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Buying a new bike - my bizarre experience


By staffe - Posted on 28 February 2014

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

After a long period of procrastination over brands, specs and weight it was finally time to strike and procure the steed for this season.

First stop was a shop in Manly - courteous but no 2014 small frames in stock and none would come in either. How strange is that? It is february 2014 with another 10 months to go and its sold out?

Second stop was a shop in North Sydney that sells Merida as the Big Ninety Nine 3000 D was on the list. I've seen online that the 2013 model was around so I asked them if there were any 2013 small frame available.
"I would not have a clue" was the response but the sales person extended his service to scribble down the model albeit wrongly and my phone number on a piece of left over docket lying around and promised to call me back. I left with a suspicion that the docket would soon be filed in the circular filing cabinet under the desk.

Third stop was another Merida dealer in Brookvale. The sales guys were to busy chatting amongst themselves but the mechanic helped me. He was very helpful but not trained on their systems but he eventually concluded that the 2013 model did not exist in small. OK lets move to 2014 model then. I wanted to know the weight as the weight was not advertised on the web site and the model did not exist on the floor for a check. He tried his best but could not get the info from their systems. No giving up so he called the importer who told him they shipped all of them to this particular chain of shops and he could go and weigh it himself. I did get a good price on it but the weight was still a mystery.

Fourth stop was a Trek dealer in Brookvale and a sales person actually talked to me and seemed interested in trying to make a sale. His best price was not as good as the Merida price so I suggested the same price. He spent quite while at pos system but had to regret that he could not sell it at that price. Well at least I got to meet a proper sales person who tried to sell. As I was leaving he asked if I was a Bupa member. I thought that was a funny question to ask. Maybe he changed the subject and wanted advise on cheap health insurance and did not know about the frequently advertised Meerkat site. I said I was a member and it turned out that Bupa members get a pretty significant discount on Trek bikes. In a flash my despair over having to go to the last option on my list to euphoria over getting a much better deal than I ever envisaged.

The Bizarre thing that I can't get over is that retailers whinge about online shopping taking their business but when faced with a genuine customer inquiring about their top end gear only one out of four could or wanted to sell. Is it that easy to flog bikes or what's the story?

That the end of my rant.

[Mod. moved to Shopping]

Pretty sad hey - who knows why it's like this

It has got to this stage with me now

I buy all my parts online - some Oz, some OS, some 2nd hand
I've found a mate (Peter Gibson - Delicious) who does a great job of putting it all together
He advises me on what parts I need and puts in the care that the bike shops can't afford to
And I look at all my bike porn online, in mags, or on the trails

The happy result is that I don't have to endure the 'doing me a favour' by accepting my money bike shop attitude

If I never have to set foot in a bike shop again (unless it's to say hello to people I know), I will be a happy man

I was thinking about this the other day actually.....
In late 2010 I was looking at buying a new dually. I had taken my HT into this shop a couple of times for cables and a BB issue before and the mechanic was great. I went into the LBS and asked a few questions, to which he replied (the owner, not mechanic) that no one really buys dually's and I should just keep my HT.
Fast forward a few months and I'd bought my dually from else where but needed a brake bleed and pads - I figure the LBS is only 10 minutes as opposed to 45 to the next closest shop........ Sorry, them brakes are too "high end" for us to look at - they are only elixer's!
Fast forward again and I'm having a bit of a rear freehub issue - hmm, might try the LBS again....... Without even looking at the wheel - "We normally recommend a new wheel if there are any hub issues, they aren't worth fixing......"
Anyway - fast forward to late last year and the shop is closing its doors and selling off stock really cheap; I grabbed a few odds and ends like ferruls and chain links. I asked why they were shutting and the owner said the internet had taken all their sales......
More like the owner refused to even try to help paying customers. The mechanic was great though, I wonder what happened to him?

I support to build your own bike as long as you have a good mechanic. It is fun in a way whilst understanding more about bike. The downside is time consuming, more expensive sometime and end up something not able to fit or work!

As a professional sales droid working for a software company I encounter all sorts of behaviour within my industry. From guys who's entire focus is on the next free vendor sponsored drinks session to snakes so smooth they could sell you your own skin. I live it and breathe it all week. For better or for worse this experience arguably makes me very aware when Joe Average sales guy at the local shopping centre (or insert retail business here) is simply not up to par.

