We Would Like to Apologize for the Service

Words James Wilson
Date Mar 12, 2014

So you walk into a bike store and looking around you like what you see. The displays are tasteful, the bikes spread out with loads of room to walk around, allowing you to study every detail of your next dream machine. No sooner do you arrive before the staff come by to ask – “Can I get you a coffee?” You like this open and within moments the conversation is good and hours pass as you discuss your dream – a nice new shiny bike. Seem familiar?

Not so much.

james-wilson-12-steps

James Wilson runs a tight ship at Obsession:Bikes but if you show up on a Saturday afternoon in April…

So you walk into a bicycle store – it’s mid April. It’s like a tornado nailed this place. The staff; they are the ones running around asking if you need a hand (when it’s obvious it is they that need one). There is a conversation – it’s just not with you. You are in for your bike – the nice new shiny bike – but you just can’t get to the person you want to talk to about the bike. It’s your local bike shop, you love it – but it drives you nuts!

Your local bike shop has about 5 months to make about 12 months of business happen. The truth is these guys and girls are not just passionate about bikes – they want to share this passion with you. The store is packed because they are popular. It is packed because the rent is absurd. It’s packed because they have 5 months to do what should take a year.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your bike shop – to get the kind of service that they want to give to you and frankly the kind of service you deserve for the money you are about to lay down.

1. Off hours. Bike shops are typically busiest on Saturday, and mid week from 4:00 – 6:00. Yet they are fully staffed all day. Go to your store at 11:00am or 2:00pm. Frankly the staff are dying to talk bikes instead of reloading shelves.

2. Shop in the off season. The most knowledgeable staff are the full timers. Buy them a coffee in the winter and find out everything you ever wanted to know about bikes.

3. Make an appointment. This seems obvious; don’t leave it to chance to make the most of your time.

4. Don’t expect this to be quick. Have you looked at Mountain Bikes lately? 26, 650B, 29. 120mm, 140mm, 160mm. 66, 66.5, 67 degrees. Expect to make 3 trips to find the right bike.

5. Find the right sales person. Your time is precious – find a sales person that understands your type of riding. If they don’t seem to, ask someone else to help.

6. Test ride. Let the bike speak to you. Bring your riding clothes. Ask where you should ride. Ride each bike on the same route. Does your shop have demo bikes?

7. Set up each test bike the same. In mountain bikes be sure to set up the suspension, tires and fit (bar and stem) the same. In road bikes – be picky and demanding as the differences between bikes are subtle. Change the saddle or stem if required.

8. Compare bikes, not specs. You are buying a bicycle not a derailleur. All bikes shift well on the sales floor, most on the test ride, and they should – they are brand new. Focus on how the bike moves and how easily you control it. Again, test ride each bike on the same route.

9. Be open. Most companies can only invest in platform overhauls about every 3 years. You may miss out on some great innovation by being brand loyal.

10. Quiz the shop on their service policies. What does ‘One Year of FREE Service’ look like? Is a bike fit included? If so, what does that look like? How fast does the service department turn around repairs? What is the warranty and how is it executed? Will you be out of a bike for a day, a week, or a month if it breaks?

11. Don’t believe everything you read. Ask around and read reviews but take this info with a grain of salt. It is easy to generate bias in bikes and not easy to be objective.

12. Bikes are fun. Above all else – enjoy the experience of buying your next bike. The One will speak to you and say “I am yours, let’s get out of here and ride!”

Happy Trails!


Bonus point #13: It never, ever hurts to bring beer…

Posted in: News, Trail Tales

Trending on NSMB

Comments

klankilla
0
RV  - Sept. 15, 2016, 10:02 a.m.

There are good shops on the shore for sure. A part of the problem is the guys that are qualified to sell our high end bikes are few and far between. Or, don't get your team guys selling bikes, get guys that are passionate about sales selling them. Year over year I have been frustrated with 'the bike shop'. I have a long list of WTF moments dating back to the early 2000's. So many people I ride with also share the same sentiment and have stories of frustration. e-commerce is a threat, so the shop will have to get creative with its business model to grow profits. Also, MEC is a competitive threat as their offerings are growing and you cant beat their warranty policy which draws a lot of people in.

