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 didnâ€™t know and didnâ€™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. Iâ€™m more than willing to give them all a chance especially since the shop is convenient and Iâ€™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 RLâ€™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 wasnâ€™t entirely sure so I went to the LBS to make sure it was done correctly. Normally this procedure is quick: Walk in, say â€śhiâ€? 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 wonâ€™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-chattinâ€™ he finally spoke the words that clarified I wasnâ€™t welcome anymore: â€śI need to work on other customer bikes.â€?
Now understand Iâ€™m not the type of guy to expect free service. Iâ€™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 wasnâ€™t even given an opportunity to be sold the service. If you had told me â€śhey, this is usually a $10 procedureâ€? Iâ€™d probably say â€śNo problem, write it up.â€? If heâ€™d offer to do it for free Iâ€™d probably come back next time with drinks or a snack but I wasnâ€™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 donâ€™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? Thatâ€™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.