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Old 04-24-11, 02:13 PM   #1
vyrus724
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Am I being lied to?

Hey everybody,

I'm a long-time reader, first-time poster. I recently rekindled my love affair with bikes when I started working as a mechanic at a local community bike charity.

Anyway, I have a question:

I recently started working a new job as a mechanic at two different stores part-time: one is a LBS with two locations, the other a big sports store. While I was pleasantly surprised about the number of vacancies (I got multiple job offers in the first two weeks of searching), I need to have year-round work, not "we'll throw you away like a used kleenex in august" work, which would put me in a worse situation than I'm in right now a few months down the road. It makes sense to me that employers would hire people temporarily when winter's coming, but it also makes sense to me that they'd lie to new people and promise them year-round employment to help acquire somebody.

As such, I'm wondering about my new employers' honesty and thought I'd solicit some advice from people with experience.

The big-box sports store has told me straight-out the job is permanent (part-time), and indicated their commitment by telling me they want to get me trained on skate-sharpening and other winter stuff asap.

The smaller store, however, is much harder to read.

The owner told me the job is year-round and explained this is because of people taking vacations at different times, etc....but I've no reason to trust him, and I've been burned by other employers in the past in exactly this way, albeit I wasn't a bike mechanic on that job.

Meanwhile, another LBS down the street of comparable size offered me a full-time job but clearly told me they'd have to lay me of off in August; numerous other places were clear they were only looking for summer positions. The winters here are brutal enough that bike riding drops off dramatically in the cold. But, this shop does service a lot of racers who ride through the winter. The workload has everybody there overworked and desperate for (my?) relief, but how much will that drop in the off-season?...etc etc....

As you can see I've been tossing this around in my head a lot and realize I don't have enough data to make a good guess, so I thought I'd try to crowd source this wisdom.

How normal is it for shops to hire new people of moderate experience and keep them on over the winter in colder climes? Am I being lied to or am I just worrying too much? Is there a 'pattern' more experienced people than myself can point out to me?

Basically, any useful info or feedback would be appreciated.
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Old 04-24-11, 02:18 PM   #2
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Old 04-24-11, 02:23 PM   #3
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There's no guarantees.

It works the other way too. When I had my own shop I hired college students for the summer. One of the first questions I asked was when they'd be going back because I needed Labor Day help. For all the truthful answers I got I might as well saved my breath.
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Old 04-24-11, 02:24 PM   #4
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As you're obviously aware the business is seasonal, and it's easy to find jobs now as shops need to ramp up for the season. It's impossible to predict whether any business will keep you year round, and maybe the best bet is to ask current employees what happened last year.

On the bright side, most better shops, regardless of size, feel they make an investment in their mechanics and don't really see good productivity for a while, and so are loathe to lay off good ones, though they may dut your hours seasonally.

Also bigger shops are more likely to cut hours or lay off based on seniority (Last in, First out) while a smaller shop will base decisions on performance. One dealer I've known for years celebrated independence day in September, because that's when he got the freedom to let go of marginal employees that he needed to keep all Spring and Summer, because he was too busy to cut staff.

In any case you cannot make a reasoned judgment working from the general to the specific, so you need to get whatever info you can, but ultimately it's a roll of the dice. Regardless of where you work, an employee who shows up on time daily, is honest & willing to learn the company way, and turns out good work is a prize and rarely gets let go.
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Old 04-24-11, 02:28 PM   #5
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Do they sell Skis in the winter?
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Old 04-24-11, 02:29 PM   #6
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On another note, I suggest saving up some money for winter as a precaution.
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Old 04-24-11, 02:41 PM   #7
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Do they sell skis? The small shop does not, and to my knowledge only sells bike stuff. The big box sports store does hockey and snowboarding stuff, so I feel reasonably safe there, even if with reduced hours. One reason I'm really concerned by all this is that mechanics (especially non-veterans like me) don't make very good money, so saving up meaningful amounts is sometimes hopelessly difficult. Thus my paranoia about suddenly losing all income with no warning.

Last edited by vyrus724; 04-24-11 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 04-24-11, 03:18 PM   #8
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for my employer if you are good at what you do they will keep you on for the winter. if it comes down to it and money is tight then the new guy gets the boot
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Old 04-24-11, 08:03 PM   #9
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If you're reliable and a good learner, the big box store is quite likely to keep you around for sharpening skates, ski tunes, ski mechanic, stringing tennis racquets, and servicing the occasional bike that comes in. You get the idea. On the other hand, a small shop might just want to keep someone like you year round. You have to feel them out.
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Old 04-24-11, 08:18 PM   #10
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I don't have any first hand experirnce, but from what you and others said, it is pretty obvious that the big box store sounds like a much safer bet. Vyrus, I don't know what bike mechanics make, but according to you, you said they don't pay much. Don't take this the wrong way, I'm just trying to help you sort it out, but, if you are not making a lot of money, it kind of de-values the job to me. In other words, take any of the jobs, do a good job, and enjoy it. If you happen to get laid off, just find another job....any job. If you want safe, I would recommend the bigger store. Otherwise, I would just pick the job that I think would make a better day of work for me, ie. better boss. One more thing, don't forget benefits. I don't know if either job gives any kind of benefits, but that can be worth a lot in the long run.
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