lindquist

Jack Lindquist and some trufe.

Beer fueled musings on shop life and the impending death of cycling culture as we know it.
A hyperbolic tirade in approximately six hundred and sixty six parts.

(Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by the author in no way represent those of Bikerumor. If you are easily offended or inclined to get uptight about things you honestly don’t have to bother reading in the first place, then go ahead and move on to another story….probably one about some bike thing that just came out or something. ‘Kaythanksbye.)

(Real Editor’s note: Watts wrote that one.)

(Fake Editor’s note: Whatever.)

Part one:
What do people want?

As a person trying to make even a modicum of a living in the world of retail, it’s a question that plagues me.
What do they want? And why? And most importantly….at what cost?

I had a legend of a sales rep in a while back, talking to me about “the power of the tube.” (Folks in my neck of the woods will know exactly who this is.) We discussed the various facets of my shop structure (or lack thereof) and how to improve it so that I can sell sell sell!!! His question was, specifically, given what the “typical” customer wants, what’s the first thing they should see when they walk in the shop?
Without hesitating I gave him the answer: I bent over and spread my cheeks submissively.

He wasn’t partial to my visual…. but he knew what I meant.

Meanwhile, www.clownpenis.fart (or whatever online discount douche you prefer) is trying to tell you that it’s the dealers who are bending customers over. Well…I’m here to tell you that this is as big a pile of bullshit as has ever been loaded onto a plate for consumption.

And if they did try and bend you over…. then it wasn’t on price. It was probably just something they wanted to do. I mean…. We all have our quirks and drives, right?

There’s something broken in this industry right now. And while I’m not smart enough to put my finger on it precisely… I do have a rough inkling of the various directions to be pointing my middle fingers.
(That’s everywhere…. all the time. Right?)

IMG_4342

courtesy of AHTBM.

As a shop owner, I have to admit that I spend a good bit of time being whittled out of a living by people who make more in month than I do in a year. (A bit of that hyperbole I mentioned)

And it’s hard not to feel bitter about that sometimes, because to my mind, it absolutely reeks of a lack of respect for what I do, and for my livelihood in general.
But….”Hey… that’s retail, baby.”
Right?
Well….No. I’m afraid that just doesn’t cut it. That’s just as weak as saying date-rape is just “part of the dating game.”
I mean….Fuck off.
While I am certainly not the most universal example out there, I’ll tell you honestly…I make a salary that, with very few exceptions, most of my customers would balk at.
And to be asked to make even less than that, all so someone with more money can feel.. what?….important?  is beyond insulting.

Most of them aren’t bad people. (I mean….anymore than any and all people are bad) Sure….occasionally there’s a real fuckhead who’s demand for a deal comes from a sense of over-aggrandizement and entitlement.

But I think (and hope) that the majority of people just assume that that’s how it works.

Ask for a deal. It’s built in to the price, right?

Well…actually… No. It’s not.

And I get it. I really do.
You just dropped $4000 on a bike. (Or $1000 or  whatever) That’s a lot of money. That’s a shit ton of money. And at surface level, all you see is that money leaving your hand and going into someone else’s. As far as you can tell, the shop just made $4000.

But you know what?

It didn’t.

Not even close.

You’d be shocked at what the actual take home on that sale was. And with the overheads of payroll (so people can help you), rent (in a place you’d actually want to go, as opposed to my storage unit), insurance (so that when we get robbed, or someone falls during a test ride and tries to fault us -“Well I never fall, so it must be this bike.”- we’re not screwed), utilities (so that it’s all temperature controlled and well lit so you can.. like… see), and inventory (so there’s stuff to like..buy)… the take home is slimmed down to ridiculousness.

So regardless of the impression that www.clownpenis.fart gave you about bicycle costs, the margin is actually surprisingly small, and the shop really made very little off of that $4000.

Question: Why do you want a discount?
I mean….Really? Why?
Is it the thrill of the hunt? The joy of haggling?
Is it that you just deserve it? Because you know…..you’ve been such a good boy this year?
Is it something wired into us? Having become all civilized an’ shit, our innate viciousness has had to find new pugilistic outlets. You can’t beat the shit out of me…so you try to beat the shit out of me on price.
(No… seriously, you can’t. I’m like…. super strong and shit. Plus, I fight like a total…awesome… fighter.)
Or it is just that shit costs a lot… and you’d rather not pay that much?
I’m with you. It costs us a lot too.

“But I mean…. they own a bike shop. They have all this stuff. They must be doing alright.”
Yep…. I “own” a shop… in the same way that you “own” your house. The difference being that one day you’ll actually own your house…. While I will never pay off the shop, as its very nature is an eternal cycle of debt. And in the end, what is that debt worth?

“Well…. that’s the way it is in the auto-industry. Sticker price is negotiable. Works for them.”
That’s true. And one day, with a massive paradigm shift in American thought, it might work for the bike industry too.
But in the American retail landscape, cars are a necessity… Bikes are an accessory… (I know, wtf, right?) And the volume of bicycle sales just doesn’t support the same price structure.

And that is where much of the BROKEN comes from. Because this industry just isn’t structured in a way to support the direction that bike retail has headed
And while the facade projects a ruddy health, behind the curtain is some pretty rampant malnourishment.. coupled with schizophrenia.
Some of us need a damn samich…. and some of us need a pretty heavy dose of lithium. In the butt.
(It’s absorbed faster that way… I’m told)

BIKE SHOP 134

“Lithium? What’s he talking about?”
“I have no clue.”

Do I love me a discount? Yes…. Absolutely. But if I’m out of town and walk into another bike-shop to grab something, I expect to pay retail. If I get a “fellow shop-owner deal” of any kind, I’m extremely grateful. Because I know what’s up, and know that the shop could use every damn penny of that sale.

Do I discount? Sometimes. Yes…. Absolutely.
When a customer has made some purchases and shown me that they’re willing to support me in a fair way…. I usually do what I can for them.

But if there’s an expectation of discounting?

Then…No.
Because it doesn’t do me any good. And I just don’t have to.

One of the best days of my life was the day I realized that I didn’t have to discount shit.
When I realized that I’d built my brand to the point where I didn’t feel pressure to bribe customers with a deal. And not that I had relied on that before. But there was always insane pressure to make the sale, and get whatever minimal money I could, simply to generate cashflow…. so that I could make payroll that month. Or rent. Or utilities. Or pay a supplier. Or very occasionally get paid myself. But heavy discounts ultimately did me absolutely no good.. and the game of robbing Peter to pay Paul was netting me nothing save for an ever increasing feeling of anxiety.

bikerumor starwars ben

I find your lack of brakes disturbing.