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Pediclescrew
0
Big D  - Sept. 15, 2016, 9:01 a.m.

This is hilarious. Why not just write an article that says "why do most north shore bike shops suck"?
I am supposed to go at a special time when staff is not grumpy, to make it easy for them to help me?? I wont name the bad ones but I've never had crap service at John Henry or Steed. There are a couple of north shore shops where they will offer customer service if they think you look hard core enough. I'm sure everyone knows who that is….
I once walked into one of the bike shops on Lonsdale with the cash (yes cash! Obviously prior to having kids!) in my pocket and ended up going to Steed instead. No way am I kissing your ass for the pleasure of handing you 5K!

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Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 15, 2016, 8:04 a.m.

I have a bit of beef with Tip #1. The majority of folks work the ol' Monday to Friday 9-5, so it's no surprise you're seeing the busiest times from 4pm till close, and on Saturdays. I understand leaving the store open later may be difficult for some employees that want to have dinner with their families, but would it not spread out the afternoon rush some? Making it to a local bike shop for 11am - 2pm isn't possible for me, so I've always been constrained to the busiest times. Malls have cottoned on and are open until 9pm on week days for the same reason. Maybe consider changing the shop hours, week days 1pm to 9pm, or maybe adopt a South European of 10am - 1pm, 4pm to 9pm.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 15, 2016, 10:54 p.m.

If the tip isn't applicable to you then it seems to make sense that you would simply disregard it? "If you are available at off hours…" could have been added but that seems sort of self-evident no?

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david-mills
0
David Mills  - Sept. 14, 2016, 3:10 p.m.

Oh, but this is timely…

A friend asked me to take her bike shopping. She's super-new to mountain biking, and doesn't know anything about modern bikes. No problem. I asked her to swing by my house first - I went through the various parts of the bike from front to back, explaining why the tires are so knobby, why a bike has suspension, why disc brakes are better than cantis, etc. I had her take my wife's Ibis out for a quick spin to get a feel for the size of bike, as she and my wife are the same height and leg length. 20 minutes of Q+A later, off to the store we went. It was 10-something on a Wednesday morning - today, in fact.

At the first shop, we walked in and were greeted within 20 seconds, which is about the time it took us to walk from the door over to some hardtails. After about a minute, the sales guy came over and asked what brought us in. I told him "she is looking for a mountain bike". He pivoted to her, and engaged her in a conversation about what kind of bike she was looking for, etc. I pretty much became irrelevant at this point, so I eavesdropped on his questions and her answers as I wandered around the store.

Right away, she stated her price range, and also that she wasn't buying today. At no point was he condescending, pushy, or trying hard for the upsell. Within 10 minutes, he was arranging to bring in a bike from the warehouse in her size and have it built up by Friday afternoon, or at the latest next Tuesday. She walked out with a quote in her hand, lots of information, and he had her contact info for a follow-up later this week regarding the bike. She was pretty stoked.

We moved on to the next shop, about 10 minutes drive north. I've had generally good experiences with this shop in the past. As we walked in, I could see 2 customers and 4 staff, plus I could hear the shop guy. I tried to make eye contact with ANY of the staff - no dice. We walked the 20 feet to the women's bikes, up on a raised platform. My friend saw that they had one model up from the bike she had been quoted at the other shop, and it was on sale! She was up on the platform in seconds, trying to extract the bike from the display, shoving the carbon bikes around and such. This goes on for a couple of minutes, and I fully expected "Hey, can I give you folks a hand?" to be the next words I heard.

Nothing. I looked around to where the staff were doing… something… and couldn't get a glance from anyone. 2 guys behind the counter chatting to each other, one guy trying to find tires, and a 4th talking with a customer. My friend saw that the frame on the display sale bike was the wrong size, and stopped wrestling with it. We chatted for a minute about the cons of going with a wrong size frame, and made our way over to a rack that happened to have the correct size bike, and in my friend's favourite colour. She grabbed the front wheel and tried to pull it down from its perch 5′ in the air, but it was in there pretty tightly. I could hear somebody coming up behind us and turned around, but it was just the tire guy looking for tires. I stared at him as he walked to within 6′ of us, fished a tire off a high hook and walked away. He aggressively avoided eye contact.

