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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
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
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.
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