Storytime!
A customer called the shop and said he was interested in a Santa Claus Teabag. He then informed me that he was a “big time local rider.” What was the best I could do out the door?…. because as he put it, “I don’t pay retail.” As gently as I could, I told him that discounting bikes did me and the brand no good, and that our pricing was very competitive as it was. Interrupting me as I listed out the reasons and benefits of paying us a fair price, he came on hard, saying he was ready to buy now but wanted a very substantial amount off the sticker price.
At which point I informed him that we probably weren’t the shop for him.
As he stammered again about “being ready to buy” (at his heavy discount)…. I thanked him for his time and hung up.
I later saw him out on the trail, riding a big-brand bike bought from the local big-brand concept store.
And instead of feeling the sting of a lost sale…. I felt the freedom of having dodged a bullet.
Because…. as obtuse as it sounds… some customers… you just don’t need them…. or want them.
And I definitely didn’t want that kind of customer.

So….. herein lies a bit of that BROKEN that I mentioned before.

What if every time a customer asked a shop for a discount, that shop, in turn, asked the supplier for a proportionate discount on the product?
I’ll fucking tell you what….The answer would be NO. The supplier isn’t going to devalue their product like that, and they’re not going to NOT make their money. They have their own overheads.
Which means that every discount the shop give eats into THEIR margin, and into their ability to pay their own overheads, much less themselves…. and subsequently, into their ability to even keep the doors open.
And unfortunately, I think that the suppliers know that. They know that every day, the bike shops are beat senseless on our margin. But hey….you know what? That’s our battle, and how we fight it isn’t their problem.

As a retail store, we are essentially asked to be the infantry in what often seems a losing battle, and watching all too many suppliers actually enable and support the very thing we’re asked to fight against; the devaluing of their brand, we’re constantly fed the most absurd rhetoric and run-around about how and why this kind of rampant discounting exists.

And then, like any good infantry…. we’re expendable.
Where’s the next wave of hungry little suckers ready to live out their dream of owning a shop?
Everywhere. 

Needless to say…. it’s pretty vexing.

Compounding the vexation, there’s a bizarre metric in place wherein selling bikes at a discount actually makes a retailer look better. Sure… it makes them look better to the consumer, because deals are the best, right?
But it also makes them look better to the supplier.
How?
Well…. Despite whatever disingenuous outrage is expressed when a whistle is blown on some discounter, in more cases than not, the supplier seems all too willing to turn a blind eye to the practice.
Why? Because ultimately they are still selling their product, and regardless of what the discounter sells it for, the supplier is still making their margin.

BIKE SHOP 136

“Do you think they’ve realized that these pictures have no bearing on anything yet?”
“I know, right? Or that he’s just including them because supposedly people like photos mixed in with their words?”

So how does discounting make me look good to a supplier?
Well…. here’s a scenario:
Last week I moved 30 units of Boringman Bike’s full-suspension Superdouche, each at 20% off retail. Meanwhile, Koolkid Cycles sold only two units of the Superdouche, but at full markup.
Guess what.
I’m congratulated on my numbers and salesmanship, and bumped up to platinum pricing (which engenders even more discounting) while Koolkid is told that unless they step up their game, the line will be yanked from them.

Koolkid, by the way, has been a tireless advocate of Boringman Bikes and were at the forefront of trying to build the brand back when no one gave two fucks.

Sadly, that means fuck-all to Boringman, who is now a “really big deal.”

Koolkid then tries to point out that x amount of the existing Boringman dealers are not adhering to the pricing structure demanded by the supplier.
To which they are told “Yes, we are aware of the issue and steps have been taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Believe us when we tell you that we take this very seriously and will not allow such blatant blah de fucking blah blah”
Cough cough bullshit cough cough.
But nothing actually changes. It just shuffles in such a way that there’s an illusion of change or progress. The quantity driven discounter continues to devalue the brand, and further ensure that any dealer selling at retail is perceived as “ripping people off”… and the quality driven dealer trying their ass off to make a living and sell the product is punished.

Fucking. Broken.

Without a doubt, old models just don’t work…. and maybe the new direction of retail is online? Right?
Discounting bikes to move volume. The volume makes up for the lost margin.
Works for Walmart.
Sure sure … seems like fun.
Until it all turns to shit.

The high cost of low prices.

And if the industry really wants to race to the bottom…. then F it. In the A.
Btw…. here’s that equation:   =>((

It seems like a boon, right? Tons of stock. Straight to your door. Crazy deals.
For the companies too. Low overheads. Wharehouse space costs a fraction of what retail space goes for. (Yeah… I misspelled it on purpose). “Mechanics are expensive. We can just hire trained monkeys to fill boxes and ship them out. Then… it’s out of our hands. They can get it built and serviced at the local shop. And then… heh heh… if something goes wrong, the local shop was the last one to touch it, so we’re in the clear.”

The most common bullshit response given to brick and mortar bike shops regarding the online-debate is “Well….Service is King, and that’s what will keep the local shops going.”
Really?
In an age when there’s a free youtube video on how to repair every facet of your bike, what does “service” even entail anymore?

Why even take it in for service? I mean….Unless you totally botch it yourself?…. (because you will)

And make no mistake. I am all about some DIY. I’ve got it tattooed on my neck. Knowledge is power. Arm yourself. But don’t try and feed me a line about service being my lifeblood when our very ability to provide that service is being undermined.

Is “service” what I provide when I stock shoes or clothing for a customer to try on, all so they can ultimately order them online for less than my own cost?

Is “service” what I provide when I do the legwork to warranty a bike that wasn’t purchased from me? And then, when I try to make some money for my time and labor on swapping all the parts over, I’m given all manner of grief?

Is “service” what I provide when I take over an hour to talk to a customer about the merits of a certain model, all so they can buy it from whatever discount douche is advertising on this very page?

Remember when the bike shop used to be a bastion of esoteric knowledge of all things two-wheeled?
That was where you went with questions… Where you went for advice.
We used to give it.
Now we get it.
Instead of asking our opinion, customers give us theirs. A lawyer/doctor/insurance salesman/arms manufacturer/male model telling me why a bike geometry will never work for their rabid weekend-warrior assaults on the local trails.
As far as they’re concerned… they know more about bikes than us.

And sometimes… it’s fucking true. For tons of reasons. Whether because it’s some old-dude who hasn’t ridden anything without a quill stem (or anything at all) in over 20 years. Or whether the staff just hasn’t kept up on product knowledge outside fixed-gear ratios and homebrewed pomade. Or whether because the bike shop is the new record store, and every coolkid in a 100 mile radius with no work experience save for mowing their parents lawn in middle school wants a job there. Or whether because the owner is an anti-social nut who would rather ride his bike than work on it.

But then….It doesn’t help that too much of the time, the shops are the last ones to know about things.
There are quite a few companies out there with a notoriety for keeping dealers in the dark until a giant mass email is sent out.
To everyone.
At which point the dealer is inundated with questions about a model that they’re unaware even exists (it having been a heavily guarded secret until that point), and that, as it turns out, won’t be available until never.
It also doesn’t help that sites like fucking Bikerumor are undermining our all-knowing authority by scooping the story to the masses before the shops even get wind of it.
(just kidding, Tyler. But really… I’m not.)

storm trooper

Congratulations…. you’ve made it this far without throwing your laptop across the room. You get a prize. Email Todd at service@onlinedoucheshop.com to collect.

