BTCEB Blog No 42 Service
It’s about that time of year again, holiday shopping season that is. If you are like me you are watching your pennies and want to try to get the best bang for your buck. Who doesn’t especially now when a lot of households are down to one income or less?
There’s never been an easier time than now to shop mail order. Think about it, you can buy a complete bike using a web app on your smart phone and a credit card. Heck, you don’t even need to talk to a real person!
The plus side about going through a mail order supplier is since they order in such great volume that some times their retail prices are fairly close to what a bike shop may be able to buy the same item at wholesale for.
Here’s the rub, however, warranty and service. I have a buddy of mine who works for a well know web order bike supplier and he says he’s under such enormous pressure to put together complete bikes from the ground up that he has zero chance to do any fine tuning with them before they are boxed. He said that’s particularly problematic with hydraulic disc brakes because he says he doesn’t have time to properly rim the hoses and bleed the brakes before they are sent out.
Another issue he likes to point out is that unlike working directly with a mechanic or knowledgeable sales staff the customers are largely on their own to know if whether or not the parts they choose are compatible with one another. While hanging parts on any bike is a bit of a guessing game putting a bike together through a web direct now doing it with a blindfold.
My advice is if you go do decide to buy a bike on line have it assembled by a shop. It may cost about a hundred bucks or so but at least you’ll know it’s dialed in. You may need to spend twice that in order to make sure all the bearing surfaces are chased and faced and the brakes are free of air bubbles.
Also, if you purchase a dual squishy have a shop have a shop help you set up your shocks correctly. Thank them for that later with a gift of pizza and beer.
One of the compelling reasons to still go to a bike shop, even for a custom build is if there are any issues with assembly you can address them after your first couple of shake down rides. Secondly if there’s a component or a frame issue most manufactures offer a warranty.
Recently I assembled a web direct bike for a customer and for the price it was a pretty decent machine. About a month after the initial assembly the customer was back in the shop because one of the pedals had stripped out the crank arm. Before you leap to any conclusions the answer is “Yes, the correct pedal was threaded into the correct crank arm, thank you very much”.
Since I didn’t know where the customer had purchased the bike I suggested they call the distributor’s customer support number and insist that the web direct company send them a new set of cranks free of charge because they were clearly defective.
To make a long story short the customer had to buy a new set of cranks from the web distributor. Granted, the actual cost of the replacement cost for the new cranks were minimal but it’s the principal of the thing.
I had another customer who had a caliper brake that bent under heavy braking. Both caliper arms twisted in opposite directions and the brake mount bent about fifteen degrees to one side. Like the previous customer he had also purchased his bike from a web direct company. Since the company only distributed one line I took it upon myself to phone the customer help line (which was completely buried in the bowels of the website) but could not reach a live person. When I finally was able to navigate my way through the phone tree I was dumped into a voice mailbox.
About four days later I finally received a call from some customer service rep from the web direct company but it took me about a half an hour of hammering them to step up to the plate and help the customer out.
I will say that being able to talk to some one directly especially in a retail setting and if you are reasonable, rational, and most of all polite then your chances of getting a positive response to any unforeseen product failure may be greatly increased. Some phone bank shulb working in a veal fattening cubical is largely insulated from direct customer interaction – especially if the company they are working for is more focused on unit sales and profit margins vs. placing an emphasis on return customers and brand loyalty.
That sort of short sightedness will sink a brand but only if bike shops aren’t willing to help customers out – even if they did purchase on line first.