Revolting Cogs – Give the people what they want…. In lethal doses.

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.

Comments

Other Zap - 12/06/13 - 2:50pm

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

chris - 12/06/13 - 3:07pm

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

Cletus - 12/06/13 - 3:08pm

Bravo.

Bra-vo.

ve - 12/06/13 - 3:39pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 3:59pm

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

Gillis - 12/06/13 - 4:02pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:03pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:06pm

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

Hobbanero - 12/06/13 - 4:06pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:07pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:11pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:15pm

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

wako29 - 12/06/13 - 4:24pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:28pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:36pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:38pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:42pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 4:48pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 6:03pm

Campy seatpost

skiptastic - 12/06/13 - 6:11pm

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

Watts Dixon - 12/06/13 - 6:12pm

Thanks to the folks who’ve “enjoyed” it. I figured this would get some responses. I’m on the road now and only have my mobile, so can’t respond in depth. But to a few points. THIS and VE… I’m with you. It’s pretty obnoxious. And it’s entirely too long. It was either break it up or push it through, and I opted for the latter. Probably did it a disservice. And hope I haven’t done other dealers a disservice by drowning good points in my own stupidity. If you made it through, I hope it got you thinking, from whichever side you’re coming from. That was all I really wanted. Thanks again. I eagerly await more spit and throat punches.

Matt - 12/06/13 - 6:27pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 6:36pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 7:45pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 8:05pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 8:17pm

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

ve - 12/06/13 - 8:57pm

@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 - 12/06/13 - 9:05pm

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

ve - 12/06/13 - 9:14pm

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

chasejj - 12/06/13 - 9:20pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 10:26pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 11:15pm

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 - 12/06/13 - 11:41pm

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 - 12/07/13 - 1:12am

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 - 12/07/13 - 1:45am

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 - 12/07/13 - 2:28am

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 - 12/07/13 - 2:34am

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 - 12/07/13 - 3:36am

“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 - 12/07/13 - 3:42am

Good shit, Watts. Thanks for taking the time.

Chris D - 12/07/13 - 5:30am

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!

Watts Dixon - 12/07/13 - 7:58am

Glad to see some dialogue. That was the goal. If you’ve agreed or disagreed, you’ve still had to think about it, which is really all I wanted. Some good points coming in. Thanks again for reading that epic. Ugh. You probably should get a prize for that. Thus far, the best comment goes to OTHER ZAP. “Too long. I’m not reading that self indulgent shit.” Amen, brother. Amen.

hellbelly - 12/07/13 - 9:04am

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! - 12/07/13 - 9:24am

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 - 12/07/13 - 9:41am

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

renodh - 12/07/13 - 12:41pm

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 - 12/07/13 - 1:14pm

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 - 12/07/13 - 1:27pm

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 - 12/07/13 - 2:04pm

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

Cotter Pin - 12/07/13 - 2:38pm

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 - 12/07/13 - 3:01pm

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…

CJ - 12/07/13 - 4:24pm

There are some pretty simple bottom-line solutions to this problem that too few bike shops employ. Focus your business around higher margin items like soft goods, fastidiously manage your bike inventory with minimal credit, and figure out ways to reduce bike related labor costs. There are tons of awesome shops that do just this and make great money doing so. Unfortunately, I think there are more shops, like the one featured above, that stick with the same tired industry bullshit, and blame their customers for opting for an online purchase rather than pay for their bloated inventory, poor cash-flow management, and excess overhead.

Joshua Murdock - 12/07/13 - 4:56pm

VE, I definitely understand were you’re coming from. If you’ve had the misfortune of dealing only with poorly run shops then, yes, you are right for not feeling any need or desire to give them business.

However, your argument on the stocking of uncommon parts/sizes, overhead on special orders and the benefit of ordering from a shop vs. online is grossly misconceived, riddles with misconceptions and borders on totally invalid. It certainly does not reflect the level of knowledge or comprehension that anyone who has worked in retail (or specifically a bike shop) would have. Before you make claims about such things, learn about such things.

I was a customer of bike shops before I ever worked at one. When I travel, I am just another nondescript, no-name customer at other shops. I see things from both sides of the sales counter and mechanic stand. I definitely agree with retailers having to be of significantly greater service to the customer than the internet in order to stay relevant (of course I agree, that’s what I do for a living…) but I strongly disagree with a lot of the claims you make.

Audred - 12/07/13 - 4:59pm

Watts:
Not trying to tell you how to run your business, but your price on Motobecanes is like WAY higher than I’m seeing online. And your Scattantes are invariably marked at full price. The LBS by Brixx ALWAYS has them on sale for a good chunk off that. Also, why should I spend my hard earned bucks at a shop like yours on a size XXL complete bike and still have to pay MORE to swap the appropriately sized cranks to 172.5??