That’s just one facet of this glorious new technological age we live in. Any information (or misinformation) you want is available at the touch of a button. It’s a boon and a bane.

There’s a balance somewhere, but as a fairly unbalanced person, I’ll be damned if I know what it is. And I’m not sure anyone does, which is problematic on a number of levels.

I think we as a species are innovating more rapidly than we’re evolving. And we’re just not smart enough to wrap our heads around it all, much less keep up.
I know… we’re really smart and stuff. I mean… we are. It’s fucking mind-blowing how smart we are. Even from the minute facet of the bike industry, you can see what an amazingly clever species we are. Suspension… braking… carbon fiber…. computers. As someone who still marvels at the unbefuckinglievable resilience of the simplest loose ball-bearing hub or bottom bracket, my mind is in constant danger of melting at the advances in technology.
We’re smart….
….But damn, are we dumb.
Before I became ensconced in the bike industry, I was going to be a paleontologist. I wanted to study the evolutionary history of life on this planet.
Whales and their origins were of particular interest.
I mean…..

From this…..

Whale Pakicetus_BW

To this….

whale 3

To this….

whale 2

To this.

whale sperm

To this.

whalemanthumb

RAWR!!!!

Pretty astounding stuff.

For a number of reasons that I won’t go into because I still get bitter, I put that path on hold. (Assuming my feeble brain could have even handled it.) And as time went on, that goal became further and further away, until when I try to see it now, it’s barely visible. Overgrown with trees and brush, much of which I admittedly planted myself.
As unobtainable a path as it is for me these days, the history of life on this planet is still one of my favorite topics.
I’m favorable to the theory that the human species arose from an arboreal primate ancestor. (And look…. I don’t give a crap what you believe. If you believe in an anthropomorphic god with a great big god-dong, then good on you. (or if he’s as lily-white as ‘Murica seems to think, a tiny little god-dingy) We can argue about evolution and religion and the day the word “truth” lost all meaning another time. For the sake of…. sake…. just hear me out.)
Ahem… as I was saying… We came from arboreal primates. We were opportunistic scavengers living in trees. We ate what we could, and sitting on our branch, we shat it out.
Down it dropped.
Out of sight and out of mind.
I think that as a species, we have a genetic-memory that just doesn’t allow us to see the consequences of our actions. We’re still living in that tree. We eat… and we shit. And it falls away somewhere, to some vague “elsewhere”….but who cares? I want another grande nowhipskimsoychocomochafrozendrinkamathig. And did you hear about Miley Cyrcus? (she’s who’s daughter?)There’s naked pictures of her somehwere! Also…Have you seen the new negligible pivot-point full-squish that AssFactor Bikes just debuted. That thing is hawt!
We obviously have many other very important things on our mind than where the effluence and waste of all of our innovation goes.
My poorly made point: As a species we spend more time on innovating new shit (and a lot of it is shit… you know it… and I know it) than on how to handle the consequences of it all…. because we’re just not programmed for it. As far as we can collectively see…. we eat, we grow, we build…. and from our perches on the branch, the consequences pour from our asses and disappear into a magic black hole.
(I mean… come on… as far as explaining our inability to deal with our waste effectively, you have to like that better than “humans are born of divinity, but are such petulant, entitled little shits that we can’t even be bothered to clean up after ourselves.”)

So how on earth does that apply to online sales, Watts? You’re not making a goddamn ounce of sense. (or cents)

A simple inability to see the forest for the trees.

We’ve innovated what seems like a very simple shopping fix.
But in our quest for deals and convenience, we’ve created something that isn’t sustainable.
And I am of the opinion that we stand to lose the very things that make the bike industry awesome.

And look….I’m a bit of a nutter. I know it.
I am, to the point of madness, zealously committed to the model of the small, independent bike shop. And my commitment to this model, in many cases, exceeds reason.
I admit it.
I dislike chain stores. And I dislike concept stores.
Those aren’t bad models, mind you… outside of being soulless and boring. From a business perspective, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.
At all.
If you’re into “business”…. it might be a perfect fit for you. It’s structured. It’s safe. (Safer, anyway.) It has the potential to be fish in a barrel. (Assuming you’re not a total dingus.)
And in the same way that people love the banal pablum of Chipotle and Panera, they’ll likely gobble up your sterile shop model with the same gusto.

So…a question: When you dreamed of having your own bike shop… did you dream of owning Max’s Flying Anvil Bike Shop of Awesome.
Or did you dream of owning a Boringman Bikes franchise?
And if you settled for the latter… Why?
Because it was safe? And it was a sound business model?
Well…I can’t fault you for that.
At all.
In fact, you’ll probably be around long after I’m gone…. or long after I’ve become what I hate. (You know…. when Revolution Cycles NC blows up and we take over the Southeast, stuffing other shops into our gaping maw (At least until Mike and Pinky say “Helz no you don’t!” and put a cease and desist on the name.))
Part of my zeal for the indy model comes from that love of all thing DIY that I mentioned. I like challenges. I like creating my own thing. The key is to try and avoid re-inventing the wheel and taking what you can from the past and make it better….something I admit to failing at often. (“Look, I invented a bike with one speed!”)

But here’s a metric to that equation. (Again with the metrics and equations. This is that Watts Math you talked about isn’t it?)
We support the businesses we want to. If Harry Johnson’s Bike Barn is the local independent shop in town, but it turns out that Harry Johnson is actually a giant fucking dick…. what incentive is there to support that jack ass?
That applies to me too. (Oh, trust us… we know, Watts. We know.)
I’m all too aware of my foibles and shortcomings as an individual, and I’m HYPER aware of the shop’s foibles and shortcomings. When we fuck up…. I know it. Trust me. There’s no “whatever!” There’s just “oh fuck.”
And I hope that the people who support the shop do so because they genuinely like us and what we provide.

So…. this year my shop was voted “best bike shop” by one of the local newspapers polls. Yeah… I take it with a grain of salt, because Olive Garbage was voted “best Italian restaurant.”
But I couldn’t help be a little pleased…
Because about three years ago, I really went for that poll. I mean…..I sent out an email to all my customers…. called and texted friends…. told anyone and everyone on Facebutt to vote for us. And after all that work….we didn’t even merit a “runner up.”
Yeah.
This year? I wrote it off… and made one sarcastic facebook post about voting for us and all of your wildest dreams coming true.

Then promptly forgot about it. Until one morning a month later, one of my employees texted me, “We won!”
Awesome!…. uh….Won what?!
“The poll, dude! The Reader’s Poll!”
Oh….Sweet!

I’m extremely grateful to everyone who voted for us. You like us… you really, really like us.
And I like you too. Hell… I love you guys and gals.

And look….I’m blowing off some steam here as we come off the insanity that is Thanksgiving consumerism. Consumerism that just doesn’t apply to small independent stores.
Sure… AmEx promoted Small Business Saturday. And damnit, they SHOULD, because they charge us a premium for the “privilege” of being able to accept their cards. Seriously. $1800 becomes like $1650. But with Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and Sex-fiend Sunday)… I don’t know if local establishments of any kind get a whole lot of love during the holidays.

