Is bike shop and customer service an oxymoron?

BlackCat

BoTM Winner
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Yes. But there is a limit to how much I am prepared to spend on specialist tools for one-off jobs. If you are prepared to recut threads on a hand built frame and do so regularly enough to invest in the proper kit, fill your boots.
 

Chopper the ex Copper

Alpinestars Fan
If you are prepared to recut threads on a hand built frame and do so regularly enough to invest in the proper kit, fill your boots.
I already have, thank you.

And you know what? Thanks to a diligent and regular checking of ebay, and a dollop of patience, they actually cost a paltry amount. I doubt I could get an LBS to do it today for the 14-something-quid the kit cost me. 10 times that new, so I was very happy with that.

These sort of 'objections' are really excuses. If you don't want to tackle it, or do not have the skills to do so, then just say so. If you really want to do it then you'll be patient and diligent, like wot I was, and will acquire the kit.
 

Chopper the ex Copper

Alpinestars Fan
I was speaking general terms about people who make excuses, rather than singling out any specific person as that would be most ungentlemanly.

Perhaps I should avoid subtlety and go full-flying-breeze-block next time just to help you keep up?
 

legrandefromage

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Cock-Wangle

Theres never one in the shed when I need it. And the local bike shop just looks at me with a vacant stare when I march in with my 1960's 10spd Gespunkular Sport Special with its unique Cock-Wangle shifting system (no, not that one, the other one). Its not rocket science...
 

wynne

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I have worked in a couple of bike shops over the past few years having relocated from N Wales to Sussex and needing a stopgap job to pay the bills until i could shift my furniture making equipment. My experience is as sickpup describes. Low pay, almost zero investment in training, inadequate tools, poor working conditions, terrible imbalance in the customer relationship (with some truly awful bullying customers and little management support from the shop side) etc. I had no formal mechanical training beyond building and repairing my own bikes for 35 years. Alarmingly, my skills were better than those of almost all of my colleagues despite some of them being cytech trained.

During the COVID-19 surge in demand i was PDI-ing up go 15 bikes a day. Wages were poor, queues of 30 people outside the shop during opening hours, sometimes it was just me in the shop as colleagues were ill or isolating etc. I carried on working because i am quite loyal/a mug. By the end of the first lockdown we had sold about £200k of bikes. Come Christmas the shop owner thanks me with derisory bonus and i said thank you and good bye.

I have since worked in other places where the conditions have been better but the pay worse and some places where the pay and conditions are good - but the latter i think is rare. In all instances my more talented colleagues have wanted to get out of the bike trade - they don't need the hassle of dealing with customers face to face and accepting a pay packet that limits their life opportunities. There is a generally accepted mantra (only one letter away from mantrap) that the "bike industry is fun but you have accept that it pays badly". Well, that should be ancient bollocks. It's work that carries big responsibilities. I wouldn't let any of my colleagues fix my bike for me. When i'm touching 40mph on a long rocky descent on 3 peaks cx i want to know that my front brake cable was tightened properly and not be wondering whether someone got halfway through it before being distracted by the ebay app's cash register jingle (and that's another whole issue - ever wondered what happens to your used parts that you don't take from your local shop?).

Something that applies to most retail environments is the corrosive effect of that staff/customer power imbalance i mentioned. When you have to suck up bad vibes from some horrible people most days it gets to you eventually. If it's not your business it's hard to tell people what you really think and vent the anger and injury that being the victim of a series of micro-agressions can bring on. A number of colleagues who had worked long term in the trade were clinically depressed and embittered. Don't get me wrong, there were also some lovely customers who have become friends since i left the bike shop job.

Lastly (for now), i was in a lucky position. I'm at a stage in life where my financial outgoings are very small and i don't have to work fulltime, so i had a certain detachment from it all. A few times i would remind customers that they shouldn't forget their manners - which shocked them and brought me pleasure.

Ho hum, sorry for the stream of consciousness. It's just my experience - but having got to know lots of bike mechanics over the past few years i think it is, unfortunately, quite typical.

Rich
 
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sickpup

Old School Hero
I just want to add that some people who can work on their own bikes can transfer the skills to working in in a bike shop, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise but many can't.

A few points to make things better

1. It should be possible to pay a mechanic a minimum of £15 an hour and a percentage of all labour and parts or at least pay something along these lines which would retain good mechanics in the industry.
2. As it can be reclaimed against tax it should also be possible to send staff on training courses.
3. Credit the workshop for any work done for sales such as the set up of new bikes and free 6 weeks services instead of just giving the sales team commission.
4. Devote more space to the workshop, don't put it in a cupboard..
5. A percentage of workshop profit should be reinvested in tools.
6. A percentage of workshop profit should be reinvested in yearly workshop updates including deep cleaning and decorating. The sales floor of many shops gets cleaned daily and redecorated/re-setup at considerable cost every 3 or so years so why not the workshop as well?
7. Stop spending more on coffee machines and supplies than you do on your workshop. This may apply more to London shops.

The sooner the workshop is treated as a business the better for both the staff and the business as a whole. Businesses need to stop looking at the workshop as a drain on their resources and instead look at them as the primary money making resource that facilitates and supports every other money making activity within a bike shop.

Pay your staff properly, give them a good well equipped space to work in and you will get happier more productive staff who make more profit and give better customer care.
 

jonnyboy666

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@wynne nice to know i'm not the only one that tells people when they are being idiots, i've banned 2 people for using the N word, i've banned a rep for a crap attitude to covid along with a questionable attitude regards the possibility of a customer being gay, i freely admit i can be very judgemental but it's over people being crap humans as opposed to anything else! i do agree that it can be hard dealing with bad customers though, it's unfortunate that 20 good people can get drowned out by that one numpty who has decided to take his bad day out on you.

@sickpup some of that sounds amazing, like the £15 an hour, in my dreams! and i am the shop owner! but FYI i can't afford to employ anyone, there's benefits to being the owner obvs, but i'd need £100,000 in the till each year on top of the current turnover to justify paying someone £20,000, and at that point i'd have no extra in my pocket. effectively you are asking someone else to constantly prove their worth to justify having them in the business, as much as i'd love the help i also don't want to be financially responsible for someone's financial well being so i do crazy hours on my own instead (which is why i am barely on here anymore)

that said i do think you are right regarding the workshop, this is where shops are gonna survive, the internet can't fix your bike, yes it can supply the parts but compatibility can be a nightmare these days so quite often wrong parts get bought, then youtube can be a minefield of good and bad information which can be then performed properly or not by the viewer. this means it's gonna be all about the workshop, so the mechanics will be the main draw of every shop, and they should be.

:)
 

greencat

Senior Retro Guru
As long as bikes are seen as something you spend a few hundred quid on, it's going to be hard to make the economics work on repairs - never mind offer decent salaries, good working conditions etc. I have a same mentality myself - and I should know better. My most expensive bike cost around a grand, and I'd still think twice about paying someone 30 quid/hour to fix it (which I guess is the least amount a bike shop would need to charge to offer a 15 quid/hour salary). Add in parts at RRP - and it's easy to see why customers and shops struggle to make it work on a bike costing under 500 quid. It doesn't take much to think - I might as well get a new bike, have a go myself or leave it.

Really what the industry needs is more standardisation, less specialist tools/methods - not more. That's where the cost savings, and hopefully in after sales can be made. The cartridge bottom bracket was a great example of this - quick/easy to fit, relatively inexpensive but likely more profitable than a few bearings or cups. The explosion of press fit, axle lengths and other bottom bracket standards, less so.
 
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