Flying Furniture recumbents - emails and followup

Recumbents and all feet forward machines

Flying Furniture recumbents - emails and followup

Postby FlyingFurniture » Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:31 am

Here's a public apology for anyone who hasn't got a fast reply to an email sent to me...(It is a bit ironic that I also have customers who contact me who say they don't get replies whether fast or any from other recumbent retailers in Australia too (yes all of them - even you Craig) so I don't seem to be alone.)

I know some things get missed...I also have some heavy custom anti spam filters in operation after 6 years on the net so some messages really don't get through...Oh well. Just give me a call eh?

It is too easy to criticise if you know very little about me or have never spoken to me in person. I am essentially a one person shop here with the occasional casual working for me, so indeed it is difficult sometimes and hard to produce multi-national or similar like help lines/response times.

And a few dissatisfied customers is not welcome but is unfortunately a part of this business unfortunately. What can go wrong often does. Long lead times, overseas suppliers etc etc. I don’t know, does everyone think I don't work hard enough to keep them happy? (Especially if I get sick, need a day or two off, my wife gets ill so I need to take time off to look after my daughter or my daughter gets ill as she is today again.) So lets get real and consider that a quite "off the mark" criticism made in public can have negative effects for someone's livelihood - quite inappropriate in my eyes.

As you all know I am actually the ONLY full time recumbent SHOP focused on providing the best advice and the best of the recumbent trikes and bikes available to Australians in Australia, even though the market here is indeed very very small. (Greenspeed and other full timers do a lot of their business in the USA etc)

I am not making a fortune unfortunately - otherwise I'd employ "worker/slaves" :-)

Anyway thanks for listening.

Ian Humphries
Last edited by FlyingFurniture on Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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by BNA » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:27 am

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Postby Kalgrm » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:27 am

G'day Ian,

Thanks for the explanation of your circumstances. I'm in small business too, so I know some of the difficulties you are facing, though not all of them.

"A few dissatisfied customers" should never be an acceptable outcome of doing business. It's not something you should feel comfortable with under any circumstances. However, it is true that you can't please everyone and some people will never be happy. I get the feeling that it's not only those people who are dissatisfied though.

Unfortunately, you've built up a reputation over the years as being hard to deal with. That reputation came about through a failure to communicate adequately. If you are facing difficulties getting something organised, you MUST let the customer know there is a delay: failing to say anything makes the customer feel like you aren't interested in them, and there is no greater sin in retail business than appearing as if you don't want to sell your product.

When people feel neglected by a business, they will tell their friends and associates about the way they've been treated, as you've seen in person on this forum. This forum is not the only place where your reputation has been tarnished - I was told in person by three or four people that I'd have trouble when buying my bent through you. I was told I'd have to hound you to get my bike after I'd paid for it, and that I'd have to work pretty hard to get emails out of you. Unfortunately, they were right.

Ian, you are the only full time 'bent dealer in Australia. The vast majority of your business comes from outside the Canberra area, mostly through emails and phone calls. When the main way people contact you is unreliable, or worse, known to be ineffective, your business is in serious trouble. You need to concentrate more on communication if you want your business to survive. Someone will eventually see the gap in the market you're creating and become the second full-time 'bent retailer in Australia, and when that happens, your reputation will become your downfall. In such a small, niche market, your reputation is the only asset you have.

All you have to do to improve the situation is to set aside an hour or two every day to respond to emails. That's all we want - a response.

Ian, your customers are telling you you have a problem. Many businesses don't get the opportunity to hear that message - they just fade away, never knowing where they went wrong. If you don't want the same fate to happen, take the messages you've been given on this forum and turn your business around. If you don't deal with the problem, it will go away.

Thank you for listening too.

Cheers,
Graeme
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A sad end.

Postby Arcabike » Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:07 pm

Ian is always right, the customer is usually wrong.
Flying Furniture motto I think.

Myself and many others don't buy from you anymore Ian because of your difficult stance toward the public. For big Bent type things I purchase mostly from Bent Up Cycles in America and go to my LBS for everything else.
You have missed 2 bike sales from me alone and I know of lots of people that have an 'Ian story'.
Several people from the ACT talked to me at the last Round the Bay in a Day and the conversation focus was on the terrible service from Flying Furniture.
This is your business we are all complaining about, but it's you who has done this to yourself.
Your condescending attitude will bring an end to Flying Furniture. A PITY.
Please, please, someone start a Bent shop in Australia.

