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Ask Uncle Dave

Dear Uncle Dave: Help me with my Pandemic Purchasing Challenges

Words Dave Tolnai
Date May 3, 2021
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I'm going to editorialize a bit before we get around to things. This question showed up a month or two back, and the asker was kind enough to work with me on digging up some more information to form a coherent response. So we finished it all up, and then I didn't do anything with it. Why? I really don't know. My will to finish things off these days is severely compromised. Plus, is this interesting? Is there anything here that you couldn't figure out yourself by talking to a coworker? Is it still valid? More valid? I have no idea. Guilt for causing somebody else some effort has me posting this.


Dear Uncle Dave

I have a genuine concern about Pandemic Panic Purchasing. Last November, I put down a deposit on my Plan A dream bike - one that was featured on your website in a direct comparison to my Plan B bike. The suspension and build are one thing, but more importantly the sizing is something that I think will be most appropriate for my gargantuan self. I've been following up with the shop (the sales-rep I dealt with is a buddy of mine) asking for an estimated time of arrival. Naturally I've been receiving the "we'll get back to you once we know anything more" response, which is not surprising given current realities. My concern is that the bike may not actually arrive, either in a timely way, or at all. I have several key components I'd like to change, but I don't want to start buying up preference parts for a bike I don't actually have in hand (in case it never arrives). I'm sure you've heard of certain brands acknowledging that they'll be unable to fulfill orders, as well as the anticipated 300+ days wait time for components.

My other good buddy happens to be the regional rep for the brand I ordered from. Question 1: Would it be prickish of me to go over the bike shop's head and talk to the regional rep to see if he has any more info? I don't want to put him in a bad position. To the shop, I've been dropping hints that "if the bike isn't going to arrive, I'd rather know that sooner rather than later" to no avail.

A third good buddy works at another shop which happens to have my Plan B bike in stock, in my size, just sitting there. Question 2: Would it be even more prickish of me to put a deposit on that bike, just in case my Plan A bike doesn't arrive at all? Question 3: If Bike A does arrive after I've placed the deposit on Bike B, will I be a dickheaded customer to decline the Bike B deal and ask for my deposit back? I don't want to be like those assholes panic-buying toilet paper a year ago, but I think being without a bike would be worse than having a dirty asshole. I can improvise toilet paper, but not a bike.

Should I be patient, or persistent, or just piss off and take up pinochle?

Sincerely,

Pandemic Panic Purchaser


Dear Poopie:

I’m fairly used to people sending confusing questions, but this feels like a sort of logic bomb. Kind of like the “if man A takes a train to Boston at 50km/hour…” math question. However, after hours of pondering, I think I have unraveled your questions, and am happy to offer up some advice on the situation.

Question 1 - Absolutely talk to your buddy the sales rep. It would be insane not to. You know somebody that might have the information that you need, why on earth wouldn't you find out as much as you can? You may even be able to help the shop out by getting them new information. Should you be concerned about putting them in a bad position? No way. Were they able to answer your question for you? Do you feel satisfied as a customer? Hell no! Do what you need to do.

Question 2 & 3 - This is where things get a bit convoluted, but I think I follow. First of all, what is a deposit? It's sort of like a promise, right? You promise to buy a bike when it shows up, and as a sign of good faith you're laying out some money to hold that place in line. The idea is that if you don't come through, well, they have your deposit. There's a flip side to that though, in that the bike company/shop have made a promise to provide you with a bike within a set period of time. I would say that we're probably well past the point where they've lived up to their end of the bargain. That's not a judgement. There is a's good reasons for it, but at the same time, you didn't give them a deposit with the understanding that you might get a bike within the next 5 years. Similarly, if that bike shows up and it is significantly different than what was promised, you'd also be okay to back out of the deal and expect a refund on your deposit.

Now, it gets a bit trickier with bike B. Look back to the above paragraph. If you make a deposit, you're making a promise that you are going to buy that bike. If you don't, well, I think it would be expected that you are going to forfeit that deposit. As well, why are you putting a deposit down on a bike that is actually there? The shop could sell that bike to somebody else, and you're asking them to set it aside for you. It would be a bit dishonest to suggest you were going to buy the bike if you aren't in fact planning on buying it.

Taking all of that into consideration, I have two trains of thought. One, somebody just said to me yesterday "my advice for anybody buying a bike right now is that if you can find one that fits, is in your budget and is roughly what you are looking for, you should buy it." So, why not just buy bike B? Also, it would help if you told me what the 2 bikes are.

Next, why not talk to your good buddy who works at the other shop and explain your situation? You want a bike. You're on the fence. You think you prefer the other one and you've put a deposit down and you're not sure if it's going to show up and you're kind of in to this other bike. See where that goes. Maybe a solution presents itself.

The key would be to not mislead anybody.

Sorry,

Uncle Dave


Dear Uncle Dave

Thanks for the good advice.