For me that means I am a sucker for a good operator. I am a little obsessive about researching things before I buy so I am usually confident that I am not getting shafted. As long as the sales guy doesn't ring any alarm bells I'll give him an extra dollar for the fun of playing the game well. The reverse is also true. It doesn't take much to make me turn around and walk out, never to return.

I'm lucky that my LBS has a good crew on the shop floor and for that reason (and the convenience) I am happy to spend my money there even though I am well aware I am paying (in some cases quite a bit) more than I need to. What does raise my eyebrows though is what happens once the talk has finished and the sale has moved to the next phase, the fitting and or adjusting of the purchased item.

On several occasions the gloss has been taken of the post-purchase euphoria by the purchased item not being securely fastened or appropriately adjusted, a non-essential, but included piece not being passed on when I collect my bike, an assumption being made without consultation, etc. Nothing catastrophic. Well the rear hub on the then new Stans wheels that wouldn't coast and kept throwing a chain which nearly put me over the bars was not a happy moment. Mainly though, just a real downer after having spent a decent dollar adding dream part X to the bike when the purpose of the exercise was to make me and the bike feel great. There is clearly no post workshop QA process.

Perhaps my LBS is a actually a victim of its own success and they are too busy to do justice to the work that their sales guys bring in. So in this case it is perhaps a failure of process that may limit their growth or threaten their continued success. Spending money there can be unusually easy, but maintaining the desire to keep going back can be testing.

As my mechanical skills and confidence improves I rely on the LBS less and less and one day I might stop going back to buy stuff as I know I won't need to look for a friendly face to help me fix what I just broke. Eventually, there will be no reason for me to tolerate full RRP plus fitting costs because I'll be able to fit and fix everything I buy dirt cheap from CRC or wherever. That day is probably not too far away. They won't miss me though as they'll have plenty of other customers able to pay top dollar with no desire to learn how to do anything for themselves.

A lot of industries haven't realised. The internet needs to be embraced. Retail is not dead. Its just changing. People still want to feel & touch. Consumers want to have an experience.A very positive experience.
Most bike dealers haven't worked this out yet. Most of the time the consumer has a better knowledge of the product they are purchasing than the sales person. The sales person needs to keep a lot of shit in his/her head about countless bikes in the shop.

Manufacturers are not making it easy for them by not publishing important things about the bike or product. But the bike shop needs to find these details & note it down for their own staff. So they don't have to ring the manufacturer or search the internet to get that info.

A lot of AUS industries have this unionism about themselves trying to protect the particular industries which makes it difficult to start a new business. In My field in the Optical Industry it is alive & well. We may not have a Union as such, but the end result is the same. Protectionism.
They have shot themselves in the foot not keeping up with changes trying to protect what they had. Not wanting to embrace change.

In retail....it is the consumer which has the last say. They (the consumer) want a positive experience. They are not just shopping anymore. In the end will they will trump over all this protectionism we have here in AUS.And it is showing in this post above.

+1 @stantheman - I for one like to touch and feel when I buy and the other thing in the bike shop's favour is I am terribly impatient so when I want something I want it now!

The challenge I always find however is finding shops that stock the parts I want. I've come to accept that when you use high end components like XTR or XX you just need to use the internet as nobody stocks them.

One of the things I really look forward to when I go shopping is being educated by the sales person. I had one of these typical weekends a few weeks ago when I needed an XTR component. I raced around and visited at least a half dozen shops. Gave them all the same brief - I have a brand new bike with full XTR except I forgot to order this one component.

2 of the shops were nice enough to spend time educating me that the Alivio and Deore components they did have in stock were all I needed on my brand new $9K bike. Apparently XTR is just marketed well so I can really get the same performance at a third of the price using the aforementioned components... I said 'wow'. I should go and educate all of the elite riders out there who only race XTR and let them know these low end Shimano parts are just as good and cheaper! (yes that was sarcasm)

1 shop said they had no XTR or even XT but to just bring my bike in and they will find something to fit it...

2 shops said they had no XTR in stock. Yes full stop, end of conversation. Not even an offer to check what they had or when they could order stock in, just a full stop. They watched me walk out of the shop and probably went back to their conversation about how tough it is at the moment to sell stuff because of the internet...

