Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caveat emptor

Today, we wrap up our series on bike shop service. So far, we've discussed how much attention you can expect from a bike shop, and what kind of service you can expect. Now let's look at how well our bike shops cater to the needs of their customers. That is, what kind of job they do in providing you with what you want, and just as importantly, providing you with what you need.

(That last sentence actually sounded kind of erotic, didn't it. Let's all try and be adults here, shall we.)

First and foremost, I completely understand that bike shops are in the business to make money. Not only do I understand this, but I wholeheartedly
endorse this goal. Making money is actually one of my favorite things. I don't make the commute from McKinney to Dallas Love Field everyday because it is such a nice drive. I do it, because if I don't, Southwest Airlines won't pay me. They're funny that way. So I do not begrudge a business making money.

If you've been keeping up with the first two postings in this series, you might have noticed that so far, things haven't gone particularly well for RBM. Don't look for things to take an upturn today.

As usual, I have examples to make my points.

Regarding Plano Cycling and Fitness. I was in one of Bikin' Mike's spin classes, when my trainer suddenly died. I'd like to think that the pure power of my spin just overwhelmed it. Truth be told, it was an old trainer and it just finally gave up the ghost. So I walk across the parking lot to Plano Cycling, fully prepared to buy a new trainer. As I walk through the door, I'm immediately set upon by a sales clerk, asking if there's anything I need help with. After telling him that my trainer just kicked the bucket, I indicate that I need a new one.

Now here's where it gets a little weird. Instead of immediately taking me to the new trainers, he says that he might be able to get the old one fixed by the manufacturer. No really, I swear that's what he said. Instead of just selling me a new one like I was fully prepared to do, he volunteers to try and get the old one fixed for free. I eyeball him suspiciously for several seconds, trying to figure out how I'm going to get screwed on this deal, but being unable to figure out his angle, I tell him to go ahead and see what he could do. But I also tell him to not try anything funny, as I'll be watching his every move. Turns out that not only was he able to get the broken part replaced for free, but Plano Cycling also installed the new part, free of charge.

Did I mention that I didn't buy the trainer in question from Plano Cycling? I bought it used from a friend. How's that for catering to the customer's needs.

Now, lets turn our magnifying glass to RBM. I actually don't have any personal stories to tell about my experiences shopping at RBM, as I can't remember the last time I bought anything from them. But I do have a story to relate, from of all places, The Dallas Morning News.

A couple of years ago, The Dallas Morning News did a story on how to go about buying your first bicycle. They sent mystery shoppers into several bike shops, including RBM. The RBM mystery shopper stated that she went into RBM and amazingly found someone to help her. The first thing she told the clerk was that this was her first bike, and she had a $500.00 budget to spend. After hearing this, the sales clerk immediately took her over and showed her a $1,000.00 Trek. Right there should have been your first indication of whose needs to bike shop was trying to satisfy. it certainly wasn't the shoppers.

So the mystery shoppers takes a test ride on the Trek, and after some discussion, agrees to buy the $1,000.00 bicycle. As they start to head for the register, the clerk just happens to say, "there's another bike that I would like you to try. I just want to get your opinion of it." Because as we all know, the evaluation of a first time cyclist, is critical in getting a truly informed and knowledgeable opinion of a bicycle. The clerk goes in the back and rolls out with a $3,000.00 Bianchi. After insisting that the customer "just try it out", the customer takes it for a ride. Now you tell me, how are you going to feel about that $1,000.00 Trek, after trying the $3,000.00 Bianchi. The Trek would probably feel like the tires were square after riding the Bianchi. Not to anyone's surprise, the customer bought the Bianchi.

If you were teaching a class on how to "upsale" a customer, you couldn't come up with a better example if you tried. And I know what your thinking. All the customer had to do is say "No". That's not the point here. The point is that the customer specifically told the clerk that they wanted to spend $500.00, and they wind up leaving with a bike that cost 6x's that much. In my opinion, this is a classic example of a bike shop failing to provide a customer with what they need. Instead, the goal of the bike shop was to get that customer to spend as much money in the store as they possible could, regardless of what the customer actually needed. A first time cyclist, with 10 cent legs, does not need a $3,000.00 bicycle.

Truthfully, I'm all for someone making as much money as they possibly can. A bigger fan of money than me, you'll never find. But in my opinion, there is line that can be crossed, from making money, to taking advantage of a shopper that just doesn't know any better.

As for me, I like my chances at Plano Cycling.

Just in case you were wondering, "Caveat emptor" means "Let the buyer beware". I had to look it up too.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

1 comment:

bikenoob said...

Great series of posts, Fred. How about experiences with the mechanics at various bike shops? There are winners and losers there, too.