Jason Gregg - 12/07/13 - 5:00pm

“Hey kids…”

This is a good article Watts. If I’d never read the one on the doper fond, no big deal. But this one actually learned me something.

Thanks.

TwoWheelsTooFast - 12/07/13 - 6:44pm

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

http://i.imgur.com/d18tKGM.gif

John Parker - 12/07/13 - 7:39pm

I will tell you what I think the future of the IBD is when I get back from Blockbuster.

ve - 12/07/13 - 7:58pm

@Joshua Murdock
No, I understand perfectly why a shop won’t take a risk on odd size parts. That also means there’s less reason for me to buy from a shop.

Care to detail where all the overhead is on special orders? All you do is claim my arguments are invalid without making any counterarguments. That’s weak. I pay the money up front. There’s no capital investment. It stays in the back. There’s no showroom space wasted. There’s no risk, it’s already a done deal. It takes out very little back room storage because it won’t be there long. Tell me what the benefit of ordering through a shop is. You tell me to learn about these trade secrets, but you certain don’t bother to enlighten me or anyone else. You just deny, deny, deny.

I in fact went to another LBS today. The guy did not want to listen what I wanted from a bike, he wanted to push his dead inventory on me, like a parts swapped downgraded 6700 Ultegra bike that cost as much as the MSRP of a similar model of the same make 6800 bike. Or an old model that was $700 off of retail, when their listed retail was $600 more than what it says on the manufacturer’s site for this year’s model. This has nothing to do with me giving LBS a shot or not. In no way are these guys doing me a service. Yes, they might be “working” and I might be “wasting their time” but it’s their own fault for wasting mine.

This was a 4.5 star shop on yelp. That just goes to show you that some LBS stay in business by pretending to be knowledgeable and tricking their customers into thinking they’re satisfied, getting a good deal, getting a good product and getting good service. The average person who walks into this shop comes with a broken bike, and is happy to pay out the nose to get it fixed or a get brand new bike. I don’t care how friendly they are if they’re a bunch of pushy conmen.

It’s not an unusual business model for a bike shop either. The one near the local university does more or less the same thing in addition to being rude because they know college kids on bikes have no other choice when there are no other shops within casual biking distance.

I don’t know why they expect my money or a sale.

WattsIsAP* - 12/07/13 - 8:01pm

Watttttsss…. Just mark everything up a ton, then put sale stickers on them back to retail… Works every time. Love your Pisgah Partner

ve - 12/07/13 - 8:04pm

Oh right, maybe not all LBS are the same, but not all customers are the same either. I’m sorry I’m not one of your “good” customers that will pay out my ass for bad service and bad products without second guessing anything. If the LBS gets to moan about “bad” customers that they didn’t want anyways, then I’ll moan about bad LBS that I wouldn’t want to do business with anyways.

spokejunky - 12/07/13 - 8:12pm

Sorry, but not really endemic of the bike industry. This happens in wide swaths of just about every business out there nowadays. More likely a society problem and to be specific growing pains with introducing world trade. In all honesty if we want to see where the bike industry is going you should probably ask someone who used to work in textiles. Seriously.

John Parker - 12/07/13 - 8:19pm

I will be happy to share with you my thoughts on the future of the IBD right after I get back from Blockbuster.

Audred - 12/07/13 - 9:15pm

ve- This can’t be a real thing, right? This is Watts doing character work?

Dave - 12/07/13 - 11:39pm

I spent 10 years in the industry, and I’m out now. Good riddance. Working in bike shops, I got to work every weekend and miss dinner with my family every night. I had time to ride once a week if I was lucky, and never with my friends – see point on weekend shifts. For my troubles, I was paid wages ranging from poverty level to the upper end of working class. Health insurance was sporadic at best. I had one vacation in that entire decade.

And frankly? Given the profit margins on those shops, I couldn’t reasonably expect anything more. I wasn’t the guy with the shit attitude giving LBS’s the bad name some deserve – I had customers follow me from shop to shop, sometimes over an hour’s drive to buy $5000 bikes. Glowing Yelp reviews called me out by name. But, like Watts says, after chiseling out cost of goods sold, sales time, build labor, setup time (installing accessories and fitting), 30 day tuneup, credit card fees, rent, utilities, taxes, etc., the store owner could pocket maybe $500. So god help him if he caved to somebody like Ve and stocked a $2000 bike in a small, because that shit ain’t gonna sell and now he’s $1500 in the hole.

