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  1. #1
    Ink
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    Bike Shop Disillusionment - Seattle

    Wow, I don't like to rant on bike shops. I really don't. I don't think I ever have. And I have had some really great experiences lately with some shops, but I can't not post this...

    Turn back the clock to 2003. After a spell of unemployment, I get lucky and snag a job that is, among other things, a job I can bike to. I am living on my boat, though, to save $$$. I don't have a bike, but decide it would be good idea, if I am going to get a bike, to get a folder of some sort. Years ago, I had a Montague folding bike. 'Twas great. I could take it on the boat and cruise around to do grocery shopping in places like Victoria, BC.

    Sadly, I look at the Montague lineup online and the more nicely equipped bikes are the "Hummer" model and the camo-painted "Paratrooper" model. It is enough to make me gag and just tell Montague to go take a leap. A Hummer? What the ^&(^*! were they thinking? Gross! I go to a shop that specialized in folders, recumbents and such an they have a "Hummer" on the floor. I can't hack the whole Hummer thing, but the folding frame is pretty much what I want.

    OK, so my bargain with the devil is probably where my problem begins. I like the overall bike design, so I sign away my soul...sorta. I go back to the shop and I say "OK, I can't tolerate the concept of a Hummer, and I don't want to reward them (Montague) by buying one, but what I want to do is buy a Paratrooper and pay to paint it. I'm just not comfortable pedaling a camo bike." So we agree I'll buy a Paratrooper and the shop will send the frame out to be painted a generic blue. I also spec'd a few other upgrades: a Zoom stem extension to make my aching neck less unhappy, some Continental Goliath tires that I had used before and liked, and thornproof tubes to cut down on trailside commute repairs (I hope!). And a spare thornproof tube just in case! Being a schmuck, I volunteer to pay up front. I hate it when people just order custom stuff and just walk away or disappear.

    So I'm told it is going to take 3-4 weeks. So 5 weeks go by, then 6, 7 and 8. I try not to get too tense, but I start hearing a bunch of "dog ate my homework" stories about the frame painter (supposedly in Denver) -- "his shop burned down....he had an appendectomy" or stories to that effect.

    Finally, at about 9-10 weeks out, I get the call. The frame is back and bike is ready to go. It is late in day, but I drive from Ballard down by SeaTac to this shop and there it is. Blue. Hmmm, tires aren't right but I'm told, correctly, that Conti discontinued Goliaths so I just grab the bike and go. I stash it on the boat and go to friend's house.

    The next evening, i look over at the bike and realize that the rear triangle is black, not blue, and it has a yellow decal on one side that says "Shimano-Equipped". Then I think a little harder and realize that there are a few other subtle differences...handlebar is a bit angled, not straight.

    It dawns on me. They didn't sell me a Paratrooper. They sold me a Hummer.

    I'm pretty steamed. It is not like the bikes are so different. Most of the mechanicals are identical. But I am feeling a bit violated, like a chump..."Oh, let's just give him the Hummer. He won't know the difference!". I look at my sales receipt. It has "Paratrooper" printed pretty plainly. So the next night I email the gent at this shop and, more or less, say "Thanks for treating your customers like chumps!" and I send a CC to Montague.

    But a few days go by...and I have to get to work...and the bikes are nearly identical...and maybe he was just trying to act in my best interest by getting me a bike. Maybe the frame painter in Denver died and they couldn't find the frame!!

    So I just said, "What the hell, I won't call the state AG, I will just move on with my life"

    So I started taking the bike to work, and it is a pretty nice rig, maybe I'll get back to Victoria some time. I took several months from bike commuting after some neck problems, but I started biking to work again about a month ago.

    This morning, I got all set to pedal to work on a very rainy morning, but discovered the front tire was completely flat. I said "Oh, well, what are you going to do? The thorn-proof tires did pretty well" and, because I was short on time, I ran out to grab the bus to work.

    So I come home this evening and get my spare thorn-proof tube out of the closet and pull the front wheel off the bike. Figure I'll swap the spare in and then repair the original thorn-proof tube. Sure enough, as I pop the tire off there is a *really* big thorn stuck in the tire....

    ....but as the tube falls out it says "Cheng-Shin Tube 26x1.9" and so on...your garden-variety inner tube. So it is dawning on me that the tube in my rear wheel is probably not the thorn-proof tube that I paid extra for either.

    Small things, but enough to make me lose faith is the nice, smiling proprietors -- and the smiling gent was the proprietor -- who make such a show of making sure we are happy bicyclists.

    Probably too late, but I think I shouid call the AG.