After emailing you, I contacted the brand rep and he gave me a clearer date. Turns out the shop had the current ETA, but for some reason that info hadn’t made it to me (yet). They dropped the ball. They had the info but seem to have lost track of it. Your bit about being honest is key - that tells me it would NOT be okay to put a deposit on Bike B in order to hold it as a back-up bike only to renege later on. However in this market, I'm sure it would sell pretty quickly. In the automotive industry there's be some kind of paperwork accompanying a deposit documenting what it's for and under what conditions it can be forfeited or returned. Not so clear at all in the bike industry. No fine print to argue over, just "bro, you're f*cking me over" accusations and bitterness.

The two bikes are:

Bike A: Specialized Enduro Expert in S5

Bike B: Transition Sentinel, GX build in XXL

The rep told me the Enduro should be here in "mid April" which is great. That will give me more time to sell my old bike. I've guzzled the "longer is better" kool aid like a frat boy at his first kegger and I'm fully committed to getting something no shorter than 500 mm.

The recent review of the Specialized Grid Gravity tires was super helpful. I've been agonizing about whether to procure an Assegai and a Minion DHR. Though the Enduro comes with the Trail version, not the Gravity version, I'm comfortable giving the stock tires a chance. I'm pondering allocating some money towards the following, as well: Renthal bar, Magura MT7 brakes, or maybe an EXT Storia. Maybe I should just keep it stock and double up a mortgage payment instead?

I don't know if you're still posting music, etc, but in honor of Sunday's episode of Family Guy, may I turn you on to Ini Kamoze's Here Comes the Hotstepper?

Thanks for the advice, I'll keep it all honest and above board. Will wait patiently for the Enduro to arrive in a month and put Bike B out of mind.

Thanks again


Dear Poopie:

Thanks for the follow-up. You can’t really go wrong with either bike, but looking at the Specialized website, if your Enduro Expert is coming in that sweet red finish, it’s probably worth waiting for. I’d probably take the build on the Specialized over the Transition, as well, all things considered.

For parts, it’s as good a market as any to be selling new take-off parts. If you have a few months, you could try to source some of the more generic stuff that can go onto either bike (bar, tires, brakes) and if you’re able to track them down, you shouldn’t have too many problems selling the un-used stuff off your old bike. But you should also just be prepared to run it as stock.

Sorry,

Uncle Dave


Uncle Dave's Music Club

Nothing against anybody, but we, the mountain bikers, don't do a very good job of injecting human emotion into things. It's remarkable how successful things can be when it happens. Take Ben Cathro's Privateer series. Man, watching him go through his ups and downs and then to somehow spin that into some kind of Bad News Bears take on the World Cup? Breathtaking. I feel the same way about Katy Winton showcasing her struggles to land a contract this year. Full disclosure: I didn't know much about Katy Winton 6 months ago. I don't know much about most people riding the EWS. I know the Canadians, obviously. I know the people that used to race downhill. Beyond that, it seems like it's just a bunch of faceless Europeans. All it took was a couple of 10 minute videos from Katy Winton, and I'm now a fan.

Similarly...ya...this is a bit of a stretch...but all I need in my rap is some kind of horn, and I'm hooked. What is that, even? A clarinet? Some kind of weird saxophone? Man. So good.


Got a question for Uncle Dave? One that will guilt him into answering? Send it this way...

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Comments

DanLees1978
+9 Pete Roggeman Cr4w thaaad Angu58 mrbrett Sun Hester Mammal analog7 Timer
Dan Lees  - May 2, 2021, 11:54 p.m.

The one thing I would say to Poopie is to not sell his current bike until the new one is in his hands if finances allow.

ETAs have been going to the right for loads of brands so I wouldn’t count on them for planning.

Reply

Jotegir
-1 Sun Hester hambobet IslandLife Velocipedestrian Lynx .
Lu Kz  - May 3, 2021, 12:24 a.m.

Funny that Mr. Poopie uses the term "dirty asshole" because that's exactly how he comes across. I don't really give a shit about how he justifies it as a lack of paperwork compared to the automotive industry - our shop makes it abundantly clear deposits get converted to store credit (both on the paper receipt and during the transaction) and I know tons of shops follow this policy as well. Move towards this style of business to survive. Maybe he's dealing with a "bro shop" at the Transition dealer that does more stuff with a hand shake. In that case, he's even more of a dirty asshole as the concept of the bro shop is dying in the modern industry, and they're the ones that might actually be able to pull favours if you actually do it. We've moved "corporate" over the past 5 or so years and we've been financially rewarded for it, perhaps at the expense of that style of shop. The transition dealer is exactly who shouldn't be feeling like you've fucked them over. Oh, and bonus - that's also the shop that'll remember it, and the shop employee community is really, really small when talking core stores in a proper area.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+11 Cr4w Lu Kz Angu58 gubbinalia Mammal IslandLife Velocipedestrian Jerry Willows 4Runner1 Tremeer023 Lynx .
Pete Roggeman  - May 3, 2021, 7:14 a.m.