Your local bike shop is screwed and dying. I don’t care how good it is – between online competition, local competition, exploitative relationships with bike manufacturers, and the rest, sooner or later (and odds are on sooner) its doors are going to close. The concept stores will probably last longer (but don’t think for a second they aren’t feeling the pressure too). But the net effect for the consumer is that you’re going to be stuck buying online (oh, those shoes don’t fit? Good thing they were 40% off, cause you’re stuck with them), doing your own maintenance (New rider? Before you hop on and start pedaling, first you better watch 3 hours of YouTube videos to learn how to build and fix the bike you just bought online), and choosing from an ever-dwindling set of events to ride in because that Saturday crit you’re paying $50 to race in? Guess what – everyone involved in it is losing money, especially the bike shop sponsoring it, and sooner or later those sponsors are gonna cut their losses and bail.

So to the consumer: have fun reading roadbikereview to figure out which bibs will fit your body type best, and staring at frame geometries for hours trying to figure out what size to order on bikesdirect. To the manufacturers: way to go, sponsoring a pack of unapologetic juicers in the sport’s premier events and pillaging your distribution network to meet your annual sales goals (seriously, Shimano? You’re really gonna let Amazon sell your shit below wholesale? And don’t try to blame pricing policy violations on J&B, you know goddamn well Amazon sources it either from Trek, or straight from you). And to the shop rats: do yourselves a favor and get a real job. When you make twice what you used to because you aren’t being exploited, you don’t need EP pricing, plus you’ll have time to ride that fancy bike. It’s awesome.

Peaty - 12/07/13 - 11:51pm

That is one long comment thread…
ve- there is no such overhead on special orders, there are lots of dicks in cycling.
We (local shops) exist because there are customers out there who are willing to suffer us boring bike nerds long enough to get our advice and (hopefully) buy something from us. If you (or anybody else) doesn’t want to buy something from a local shop because they have deep seeded problems with supporting the local economy or were treated badly by some other shop, that is fine. We accept that.
Labelling all customers as pricks and all shops owners as lackeys trying to pull the wool over the eyes of customers is wrong, customers and shop owners are a mix of both.
There is a value to the local to the local economy just as there is value to online robots of death, the choice is your’s what to support.
Pick wisely.

ve - 12/08/13 - 12:57am

“So god help him if he caved to somebody like Ve and stocked a $2000 bike in a small, because that shit ain’t gonna sell and now he’s $1500 in the hole. ”

Stop putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say they should stock small. I said that if they’re not going to stock it, they’re going to special order it, they’re going to charge more, and not give me any service besides showing me a catalog or trying to fit me on the wrong size bike, they shouldn’t act entitled to a sale or upset that they didn’t make a sale.

If they can’t turn a profit, they need to rethink their business model.

As far as bashing online dealers for clothes sizing. Many have better return policies than the LBS.

This is the standard set of scare tactics the LBS tries to pull.

“You need us! Just imagine a horrible world without a LBS! The horror!”

“You need us to try on your bibs, shoes and bikes! But we won’t stock your size because we can’t sell it!”

“You need us to assemble your bike for $50! Putting on the QR front wheel and putting on the handlebars and stem and pedals takes 3 hours!”

“You need us to do basic adjustments! You can’t read Sheldon Brown or Park Tools and do the adjustments yourself in less time than it takes to get to the store!”

LBS – Lotsa BS

ve - 12/08/13 - 3:04am

@Peaty

A good working business relationship is about trying to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s not about demanding, blackmailing or trying to guilt trip people into paying extra for no value added. I don’t need to pay a counter jockey extra to place my order with QBP. When a shop refuses to stock things, like XS/S size things, they’re alienating those customers. But then they turn around and act entitled to their business because their status as a LBS. It’s the LBS choice to alienate those customers, if they decide serving those customers isn’t profitable.

They aren’t establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. The LBS wants to benefit at the expense of the customer who is under no obligation to pay more to get less. Until you throw in magic words like local economy. Then the LBS wants the customer they refuse to serve to engage in a transaction where there is no benefit for the customer.

And yes, I could keep going to different bike shops, that are progressively farther away, and progressively less local, but that starts to defeat the point, doesn’t it? And most shops still don’t stock XS/S even if you do look for a new shop. Most of them have the “Support your LBS just because” attitude though.

If I pick death robots, the only difference is that it gets shipped to my door, instead of the store, and I get a few extra bucks in my pocket. Thankfully if I want advice or the company of bike nerds I can go to the co-op or club who aren’t trying to sell me something.

dicky - 12/08/13 - 8:33am

Sigh.

66 comments. I thought that at least half of them would be in support of calling Rich Dillen an asshole.

Patrick Harrington, you get me. You really get me.