And, of course, you must know that I’m speaking in the broadest and most sweeping of generalities.
I love my customers. And I love converting new people into customers.
And they know I’m not talking about them when I bitch about “good buddy discounts.”
(Except for that one guy… and he knows who he is.) I don’t have the kind of restraint to have not lectured you long ago if I felt like you were asking too much. There’s a difference between a customer and my customer.

And promotions and sales aren’t a bad thing, save for when they set a precedent or trap of constant discounts. And when I see a sticker that says 49% off, and know that my margin on that item was less than that, I get in a tizzy.

And there are some great companies and brands out there that really do commit to the Independent Bicycle Dealers, or IBD’s as we’re kollectively k-nown.
And there are some that just talk the talk.

Also…. there are some great, large, multi-location shops out there. I’m not bitching about real bikes shops. I’m talking about retail outlets posing as bike shops.
You know who you are.
Fuck off.

And for all my vitriol and anger (Kurt…. you ain’t got nuthin’)… I love the hell out of this industry. I just think it needs a swift kick in the ass. Or an ever-so-gentle throat-punch.

Ritte shirt mod

Bottom line…..the face of retail is changing rapidly.
Old models don’t work anymore and a new paradigm is at hand.
But what is that paradigm?
I don’t have the answers. Just a lot of (really really pertinent and astute beyond your wildest imaginings) opinions. And as anyone who reads Bikerumor will attest… opinions are like assholes, everyone wants one…. er…I mean… has one.

Momaw Nadon, aka Hammerhead. Who more often than not posts his scathing commentary under the nom de guerre: Anonymous.

Momaw Nadon, aka Hammerhead. Who more often than not posts his scathing commentary under the nom de guerre “Anonymous”

And in my opinion… Rich Dillen is an asshole. (He’s not really… I just wanted to say that. (But really, he is.))
Which circuitously takes us back to the crux of this Dead Guy fueled missive….
(It does? Is this another one of your “metrics” or something?)

What do people want?

Some of it I know.
They want readily available product.
They want relatively quick gratification.
They want to be treated fairly.
They want a free handjob.
(Wait… what? They don’t?! You mean I shouldn’t be throwing that in with every bike purchase?! No other shops are doing that?!! Ugh. Time to rewrite the business plan. Again.)

On the availability front, given the overheads of stocking every widget around in the offchance that someone needs it, the shops are very much at a loss. Especially given the sheer quantitiy and variety these days. But do me a favor. Give your shop a chance…. because every time you DO purchase from them, even if they had to special order it, you’re helping them get that much closer to being what you need them to be.
And maybe it costs a little more than that online deal you saw. But unlike the company on the other side of the country that gave you x amount off,  that local shop is probably pretty involved in your local scene, and doing what they can to improve riding in your neck of the woods. And they’ve probably given time and money to that improvement. And you’ve probably had a free beer or two at their shop. Or ridden bikes with them.
As opposed to some dude in another state who did who knows what with your money.

Much of the real tension comes from number 3. People want to be treated fairly. And so do we, mate. So do we. And when the very slim margin we potentially make (before taxes) on a bike is whittled down to an even slimmer margin simply because “Good Buddy” “doesn’t pay retail” but “really wants to support your shop”, my honest opinion is that I’m very much not being treated fairly, much less supported.
I’m not ripping anyone off by charging them what the bike is supposed to cost.
M’kay?

If we can find that balance, and not be dicks to each other, and remember to take our pills, or just pull our heads out of our asses, then I think we can take this industry, and cycling in general, to the next level of awesome. Because for all my obnoxious blather, that’s all I want. But if bottom line keeps getting eroded away, and a pursuit of all things cycling becomes a pursuit of all things discounted, then I don’t see much progress happening. And if that’s all the people want… then let’s give it to them. In lethal doses.

Thank you beloved ones for your time and consideration of our business proposition of BICYCLES and looking forward to your correspondence on this matter.
Warm regards and blessings
Barrister Watts S. Dixon Esq.

PS. Support your local shop.

PPS. Read about all manner of uninteresting things on Watts’s blob.

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95 Comments
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Other Zap
Other Zap
8 years ago

Too long. I’m not reading all that self-indulgent sh*t.

chris
chris
8 years ago

you sir, are a madman! In a good way. Had some damned good points.

Cletus
Cletus
8 years ago

Bravo.

Bra-vo.

ve
ve
8 years ago

I thought it was funny the first time. It was droll the second time. It was unbearable the third time. Now I skip past the content to the comments section.

tim w
8 years ago

A thousand thumbs up, sir. I wish every customer could read this…

Gillis
Gillis
8 years ago

Best post I’ve read on BR, possibly ever. As an 8 year veteran of the industry (as a head mechanic), I wholeheartedly agree with this.

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

Not sure the Jay and Silent Bob style gay bashing jokery works anymore in 2013 or is even appropriate (awesome though those movies are) but otherwise good points. We get the LBS-es we deserve. I am guilty of a lot of online shopping, rather than ordering through my LBS (of course they don’t stock what I want, but chickens and eggs, etc), since it’s more convenient and cheaper. But when I testride a bike somewhere and like it, I buy it there. And I don’t haggle. Do I get brownie points? (see what I did there…?)

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

…and no, I didn’t read all of it, of course. Nice pictures though!

Hobbanero
Hobbanero
8 years ago

Watts–

Your first mistake was getting into a business that people do for love, rather than greed. Of course, without people like you, I would not be able to take to product of my greed to indulge my love.

Your rant is long on description (and colorful, at that), but short on prescription. It would seem that the bike industry is going the way of the local bookseller and and hifi stereo shop. For the big brands, that is okay. They keep pumping out the marketing and people will buy their stuff from whatever outlet. The cognoscenti will keep a few IBDs in business.

My guess is the losers will be the earnest new cyclists looking for advice and better gear, and the parts companies without major OEM presence.

Overall bike sales in the US have stalled in terms of unit volume for a few years, though since bike prices keep going up, dollar volume continues to grow.

Long term, the way forward for the industry is to figure out how to get more people riding. I don’t think concentrating sales into a large retail format serves this aim very well. Would you go to Best Buy for an expert opinion on electronics, or to talk photography with other enthusiasts?

The shop owners I know share your gripes. The more successful ones have built a community of riders around their shops that forms the lifeblood of the business. They put on regular rides for all skill levels. People who ride break shit and buy parts, clothing and nutrition. People who don’t ride buy a bike that becomes a dusty garage relic. It does not really matter then where they bought it….no one is making a living off the dusty bike.

One would think that the major (and minor) powers in the bike industry would seek to raise the tide by stopping some of the behavior you are complaining about and keeping IBDs around. Ask any publisher how fun it is to deal with Walmart…they don’t want that.

Another problem is Amazon. In the same way that Google fucked it up for everybody by creating the expectation that everything on the Internet should be free, Amazon Prime makes me expect to get everything in 2 days, max. QBP does not work quite that fast, and then I still have to go back to the shop for my order. God help you when the Amazon drone can drop off my hard to find part at my doorstep 30 minutes after I order it.