You have never listened

Cheers,
AB

I need to add to this.
Ian, don't PM me with your usually insults, if you do I will publish them here and the Ozhpv list.
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Postby eucryphia » Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:33 pm

"Flying Furniture - No worse than any other recumbent shop"

I think you need a new mission statement...

----------------------------

I can't agree with your business style but you do have my sympathy Ian. It must be a nightmare as a single hander with such expensive high end imported product and all those pinickity customers. I wouldn't do it for quids...

Hope you and the family are on the mend.
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Who are you?

Postby FlyingFurniture » Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:00 pm

It is easy to continue to "criticise" albeit wishy washily when anonymous eh? Who are you "Arcabike"? Will you please publish your name here? If you have bought 2 bikes since you bought from me you are talking aboiut something that happened 2 or more years ago? Anyway there seems a lot of hearsay in your message. As I am sure you know I've never sent anyone purposely "insulting" emails so please correct that inaccuracy.


Whatever I did(?) to you that you feel insulted about I can only apologise but I doubt it so disasterous as you make out (lack of communication in a busy week?) But do note though I am also not a public punching bag like the kid that is shouted at who tries to serve you latte with 2 sugars instead of 3 sugars at the local cafe...Shouting like this doesn't help does it?

So anyway yep the buck does stop with me on everything in this business but I also do need to be respected as a person and as a retail shop owner and now even a parent who has to take time off sometimes (thanks to those who do all that). It really doesn't take much for a customer to do this either. (Or even ring within business hours? A mobile isn't actually an invitation to ring at 9pm or 6:30am)

And like I already said actually my return customer rate is really quite high. (No-one has to believe me on that if you don't want to :-)


Oh and shouting at me wont make me *go away* either.

All businesses can be improved obviously - we'll just see what I can do.


Ian Humphries



Quote from "Arcabike" here:

Ian is always right, the customer is usually wrong.
Flying Furniture motto I think.

Myself and many others don't buy from you anymore Ian because of your difficult stance toward the public. For big Bent type things I purchase mostly from Bent Up Cycles in America and go to my LBS for everything else.
You have missed 2 bike sales from me alone and I know of lots of people that have an 'Ian story'.
Several people from the ACT talked to me at the last Round the Bay in a Day and the conversation focus was on the terrible service from Flying Furniture.
This is your business we are all complaining about, but it's you who has done this to yourself.
Your condescending attitude will bring an end to Flying Furniture. A PITY.
Please, please, someone start a Bent shop in Australia.

You have never listened

Cheers,
AB

I need to add to this.
Ian, don't PM me with your usually insults, if you do I will publish them here and the Ozhpv list.
Last edited by FlyingFurniture on Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Flying Furniture recumbents - emails and followup

Postby timc » Sun Oct 05, 2008 11:44 am

FlyingFurniture wrote:Here's a public apology for anyone who hasn't got a fast reply to an email sent to me...


I haven't actually bought a bent from Flying Furniture, actually, not from anyone yet. However, I have corresponded by email with Ian regarding potential purchases and found him to be very helpful, even to the extent of taking seat height measurements of various Optima models for me (I am a very average 178cm tall, thus seat height matters). My bent purchase has been delayed due to a rethink on my cycling needs: I commute 25km each way to work 5 days a week, on a combination of freeway shoulders and hilly/bumpy bike paths and fast, smooth bike paths, plus a few kilometers in heavy motor vehicle traffic. 250km per week on a flat-bar upright takes its toll on my bottom and lower back, but I am not sure that a bent is the solution either. But I digress...)

FlyingFurniture wrote:quot;]
As you all know I am actually the ONLY full time recumbent SHOP focused on providing the best advice and the best of the recumbent trikes and bikes available to Australians in Australia, even though the market here is indeed very very small. (Greenspeed and other full timers do a lot of their business in the USA etc)


A few factors gave me pause for thought about doing business with Ian:

a) He is located in Canberra. It is a pain to visit Canberra. I travel there every few months for work meetings, but usually by air, on a tight schedule. Thus to visit Ian requires a day off work (cost of loss of a day's recreation leave - several hundred dollars), driving down there (cost of petrol and other car expenses perhaps $100), then teh cost of having the bike shipped to Sydney when it arrives (about $150 to t he door, I recall). That is a significant set of costs that I have to bear in order to do business with Ian. Of course, there is no bike shop in Sydney that currently sells recumbents, so I have no choice, but it irks me a bit. I need to take my Dahon back to tthe guys at Cheeky Transport in Newtown for some repairs, and will try to interest them in importing recumbents, which would be consistent with their line of business (urban, utility, touring bikes). However, they seems overwhelmingly busy as it is, but they do like unusual bikes.

