May 29, 2005
The good little consumer
Yesterday I had problem with the new tire I bought at Freewheel bike on April 9th. It was a $51.99 Continental Grand Prix 4-Season. Under close examination I see that the seam between the thick bottom rubber and the kevlar sides is very week and somehow I got a small slice along the seam.
I decided I would bring the tire back and see if there was anything they could do about it. Well, they weren't convinced that it was a defect in the tire and the sales lady basically told me it was bad luck. I suppose I should be thankful that she offered to give me another tire at half off. I accepted her offer because I needed a new tire for my bike and it was cheaper than buying one at full price. I told her how frustrating it was to buy a new tire and have it fail so quickly (I haven't ridden on it too much in the past 3 weeks due to the rain and the tire has very little wear on it.) She didn't care. It was business to her. Her line was something like, "It is the strongest tire for the amount of money you paid. I could put you in a tire that will be much stronger, but it'll run you a little more." Maybe so, but unfortunately it is the last item I will ever buy at Freewheel bike. Frankly, it felt like I was in Erik's again. It's not the competition that kills business. It's staff who doesn't really care about the person buying their products. I was a salesperson and I know what upselling is. I know what the sales lines are and what they sound like. I was a good little consumer and bought it the first time, and the second time, but won't be going back.
Then I went to find the Hub. There I bought a new set of 45 dollar clip pedals for my mountain bike to match the shoes I have. Now I can ride with the same shoes on both my road bike and the mountain bike. At the Hub I witnessed a guy come in with an old blue 1976 Schwinn Suburban and ask to borrow a screwdriver. The person working there was more than happy to help this guy so he could tighten the basket on the front of his bike. I talked to him for a little bit about his bike and the 1971 Brown Suburban 5-speed I have and then I bought my pedals and was on my way.
The lady at the Hub was enthusiastic about their co-op and wasn't trying to upsell me anything, and given the decent treatment of that Schwinn bike user, I'll stop there again.
Granted I'm only one person and the salesperson at Freewheel won't even notice I'm not coming in there again. They don't know that I bought my cycling shoes and my original clip-pedals there and my cycling clothing and other various parts over the last year. They have enough 'consumers' that it won't matter.
I won't matter.
Posted by carl1236 at May 29, 2005 11:40 PM | Attitude
You know, that salesperson to whom you are referring is one of the most knowledgeable bike people I know. Back when I was an occasional customer of that shop, I was always impressed with her willingness to spend time explaining things to me and sharing obscure tidbits about the old bikes that I love. I don't recall her ever trying to sell me anything I didn't plan to buy anyway. But now I work there, I see the upselling going on every day, and she is one of the best at that particular skill. I wonder why she never did it to me - maybe she just thinks I look like a tightwad and doesn't want to bother with me. Maybe it's because I don't wear tights so she thinks I'm not "serious" enough about cycling to buy expensive merchandise.
I'd guess that she would have given you a replacement tire if you played hardball (she asked the store GM and he seemed flexible on the idea). But you shouldn't have to be a tough guy to get a fair shake. On the other hand, given the slice on the tire, it could legitimately be a case of unfortunate road damage. In which case, a half price (i.e. wholesale cost) tire isn't such a bad deal. Still, the upselling comes off as sleazy in my opinion, especially since even a tougher (more expensive tire) can still be easily damaged by a piece of glass that punctures the sidewall. Then what?
More generally though, I know what you mean about that shop being increasingly more like Erik's. I've heard several people express that sentiment. It used to be an employee owned co-op, like The Hub, but it isn't anymore. I would argue that, unlike Erik's, that shop has the obscure and generally unprofitable items that you might need to keep an old bike going. I'm pretty sure Erik's doesn't stock replacement parts for old Sturmey-Archer hubs, nor do they have many mechanics who can fix one (my guess).
There are so many bike shops that either muddle along or go under. It's too bad that the ones that survive and thrive are those that turn to high pressure sales tactics.
Posted by: Jim at May 30, 2005 10:34 AM
No offense to Jim, but that particular sales-woman is one of the reasons I no longer shop at freewheel. Even though I can get a 10% U of MN discount at fw, I would rather spend a dollar more and support The Hub co-op. I guess it shouldn't matter, I always know exactly what I want before going into a bike shop, anyway.
Posted by: Mark at May 30, 2005 1:16 PM
The wholesale price of a tire is 50% of retail? Wow. The more I hear, the more I think there's an awfully big racket going on with bike parts in terms of controlling retail price and making sure everyone gets the same margin so there's no price competition on componentry. And no wonder Nashbar's house brand for anything they make is so significantly cheaper than the competing products, no wholesale-to-retail markup is being added. It's a direct manufacturer rate on what I'm beginning to believe are probably just as good parts as anyone else's.
Posted by: michael at June 5, 2005 12:54 PM
As a bike shop employee, I get 40% off items that cost less than $50. For more expensive items, I get them at cost plus 5%. I'm under the impression that cost plus 5% is a better deal in general than 40% off. But I'll have to check to be sure. Anyway, to give you an idea, I bought a set of derailleurs recently. I think the front one was about $45 retail and the rear $65 retail. I paid, if I recall, $58 for both including sales tax. A little arithmetic reveals that "cost plus 5%" on the rear derailleur amounts of a 60%-ish discount.
Of course, there are two ways to look at it. One way is to say the shop is gouging customers because they can. Another is that the shop, employees, etc, cost money and there is no small amount of risk involved in any business venture, and somebody has to pay for that. Also, note that Nashbar doesn't sell, say, Shimano's latest products at much if any discount to the LBS. I suppose that's because Shimano (and other vendors) have made agreements to control prices.
Posted by: Jim at June 5, 2005 7:20 PM
Interesting. Thanks for the insight Jim.
Posted by: John at June 5, 2005 8:51 PM