Skynet becomes self aware, terminates the IBDs, and the future is split between Walmart and Online sellers. Not a great outcome for cycling, and a self-inflicted demise. Stupid humans.

carl
carl
8 years ago

AMEN BROTHER! Been working in bike shops off and on since the late seventies. The changes are scary…. And it’s not just us. America’s pursuit of the cheaper price is in part why so much of what we sell can’t be made here anymore, consequently putting our family, friends, and neighbors out of work. Folks…. repeat after me… BIG BOX STORES SUCK! Take your heads out of the sand and THINK about what you’re doing.

Jtree
Jtree
8 years ago

I love to read and was getting into the argument…but yes, too long for me to get to the point.
Edit this, if you want more than a couple jaded shop owners to read your shit.

shoprat
shoprat
8 years ago

@Gunnstein: What gay bashing are you talking about? There’s is absolutely none of that in this article.

wako29
wako29
8 years ago

I agree with many things in this article, but one thing that I cannot overemphasize is how the online retailers are killing this industry. Amazon, Pricepoint, Chain Reaction, and everyone else. The best way to combat this is to stop selling brands that allow themselves to be sold online – like Sidi, Castelli, Bell, Santa Cruz, etc etc. It is (almost) impossible for shops to compete with these online guys and really your brick & mortar shop turns into a place for them to try on the product and go home and buy it online. A simple solution is to simply NOT carry these products. Online retailers don’t keep up your local trails, don’t advocate for more bike lanes, don’t support local races, don’t support local teams, don’t offer ANY service (those youtube vids are shit, give just the info to marginally make it work), yada yada yada. We need to preach this to every cyclist. Support the people that support you. It’s not that hard…

lukee
lukee
8 years ago

WELL SAID- BRAVO

more to your point, when customers waste your time it’s called theft of service. It is no different than going to a doctor and getting his diagnosis (which is his opinion and working knowledge) and then telling him you don’t have to pay him because some doctor in India will charge less now that you know what needs to be fixed. Here is the joke of specialty retail. A doctor bills you for everything, an accountant needs to be paid before you get your taxes, a web designer wants a deposit/payment beforehand, an engineer wants a contract, so does a contractor etc… but bike shops need to give all this information for free because some tool is too “savy” to pay for retail with perks like that.

I think that ultimately if bike shops disappear, cycling will fade into the background like tennis did (remember when there used to be tennis stores, clubs, teams, leagues etc..) now it is just a sport a few weirdos are into. Don’t tell me that the internet will save the day because everyday there are 1000’s of new sites…. eventually all of it will become lost in the noise. Realistically, people can’t find restaurants 1 mile from them but they somehow will learn the sport of cycling by a Google search.

Case in point, my cousin has a kid really into games (think risk, monopoly etc..) His dad spent weeks researching online and was just spinning his wheels, finding lots of info and deals on games but little else. I told him to go to the local comic book shop (who caters to gaming in general) that led his kid to join a league, make friends, start a club at his school and meet a girl that is into it. Without that comic book shop to give him direction, and real people with passion like him, he would have done none of that. Now think about the average American. If you live in some small town with 1 bike shop and that shop closes. Where do you go to learn about bikes, racing, and the culture in general? You end up being raised and taught by modern society that riding a bike is a leisure activity that should be done rarely and a quality bike that will launch you into the sport can be found at wally world.

in the end

Amazon will not sponsor your local tri or crit
Wally World does not care about building trails
chain reaction cycles will not send staff to be tech support at the local race
performance could care less about all the people in your club becoming better athletes
Wiggle will not sponsor you for winning some little local race

all they want is your order…..then you can f#$$ off until their investors think sales are slow. Whereas, that dumb bike shop owner will continue to grow the sport at every level because it is what puts food in his kids mouths and reminds him why he bothers to keep doing this at all.

david french
david french
8 years ago

OK so everything he just said was correct. Badly written, but correct. Unfortunately all it does is make all of us in the retail side of the cycle industry come across as very sour faced.
The time (hopefully) will come when people realise (as I’m told today Mary Portas says) that good service and friendly advice will supersede the need for the lowest possible ticket price. Everyone (not just those who work in retail) will be better off for it!

winnrwinnrchikndinnr
winnrwinnrchikndinnr
8 years ago

Every time I skim one of this guys posts, it reads like someone who just turned 18, is living on his own for the first time, and is now allowed to swear and cuss. Not to say his writing isn’t well crafted and doesn’t have a place on the interwebs, but it’s completely out of place on Bike Rumor. I can’t figure out if BR is allowing these posts or if he’s somehow hacking into the site to publish them.

Anonymous Kyle
Anonymous Kyle
8 years ago

This is the best piece of $hit I’ve read all year. I’m getting ripped off with the handies at my LBS, or should I say not getting $erked off.

1speedlos
1speedlos
8 years ago

Well said, sir. I’ve been in the bike industry for more than 2 decades, and have seen internet sales really damage the local shops.
I worked inside sales at a parts distributor in the late 90’s, and it was appalling to get the “out of business” list every month.
Support your local shop, or prepare to start getting homogeneous, poor-riding crap as the industry continues it’s race to the bottom.

Los

JonDangerFTW
JonDangerFTW
8 years ago

Campy seatpost

skiptastic
8 years ago

Holy Crizap! Truth on Bikerumor and its cold in Texas. Hell has surely frozen over.

Matt
8 years ago

A rant of staggering genius. Everyone who has ever bought a piece of gear or bike or apparel online to save a few bucks needs to read this. You want a cool local bike scene — pay for it. You want the bike version of Walmart, then accept that the world you help create be a very cold, dull, out-sourced place — but enjoy that miserly deal you scored. I plan to make it my personal mission to party with Watts at the next Interbike and I am buying the first 5 rounds.

ve
ve
8 years ago

This is why I buy my parts at the co-op, do my own service, and go to the co-op for things I can’t do myself. That’s how I avoid being abused by entitled LBS owners and employees.

And honestly, if LBS aren’t going to keep things in stock and are going to pull out the QBP catalog and make me wait 2 weeks for a special order, yes I’d love to throw a bone your way, but I’m not going to pay a penny more than what I can get it online shipped to my door in under a week for.

Why should I order through a LBS when it’s slower and more inconvenient when they’re providing the same exact service as an online dealer at that point? They’re not doing me a service. I’m not trying out components. There’s exactly no advantage to special ordering through a shop. The only thing I’d be doing is giving some charity money to often rude and snobby people. When it comes to advocating, there are lots of other clubs and organizations here that do much more. What’s even worse is many shops don’t even advocate themselves, they give your money to the same organizations you can give money to yourself. But you can decide how much you want to give those organizations yourself.

Let’s not forget the $100+ 27-step tune-ups where the mechanic skips 20 of the steps, and you can tell he hasn’t even touched things that are included in the service, or when they seriously bodge your bike.