b) Ian has no arrangements for local warranty servicing (at least not that he mentioned). So if anything goes wrong, or some servicing which I can't do myself is required, then it means shipping the bike back to Canberra - and it is not clear that the shipping would be at Ian's expense, even during teh warranty period. Every bike I have ever bought has needed some work requiring specialist tools in the warranty period. Of course, I could pay to have the work done at a local bike shop, but why should I have to pay for what should be free warranty work?

c) The only payment option Ian offered was direct credit to his business bank account. I would much rather pay by credit card, because I then gain the consumer protection offered by my credit card provider (I am not suggesting that Ian is untrustworthy, but for all I know his business may go belly up tomorrow, taking my deposit into his account with it). Paying by credit card also allows me to take advantage of the interest-free period. Basically, very few businesses these days don't offer credit card payment options. Or at least PayPal or similar. I'd be happy to pay a few percent premium in order to gain the consumer protection and greater flexibility that these payment methods provide.

Yes, there are very few alternatives to dealing with Ian, and beggars can't be choosers. And I am sure Ian is a very knowledgeable and helpful vendor and a perfectly pleasant person to deal with. However, the aspects of his business arrangements as set out above have made me wait a bit before deciding to buy a bent. If bents were available from a bike shop here in Sydney, then some months ago I would have visited one on a weekend, gone for a few test rides and then whipped out the credit card, I'm sure.

Tim C
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Postby william » Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:35 pm

To all recumbent riders who have had dealings with Flying Furniture.

I am a Bacchetta Corsa owner as provided by Ian from his business premises.

Before purchase I'd spent many, many hours reading about bents, the manufacturers, the models, their primary aim of use, user forums to post questions and searched for advice and owners experiences.
I love the look of the low racers (drool actually) but my practical mind says in traffic they will need a lot more care of where you ride for safety.
In the end I had set my mind on a Volae Century or Bacchetta Giro TT.
Volae could send me one from U.S. with $600 delivey. On top of that would be 10% import duty on the price of the product plus 10% on top of the delivery cost. Wooh!
My enquiry to Bacchetta was forwarded to Ian who got in touch with me the next day. I further sent him emails about my riding purposes and he replied with suggestions to suit my needs along with dropping in to test ride so I would know if I thought I made the right decision.
I didn't want to travel to Canberra from Melbourne to test ride a bike that I might not like but then again It was the only opportunity to try different types of recumbents in the one place. I must also note that I went to Dromana to speak with Ben and his partner Yolande about his recumbents, Challenge and Rans. He had only 2 on offer and neither instilled a desire what I wanted.
To put my aching mind at ease I further contacted Ian by phone and asked if he could see me on a Saturday and he agreed.
In my meeting with Ian he reflected as a quiet unassuming personality with a great knowledge of bikes and components. We talked briefly before he started pulling out the bikes I was interested in and then some. He let me try all, riding around the parking area and the streets all of which were quiet. He also mentioned all the options that are available either by factory or his own personal experiences to suit me, the customer.
In the end I was relieved to have made the decision to visit as I ended up getting a bike for me instead of the bike I thought I wanted.
During my visit Ian came across as a person who has a service to offer instead of a salesman who would like to sell anything to anyone.
As for warranty. I had a faulty wheel bearing that I only noticed after riding in the rain. I had it serviced at my favourite bike shop and mentioned it to Ian. He got in touch with Bacchetta who reimbursed me the service cost.
All my emails have been responded to and I should not expect instant answers for mail of any sort. For this, I use the phone.
I cannot make any complaint at all.

I think other things people need to take into consideration is that Ian is a human being, a dedicated father to a beautiful little girl and any father or parent puts their children before anything else, especially if they are not well. He is also the importer, the shop keeper, the salesman, the accountant, the PR man, the website updater amongst other things.
All in all these things should be considered before we criticise.
I haven't seen where Ian has done anything personally wrong to anyone to justify what has been said here.
If anything, positive criticism directed to improvement of service would be far more beneficial to us, the customer.

My views,

William.

.
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Postby Aushiker » Sun Oct 05, 2008 3:09 pm

william wrote:I think other things people need to take into consideration is that Ian is a human being, a dedicated father to a beautiful little girl and any father or parent puts their children before anything else, especially if they are not well. He is also the importer, the shop keeper, the salesman, the accountant, the PR man, the website updater amongst other things.
.


I suggest that maybe you need to take this into consideration as well when passing judgement on others. I am the father of two beautiful children, does that make me more deserving? Double maybe?

