 2009

Local Bike Store Quality - Do it yourself?

My daughter went into a well known Lake District cycle store with her rather dilapidated old bike that had two perished tyres, one of which was flat. It had been stored for a long time and she was needing it now for regular short commutes. She wanted to be sure the bike would be reliable and wanted to practice riding before needing to go to work on it.

She organised with the staff at the counter to have two new tyres and tubes fitted. After a coffee she returned to see her steed looking much better with its new rubber installed and went for a short ride.

The next day I offered to go on a ride with her only to find when we got the bike out, the same wheel was flat again. Before we could go on our ride, I had to repair it. The tube was the original tube with the original hole in it. I know because it also had another patch on. This particular store gets a lot of passing trade from the many day trippers to the Lake District, which is what my daughter had done. Consequently, it was not easy to just pop back to the shop and get the mistake rectified.

She checked the receipt and hadn't been charged for tubes, so somewhere between the counter and the service guy, there must have been a communication breakdown. I still find it strange that a large bike shop, like the one she used, would not have staff experienced enough to ensure all cycles leaving their store are roadworthy and reliable. My daughter paid top price for the tyres and £10 for the labour. It's unfortunate that large stores such as this force the smaller shops offering better service out of business. Net result: my 'avoid' list of cycle shops is growing faster than my 'support' list. It also means those prepared to 'do-it-yourself' rely on Internet resellers, which would have been around £14 cheaper. In this instance, it was not about the cost but about the inconvenience.

This is another example I've encountered of inadequate service from a 'reputable' cycle shop. I don't want to dis' the shop in question but this experience does beg the question how a growing bike industry with a supposed bright future is going to gain mass acceptance by the general public when it seems odds-on that they'll be let down by their suppliers? The solution is to build a relationship with a local supplier you can trust, if you can find one, and hope when you're out of town, you find one that's equally as good.


welshcyclist said...

Your comments are spot on, I see new cyclists every day on my commutes, are they riding bikes that are fit for purpose? I have grave doubts. I became a commuter because of the Cycle2Work scheme, I knew very little about cycling or bike maintenance, so I purchased a Bikecare plan from Halfords. The first bike I had they couldn't service because no-one was trained in internal hub gears, and I had a very frustrating time, until Halfords actually admitted the fact, and gave me a new derailleur geared bike. There followed 6 months of heaven, until I needed spokes replaced, there followed two slow punctures, because the spokes haven't been fitted correctly. I have to go back to get it sorted yet again. I don't blame the young lads doing the reapairs, I blame Halfords management, because these lads are expected to serve while doing the repairs, obviously this breaks their concentration, and things are missed. Any new cyclists steer clear of Halfords Bikecare Plan, but where do you find a good bikeshop ?

Psychalist said...

I'm surprised you kept going back to Halfords but I suppose if there is a lack of other shops locally, you've no choice. Although we've a couple of shops in town, one very local, they have either too narrow a focus (new mtb, new road) or are just plain unhelpful. I've found a couple of really helpful good shops in local towns and know of others I suspect are good - usually by word of mouth, forums or via local cycling club links. Try looking on the CTC forums or searching for local road clubs - they may not be your cup of tea but you don't have to join, but you will generally get good advice.

Cheer and thanks for reading.

Alex Gomes said...

I've been a bike mechanic for 18 years now and worked at 8 shops in 3 countries.
After working at some bigger companies I can but agree with your comments. I've grown disgusted at the (lack of) customer service of those larger shops. Especially so because I was actively prevented from doing/offering better service.

To me, today, a "proper" bike shop is owned by an avid cyclist employing a minimum of staff and keeping operations small enough to allow him/her to be directly involved with the customers, not locked away in an office "managing" (shufling papers).
I think there should be a small, helpfull shop in every block or so in bigger cities.

Until this utopia comes true, my advise is: always go back to the shop and TALK. Be a friendly customer, show understanding for their mistakes and be VERY FIRM. Get it in your mind that you deserve good service and insist on not getting anything less than that. You're paying for it!
Don't bitch, don't be abusive, smile and be civil, comunicate clearly what you wish.
I've seen some of my worst employers and colleagues be motivated to do their best simply due to the attitude of the customer: firm and friendly.

Just my two cents, hope it helps somewhat.


Psychalist said...

Alex, Thanks for that - I think you're quite correct - communication is key. The shops I've felt most comfortable using, and I go back to, are the ones that listen and have empathy for what I need. Sometimes I might not get what I want, but if they tried to be helpful and didn't make me feel a fool, they create the opportunity to return and win a future sale.