LBS needs to take a look in the mirror and figure out a working business model in which they can actually offer the customer something useful and the customer-seller relationship is a mutually beneficial one. Not a self-aggrandizing one where the LBS demands huge premiums (ransoms!) for doing absolutely nothing (except having employees to pay, paying the rent and bills, and all the overhead which is of no utility to buyers), heralding cries of small business, non-existent local support, scare tactics etc.

If you don’t provide service, if you don’t provide product, if you don’t provide good pricing, don’t expect business.

Sevo
Sevo
8 years ago

Sorry, but I’ve been in far too many shops that make a good case for buying on line. Crap mechanics, slow turn around, major “I work in a shop” attitude from some douche kid who doesn’t know how to adjust cone bearings. Guess what dickheads, you ain’t selling to bike only peeps now…cycling is a sport of the general public.

There are some great dealers, but more bad ones than ever. As a consumer, I’ve gone into a shop who’s been listed on a company’s site as an official “dealer” only to have hardly anything and sometimes nothing at all from that brand.

It gets worse.

A friend who used to own a very large brand told me a story after selling out of said brand about how many times he’d be on trips in a part of the country to visit dealers or be on other business yet make a point to stop into dealers who were listed/advertised on his site as dealers of his products. More than often than you’d expect in the last 3 years he’d go into a shop that was advertised as a dealer of his brand but not find his product anywhere in the store. Worse yet? They’d always try to sell them his competitor.

How does this make a guy who’s busted his ass to create a fantastic product for a dealer to sell who’s championed how important dealers are? One who’s taking his time to stop in and personally, as the owner of a $30 million a year company, stop in and see his “Dedicated” dealer in a given area?

Pissed.

Again, some fantastic shops. But not as many as there once were. Good ones will survive. Bad ones will go away. Simple as that. I know that’s not what many want to hear, but it’s the way it is. Adapt…and remember impeccable service/experience wins everytime.

Max
Max
8 years ago

VE – you write as though all LBS’s are managed by LBS, Inc.

Try a different shop. I was a shop mechanic for three years and I can’t agree enough with most of these points, rambling though they may be. One day, you are going to crash and need a new derailleur in time for your race/century/date/reconciliation ride with your long-lost father. discountbicyclesupplywarehousewholesaler.com isn’t going to be able to help you, so you’d better hope there’s an LBS left in town that can still afford to stock the derailleur you need.

Don’t think of it as a charity. Think of it as a rainy day fund.

Audred
Audred
8 years ago

ve- Are you talking 100 AUD for bodged up service?

ve
ve
8 years ago

@Max
I know they’re not. But the worst ones bitch and moan about small local business and online competition the most. The better ones have figured out how to bring in business. You know, because they actually have service and things that aren’t just from the QBP catalog.

As far as shops having the parts I need, I found it’s about 50/50. Sometimes they don’t even bother to maintain a good stock of tubes and chains. It’s not a rainy day fund, they don’t stock the stuff I need, it’s charity, and I am usually better off buying things online, and buying consumables ahead of time. I know there’s a mark up for convenience, but I’m not going to pay a mark up for less convenience.

If I manage to ruin the derailer on all my bikes, I can always head over to the co-op and buy any Shimano compatible derailer and salvage the old speed-appropriate pulleys.

By far the worst shop is the one that is closest to the local university, and for some reason they have no competition.

@Audred
$100 USD, more or less the same.

Audred
Audred
8 years ago

ve- Good point. The co-op isn’t a charity.

ve
ve
8 years ago

The co-op is a charity! But sometimes it feels like it goes in the other direction.

chasejj
chasejj
8 years ago

Part of this issue is that internet and explosion of sites like BR,Bike Radar,Pinkbike,etc. Have made the consumer hyper aware, maybe more so than the local LBS , so you roll in wanting to buy hotest new widget. But they don’t know anything or won’t carry it because of whatever reason. So you give up and order online and Competitive Cylcist has it there in 2 days!.

In addition, I am a DIY kind of rider/hobbyist who builds his own wheels and does his own service because I do not trust shop personnel I see. I should know I used to work in a shop for 6 years in college. Most of the groms would be working at Target if the poor LBS owner hadn’t been so desperate to hire someone cheap to be their wrench.

When I find a badass shop I will buy my stuff there, but sadly most of them offer me no value added to the purchase so I go online and buy and it is delivered days later to my doorstep. Hard to beat.

There is a succesful model of a shop waiting to be developed by someone smart. I just haven’t seen it yet.

Patrick Harrington
Patrick Harrington
8 years ago

Good for you. Rich Dillen is an asshole. When people asked me for a discount or a free service as a bicycle courier, I felt slimy and cheap when I relented. When I said no, I didn’t care whether I lost the customer or not.
People have every right to ask for a discount, so long as they are willing to look like a jerk and are willing to hear yes OR no. I don’t envy your position as an owner. I have actually taken my bike into shops because I thought the mechanic would know more than I about item X, only to be disappointed and frustrated later while fixing it myself. I will always support the local bike shop.

FM
FM
8 years ago

I’ve only been working in a LBS for three years, so I don’t have the same perspective as other people. Anyways, here are my unsolicited thoughts:

1. I actually enjoy’s Watt’s style of writing.

2. During the summer when we do more volume, if someone comes in and needs to order something from QBP, they often get it in a day or two. This depends on what time they come in and the day of the week. We’d usually do three or four orders a week and most products got to the shop the next day. Basically, faster than Prime for some people.

3. I actually don’t think we lose many sales to the internet. Customers come into bike shops looking for advice and they get it. They also get a pitch about our deals and free tune ups with the purchase of a new bike. My perspective is that the sales that we lose usually go to competing shops. I see customers come in every day needing service with something they bought on the internet. Ultimately, most end up buying future products from out store.

3. From where I’m sitting, companies are making the LBSs do damage to each other. There is so much pressure to order more bikes to get to a lower price bracket that they order more than they need. By the end of the summer there is huge pressure to sell that year’s bikes. Especially since the next years bikes are being unveiled earlier and earlier. This leads to us selling most bikes below retail starting in about August. Nine out of ten people that ask end up getting a discount. That’s on top of the normal huge deals on accessories and service. Once one shop starts discounting bikes, competitors have to discount too just to remain in the conversation. This is especially difficult with two concept stores in town. Bike shops end up discounting more money than they save by buying too many bikes.

I understand that manufacturers are trying to reward their bigger dealers. They end up making more money while the LBSs all lose. This might be a pipe dream, but what if manufacturers had one set price structure and had faith that the quality of their product will keep dealers buying

Example: BMC. The margin is laughable but we keep them on because we really think they have a superior product.