BTW I also work 40+ hours, do considerable amount of volunteer activities, lead weekend and longer walks, organise rides for others (short and longer), play partner, son and so on. All bar the work done for nics and in fact often at a cost to me (ever done a full recon for a walk and then gone back and done it for the group? You know what it, costs money and time so that group can have a great weekend or whatever away enjoying themselves). Through all that I always endeavour to do the right thing by those who contact me and I try to reply within two working days where possible. I don't tell them their enquiry is not serious and they should repeatedly contact me if they want to do "business" with me.

So if at the end of the day I have been unfair so be it.

Regards
Andrew
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Postby timc » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:08 pm

william wrote:In the end I had set my mind on a Volae Century or Bacchetta Giro TT.
Volae could send me one from U.S. with $600 delivey. On top of that would be 10% import duty on the price of the product plus 10% on top of the delivery cost. Wooh!


If the products are predominantly made in the US, then no duty should be payable under the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement? Isn't that the case? I bought a set of (bloody good) DiNotte lights over the 'Net from the US and didn't have to pay any duty, or GST for that matter.

As for warranty. I had a faulty wheel bearing that I only noticed after riding in the rain. I had it serviced at my favourite bike shop and mentioned it to Ian. He got in touch with Bacchetta who reimbursed me the service cost.


That is good to know. There is, AFAIK, no mention of this on Ian's web site, nor did he mention it in the series of pre-sales emails I exchanged with him. I am sure Ian could do deals with one or two bike shops in each capital city to provide after-sales service for the bikes he sells, although I can understand why he doesn't, because it would probably eat into his (probably fairly slim) profit margin and also potentially eat into his business, because there would be little to stop those shops from becoming dealers themselves.

He is also the importer, the shop keeper, the salesman, the accountant, the PR man, the website updater amongst other things.


Yes, the one-man-show aspect is not very re-assuring. Acceptable for goods worth a few hundred dollars, but for a specialised purchase worth several thousand dollars, a bit more back-up would be re-assurring. Perhaps the market for bents isn't large enough to support more than single-person sales and service operations - but the market for bicycles is booming, and many middle-aged people with plenty of disposable income are interested in cycling but put off by the discomfort of DF bikes on long rides, and I just don't belive that the market wouldn't be larger if one could buy bents easily in major Australian cities.

If anything, positive criticism directed to improvement of service would be far more beneficial to us, the customer.


OK, here are some suggestions:

a) Ian should get himself a better website, using a modern, free, open-source CMS (content management system) such as Joomla, Drupal or Plone. The fact that every link on his web site opens a new browser window or tab drives me nuts. A modern website system would allow Ian to host his own customer forums and even provide customers with their own pages in which they can provide photos and testimonials about their bikes and their sales experience with him (under his editorial control, of course, since it would be his web site). I have a personal Plone site, took just a few hours to set up (google for "Bennelong Bicyclist" I can't yet include URLS in posts, it seems).

b) The Flying Furniture policies and arrangements for after-sales and warranty service need to be explicitly stated on the web site.

c) Price lists and catalogues would be a help. OK, the prices may only be indicative, but the process of dealing with Ian by email can be like playing the game of Twenty Questions, and can be rather drawn out, as he reveals various options and their prices in dribs and drabs. These days, customers want to be able to browse all the options available to them, and their approximate costs. Sure Ian can advise on teh suitability of choices, but hey, I want to know the full range of what is on offer, please.

d) Provide payment options by credit card and/or PayPal, please!

e) Provide the range of shipping options and costs to capital cities, including to-the-door shipping, not just depot pick-up.

All this stuff has been standard for years now for any Internet/mail-order business.

Really, I wish Ian well, and I may yet buy a bike from him, but really, he ought to get with the times, otherwise he'll be overtaken in a jiffy by more business-savvy (but possible far less knowledgeable and less pleasant) operators.

I'm still going to ask the guys at Cheeky Transport (google to find their web site - actually, their web site is a bit naff too) whether they are prepared to import some bents (or even just one, for me). They love anything unusual with pedals.

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Postby Low Racer » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:11 pm

I bought a set of (bloody good) DiNotte lights over the 'Net from the US and didn't have to pay any duty, or GST for that matter.


Hi Tim,
If the value is below $1000, custom usually can't be bother to charge duty. More work for them than it is worth.

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Postby timc » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:07 pm

Low Racer wrote:
I bought a set of (bloody good) DiNotte lights over the 'Net from the US and didn't have to pay any duty, or GST for that matter.


Hi Tim,
If the value is below $1000, custom usually can't be bother to charge duty. More work for them than it is worth.