We were too surprised to be mad, so we slowly walked to the front door and out, holding the door for a customer struggling to get a bike in. Another annoyed-looking customer left at the same time [he might have had RBF - hard to tell]. All told, we were in the shop for about 10 minutes, same as the first place. No acknowledgement of any kind that we were even in the store. They weren't busy - it wasn't even the lunch hour yet. It was a level of indifference normally restricted to government bureaucracy.

Both shops carry similar lines of bikes, and their main brand is the same [Trek], with largely identical pricing. The only difference to the potential customer is the quality of customer service. I worked in retail for ~10 years, selling everything from chinos to computers, and yes, even bikes for a while. I understand what it's like - the job is harder than it looks. However, there's a right way and a wrong way to do the job. Mike at Pure Cycle in Calgary - you're doing it the right way.

Reply

nelson
0
NELSON  - Sept. 14, 2016, 3:03 p.m.

What's the rationale for the recent run of re-posting old content?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:50 p.m.

I went riding yesterday when I should have been working.

Reply

craw
+1 grcgrc
Cr4w  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

If I'm in a bike shop and decide to go out to grab a coffee I'll offer the shop guys too, especially if it's a shop where I know everyone. They're putting up with my incessant questions while trying to work so it seems totally fair and builds up a little stockpile of goodwill.

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litespeed74
0
litespeed74  - Sept. 14, 2016, 8:02 a.m.

Go ride with the folks at the shop! Best way to get chummy and make friends.

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byron
0
Byron  - Sept. 14, 2016, 6:25 a.m.

I'm appalled at the suggestion that the customer should have to bribe their local shop for better service. It is the shop who should be offering the customer a coffee or a beer to get them to stick around longer, thus increasing the chances of buying a bike.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:08 a.m.

"No sooner do you arrive before the staff come by to ask – “Can I get you a coffee?”"

I read it as the staff are asking if they can get you a coffee.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Sept. 14, 2016, 10:44 a.m.

I think they are comparing it to say a high end audio or car store where the sales staff have the time and bandwidth to be more hospitable. i.e. an $8000 bicycle is a big purchase probably deserving of this kind of experience but bike shops don't/can't really work this way.

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byron
0
Byron  - Sept. 14, 2016, 11:10 a.m.

Read the whole first paragraph. "Sound familiar? Not so much"

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 3:32 p.m.

Yep. See it now.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 grcgrc
Cam McRae  - Sept. 14, 2016, 10:56 a.m.

Not for sales Byron. If you want your repair done a little faster because you have a race coming up - or you need some extra help with something you may have screwed up yourself. Or maybe you need a used part that isn't normally sold by the shop and will require some digging around. Shops do a lot for customers that can't really be charged for and they often go the extra mile - because they are bike riders like us. Be appalled but you are misinterpreting the situation.

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byron
0
Byron  - Sept. 14, 2016, 11:08 a.m.

Fair enough, Cam, but the article was centered around purchasing a new bike, not groveling for an emergency last minute repair.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 14, 2016, 12:09 p.m.

Point taken. I can see how you would come to that conclusion but it wasn't intended. Cheers!

Reply

cheezario
0
Cheezario  - Sept. 14, 2016, 2:33 a.m.

For me, it's actually the high-end customers that I tend to ignore (unless they bring coffee). Why? Because you're probably a snob, and will try to get free advice for hours and hours about "which should I upgrade to, the Ohlins or the Cane Creek", which they will most definitely buy from Chain Reaction once I tell them the price. In that same 2 hours, I could sell like 4 kid's bikes and make my daily total. And Yummy Mummy's ALWAYS bring coffee or muffins if you're nice to the little precious 🙂

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:13 a.m.

People are willing to pay more for good service.

It's the same reason WB is usually in top of the ski resort list; customer service.

Reply

vandal
+1 grcgrc
Vandal  - Oct. 29, 2014, 7:46 p.m.