Boethius
Boethius
8 years ago

I am a shop owner. I do small brands by choice-big brands are not a small shops friend. I do special orders for anything and get it in a week or less-mostly 3 days. I try to go as low as reasonably possible on price. I do neutral support at races. I do trail work-lead group rides,etc. My “competitor” has TREk N Dale-over charges-puts used parts on repairs-is a general moron about mountain bikes. Because of the love of big brands-he does ok. He takes weeks to order for people and forgets half the time. He hurts my business as bad as mail order. If you have a bad experience at an LBS…..VE….find another. I helped start a co-op down south-but left because of that attitude-and the fact that I had to help every one out from the crap know it alls told them. Some of us do this because it is what we do. I have worked in shops since 1987-owned 2-managed 2 others. I hate people and bikes. But here I am at 11:44 on a fRiday night posting this-and answering emails from people I will never see about stuff they will buy online. When they DO need a shop….I hope we are all gone and they can get into scooters or rollerblades…..I work 60hrs a week-build custom wheels and bikes-and I make less than a dishwasher….so go F yourself,buy mailorder,whatever…….you will never get why real bikes shops exist……or probably why I build $3000 steel rigid single speeds just to be in poverty and stay pissed off. But there is this new tool I need,and I love the smell of USA made metal bike parts-so,come by,grab some coffee and chat while I work. Wear out chain rings-and get a deal here….we are here for the real bikers. And I am not alone…….we are out there on the fringes,hanging on….just find us left of the dial.

Joshua Murdock
8 years ago

Damn it, I forgot that this article was about the “VE is a God” industry and how it’s monthly human sacrifice quota is low…

Remind me to contact you before we stock up for the spring so I can cater to your oh so immediately vital needs.

Yours is the venomous attitude that destroys local cycling communities and shops. I’m a full-time shop employee and have been for a while. I’ve worked at good and bad shops in cycling communities and in non-cycling communities. Now, granted, I’m young. I have NOT seen it all – not even close… I am nowhere near knowing it all. I have a few customers who are just as mechanically savvy as I sometimes hope I am, if not more. I ride with the shop customers. I race against them… Or with them, it all depends on who’s stronger that day. I buy sandwiches from their delis. I get my tattoos at their tattoo gallery. I buy my coffee at the cafe they’re baristas at. We are an incredibly cohesive community with patience, understanding and appreciation for each other. These three things allow us to weather the occasional storm of inconveniences and the incredibly rare shortness of attention. My best friends and pseudo-family are my coworkers, my boss and my regular customers. Anyone who buys even the most insignificant, piddly thing from the shop is helping me pay my rent, helping my boss feed his family and keep his house and, less important in the big scheme, keep the shop open with me in it.

I have had some shitty days at work among the innumerable great days… But a bad day at the bike shop beats a day working anywhere else. Why? It’s my job to get people stoked on bikes. No discounter chain or internet blowout retailer will ever do that.

ve
ve
8 years ago

There’s always the club and/or co-op to get people stoked on bikes. And to advocate. And maintain local trails. Etc. The LBS isn’t the center of cycling culture everywhere. I’d rather be stoked about bikes by someone who isn’t trying to push a product onto me.

This is exactly the entitled behavior I’m talking about, which is toxic to your own business. You like your job. You think customers should pay more so you can have fun with your job. You feel entitled to that business, because there’s a slight chance you might patron a customer’s business. You feel that your shop is entitled to exist because it’s good for you that it exists.

It’s entitled to exist if it provides a service. If it provides a service then chances are it has the means to exist. That’s what most good LBS do. Then there’s the LBS that constantly bitches and moans and tries to use scare tactics to coerce people into paying huge premiums while not providing any sort of useful service.

A bike shop isn’t entitled to exist because it’s a bike shop. You actually should make an effort to make it a good bike shop. There’s absolutely no reason for me to visit a bad bike shop if the bike shop provides no service of value. By the way, I didn’t bring up immediate vital needs, one of you LBS advocates did.

A good business is based on a mutually beneficial relationship.

Joshua Murdock
8 years ago

Our business is thriving from excellent customer service, a respectful relation with customers, reasonable prices and a commitment to doing the right thing by everyone. We also understand that we can’t win ’em all despite our efforts to do so… which sometimes requires stifling the bad attitude you seem to so often unfortunately encounter. The success of the shop speaks for itself. Sure, a co-op or club can do the things you describe… But we actually do it, too. And I wonder… If these bike shop kids are so inexperienced, you must be qualified enough to see their ineptitude. Why does someone else have to work on your bike for you?

Joshua Murdock
8 years ago

Additionally, I strongly agree with your final statement. A mutually beneficial relationship is vital. I would certainly hope that, as the professor of that statement you understand that a mutually beneficial relationship involves the customer benefitting the shop, not just the shop benefitting the customer as his every whim with little or no reward. You can’t expect any positive experience at a shop of you have truly written off any local shop in the manner illustrated above.

I’m not saying we’re anything special… But you must at least admit that local bike shops and their employees still fill an important roll. If we are as worthless as you indicate, why do you seem so bothered by the predicament of that which you don’t need?

ve
ve
8 years ago

“Why does someone else have to work on your bike for you?”

They don’t. I already said I do my own work on my bike when possible. A lot of LBS don’t fill an important role to me that involves my patronage, which is distributing and tuning bikes to those incapable of doing so themselves.

” Sure, a co-op or club can do the things you describe… But we actually do it, too.”

Someone brought up that those things are why I should support a LBS. LBS don’t have a monopoly on those things. I can get those things elsewhere.

My point is if there’s no benefit to the customer, that’s not good business. LBS shouldn’t just play victim to get pity dollars. If there’s online competition, then that requires a rethinking of the business model to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the customer. If they can’t, it’s not a sustainable model. I can’t convince anyone to pay me to have fun all day riding bikes at a non-pro level. There’s no benefit to the customer for an LBS charging more for a QBP special order that the customer can just order online. An LBS shouldn’t expect that business just because they’re an LBS.

As far as purchasing complete bikes goes, I’d consider it if any LBS bothered to stock XS/S bikes to test ride. But they don’t. It’s all special order because of the low turn over rate. Again, there’s no reason to pay a premium to the LBS for them to order it for me. What’s the overhead for a special order? It requires no investment of capital, no shelf space, very limited storage consumption, very little risk, less manpower, etc.

You’re right, it goes both ways. What kind of reward does the customer get in exchange for visiting the LBS instead of buying online? There should be something for the customer, not just “supporting your LBS”. Supporting the LBS is a reward for the LBS, not for the customer. I have no issue with a good LBS that has figured it out, but there are a plurality of bad ones, with bad service that I see no point in supporting.

This article doesn’t tell me what a LBS does for the customer. It just complains about competition. It complains about customers looking to give the LBS a chance before turning to the competition. It complains about customers trying to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the LBS because it’s just not good enough for the LBS. The LBS should bleed the customer a little more when they’re under no obligation to do business with the shop. Because of some innate virtue of the small independent bike shop that is doing so much good for the customer by just existing. Frankly, the customer probably doesn’t lose a lot by not doing business with the shop.

The only valid point is suppliers betraying their dealers and not making it possible for them to sell competitively, like when a LBS wholesale price is higher than an online price. That’s just a lose-lose.

Oli Brooke-White
8 years ago

Good shit, Watts. Thanks for taking the time.