Big Cow - 12/08/13 - 9:31am

Rich Dillen is a chocolate starfish

some rider - 12/08/13 - 9:33am

The bib shorts thing brings up a pretty good example, really. Online one can solicit the opinions of dozens of people’s experience with a brand X bib shorts. And when you walk into the LBS, how many different pairs of bib shorts have the two dudes working worn? The volume of business done by some online places means they’ll accept returns/exchanges of even USED shoes! Now, if mount a cleat up and put some miles on a shoe that I then have to return to my LBS, or hell, if the LBS has to order two sizes bc I “guessed wrong” on the size I would need… now that LBS has to try and sell it– I feel like trying to special order stuff like that, actually puts the LBS in a bad spot.

Consumer reviews and internet forums can be a significant source of knowledge. That said, it’s also very easy to search and find info that only supports what you already believe, and its very easy to “mis-learn” stuff on the internet. We’ve all seen MTBR idiocy and lunacy. But I’ve also met some smart, experienced people online and have learned from their experience.

The best shops, the best mechanics, the best salespeople are ready to admit that they they aren’t some well of special knowledge, but they can demonstrate critical thinking, helpful skepticism, and help guide/check a customers “research” into making the best decision. Rolling your eyes & being dismissive every time a customer says “well I read X on MTBR” does not help the LBS cause.

No one bashes consumers for calling Click & Clack of “Car Talk” radio show as being anti-local mechanic.

Now– I don’t think Watt’s intent is to guilt consumers into spending money at their local independent business. Hell, that barely works for churches anymore, let alone any other industry. Methinks Watt’s most prescient point is that big brands/reps are not properly holding some IBD’s accountable to pricing deals/policies, and that wholesalers strategies are marginalizing the IBD.

After reading all that drivel, I think it’s more a call out to fellow industry insiders and wholesalers than an intentional guilt trip to the consumer.

rlee - 12/08/13 - 3:46pm

I work a thankless job. I work hard just like everyone else. If you run a LBS that I can stop buy on my way home from work, get called by name, sold parts at a fair price, and you listen to my oddball requests. Trust me in that I will spend my paycheck in your store.

mikealive - 12/08/13 - 4:38pm

@ve
I can understand what you are saying, wholeheartedly. However, your point of view is not that of the average bike shop customer– it’s self evident, that if you can perform a task faster, cheaper, or better/same standard in ANYTHING in life, then you will generally do it yourself. I change my own oil and plugs, but this does not serve as sufficient evidence that car mechanics are not needed, or that all are dicks, rip off artists. etc. Most customers of our service department are there because they are not handy themselves, or otherwise see the services we offer as “having value”. On more than one occasion I’ve seen bikes come in with the fork installed backwards… be it that they bought it like that from Wally World (actually happened), or that they assembled it themselves (actually happened, more than once). These folks can use our help–and as you have described yourself, you are not one of these people. So why do you continue to argue the point that “if they don’t provide anything that is of value to me, then why should I give them my money?”. WELL THEN DON’T. Is it really that f$%@ing hard to grasp?! No one *expects* your business if they are not offering something of value to you. The butcher shop is never pissed off that I can make my own deer jerky… there are plenty of people who can’t, and that is their customer base.

We get it pal, you largely, if not exclusively, deem LBSs as unnecessary. They cannot offer you a product or service that you feel is worth your time or money. Cool story bro. The argument isn’t that *everyone* needs to support their LBS… only that it is perhaps more of a “mutual benefit” than some consumers understand.

ve - 12/08/13 - 5:53pm

“So why do you continue to argue the point that “if they don’t provide anything that is of value to me, then why should I give them my money?”. WELL THEN DON’T. Is it really that f$%@ing hard to grasp?! No one *expects* your business if they are not offering something of value to you.”

Most LBS act otherwise. Including the guy in the actual article. People who can install a part themselves don’t need to buy from a shop either, but he bitches and moans about lost sales. Most LBS workers have the attitude that you should support your LBS just because they’re an LBS, even if they do nothing to support you.

“The argument isn’t that *everyone* needs to support their LBS…”

It actually is. LBS aren’t the angelic benevolent entities they pretend to be. Where exactly does the writer say what he does for his customers to help them? It’s pretty obvious that most LBS workers pretty much think I’m the devil for not supporting the LBS when the LBS does almost nothing to support me.

“only that it is perhaps more of a “mutual benefit” than some consumers understand.”

I understand that when a LBS wants my money for ordering from QBP, there’s no mutual benefit, the LBS just want to see a benefit for themselves, and complaining when the customer goes elsewhere, online, because there’s no benefit for the customer when they buy from a LBS.

Did I ever say that a LBS isn’t needed? I said I don’t need them because LBS don’t make themselves useful or needed to me. So why do they expect support when they don’t support their customers. There’s a wide variety of issues faced by various cyclists, such the experienced ones, who tend to come to BR and can manage a wrench. I suffer from a particular set of issues, another cyclist suffers from another. LBS simultaneously behave in a manner that feels entitled to customers while at the same time alienating them, because the LBS feels entitled to a certain amount of benefit without sympathizing with the customer to see if the transaction is of mutual benefit.