If you want to have a good shopping experience, one of the most important things you can do is acknowledge that a bike shop is allowed to earn a profit on the things it sells. There's no faster way to make a bike shop hate you than to be constantly asking, "can you throw in a…"
Bike shops do not earn much money on bikes. Selling bikes does not keep a store in business. Selling accessories is where a store earns a profit. Just because you paid $2000 for a bike does not mean the shop earned $2000. That bike cost the store $1300. Then it took an hour of workshop time to assemble it at $60/hr. You may think that the mechanic's wage of $15/hr is what it cost to assemble it but it costs $60/hr or more to operate the workshop (utilities, tools, wages, etc). It took three hours to sell you the bike (again, more than just the salesperson's wages). There's a lost opportunity cost to the store in that the $1300 dollars it cost for the bike to show up in a box has been tied up in that bike for the last six months and could have otherwise been invested in more profitable items like lights or clothing. Then, there's the cost of shop offering free basic tuneups for a year, or two years, or, in my shop, as long as you own the bike. So, perhaps the shop earns $400 on a $2000 bike.
When you expect that they'll haggle on the price and drop the price by $100, they start to resent you. Then, you ask if they could throw in some pedals or upgrade the tires for free. The tires that came with the bike represent about $30 of the $1300 cost of the bike. The tires you would upgrade to cost about $70. Then, the shop is left with cheaper tires that they then have to try to sell to recoup some of their costs. Without the revenue from selling you accessories, the shop can no longer afford to stay in business.
So, please, don't feel that you are entitled to a discount or free stuff. If you want a store to stay in business and have cool new products on display, and to have knowledgeable, experienced staff and take the time to guide you through the process of helping you to find the perfect bike, and answer all of your questions, allow them to earn a profit. You wouldn't discount or give away what you do for a living so don't ask a bike shop to do it.

Reply

mr_fungle
0
mr_fungle  - April 3, 2014, 1:54 p.m.

I am trying to think of any other business where it is considered OK to suggest that you buy them coffee or beer, before making a multi thousand dollar purchase…

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:04 a.m.

"No sooner do you arrive before the staff come by to ask – “Can I get you a coffee?”

Where does it say we are buying the staff a coffee before we make a purchase?

Reply

james-stubbington
0
James Stubbington  - Sept. 14, 2016, 11:07 a.m.

Here
"2. Shop in the off season. The most knowledgeable staff are the full timers. Buy them a coffee in the winter and find out everything you ever wanted to know about bikes."
and here
"Bonus point #13: It never, ever hurts to bring beer…"

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 3:31 p.m.

Noted. Cheers.

Reply

grcgrc
0
grcgrc  - April 29, 2019, 5:15 p.m.

Ski shops. Beer was always the preferred inducement when I was working in a local ski shop.

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karx
0
karx  - March 15, 2014, 8:31 a.m.

And this is exactly why I will never shop at this store again. I heard all these great things about it on NSMB forums so I head over there money in hand with some quick questions before I buy something. 20 minutes of waiting around in the store (there were a few people in it but it wasn't very busy at all) with not a single staff member so much as acknowledging my existence and I said piss on this and went a different store where the staff are always happy to talk to anyone who comes through their doors.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:05 a.m.

Did you ask for help?

Reply

lostlunchbox
0
person person  - Sept. 14, 2016, 7:22 p.m.

If you have to ask for help, then they are failing in their job as a service industry. He mentioned that it wasn't busy, but even if it was making sure staff at least acknowledges a customer to explain the situation should be Priority 1. First impressions like stated will be the only impression a business leaves.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 29, 2016, 12:31 p.m.

I hear you, but if you don't ask, you never receive.

Reply

4Runner1
0
4Runner1  - March 14, 2014, 1:13 p.m.

I think we have to remember that it is a two way street. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a shop, only to be treated like crap. There are alot of shop employees that walk around like their sh*t don't stink. They expect me to fork overy my hard earned $ (I'm not getting rich either, guys!), while taking their attitudes. Too many shop employees talk down to would-be customers. Too many shop employees assume that nobody that walks in the front door knows anything about bikes. Its especially rich when said employee has been alive for a shorter period of time, than I have been mountain biking!
I don't disagree that a little beer and cheer goes a long way. I have purchased beer for my LBS on more than one occasion. However, this only happens with a shop that has earned MY business, not the other way around.
So yeah, take a six pack with ya and show your appreciation. But just know, that if you stick your nose up in the air and speak to me like I'm a 2 year old…well, you can kiss your beer and my $ good-bye.

