Two stories have come to light on the Australian Cycling Forums in the last week in which Aussie bike shops have let down their customers. The first story is of a customer who ordered a new 2014 model Italian carbon fibre road bike from a bicycle shop and, after waiting 8 weeks, his bike arrived. It was when he attempted to register the bike with the brand (for warranty) that it turned out that the new bike was in fact an old bike, a demo bike, that had been resprayed to resemble a new model bike.
In the second story, the customer received his fully-serviced and rebuilt bike from a respected inner city Melbourne bike shop in worse condition than when he dropped it off. He made the heinous mistake of relying on the mechanic’s word that the correct brand-name parts would be used and that the bike was actually ready to be picked up. Although the customer had previously had great experiences with the same shop (before a management change), the second failed attempt by the shop to properly service his bike has lost them a customer forever.
If you find a good shop, stick with it
It is a good rule of thumb to be loyal to a bike shop if they provide good service and look after you. But you have to find a good bike store first, and it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Because of this, a bike shop recommendation, from a friend or other reliable source, is like hitting the jackpot, especially if you get a recommendation for a specific mechanic at a bike shop, because it’s all about personality.
Otherwise, finding a bike shop can be a game of chance. If the staff ignore you when you walk in, are too busy to say “can I help you?”, or “I will be with you soon”, then this is the first sign that the shop may not know about customer service. Regardless of the mechanical experience of the staff, it is a service industry and they have to get this part right as well.
It goes without saying that the shop should carry the type of bikes you are riding; some cater for most types of bikes while other specialise in certain styles, such as just mountain bikes or BMX. They may not be able to provide the level of experience required to service your road bike, for example.
Depending on your level of experience and knowledge, it can be hard to determine the level of the staff’s mechanical expertise. When it comes to buying a bike or other gear, a good salesperson will give you a feeling of confidence – if you feel pressured or uncomfortable, take the opportunity to visit some other shops.
Mechanics are, understandably, often confident in their abilities, so this isn’t always an indication of the quality and reliability of their service. If they have a formal checklist, document your service requirements, and provide a specific completion date and price, this can suggest a more organised and reliable workshop.
A good mechanic can also solve problems off the bike
We all make mistakes
It’s the ability of a shop to resolve its own mistakes that reveals their true character. I have had my fair share of bike shop fails and, when the staff show competence in resolving a problem, that is when they will retain my business.
As a customer, you should show a bit of understanding as well; acting like a diva may not help, but determination and persistence may be necessary to get results.
In the case of the bike shop who sold the repainted demo model, it is reported that they insisted that the customer actually ordered a repainted bike. An unlikely story if the customer paid a deposit for a 2014 model bike, and while it is likely fraud on behalf of the shop, in the end the customer decided to let the shop order the correct bicycle instead of reporting them to the ACCC. Pity the next customer who gets taken for a ride.
Jordan of Ride in Workshop in Sydney has built a reputation on trust
What goes around, comes around
Bad bike shops eventually run into problems, ‘burning’ so many customers means they’ll fail to establish a solid customer-base. While these shops will make excuses and blame their failing on other factors such as competition from ‘online bike shops’, the number of successful local bikes shops is testament to the viability of ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers in this day and age.
But as passionate cyclists there is something we can do to help the good retailers: spread the word and let others know that your bike shop is looking after you.
On the flip-side, tact is required if you want to let others know you are unhappy with a bike shop because it’s easy to become ‘the vindictive customer’. The best point of contact for complaint, if you feel that you have been deceived and have exhausted all reasonable resolution avenues with the bike store, is to get in touch with the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).
If you choose to go beyond just telling your friends and want to publish your bad experience, the bike shop may react or even threaten legal action. For this reason, positive recommendations are more powerful – actively recommend the good shops when you find them.
When all else fails, trust yourself to do it yourself
Do it yourself
When it comes to regular maintenance and servicing, there is a lot that you can do yourself. Looking after your bike is not a chore, in fact it’s a bit like gardening as it relaxes the soul. You can tune and clean your bicycles to the standard you want, which will give you extra satisfaction on the bike. The other benefit of this is that if you ever do take your bike to a shop for repair, you’ll know what they’re doing and if they did the job properly.
Without mentioning names, do you have a horror story about a bike shop? Let me know in the comments. Even better, if your bike store has gone above and beyond, tell me who they are and share the love!
Here are the links to the two threads discussion the bad bike shop experiences:
Cycling Forum: I can’t believe a bike shop would do this
Cycling Forum: Bike Shop Whinge