Chong


Yes, perhaps, but I am pretty sure that the the AUSFTA does mean that there are no duties payable on US-manufactured goods (but there are rules on the minimum proportion of US-sourced content in such goods.). The reverse is also true, which is probably why Greenspeed is doing increasing business in the US.

Low-volume specialised US bike brands (as opposed to the "Specialised" brand) seem to be more readily available in the last few years, and many are imported by the more major bicycle importers, not just by small specialty operations like FF or Cheeky Transport. I've noticed that Surly, Salsa and most recently Swobo bikes and frames can now be had from quite a few bike shops at reasonable prices. Well, at prices which are not totally exorbitant, at least. What is really needed is for one or two of the larger bike importers and distributors here in Oz to start bringing in some recumbents (not just US ones) and to start retailing them through some of the larger or more specialist bike shops in the capital cities. Bents will never become more popular if they are only available by (e)mail-order from one-person operators located in other cities. Of course, I realise that making bents more popular is not everyone's, or even anyone's, goal, but it seems a shame if a viable technological alternative like recumbents are relegated to a very, very tiny niche due to the inconvenience involved in buying one.

Tim C
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Postby chuckchunder » Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:41 pm

just for the record - the AUS/US Free Trade Agreement means no Duty on the goods, but GST applies regardless where they come from, if the value is over AUD$1000

have a look here http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=5549

And some stuff is exempt from the Agreement - car parts for example....

sigh..... I have way too much time on my hands.....
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Postby nasz » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:09 am

I haven't bought a bent from FF, but several years ago while cycling from London to Sydney on bents, Ian obtained a replacement part for my Optima Condor.

the speed of obtaining the part and getting it to me in the outback was great and I will certainly get a new bent from him when I move to Australia in the Autumn.
Cycled across West Africa
4 times across the Sahara
All over Europe
Cycled from London to Sydney by recumbent

Events:
Liege Bastogne Liege 07
Tilff Bastogne Tilff 07
Maratona dles Dolemites 07/08
Tour of Flanders 08
Tour of Ireland 07/08
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Postby Low Racer » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:55 pm

nasz wrote:I haven't bought a bent from FF, but several years ago while cycling from London to Sydney on bents, Ian obtained a replacement part for my Optima Condor.

the speed of obtaining the part and getting it to me in the outback was great and I will certainly get a new bent from him when I move to Australia in the Autumn.


Hi Nic,
Had a look at your webpage. You are really a nut on bent :lol: . That's some cycling both of you had done. I am glad you had positive experience with FF.

Where in Australia are you moving to?

Regards
Chong
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Postby nasz » Wed Oct 22, 2008 4:49 pm

Low Racer wrote:
nasz wrote:I haven't bought a bent from FF, but several years ago while cycling from London to Sydney on bents, Ian obtained a replacement part for my Optima Condor.

the speed of obtaining the part and getting it to me in the outback was great and I will certainly get a new bent from him when I move to Australia in the Autumn.


Hi Nic,
Had a look at your webpage. You are really a nut on bent :lol: . That's some cycling both of you had done. I am glad you had positive experience with FF.

Where in Australia are you moving to?

Regards
Chong


Thanks Chong, we're moving to Adelaide (once the visa comes through) in Feb 09 hopefully.
Cycled across West Africa
4 times across the Sahara
All over Europe
Cycled from London to Sydney by recumbent

Events:
Liege Bastogne Liege 07
Tilff Bastogne Tilff 07
Maratona dles Dolemites 07/08
Tour of Flanders 08
Tour of Ireland 07/08
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Postby Lloyd » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:13 pm

Interesting read.... I have recently bought a bent from Ian and I was very happy with the service and speed of delivery. Like most riders looking into their first bent bike there are many many questions and Ian was able to answer these and help in my decision.

I dont think its fair to criticize someone on a public forum like AB has done. There must be many positive experiences with FF - shame you only hear about the negative ones.
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Postby Aushiker » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:16 pm

Lloyd wrote:I dont think its fair to criticize someone on a public forum like AB has done. There must be many positive experiences with FF - shame you only hear about the negative ones.


Personally I like to hear both types as I liked to be informed so I can make my own informed decision, but each to their own.

As far as I recall there have been positive postings as well including your own.

Regards
Andrew
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Postby Freddyflatfoot » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:17 pm

I reckon you could say the same about any bike shop.
Doesn't really matter where you go, you'll always have poeple who have both positive and negative experiences.
I know that there are bike shops where I live, that I wouldn't touch with a 40' barge pole, but other guys I ride with swear by them! Go figure.
Cheers!
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