I think that sounds unreasonably harsh. Of course, you're coming at it from the shop perspective, and it's easy to understand your viewpoint, but it's not fair nor realistic to hold our dear Mr Poopie and friends accountable for upholding a 'bro shop'* code that - due to present conditions - could be unduly punitive. He's in a tight spot and realizes there's an ethical dilemma, so he seeks advice. The asshole, in my mind, wouldn't give the dilemma a moment of thought - he'd just tear his way through the options until the moment he decides he found the right one and pulls the trigger. It doesn't sound like the deposit in question is ironclad, which makes one wonder why that shop presented it as an option. I've put deposits down on bikes, tennis rackets, golf clubs and cars, and each time there was paperwork involved that protected both sides. If the shop chooses not to go that route, they have to suffer the consequences of it. 

In any case, it's not the customer that is responsible for the life and death of a shop, it's the shop itself. It's probably the case in all retail environments, but I never understood the attitude that saddles the customer with a responsibility to ensure a shop's well-being. Sure, there's a symbiotic relationship there that can be a beautiful thing, but business and the market changes, and shops have to adapt and survive, or go out of business...just like yours did, when the owner clearly decided that going the corporate route would be beneficial. Even more confusing for the customer if there are different 'rules' for a bro shop vs a corporate shop.

*I know we're all trying to get away from 'bro' esp because it's tied to gender, but I couldn't find a proper substitute at 7 in the morning.

Reply

Jotegir
+2 Pete Roggeman Velocipedestrian
Lu Kz  - May 3, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

That's a fair take, and if I'm to forgive your 7-am brain, I'll ask you to forgive my overly harsh right before bed grumpy brain.

I think the death of the "bro-shop" is sad. They're an institutional part of the industry and a lot of us got hooked there. Corporate shops just don't hit the same. You're right that it's not the customers responsibility to keep them alive, but I would say it's the customers responsibility not to act like a dick and take advantage of what I'd consider a legal loophole - intention is if you put a deposit down, you want the bike.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Lu Kz Lynx .
Pete Roggeman  - May 3, 2021, 2:57 p.m.

I think we can agree on both of those points. And I am also especially sad about the slow disappearance of...let's call them LBSs.

Reply

AverageAdventurer
0 IslandLife Ceecee
AverageAdventurer  - May 3, 2021, 6:51 a.m.

I want to know; did he get his bike? Spesh cancelled a huge percentage of bikes that were already on order. My stumpy got cancelled after months.

Reply

mrbrett
+1 Ceecee
mrbrett  - May 3, 2021, 7:22 a.m.

Mr. Poopie, you gotta commit - one way or another. That's my takeaway here. 

And, I don't think all the bike shop guys are your buddies, at least not in the most literal sense. Or you wouldn't be experiencing this turmoil of which friend to leave high and dry with an unfulfilled commitment. I don't work there any more (so I'm now a retail buyer) but my friend owns a bike shop. If I committed to a bike via handshake or deposit, I'm buying it - even if in the meantime all the trails get closed due to pandemic, the bike shows up late, fire ants eat my legs down to the bone, and now it's another month late.

Or maybe buddy means "I'd probably recognize this guy across a parking lot."

Reply

LWK
0
LWK  - May 3, 2021, 7:52 a.m.

Uncle Dave's last sentence in the first section is all that need be said.  

Or ride your current bike for another season.  COVID started a 14 months ago and the impact on the bike industry was abundantly obvious well before Nov 2020.

Reply

trumpstinyhands
+4 Dogl0rd Cr4w Sun Hester IslandLife
trumpstinyhands  - May 3, 2021, 8:32 a.m.

It's  a no-brainer to buy the bike that is in the shop if one's current bike is knackered. Until 'Plan A' is on a boat it could be held up for months due to container shortages. If one's current bike is fine, then do whatever you want and just ride that one in the meantime. Re the deposit, what's the point of paying one if it can be returned? That makes no sense at all.

Reply

cheapondirt
-1 IslandLife
cheapondirt  - May 3, 2021, 11:31 a.m.

Car dealership deposits are legally required to be refundable. I know because I currently have a small deposit on an 'as is' (beater) car. If I find even one more small thing wrong with it, I'm taking my money and not feeling a hint of guilt, because other people are not lining up to buy a 15-year-old car with 260km that, for some inscrutable reason, they aren't allowed to test-drive.

Bikes though - I feel it's definitely bad form, now more than ever, to not follow through and finish the purchase.

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - May 3, 2021, 3:08 p.m.

Thanks for the Hotstepper Poopie, I haven't heard that in years. If this column had landed two weeks ago it would have made the playlist for my partners 40th.

Reply

Ceecee
0
Ceecee  - May 3, 2021, 4:07 p.m.

This scenario has nothing to do with panic buying, which applies only to in-stock items.

Are these really the concerns of someone who will use 170mm of travel?

Pissing off to pinochle seems the most humane option

Reply

DaveSmith
+1 Mark
Dave Smith  - May 3, 2021, 5:49 p.m.

I'm with ya, UD. -> https://youtu.be/cM4kqL13jGM

Reply

syncro
0
Mark  - May 3, 2021, 7:08 p.m.

Reply

brianbernard
+3 Pete Roggeman Derek Baker Doug M.
brianbernard  - May 4, 2021, 12:57 p.m.

Always here for music club—cathro, Katie, and Benny the Butcher? All-time combo.

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