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  1. #1
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    Rant - Why not lend a hand?

    OK - so maybe I will be flamed by bike shop owners for this post, but I need to vent.

    On my way to work this morning, I notice a skipping in the rear der. As the cogs (in my head) turn, I think to look closely at my chain. Turns out, a link is half separating. I think, "crap", but cool, there's a bike shop right up here. I'll ask to borrow their chain tool and be on my merry way. I have been wanting to go in there for a while now, but it's never open when I ride by (i ride early AM and usually latePM).

    This is my chance to check it out and say hello to the mechanic, right? wrong. I asked if I could borrow a chain tool for my bike (pointing to my bike at the entrance of the shop). He hesisates, so I say, "would you mind, terribly?" I was taken aback when he looked me in the eye and said, "actually I would. I can't lend you a chain tool."

    I say, "then can I buy one?" He says, "sure, $10." I am upset and a little mystified, but recognize they are his friggin tools and if he wants to be a weenie, he's entitled. So I look and have no cash. when I put my card on the counter he refuses, saying "$20 minimum on credit cards." He then asks how much $ I have and when I say $7, he pulls out a true pos chain tool and hands it to me. With no real choice, I take the tool and make the repair as he walks to the back of ths store, talking about how if he lent two tools to every customer that walked in, he'd be out of tools in a week and what if people break them and so forth. I think to myself, you don't need to justify this to me, pal. I leave the tool on the counter and shout, "thanks for nothing. enjoy the seven bucks."

    It's not like I asked to borrow a $300 facing tool. it was a friggin chain tool that I needed while in the store. Please let me know if my anger is unjustified, but I seriously can't understand why a bike shop wouldn't lend me a chain tool for 2 mins. This was a place I might have spent lots of $ if not for this experience.

  2. #2
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    He could have helped you out, sure, but that, IMHO, would have been a more noteworthy post.

    Rule #173 in life: mechanics make their living with their tools. They don't typically lend them out.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LordOpie's Avatar
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    What an idiot. Not only for being a selfish jerk, but more importantly for passing up the opportunity to create goodwill and start establishing a relationship with a potential client.

    Granted, most wrenches aren't very business savvy.

  4. #4
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    With my devil's advocate hat on . . . it's possible they are actually prevented by their insurance policy from letting anyone except their own mechanics use their tools. I used to work in a ski rental shop and we had that situation.

    I think you might have taken it a bit too personally. It doesn't sound like he was overly rude to you.

    One thing though: if you want to call someone's bluff on the credit card thing . . . they are not allowed to have a minimum, per their agreement with MasterCard/Visa and probably others. Many small-time shop owners impose a minimum because they get charged for every transaction and they don't want to eat that on small amounts. Sometimes you can threaten to report them and they'll drop their minimum.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Trogon's Avatar
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    And yet we wonder over and over again why LBSs are struggling to stay in business.

    If I'd been that guy, I would've asked what the problem was and said, "bring it over here and I'll fix it up for you." And I doubt I would've charged you. That I suppose would've created a customer for life, instead, he and his ilk get trashed once again here on the 'net. Do us a favor and post the name of the bike store. And, you ought to share your thoughts with the business owner.

    I did this very thing the other day for some kid whose chain had broken. He was walking 6 miles back to his car. I stopped, took his rusty/greasy POS chain and put it back together for him. It's the right thing to do for people who share this hobby, and especially so if you work in customer service.

    LBSs think the internet is killing them? Well maybe so, but rotten customer service and incompetent mechanics are taking their toll too.

  6. #6
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    I guess I would have felt differently if he said his insurance prevented it. It still seems a little crass not to make an exception.

    ~~~ wavy dream thingies ~~~ If this were Little House on the Prairie (with bikes!!) he would have said. "Aw, geez, son, I am so sorry. Ma insurance cumpny just won't allow it. But heck, I ain't too busy. why don't I fix it right up for ya!?" Then I say, "that's great, how much do I owe you?" (with my seven bucks in hand.) He says, "just come on back and buy yer kid's first bike from me!" end wavy dream thingies ~~~~~

    In this imaginary scenario, he would have heard through the grapevine that I just had a baby. and Im already shopping for bikes. he wasn't apparently doing anything when I showed up.

    Quote Originally Posted by 'nother
    With my devil's advocate hat on . . . it's possible they are actually prevented by their insurance policy from letting anyone except their own mechanics use their tools. I used to work in a ski rental shop and we had that situation.

    I think you might have taken it a bit too personally. It doesn't sound like he was overly rude to you.

    One thing though: if you want to call someone's bluff on the credit card thing . . . they are not allowed to have a minimum, per their agreement with MasterCard/Visa and probably others. Many small-time shop owners impose a minimum because they get charged for every transaction and they don't want to eat that on small amounts. Sometimes you can threaten to report them and they'll drop their minimum.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    apparently Trogon lives in my magical Little House on the Prairie (with bikes!) world. bless you and your kind!

  8. #8
    chopsockey jo5iah's Avatar
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    Trogon's little house on the prairie could also be my LBS, Recycled Cycles. They've fixed things (and shown me how) a number of times. I'll ask how much for a fix, and they'll say something to the effect of "Gimme a hard one next time". And for that, I'll buy things there that I know I could get cheaper online.

  9. #9
    Spoked to Death phidauex's Avatar
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    This sort of thing is EXACTLY why LBSs are having trouble.

    Brick and mortar stores can't win on pricing, they can't win on selection, they can't win on speed. In fact, the only thing they win on is SERVICE, helping the customer out, which is something nashbar can't do.