I honestly feel the whole “Support your LBS” thing to be hogwash. The people in most dire need of a LBS are people with no skills who tend not to be very involved in the cycling community.

Joshua Murdock - 12/08/13 - 7:07pm

Ok, VE, if you are this God among men of cyclists who neither need nor desires the pestilent institution known as the local bike shop, than get the hell out. Go away.

*Good* (key word) shop employees will treat 99% of customers as the most important thing is the store… because they are. they keep us running as long as we make it worth it for them to do so, which WE DO.

You are the 1% of potential customers with an attitude so shitty and a ill-conceived, self-aggrandizing, warped view of the shop that your patronage doesn’t mean shit do a damn person here. Maybe we charge a bit more than online retailers because sometime we have to deal with people like you.

You wonder why you have these reoccurring poor experiences at shops… well, maybe it’s because you have a terrible attitude towards the shop. A bad attitude towards the shop is almost always met with a bad attitude towards the customer… or at least not a warm and fuzzy one.

In your words,
“The people in most dire need of a LBS are people with no skills who tend not to be very involved in the cycling community.”

You are a dunce. This statement represents the epitome of degenerate attempts at cognition mixed with an almost belligerent generalization.

You can teach the ignorant but not the stupid.

ve - 12/08/13 - 8:14pm

“who neither need nor desires the pestilent institution known as the local bike shop”
I’ve been over this several times. Bike shops refuse to make themselves needed or desired.

“*Good* (key word) ”
True Scottsman, much?

“they keep us running as long as we make it worth it for them to do so, which WE DO. ”
That’s the problem. Lots of bike shops don’t. That’s why they’re losing sales to online dealers.

“You are the 1% of potential customers with an attitude so shitty and a ill-conceived, self-aggrandizing, warped view of the shop that your patronage doesn’t mean shit do a damn person here. ”
It has nothing to do with attitude, I don’t walk into a store and demand the LBS bend over for me, like you and the author imply. Many LBS aren’t making themselves relevant to the kind of customer who buys high end parts online, that’s why they’re losing sales. The sales figures don’t say 1%. It’s the business that determines the business model, not the customer.

” Maybe we charge a bit more than online retailers because sometime we have to deal with people like you. ”
So you do exactly nothing to be of service to certain people, and you guys wonder why you lose sales. Yes, it’s my bad attitude. Yes, like you assume I walk into a shop screaming at the top of my lungs being an asshole — not. That causes shops not to stock high-end/specialty components or small size anything.

“You wonder why you have these reoccurring poor experiences at shops… well, maybe it’s because you have a terrible attitude towards the shop. ”
No, it’s really not. Keep playing victim. The university serving shop is rude and condescending to everyone. The other one isn’t overtly rude, they’re just pushy conmen. Less local ones may not be rude, they just alienate potential customers by not offering any relevant services. Need I remind you counter jockey ordering from QBP is not a relevant service. LBS no longer has a monopoly on ordering from warehouses.

I don’t set their business models, I don’t tell them to set fake MSRPs, I don’t ask them to push dead stock on me, I don’t tell them not to stock things, and I don’t ask them to be rude the moment I walk in the door.

“You are a dunce. This statement represents the epitome of degenerate attempts at cognition mixed with an almost belligerent generalization. ”
You can insult as much as you want without backing up any of your assertions, but most enthusiasts could get by without the bike shop almost entirely. Many do. It’s casual and clueless people without skills or knowledge who NEED the shop.

The LBS can keep playing victim of tough customers, but much of the time it’s their own damn fault for not understanding how to maintain a business relationship and not making themselves relevant.

If you want to blame anyone, you can blame your distributors who don’t give you the means to be relevant.

Chainwhipped - 12/08/13 - 9:17pm

Honestly, I could care less what people buy online. What I don’t appreciate is the d-bags who hump my leg for information for hours on end and never drop a dime on a single goddamn thing in my store. Waste 5 hours of my time and you’ve cost me a good $300 in repair work that I could have finished.

And stop asking me why I don’t stock a bunch of super-high-end wheelsets. You can’t stock what doesn’t sell, and if there’s anything that’s guaranteed to go nowhere, it’s anything that you saw on Velonews. Yes, the wheels you’re asking about are really $3000. Yes, I realize you have no intention of spending that, which is why I don’t stock them. I DO have a great pair of Dt/hed belgium’s for a third of the price. What YOU don’t know is that I know you’re going to spend $300 on a haggard pair of ksyriums on ebay no matter what I have in the store because you think they’re a “good deal”.

The rims crack, Mavic gives you the finger, I’m the guy stuck in the middle that you get to yell at.

That was my August and the labor day weekend that followed. If only I’d offered the guy something awesome with a warranty.