  2. #2
    scofflaw
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    Ink, you are complaining about a "specific bike" and a "specific bike shop".
    This could happen to you in Portland, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Clearwater, Fl.
    There are many great bike shops in Seattle, and hell yes, you should WRITE
    the AG. For some reason old fashioned snail mail works better.
    "...we're half awake in a Fake Empire.." (The National)

  3. #3
    Ink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marge
    Ink, you are complaining about a "specific bike" and a "specific bike shop".
    This could happen to you in Portland, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Clearwater, Fl.
    There are many great bike shops in Seattle, and hell yes, you should WRITE
    the AG. For some reason old fashioned snail mail works better.
    Specific bike shop, true. And there is nothing about this that is Seattle-specific other than the shop in question. I guess I just felt driven to post this...so that there's an opportunity for somebody to say I'm nuts...that I'm hung up on trivia. I mean of some of it is really small stuff. Stupid inner tubes!

    Sigh.

    But I have had some great experiences lately that I expect to post about...in a more upbeat thread!
    Last edited by Ink; 11-01-05 at 11:14 PM. Reason: woooo

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Well, what happened when you went to the shop, bike in hand, and requested a full refund? It seems reasonable that if you didn't get what you wanted that you should get your money back, and if they're not willing, then step it up a notch.
    Adam

  5. #5
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    First, I suggest an assertiveness training course.

    Next, I play Devil's Advocate. Maybe the shop wasn't lying when they said there were problems with the frame painter. Maybe your bike was lost/burned/damaged. And maybe the shop tried to share the loss and just gave you another bike, albeit the model you did not want. Did I miss something, or did you get your first flat after 2 years? Yeah, they may have screwed you, but it seems to me that you bought them a few drinks first, and possibly bent over. You should have brought this to them in 2003. I doubt the shop owner is all that happy with how things turned out either. Not a good way to stay in business. No one lives happily ever after at the end of this story.

  6. #6
    Ink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expatriate
    First, I suggest an assertiveness training course.
    Funny, most of my friends think that they should keep a tranquilzer *** handy. But I do spend a lot of time trying to be reasonable, and I am not litigious. I hope they can put on my headstone "He never hired a lawyer!"

    Taking some of your following words out of order a bit:

    Did I miss something, or did you get your first flat after 2 years?
    Sorry, I'm not doing cyclocross I'm guessing somewhere between 1000-1500 commuting miles (long breaks riding the bus thanks to fubar neck) on Conti Town and Country tires, 80 percent of that on paved bike path. But I'm not sure how that is material. I assumed my good fortune was due to my extra expense on better tubes. How long might I have gone with *them*?


    Next, I play Devil's Advocate. Maybe the shop wasn't lying when they said there were problems with the frame painter. Maybe your bike was lost/burned/damaged.
    From weeks 5 to 8, I got "We're not sure what's going on...". It's ironic, but somewhere around week 8-9, I said to the proprietor "Sounds to me like somebody isn't giving you the straight dope!" I may have implied some sympathy to his situation, but I'm pretty sure I made it clear that I was close to pulling the plug.


    And maybe the shop tried to share the loss and just gave you another bike, albeit the model you did not want.
    I am very sympathetic to the situation of small specialized businesses. In retail, while the markups may seem incredible, the actual margins after overhead/expense can be low. That being said, if a shop has a problem with a supplier, that is a problem for the shop to work out, really. Should we all go around "sharing the loss"? ("Oops, the delivery guy I use dropped your new refrigerator and the door doesn't close right. But if you give me $100, I can get it fixed!")

    While I can be interested in hearing and adjusting to such a problem, it is not my job as customer to go fix it. And as a customer, when a problem arises, what I want is "the straight dope".

    Yeah, they may have screwed you, but it seems to me that you bought them a few drinks first, and possibly bent over.
    I am very glad my dear aunt -- an avid cyclist in her time -- doesn't read this BBS


    You should have brought this to them in 2003.
    In 2003 I let them know that I was really unhappy with how this was handled. Then I said to myself "You have got what you want, a really good commuting bike that is 99.5 percent what you asked for. You've ridden it a few times. You've let the shop know you don't like being patted on the head, blown off and/or deceived. It would be a huge hassle to get another one. (I didn't right off see another Montague dealer in Seattle) And the shop could be taking a beating due to circumstances unknown to me...." So I just said, "what the hell" and kept peddling.


    I doubt the shop owner is all that happy with how things turned out either. Not a good way to stay in business. No one lives happily ever after at the end of this story.
    I acknowledge the shop could have been unhappier than I realized, and for 2 years I leaned toward thinking they were trying to do their best in a not-so-smart way. That's until I popped that tire off last evening. How many elements of a bike can you hide? Not many. You can *maybe* hide the brand/model if you paint it. Tubes are hidden. What else? Bottom bracket, maybe? Anyhow, it hit me that the shop was 2 for 2 in a bad way on this score.

    When I think about any recourse I think of what time and effort that would involve. Like I say, I have a nice commuting bike. But the thing I didn't get -- the thing that really bugs me -- is the straight dope.
    Last edited by Ink; 11-02-05 at 11:52 AM. Reason: typooss

  7. #7
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Mate, I agree you got screwed. I'm not taking sides though, just throwing out some "What ifs". Glad your aunt doesn't read this too.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Avalanche325's Avatar
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    Yes you got screwed. But, it is going to be a little difficult complaining about some two year old tubes.