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Pediclescrew
0
Big D  - Sept. 15, 2016, 9:04 a.m.

what other retail service would you take beer to to ensure you get treated like a person!?
Don't go to those shops! Ever! Unless it's to use their restroom…

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rome
0
disqus_NckwlvD6rR  - March 13, 2014, 7:21 p.m.

Buy them coffee? Bring them beer? And then have the previledge to buy $$$$ bike from their store? WHAT A DEAL!

Reply

morgman
+1 grcgrc
Morgan Taylor  - March 13, 2014, 7:43 p.m.

Wouldn't you rather have a friendly relationship with your bike shop than one based on the pretense that you're doing them a favour by buying a bike through them? A $5-10 investment in social lubricant pays off almost immediately – good shop customers know the occasional thank-you six pack is worth its weight in gold.

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CoilAir
0
CoilAir  - March 13, 2014, 9:16 p.m.

Hear, hear, morgman! Coffees and/or six packs get you more deals in the long run than the initial investment in said "social lubricants". Especially on the service side of things. …Or feel free to go buy cheap stuff online, but don't expect very cheery service from the LBS when you inevitably have to go in. Why should they invest in a relationship with you when you're clearly not going to invest in one with them?

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rome
0
disqus_NckwlvD6rR  - March 13, 2014, 9:31 p.m.

oh please, are you implying that a customers should walk into a shop with a six pack if they want to receive better service than expected!?! i'm not saying that is what you are implying but by that logic, it sounds like we should tip before we are served at a restaurant. i don't disagree that if a store provides good initial service when you purchase a bike that you repay them and invest in social lubricant to build future relationships.

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morgman
+1 grcgrc
Morgan Taylor  - March 14, 2014, 9:13 a.m.

In the service department? Absolutely. Unless you've already got a good reputation with the mechanics and they don't mind doing you favours, a six pack is your ticket to a rush job at the wrong time of day or a day-of spoke replacement on a Saturday. Funny thing is those with good reputations with mechanics who get favours also bring cookies or beer or whatever. Coincidence?

As for sales? Well, it's not quite as black and white here but keep this in mind: bike shop employees don't (couldn't) do their job solely for the money. When you walk into a shop you are dealing with a person who's passionate about bikes, doesn't get paid a ton, and lives frugally because they are also paying for a new bike or two. It's not Jimmy Pattison waiting to clean out your wallet. (Besides that, margins on complete bikes aren't even that high anyway.)

If you've decided that you would like to deal with a particular shop for your new bike purchase and warranty service, and you've made that decision based on their service (which you should), here's the reality: beer is a widely accepted bike shop currency and will be much appreciated.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 9:16 a.m.

Rome, your point is valid but do you want occasional preferential treatment at your LBS or not? A box of Timbits or a 6 pack builds relationships with those who can do you favours in the future. It's your choice.

Reply

ciaran-cunningham
+1 grcgrc
Ciaran Cunningham  - Sept. 14, 2016, 10:13 a.m.

I am a sales rep that services all of Western Canada. When I want a new customer to buy from me, I take them out for lunch, order them in lunch or at the very least buy them coffee and donuts. When my customers need favours from me (rush shipping, discounted material, free material etc) they buy me lunch or take the round of beers. I realize if you are in school or under 22 years old you have zero clue about how the world works and no $$$ then this seems crazy. This is how the world works. Every store isn't Walmart. The customer isn't always right. Relationships are built both ways. This is true of any business where there is an element of after sales service and support. If you want a great sale, be a great sales person. If you want excellent after sales support then be a great customer.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Sept. 14, 2016, 10:47 a.m.

Even better is to bring in those gifts unsolicited.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 14, 2016, 3:33 p.m.

True, true.

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Sept. 15, 2016, 9:01 a.m.

Yeah some beer to the mechanics always puts you first in line in the future for getting bike worked on.

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whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - Sept. 14, 2016, 6:44 a.m.

I wish people gave me beer for my work too. That would be great.

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