Chas - 12/08/13 - 11:57pm

I work in a bicycle shop. I liked Watts’ article. It was long. I have the attention span to manage to read long things that make sense to me. Sometimes, I even read books.

I am happy for anyone who rides a bicycle. Cheap, expensive, bought at the shop where I work or wherever.

I’ve been doing this bicycle thing a long time – since 1971. I’ve helped a lot of people have better times on their bikes. I love a good win/win situation and it seems to me that lots of people also love that.

The commenter “ve” has such an adversarial approach that I’m not surprised he doesn’t have good experiences at bicycle shops. As I said, I’m happy for anyone who rides a bike. The internet is a good resource for someone who has a negative attitude toward dealing with people.

I’m in So. Calif. and we have tons of shops around us. Naturally, some are better than others. There is no possible way that someone from around here could say that there are not shops worth patronizing. Yet, there are still folks who are super negative about shops the same way “ve” is. I almost feel like I’ve met this person. I have met folks who have the same rap about how the internet is better than shops. I’m OK with that but it always leaves me wondering what they are doing in the bicycle shop if they’re so inferior to the internet.

ve - 12/09/13 - 1:29am

“The commenter “ve” has such an adversarial approach that I’m not surprised he doesn’t have good experiences at bicycle shops.”

You have no idea how I act in a shop. I simply ask if they have something I want or need, and most of the time they tell me they don’t have it and do one of two things. They try to push something I don’t want on me, or something the wrong size for me on me, or they tell me they have to order it, same as ordering online, and naturally they want the full LBS price for it. I’m not keen on “expert advice” when expert advice involves fitting me on the wrong size bike to sell stock, or not listening at all to what I’m looking for and trying to push stuff I don’t want with no justification.

” There is no possible way that someone from around here could say that there are not shops worth patronizing. ”

The idea of a local bike shop is ideally one that is local, and not one you have to go out of your way to find. Even better if it is in biking distance so you don’t have to drive there.

“Yet, there are still folks who are super negative about shops the same way “ve” is.”

I’ve explained exactly why I’m negative. You guys just like to play victim.

“I’m OK with that but it always leaves me wondering what they are doing in the bicycle shop if they’re so inferior to the internet.”

It’s exactly why I don’t frequent LBS. You keep making assumptions. I said from the start, I do my own work when possible, and I go to the co-op when not. I’ve only recently started visiting LBS again looking for a new bike, and reminded how terrible these ones are.

Performance bike has better customer service than several LBS. You don’t get to play victim just because you’re the LBS.

Naton - 12/09/13 - 1:56am

Thanks Watts for another enjoyable article.

ve you are spot on in a lot of ways.

I’ve been working in bike shops for only a few years, but in the middle of that spent a year working as a labourer. For that year in a new town, I got to “enjoy” being on the customer side of the counter again. As somebody with the skills, knowledge and tools to fix my own bike, well, that’s exactly what happened. Order parts off Internet, and tools if necessary, save hundreds of dollars. The LBS had no value proposition for me.

Working full time back behind the tools again now, I try and use that experience to best help our customers. Sometimes that means saying sorry, we don’t/can’t stock that item. Or admitting we don’t have a helmet/shoe/whatever that fits you well, try this brand at this nearby store. We can order that derailleur, or if you source it yourself we can install it. I do my best to avoid that attitude of self entitlement that does seem to plague so many shop workers and wholesalers. Hopefully they value my candidness and buy something else another day.

It does concern me that I have chosen a career that may be a dead end in less than a decade, but as someone mentioned previously, look at the textile industry, or booksellers, or CD shops. Times change.

I hope that the industry is able to adapt for the better. I hope that doesn’t mean a plethora of boring-as-**** concept stores. I hope people will stop blaming the Internet for their problems. I hope shop employees will be grateful for the chance to work a job they love, while still standing up to the dickhead customers who only care about discounts. I hope that manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers can work together to form new sustainable business models. Anyway, really enjoyed reading all the comments. Ta.

truerider - 12/09/13 - 4:07am

Wow, never seen a comment section like this! Some real thought going on. Keep it up Watts:-P

Brendan - 12/09/13 - 8:44am

Customer: Will you match the internet on this sportrack bike carrier?
Me: Sure! But I don’t stock it because it’s not really the best choice though.
Customer: Okay order it!
Time passes-customer comes to pick up.
Me: Here’s your rack! (Bunches of parts in a box)
Customer: You mean you are not going to build it?
Me: Well, no sir. you asked me to match the internet. Does the internet assemble this product for you? But I would be happy to assemble it for $35.
Customer: Hey! That isn’t fair!

