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Old 01-30-02, 03:27 PM   #1
EDucator
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The Woes of a Dept. Store Bike Mechanic!

Hello all, thought I'd share some chat with you all.

Some of you may have been in a similar situation as mine. Years back I was employed by Huffy Corporation. Incidently, Huffy sells more basketball bankboards than bikes and they produce professional grade NBA boards of acryllic and glass materials.

Anyways, working in chain department stores is the usual work setting. It may be Sears or K Mart one day, Wal Mart or Monkey Wards on another. I would assemble everything from bikes to grills, to exercise equip, to even Christmas trees and decorate them!! Pay was commensurate with the amount of pieces I output each day. This has a direct effect on quality of assembly. At first I spent so much time trying to get these cheezy bikes to spin smoothly, brake evenly, shift reliably, etc. that I earned just enough money to cover a lunch & dinner! In the end they fall out of adjustment so quickly that it's a lost cause for even trying from the start. It didn't take long to learn to perform the shortcuts and trim assembly methods to be able to bring home a paycheck of some value. My conscience got to me after awhile and I quit Huffy. I just couldn't be a further part of pumping out that awfull crud that I felt was a waste of material resources in manufacturing to begin with. To add to the mysery was assembling bikes and such stuff in the middle of an aisle, being in the way of customers, instead of in some idle stockroom location ("Uh maam, I do not work for the store so I'm not sure what aisle has toe nail clippers"). I always had to watch my tools and pack everything up during lunch. Between dragging in a heavy Park stand, a 10 gallon air tank, cordless drill, a loaded tool hip pouch, and a satchel for paperwork... whew! Most of the time I grabbed a shopping cart to haul it all and probably looked like some homeless junk collector pushing it through the lot!!. And that's my experience!!
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Old 01-30-02, 04:28 PM   #2
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Interesting post ED, nice to see the other side of things.
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Old 01-30-02, 04:44 PM   #3
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Very informative post.
And to think I considered doing what you did at one time.
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Old 01-30-02, 04:44 PM   #4
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ED's post explains alot, does it not?
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Old 01-30-02, 05:28 PM   #5
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I failed to mention above that I did a short stint as a mechanic in a custom bike shop before working for Huffy. This was a small shop where the owner was trying to bring the European custom bike shop experience to the U.S. customers. That was enjoyable.
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Old 01-30-02, 05:58 PM   #6
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Geez, talk about a demotion!

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 01-30-02, 06:07 PM   #7
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LOL Louis!! Actually I was toying with a career change. I had just been laid off from a wonderful job after 11 yrs. and just wanted to do something different for a spell to see what would ultimately appeal to me. So I took the Huffy position but didn't fully realize that the bike mechanic part of it was a small portion of the job's requirements. As a result of that job, I rarely ever put up a Christmas tree! I'd be just as happy to cut out a picture of one and tape it to a wall!! LOL
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Old 01-31-02, 06:04 AM   #8
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Once, several years ago, when I was desperate for $$, I worked a 2-day temporary job assembling bikes inside one of those chain sporting goods stores. The job paid 25 cents above minimum wage, they didn't ask about experience, ant the tool kit I had to work with consisted of 3 wrenches and a pair of pliers-no grease, no socket wrenches, nothing.
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Old 01-31-02, 01:58 PM   #9
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I spent as much time at the shop "fixing" brand new Huffies as I did working on the regular customers bikes. Once you factor in the extra 50 - 90 bucks for a "tune-up" (read- overhaul), the discount over a real bike pretty much dries up.
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Old 01-31-02, 10:19 PM   #10
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Working at Bikecology for "Mr. Supergo," in a real shop with real tools and real bikes, was a much more satisfying experience ...
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Old 02-01-02, 08:35 AM   #11
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When I was working at Kmart (Australia), they had imported bikes direct from China, selling for US$50.

The bikes were sold in boxes.

When they were returned for warranty (the pedals cracked apart, as they had no bearings), they used a couple of 16 year old shop assistants (pay : US$3 an hour) to fix them up !
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Old 02-01-02, 09:51 AM   #12
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Hey John E,

You worked for Bikecology? Cool. I have a Supergo wind trainer from way back. It's still going strong. That was one well made setup. The Minoura designers can only look on with envy!! For awhile it was doubling as a carrier in the truck bed. I used it to warm up before some races that prevent riders from entering the roads beforehand. Now, I have an aluminum Trek permanently clamped to it for sweating on and I don't even bother to lube anything on it!!!! (It's my little personal message to the local Trekkies near me!! lol) I don't really hold anything against Trek. It's just that we have a dealer here that makes a BIG deal over them and brainwashes customers into thinking they are the absolute answer and end to all bikes! Puuhleeze!
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Old 02-03-02, 02:04 PM   #13
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I worked part-time for a "Toys R Us" store for a couple of Christmas seasons assembling bikes much like you described, Educator. It was my first experience at something like that.( I am an auto mechanic) I did not ride at the time and had not been around bikes at all for many years before that. It was just an extra income for me during a hard time. Mostly the store wanted someone that would show up on time and every day. That was about it for requirements. I will say I turned out fairly good bikes (as good as they could be) being a mechanic for a living I have pride in what I work on, and "comebacks" are costly, in that profession. I had fun doing it and don't regret that I took that job. I met some fun people there and had a good time while it lasted. I believe most of those types of bikes are still mass assembled and not very well put together. I guess if your a child "any" bike is a good bike!
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Old 02-05-02, 02:27 PM   #14
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Hey midwest mtnbkr

Did that Toys r Us have a dedicated bike shop? The one in my town has one and it's equipped quite well. Pretty much all Park stands/tools and lots of extra parts on pegboards. They employ 2 mechanics. I remember inquiring into long ago as the pressure was less working for them over Huffy that satisfies a majority of chain dept. stores. So you would know what it's like to have to assemble 75-100 bikes in time for a sales flyer so they can meet consumer demand huh? Especially those summertime sales flyers!!!
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Old 02-05-02, 04:27 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by EDucator
Hey midwest mtnbkr

Did that Toys r Us have a dedicated bike shop? The one in my town has one and it's equipped quite well. Pretty much all Park stands/tools and lots of extra parts on pegboards.

So you would know what it's like to have to assemble 75-100 bikes in time for a sales flyer so they can meet consumer demand huh? Especially those summertime sales flyers!!!
Yes they had a "bike shop" Park stands and 2 mechanics. The tools were decent at best, mostly Tiawan tools and off brands. They did have a few park speciality tools though. I prefered to take my own tools and use them. Its much faster if you have decent tools to work with.

I know EXACTLY what you mean about the "Sales Flyers" that part was a killer. I would come in for a shift and they would have bikes stacked on a pallet 6' tall to be assembled and their would be about 5 or 6 pallets. IF you were lucky or fast enough to get those done they would give you a list of what to build next.
I also built things such as..baby beds, power wheels, cribs, strollers, high chairs...you name it, I built it!! LOL
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Old 02-05-02, 10:36 PM   #16
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Oh brother, could we have a fun conversation while riding together. I bet we could pass the time quickly doing a century!!
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