This is my opinion only...
The problem isn't the internet. The problem is that there are lots of bike shops.
The internet has pretty much destroyed book shops, music shops, clothing and shoe shops and others. It's hardly different to the supermarket effect on pool shops in the eighties. And the rise of Bunnings and other hardware giants endorsing diy. And the shows on tv to back it up.
Discounting. The population is ingrained with the belief that they are entitled to a discount. Across all industries and products. This is bad. A seller of any product or service needs to make profit. If not, don't provide that product and/or service. Sell something else. So, the customer then embraces diy and the circle continues.
Folks only need bike shops for certain things and when they f%$k it up, there's always another shop to go to. Also, brand loyalty has died. When a customer cannot get the discount that they believe they're entitled to on their preferred bike, they buy something else. I've seen this over and over. They forget that they've not received the bike they wanted. Just the price they wanted and they compromised to get it....
I worked in bike shop retail for some time and then for a supplier. I'm now out of the industry. Curiously, I now earn more and have weekends off.
I learnt many things during that time. Among those things, is that I don't ever want to have a bike part sales website. I enjoyed the banter with customers. I enjoyed solving problems successfully. I enjoyed getting a person onto the right bike. And then another bike. Dispensing with myths and nonsense. Ultimately, forming relationships with my good customers. Looking after them carefully.
True bike shop pros are leaving the industry and the knowledge base is going with them. Customers don't get service as they don't want it. They want diy and very low prices. Until it all goes pear shaped...
I have a teeny, tiny repair business and I have only good customers (you know who you are) and I just don't deal with the difficult ones.
If I had a proper shop, I'd like to think that I'd gather a good reputation. But it's tough. And it's not the online sales. It's the reality of it not being possible to have a huge inventory of stuff just in case some awesome dude strolls in needing to buy a rarely sold, high end part. It's the reality that any shop, to be profitable, needs to decide what to sell and stick to it, otherwise they'll have an unmanageable inventory and spend too much time trying to manage it, rather than serving the humans and servicing the bikes.
As for staff, it's just impossible to know everything about everything. It's true that in most cases, the buyer will know more about the product than the seller. This is common, in many different industries. As the the bike industry innovates it's hard to keep up. One would have to dedicate a lot of time studying...
Then there's certain realities. I was often asked what it's like to use (insert high end product) and if it's worth it. My response? How should I know? They'd be horrified...
Let me tell you. Few bike shop workers can afford high end gear and fewer still can afford to move with the trends. As mtb and road move into eleven speed, I'll be staying with nine and ten speed. I still use ten speed Campagnolo on one of my bikes and they went to eleven speed at the the end of 2008...
The next problem is unhappy folk shouting their mouth off publicly. Imagine if I had my awesome, fully functional shop, and some cool dude comes in with his near new road bike, on a Saturday, it's three o'clock, and he informs me that he's binned it in the wet and smashed his nice Dura Ace eleven speed rear derailleur to pieces and might I have a new one, and can I stop what I'm doing and who I'm serving and get it all fixed up before closing? No? Why the f*%k not? Then whips out his earphone and tells everyone on TwitBook about what a complete p$%#k I am, what a hopeless shop mine is and everyone should stay away and then leaves in a huff and kicks over a potted plant on the way out! Sheesh!
It would be possibly best to own a pub in the Cross and mop up the blood on weekend mornings after the night before...

Great reply and insight into the bike retail world, delicious. Seems like you've got your market sown up and good luck to you.

I personally get most things online for two reasons, it's a damn sight cheaper and I enjoy working on my bike. I'll always look on the LBS's websites for a price comparison and if they're within a reasonable price margin I'll buy from them. In the case of the last few things, tyres, gear shift cables and tubes, the LBS has come up trumps. Hopefully this trend continues.

the bike shop at charing cross yesterday and had a very enthusiastic and helpful young lass who nearly talked me into buying a 2013 bike at a 20%discount.If i was seriously in the market i would most likely have shelled out...

Let me know about your repair business. Having dealt with you over the years I know your knowledge and passion is second to none. I would be more than happy to have you work on my bike.

Guys, let's not turn this thread into a whinge fest.

Stay classy Sydney.

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