The problem is that the Ibd’s have done a poor job at helping customers understand that retail pricing used to contain markup that allowed service to be included. In the age of Amazon, not so much. Customers have to be gently retrained to understand that, unless they are willing to do it themselves (bravo to them), somebody has to get paid to provide the tools and knowhow to get the job done. The bike shops have no one to blame but themselves and I could explain why but no one will take the time to read it. Bottom line-as in all of nature-the adaptable survive, not the strong.

Cotter Pin - 12/09/13 - 10:41am

LBS (or most brick and mortar) wont be able to compete with online prices. not an opinion, thats fact. Lets accept it.

Your not supporting your LBS bc you enjoy paying more for something you could get online. You are paying for the knowledge and experience of the staff and mechanics. If you feel you’re being ripped off, then maybe your at the wrong shop. Maybe they dont give you the education you desire, or the mechanical savvy that you’d appreciate. GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! Shops are a dime a dozen and most of those dozen are full of incompetent people that want to live the “i own a bike shop” dream. Search out the good ones and give them your business, stop supporting the glut of shops that are only in business because they discount everything. If you dont see this level of service at your LBS, go find another one (its probably about 3 miles down the street).

Or dont take my advice…go ahead and watch your 10 hours of “how to build a bike” on youTube before you order the wrong sized InterWebWonderFiber bike. The 10% of people that are mechanically inclined will do an OK job, but even then, I dare you to compare it to the work of an experienced professional. Even if you are handy, I would almost guarantee you would rather ride/own the bike that an experienced professional put together or fixed.

LULZ - 12/09/13 - 12:05pm

ve – where are you located? I’m not asking because I’m going to come after you or anything! ;)

Just want to know because I think I have met you in a shop before. Not metaphorically speaking, either…

Andrew - 12/09/13 - 6:14pm

VE, there are a lot of LBS owners and employees who simply refuse to see the truth in the point you are making. I believe most people who own stores like to tell themselves that they offer the best and most professional service around. The cold hard reality is that many LBS don’t put business OR the customer first, they put some idealistic pride filled image of ‘their glorious store’ above all else. I’ve got news for all you bike store owners/employees, if you aren’t making money then YOUR CUSTOMERS are voting you off the island! They simply don’t find value in the products and services you are offering!
I’ve managed a LBS for the last 3 years, and I wholeheartedly agree with almost every sentiment VE makes. Perhaps instead of being jaded, some of you bike store owners/employees/evangelists get business smart and stop feeling sorry for yourselves, or better yet hire someone like VE to run your store with intelligence rather than emotion.

LULZ - 12/09/13 - 6:57pm

But Andrew, I wouldn’t want to be part of shop, or purchase from a shop where VE works, because he thinks that all it takes to build a bike is to tighten the front QR, the handlebars and install the seat (I’m paraphrasing here a bit). So… Yeah. VE. ANY POINT YOU MAKE IS INVALID

Andrew - 12/09/13 - 9:54pm

You see LULZ, another problem with some LBS is that due to there being very little in the way of formalized or consistent training or standards in the industry there exists many ‘mechanics’ who are barely able to tighten the front QR, the handlebars and install the seat. There are examples of this kind of mechanic everywhere, and it ruins peoples faith in their LBS. The issue is that working for minimum wage attracts minimum talent, and many LBS don’t want to pay mechanics well enough for them to up skill and make a long term career out of it.

29aperture - 12/09/13 - 10:51pm

Wow…

Such truth written by Watts. You could easily say this about record stores, shoe stores, hardware stores, etc. Easy access has made most everything dulled down and boring.

I’ve worked in shops for close to 20 years. I’ve seen every single kind of customer out there. Did I give discounts? Sure. When the guy brought in his Schwinn High Sierra and it needed $200 in service that he wasn’t expecting, and it was his only means of transportation. You bet. That’s a deserving discount. Buying 2 $350 hybrids today? Nope. Special ordering a 47cm Trek 1000? Nope.

I don’t want to address this VE character going on up there, but Joshua Murdock, you’ve got it right. As a fellow shop-employee, you’ve got it right.

I’ve worked in shops long enough to see where you make piles of money, and where you lose your ass. You don’t make anything. ANYTHING selling bikes. You might make some on accessories (tons on some of them in fact.)

I’ve worked enough to expect to never have to pay retail. And that sucks. Working at a shop you get some pretty refined tastes for quality products. But you know what else sucks? Having no shops around. And that’s what’s going to happen if people don’t start acting like decent human beings and support (any) local business.

I know the owners of several shops now, having worked for them in the past. When I walk in, I NEVER expect a discount. If I get one, I thank them. Profusely. If I don’t, I know I helped them make payroll. You all should, too.

Fisho - 12/10/13 - 8:42am

Price, Product, Service.

PICK TWO, that is all you will ever get as a consumer. Finding what works among those 2 of 3 items for the shop and for the consumer is where it get’s tough.

