One Bad Experience

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It takes only one bad experience to sour someone on a bike shop.

One of the bike shops that I have been frequenting over the last few years has recently turned over its entire staff. All of the old guys that I used to do business with and were comfortable with were replaced by new guys that I didn’t know and didn’t know me. The change occurred quickly as in the whole staff, save the big manager, turned over in about 8 months. And the big manager has been there just a few months longer. But this is fine with me. I’m more than willing to give them all a chance especially since the shop is convenient and I’ve purchased or been a part of purchasing 7 bikes at the shop within the last 3 years (three between myself/wife, one each for my sister, brother-in-law and my parents).

But all it takes is one bad experience by a relatively new employee who is not familiar with my continued patronage to sour me on this LBS. This happened to occur this past weekend when I went in there with my bike. This bike was not one that the LBS sold but the previous people there were always good about helping me out whenever I had a problem. Especially since I followed RL’s advice and occasionally brought the guys at the LBS some cookies and soda. A few of them were 29er riders so they were particularly interested in anything 29er I brought in.

This time my problem was simple. I had experienced skipping the last time I rode my bike. After I got home I spent some time adjusting the derailleur myself. I seemed to have fixed the problem but I wasn’t entirely sure so I went to the LBS to make sure it was done correctly. Normally this procedure is quick: Walk in, say “hi? then get asked “what’s up with the bike?”. The mechanic would throw the bike on the stand, spin the cranks, pop the shifters and tighten/loosen the barrel adjuster. 5 minutes max, most times 2 minutes on the stand.

This time though things did not as smoothly. I went into the back and shot the breeze for a bit (new standard operating procedure; the old crew would perform the fix then we’d talk bike) but nobody asked me what was up with the bike. I mentioned my story and the mechanic grudgingly tossed the bike on the stand. A quick pedal then a comment about how he won’t work on the derailleur because its a SRAM. I originally thought this was a joke, but but maybe it was a subtle hint that I totally missed. After a few more minutes of chit-chattin’ he finally spoke the words that clarified I wasn’t welcome anymore: “I need to work on other customer bikes.?

Now understand I’m not the type of guy to expect free service. I’m not looking for a handout. I’m a big supporter of my LBS and I have been known to buy things at the LBS for SIGNIFICANTLY more than it would be sold online (for the service and to support a community business). But in this case I wasn’t even given an opportunity to be sold the service. If you had told me “hey, this is usually a $10 procedure? I’d probably say “No problem, write it up.? If he’d offer to do it for free I’d probably come back next time with drinks or a snack but I wasn’t even given a chance to pay for anything! I was just given the boot.

4+ years of patronage, 7 bikes purchased, countless services paid for, dozens of friends referred to the shop and I don’t even get a twist on the barrel adjuster to check if I tuned the derailleur correctly? Not even a chance to pay for the service? That’s a little ridiculous in my book. Thankfully, local bike shops in Southern California are a dime a dozen and the next one is just around the corner.

5 thoughts on “One Bad Experience

  1. I got sick and tired of bad experiences at my LBS, so i started my bike repair service. I’ve been doing about 10 to 20 tune-ups a week and loving life.

    One thing is for sure, some bike shop owners don’t have great people skills and therefor don’t keep their employees happy! Your boy at the LBS might have been an unhappy employee….?

  2. certainly there is no excuse for what happend there and luckily Ive got two really good shops here in State College PA. but what interest me about this situation is the SRAM comment. either it was just a stupid excuse to get outta doing a little bit of work and helping out a fellow cyclist or he really doesnt work on SRAM derailers? if its the latter, whats up with that? Ive never heard of anything like that. Certainly ive run into mechanics with opinions and heard of shops that wont work on dept store bikes, but I can’t imagine a wrench that refuses to work on an established brand of a component.

  3. Jeremy? Are you Jeremy Y. from RHS? I saw your pic on this site and you looked familar, if you are who I think it is, please send me an e-mail!

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