Chris D
Chris D
8 years ago

We all know what is ‘wrong’ with retail in general. It’s a malaise familiar to anyone who has visited a high street in the past 10 years (for those across the pond, the ‘high street’ is where we Brits used to keep our shops, until we started copying your malls. Oh, a ‘shop’ is a ‘store’ to you….). All the independent speciality businesses have gone.
Online sellers are blamed, and no doubt have contributed; having lower overheads they can afford to discount to a greater extent than ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses.
What I don’t understand is how they regularly give such large discounts on mainstream branded items – from the likes of Shimano for example – I regularly see 50% price reductions, on fairly current models. Is this stock knocked-off? Is it the stock clearance from failed businesses? Is it stock sold by the manufacturer to be fitted as OEM, but which got ‘diverted’ somehow? In many cases I suspect the latter – and it clearly happens so much that I wonder if the manufacturers are complicit. If this is so, then it is double standards by the manufacturers which is ruining the high street, and killing off the LBS.
Does anybody have an insiders view on this? I’d really like to know!

hellbelly
8 years ago

Watts, I enjoyed this piece and others you have written. I learned the hard way in the offices I have owned to expect and be prepared for the worst. The small businesses that make it build a loyal following, aggressively/creatively market themselves and provide something more than everyone else. Then again, remember at the end of the day the only person who can make you feel bad is you. When some schmuck rolls in and tells me how they want my to deliver the moon and the heavens to them while I toss their salad and they want an untenable discount, I laugh to myself, take a deep breath and smile as I tell them no. I can probably give them a break on the moon and heavens, but the salad tossing is a fixed cost. Certainly don’t let said schmuck make you angry. Laugh it off and go ride.

Gummee!
Gummee!
8 years ago

IME LBSes and their chain store brethren exist to support casual to semi-frequent riders and their needs. You should seen the ‘lawn furniture grade’ bicycles I’ve had to get ‘working.’ I put working in quotes because despite my best efforts, crap bikes never work right.

Having said that, the people with the ‘lawn furniture grade’ bicycles are usually the ones that’re tickled pink when their bike(s) come back to them at least close to working right. The individuals with the fancy-pants bikes are the ones that get all huffy if you ‘didn’t lift their bikes into the workstand right.’ (I’ve actually seen that complaint on another site) and demand discounts.

For the most part, once you get to ‘enthusiast’ the LBS becomes more of a social thing than a ‘need.’ The LBS becomes a place to meet your buddies and do the things you like to do together (ride), and maybe stock up on a gel, tube, or X. By the time you get to where you’re riding enough to call yourself an ‘enthusiast’ you should be able to work on your own stuff.

I’ve been on both sides of the aisle: big box retailer in the bicycle business and in an IBD. Both have challenges, but the IBD is up against a wall known as ‘internet sales.’ My best prescription it to smile and charge full-boat labor for installs of brought in parts. I say smile because you didn’t have to order any of the widgets that just walked in your door, you didn’t have to check em in, tag em, and then pay for em net 30/60/90. You get the good part: the labor. AKA least overhead, highest profit margin $ you can make.

If you’re not hosting rides, safety rodeos for kids, supporting your local trail builders, and other mostly free things you can do to get the shop name out there, you’re going to have problems going forward

Good luck!

Aar
Aar
8 years ago

Buy from local businesses. No local businesses = no community. Thanks for adding a full pallet of color to that reminder.

renodh
renodh
8 years ago

I would love to see an edited version of this that I can recommend to friends, family and customers.
Thanks for putting the time into the whole thing, I am glad I read it.

carl
carl
8 years ago

Does anyone here know what VE does for a living? It might be very telling about his attitude.

@GUMMEEE – I spent a few years in PRO-SHOPS and now work in a small Mom & Pop (that has been in business for 40 years!!). You’re right on the money…. the people who own the high end bikes generally don’t know too much more than the people who own the WalMart bikes but are much more of a pain in the butt. Get a $79 bike working and the owners are ecstatic. Well said.

ABW
ABW
8 years ago

Good dialogue. Watts – it’s long, but I like your writing style. VE is making the most interesting comments here. I don’t agree with all of it, but he has a point. LBS don’t deserve business just because they’re in business. I don’t think that’s what the author is arguing, since his shop (allegedly – I’ve never been there) is one that does offer value beyond what you can get online.

They system is broken. It would be fine if it was simply a matter of survival of the fittest, but it’s not just the shitty shops going out of business, and I’m afraid the average rider has no idea what the cycling industry will look like without the LBS. I want to emphasize *average rider.* The average rider is nearly helpless when it comes to the technical aspects of the bike. S/he more often than not cannot even change a flat tire. You DIYers out there are the exception. You will be OK if the LBS goes away. The *average* rider will be screwed.

Would it be collusion to stage community wide strikes by the LBS? All you shop owners get together for coffee some morning, settle on a week in the middle of the summer, and all agree to take a vacation together. Lock your doors. Put up signs apologizing for the inconvenience. Include instructions on how to use Google to purchase and install a chain. Would that make a difference? “And don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone…”

TwoWheelsTooFast
TwoWheelsTooFast
8 years ago

Bravo! Society is fkd up on many levels, but specialty retail getting undercut by bargain-hunters is definitely up there.

Cotter Pin
Cotter Pin
8 years ago

you just summed up all (most) of the reasons I turned down an offer to own a local shop that ive managed for 15+ years. Online and Big Box has killed the LBS. Sure, you can scrape out a living as an LBS, but i do mean scrape, and even then, who has time to ride when your donating your time 6 days week?

I commend you on your task, Sisyphus.

plume
plume
8 years ago

I see it as a global economy issue. The IBD operates at a much slower pace than manufacturers and wholesalers. The issue is with the large manufacturers and OEM specifications, this is where the overflow of extremely cheap components occurs. Bike brands with left overs, and even the manufacturers themselves sell (almost directly) to the online brands. The IBD is left holding a devalued product, or being forced to special order a product that most folks can get for the same price themselves. There are a few companies trying to battle this, but it just comes down to the value of the product. Online sellers aren’t getting these products in the US, or if they are, they’re nabbing it while still in a huge tanker container – but they’re certainly not buying from the same people LBSes are and charging 10 cents more per item, (sometimes less). So where is the product coming from? That’s the issue. More people need to ask this question and the manufacturers need to start answering it honestly. The rest of the conversation is just ego, ego from the LBS owners and employee’s and ego from the entitled amateur racer… you take away the “back door economy” and take away cheaper products found elsewhere and you take away the problem.

Talking about offering superior service is fine but not a realistic way to keep a retail business afloat. Shops can’t survive on labor charges alone – should be able to, but can’t. Shops that offer superior service need to charge more to stay competitive but then it’s viewed as ripping off the consumer. You’ll see more and more service only oriented bike shops and small outfits with simplistic overhead, or just huge chains. I don’t see the medium sized shop surviving any of this.

But… it’s a manufacturer’s problem that falls on the shoulders of the end user, in this case, the retailer. I wonder about the pricing with the wholesalers as well, sometimes I think that they need to be accountable for slimming margins.

And let me be clear… I don’t have any more specifics than anyone else here does but the math is simple: if you’re selling a product for less than anyone else can sell it for – you bought it for a lot less in the first place…