I’ve worked stores and wrenched and been racer boy for many years.

I go to a certain LBS that will always charge list price, but they always have the product. I know it, and am happy to spend money there.

Another LBS I support gives me discounts, they are newer, hungrier, and they know I promote their store. I like the feel of it, they also serve beer. They know me. Also I am on the board of the racing club locally in which we support both of these shops.

It is not easy anymore for the LBS.

Watts Dixon - 12/10/13 - 8:48am

Alright…. back home with a proper computer.
Thanks for keeping the commentary going. There’s tons of food for thought in all of this.
A few things.
For one, I don’t really think every customer wants to bend me over. It was anecdotal (and hyperbolic, remember?), the idea being to lead into why the expectation of a discount exists and why it persists… of why those of us on the other side of the counter sometimes feel “bent over.”
And GUNNSTEIN, absolutely no gaybashing is intended. That’s about the furthest thing from how I roll.
As DAVID FRENCH points out, all of this bitching might just make us look “sour faced.”
And sure….sometimes we are.
But not with the customers. I mean….I can ignore or write off the person that comes in full of bluster and attitude. Some people just suck. That’s not exclusive to bike retail.

The sour face is more about whatever systems are in place to create anything close to that adversarial of a customer/shop relationship. And I think that there are suppliers out there right now that are undermining the very shops that have been the front lines in building the industry. And THAT has to change.

Regarding VE… I thought it was funny the first time. It was droll the second time. It was unbearable the third time…. and then it just kept coming.
No….. Honestly, for all his piss and vinegar, VE brings up good points. The most spot on being that the LBS doesn’t get to play victim just because it’s an LBS. ANDREW probably paraphrases it best. “The cold hard reality is that many LBS don’t put business OR the customer first, they put some idealistic pride filled image of ‘their glorious store’ above all else.”
I do address this in the “article,” but it’s toward the bottom and I don’t go into much depth. (and how many people even made it that far? VE said outright that he skipped straight to the comments)
If a shop isn’t offering a service that you want or need then why should that shop be wanted or needed? That’s the simplest metric of all. We don’t support things that have no value to us.
I had a bitter pill to swallow when one of the big local shop’s went belly up. It was a little political, but they directed their customers to me. And when a big concept store moved to town, a large swath of those folks rallied around IT instead of my shop.
Why?
Well.. either they straight up didn’t like my shop or they valued a stranger and his model more than my own.
And if I felt a little butthurt by it and some shitty politics, I still learned a valuable lesson. I wasn’t offering what those people wanted.

So what WAS I offering?
Figuring that out was what really galvanized our upward progress.
And we’re still figuring it out.
Do we still fall short sometimes? Hell yes. And I hate it.

So… here’s my appeal:
Yeah, there are some shops out there that don’t get it and don’t care and will call foul long before admitting to any fault or shortcomings on their part. (just like some customers)
But there are some totally awesome-sauce shops out there that are really trying their ass off. (I visited a few in Philly this weekend.)
Give a shop a chance. And if they fall short… instead of writing them off, let them know. And not in a passive aggressive YELP review or some shit. Just have a dialogue with them. The shops I know that are trying their best will absolutely listen and see what they can do (I mean….unless you’re a total dick like VE.). And if we can’t help, we’ll let you know.
For all my bitching, there’s a reason I’m still doing this. Because I WANT to. Most of us WANT to stick around. And sticking around means offering something that people value. If we can’t meet that metric, then all of the idealism and love that got us into this business won’t mean anything.

Thanks again for all the dialogue.

Watts Dixon - 12/10/13 - 9:12am

And if the word “metric” comes out of my mouth one more damn time, I’m going to throat-punch myself.

ThePaleontologist - 12/10/13 - 11:48am

Just spent 26 years on becoming a vertebrate paleontologist. Now I just want to own a bike shop. Thanks for the wake-up rant. I still just want to own a bike shop.

bigjoe - 12/10/13 - 3:39pm

How does it feel to work in a local stationary store? Evolve or die. Enjoy your measeley margins while you can. In 10 years most bike related stuff will be 3-d printed in peoples basements. There is no next model.

Ross - 12/12/13 - 8:40pm

[deleted]

WELCOME TO RETAIL. GET TOUGH OR GET OUT.

Online retailers are reaming you because they understand the market and retailing better than you do.

Tony - 12/13/13 - 12:04am

@Ross, Online retailers are hurting themselves along with the rest of industry. Their business model is not sustainable. Business trends are typically cyclical and the need for high end, knowledge service is always desired.

M.A.A - 12/13/13 - 2:29pm

VE if you know what a shop is suppose to do, stock etc why are you not running your own. With all of your knowledge you would make a killing.

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