    Take heart in the fact that the only thing "Hummer" about the bike was that it had a Hummer decal.

  9. #9
    Ink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avalanche325
    Yes you got screwed. But, it is going to be a little difficult complaining about some two year old tubes.
    I guess you could say I've said my piece. Perhaps time to go buy another tube for the rear (or have it as a spare for next time) and move on.

    Take heart in the fact that the only thing "Hummer" about the bike was that it had a Hummer decal.
    I got rid of the blackburn rack it came with and I mounted one of those un-stayed rear racks that clamps to the seatpost. It rides higher and left more room for big fenders. Not sure if it was a result of that, but I have had several people pull up next to me and ask "Hey, is that a Klein?" So maybe I'll run with it. A friend's friend is able to get vinyl decals made and maybe I'll just get a pair that say.... KLINE.

    My credentials as a tree-hugger aren't very strong, but I really, really, really hate the whole phenomenon of consumer Hummers in this country. Gross. Sick. and a business expense

  10. #10
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Dude, that shop did you over, hard core!

  11. #11
    Perpetually lost
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    Ink
    After two years, you're still p*ss'ed. Not only did the shop screw you then but they still are by taking any joy you may have from owning a decent bike. A couple of options here: you could get an attorney, sue, maybe win a few bucks which you will share with your lawyer, or lose. Either way you still lose. The shop is still screwing you. The other option is the one you suggest, ignore it. Walk away. Put it behind you. Quit letting the shop own you.

    Take satisfaction that the jerks that sold the bike to you will ultimately get theirs. I don't believe in Karma--but as a businessman I know that what goes around comes around.

    Replace the tubes--change the decals--service the BB. Then you'll know that things are right.

    John in Oregon

  12. #12
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    I have been watching this for a few days.

    Why did you not just buy the Hummer and take the decals off? That would truly be sticking it to Montague. As well as being far cheaper than a repaint and faster to boot.

    By the way. assuming a puncture with an insert of more than .5mm, a "puncture resistant" tube will last about a day longer than a standard tube. I tell my customers to not waste the money but I do stock them.

    Let it go. I tend to hold onto this kind of stuff myself and it just is not worth the acid reflux.

    Go look at the Giant folder, the HalfWay, nice bike.

    Having known many people that owned boats, I loved this line: " I am living on my boat, though, to save $$$."
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    I am in the woods and I have gone crazy.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    A boat is a hole in the lake you pour money into.

  14. #14
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expatriate
    A boat is a hole in the lake you pour money into.

    Nice one. That made the whole thread worthing perusing.

  15. #15
    Ink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev.Chuck
    Why did you not just buy the Hummer and take the decals off? That would truly be sticking it to Montague. As well as being far cheaper than a repaint and faster to boot.
    'Cause I did not want the Montague folks to believe that somebody would actually *buy* a bicycle named after that evil blight. I'd like them to look at their sales stats and go "Whoa, all of our Hummer models went unsold! What a stupid, clueless mistake *that* was!"

    But I'm something of an idealist.


    By the way. assuming a puncture with an insert of more than .5mm, a "puncture resistant" tube will last about a day longer than a standard tube. I tell my customers to not waste the money but I do stock them.
    I am not sure of your point. If I came into your shop and ordered a bike with "thornproof" tubes, it sounds like you might try to convince me to save my money. It doesn't sound as if you would take the money for the thornproof tubes and put in generic tubes, does it?


    Let it go. I tend to hold onto this kind of stuff myself and it just is not worth the acid reflux.
    Well, posting on this BBS is free so far, so I guess I could consider it cheap therapy. Almost like a cheap pack of Tums


    Go look at the Giant folder, the HalfWay, nice bike.
    Not necessary. I have this reasonably nice Kline that I bought....pedalled to work today as a matter of fact and that front disk did *great* in the soaking Seattle wet.


    Having known many people that owned boats, I loved this line: " I am living on my boat, though, to save $$$."
    If you happen to own a 35 year-old sailboat and are living in a 2-room apartment, when you get laid off one way to save money is to have a yard sale, ditch the apartment, and go live on the boat

    It's true!

    (but I can't deny the old "hole in the water" saw.)
    Last edited by Ink; 11-03-05 at 10:29 PM. Reason: dangling participal

  16. #16
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ink
    'Cause I did not want the Montague folks to believe that somebody would actually *buy* a bicycle named after that evil blight. I'd like them to look at their sales stats and go "Whoa, all of our Hummer models went unsold! What a stupid, clueless mistake *that* was!"
    Hey, a "Hummer" was something else long before the Humvee came along.

  17. #17
    Ink
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expatriate
    Hey, a "Hummer" was something else long before the Humvee came along.
    Now, now. My sister called and said she got my dear aunt a Powerbook and a DSL hookup. Careful!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Uh. someone that can't sing? Doesn't know the words?

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