What to Do (and Not Do) at Your Local Bike Shop [from BA 42-300]
A Guide to Bike Shop Etiquette
Like many of you reading this, I have been around cycling my whole life—as a rider, shop employee, and shop owner. In my younger days, I was mostly a don’t: don’t go into your local bike store as an 11-year-old with no money, your wheel mangled after you tried to true it with a pair of pliers. “Can you fix this while I wait? I need it for a competition tomorrow.”
However, shop owners and employees are happy to see people out there doing what we love, so we take things like that with a grain of salt. We fix the kid’s bike and send them on their way.
“That’ll be $21.65, son.”
“But I don’t have that much.”
“How much do you have?”
Adults, you are a different story.
For over 20 years, I have worked in a happy environment: happy people coming in with happy bikes. We ask you questions about your ride, your goals, your desired upgrades. But we’re also running a business. We have payroll taxes, overhead, workers compensation and all that fun jazz. So a few guidelines are in order. Let’s start with the simplest one.
When we do a great job, exceeding your expectations over and over, rushing the rush job, feel free to reward us. That includes beer, bagels, Sue’s homemade cookies, or anything like that. However, we are in retail, and things happen. If we screw up, let us apologize and make it right. Don’t swear at my 22-year-old employee because your special order is stuck in UPS/FedEx no-man’s land. Now it gets a little more complex.
It’s okay if you just bought your bike on closeout, online from retail/internet goliath Superbarbay. It’s terrific you are coming in to buy three tubes from your local bike shop. Thank you for thinking of us. Yes, we will be happy to build, fix or upgrade your bike. But no, we are not going to do a 45-minute fitting for you for free. Please don’t walk in and say, “You will not believe the deal I just got on last year’s xsuperfideish-er.” We kind of take offense to that.
On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine to tell us you have been to the store down the street, are considering Bike Billy Hoo (which could easily be a real bike name), but you want to see what we have first. You can even tell us what a great deal they are going to give you—we won’t take offense to that. This is a free market, capitalist society fueled by competition. We will try and do a better job than bike store B and sell you a bike. Although we might be different, we have a bottom line and so do they.
Please don’t tell me you were JRA (shop- speak for just riding along) when your kid’s bike’s front wheel suddenly bent, he fell off, and hurt himself. Remember, we’ve been at this awhile and can spot the buckled downtube and the bent fork from when he hit the curb at full speed. By the way, we are actually sorry he hurt himself. But no, this is not part of the warranty.
You can, however, bring in the $25 Walmart/Target bike you tried to assemble for your child, and ask us to fix the brakes. We appreciate your business. Yes, we sell kids’ bikes, too, but we’ll happily fix your kid’s bike for $10. We don’t want him killing himself when we teach the free Kids’ Biking Skills clinic at the local community center.
In summary, come to your local shop in full confidence we will answer all of your questions, spend all the time needed to get your spouse into riding, fit your kids’ helmets, and support your middle school’s Safe Routes program. We love riding, we love you riding, we love being in business and serving the community.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go down to our local hardware store and have them sharpen the chain on my chainsaw. They just did it last week, but it doesn’t seem as sharp since I hit that pile of dirt.
They’ll probably do it for free.