    I can understand why you might not want to lend out tools, but for something as simple as a chain tool, it doesn't seem like such a big deal, since it was going to be used in-store and everything. But even if the guy couldn't/wouldn't lend the tool, most nice mechanics would just walk over, take a look, and pop the rivet back into place. Of course, if the damage was more than 12 seconds worth, they could let the person know what it would cost to fix.

    That would be a service that only an LBS could provide, which would help bring them business. If I'm not going to get good service from an LBS, why would I pay more to shop there?

    Case in point: Yesterday I put all new cables and housings on my bike, and while I was at the successful local LBS getting them, I asked one of the mechanics for some advice concerning my worn chainrings. He took a look at it, took it for a test ride around the block, put it up on a stand and got a second opinion from another mechanic (and its not like they were all just sitting around with nothing to do, most of the racks were full of bikes being serviced), and gave me a detailed answer, that interestingly didn't involve me buying anything that day. He basically told me everything was fine and that I should wait before replacing it. But what looks like a dumb decision at first, him spending 20 minutes helping me only to tell me not to buy anything, is the reason I shop there at all. I wouldn't be there for housings, I wouldn't come back for a chain, and I wouldn't buy my tools there, if they didn't take the time to help their customers.

    Anyway, I say screw those jerks, and find a different LBS to patronize (though in your case, it was just an unlucky coincidence that you ended up in front of that one).

    peace,
    sam

  10. #10
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    When I owned my own shop, I would have loaned you the tool assuming, of course, that you approached me in a reasonably friendly manner. That kind of thing happened occassionally, but not often enough to make a big deal out of it. I certainly never lost a tool that way. On the other hand, I can't see that it ever helped my business either. Gratitude won't pay the light bill.

    If I had it to do over again, I'd still lend a chain tool to a person in your situation just because I think that it's the right thing to do. I can understand, however, why some other shop guys might not want to.

  11. #11
    is slower than you Peek the Geek's Avatar
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    Okay, picture this scenario. You bring your kid into a barber shop. You ask the barber, "Hey, you mind if I borrow your scissors for a couple minutes? I need to give my kid a trim."

    On the other hand, for something as minor as pushing a pin back in, the guy could've done it himself as a gesture of goodwill (and, as others have said, to earn a new customer).
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  12. #12
    serenity NOWWW! amahana1's Avatar
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    Its not just the lending the tool problem here. The guy refused to lend a tool, okay, maybee hes over protective of his tools, I know I am, or maybe his "insurance" wont let him lend a chain tool out, those things have been known to cause major tissue damage should they come loose during use (major rolling of the eyes). BUT, not to just slap the tool on there himself and fix it! Give me a friggin break, and then to say "20 dollar minimum on credit card purchases" when you just need two mins worth of attention. Some LBS' never cease to amaze me!
    In his surreal surroundings among the clouds, this was his flight! Until, he saw the master caution light.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Trogon's Avatar
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    Nope, I live in the real world where people should help out when they can. Sometimes what goes around comes around.

  14. #14
    serenity NOWWW! amahana1's Avatar
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    Its like a neighbour comming over asking for a jump because he left his car lights on all night and me telling him, "well John the thing is for health insurance reasons I cant help you, the risk on this kind of thing is just tooo great. Oh you want to just BORROW my cables then....oh sorry again John, they are a really nice set and I want to keep them clean...BUT I do have a set of older ones I am willing to sell you. OH, you want to pay with a check, well I need to warn you John I AMM gonna have to raise the price a little, you know in case your check doesnt clear. Oh and have a GREAT day John".......
    In his surreal surroundings among the clouds, this was his flight! Until, he saw the master caution light.

  15. #15
    Senior Member LordOpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peek the Geek
    Okay, picture this scenario. You bring your kid into a barber shop. You ask the barber, "Hey, you mind if I borrow your scissors for a couple minutes? I need to give my kid a trim."
    Hmm, nope. That analogy doesn't come close.

  16. #16
    Proshpero jnbacon's Avatar
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    The other day, I needed a bit of extra chain added to my chain. I asked the mechanic at the LBS if I could buy it, and he just gave it to me. He then told me that if he put on himself, he would have to charge me labor but he would loan me the chain tool if I wanted to do it in the store. I said no, I have one at home. We then proceeded to have a good conversation about fixies and my bike and other people's bikes, and I left happy.

    I returned to the store the other day to see if I could get a chainring. No, they would have to order it. Now, I knew that I could get what I want cheaper online, but I ordered it anyway because I like them. I don't think a store like that is all about money. It's much more about community, and the loan of a tool and some simple interest in my problem is about building community. That's not every wrench's duty or anything, but it would seem a good business attitude.

  17. #17
    Zippy Engineer Waldo's Avatar
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    Just to offer an opposing point of view for a moment, we then return you to your regularly scheduled LBS bashing...
    I've had a customer break the pin on a chain tool. Not exactly a huge expense, but perhaps hence his reluctance. If that happened, I'd just ask for the buck or so for the pin. Someone comes in like that and I'll just do it for them.
    In today's litigious society, you loan a guy the tool, then the chain breaks on the ride, resulting in a close encounter of the painful kind with the top tube and his wife leaving because his boys weren't doing their thing anymore...then the wrench/shop gets sued for not properly overseeing the repair/knowing the customer was not fully competent (not getting personal here, just trying to think like a lawyer)/having a tool that was not up to snuff, etc.
    I'm just offering up possible reasons for his actions. Perhaps he is just a moron or you caught the guy at a bad time. All are inexcusable; like I said, I'd just do it for you. Rather than complaining about it on the internet, though, why not discuss the issue with the owner-at least something productive might come out of that. Go up to him, smack him in the face with a riding glove, and say "I demand satisfaction." See what that gets you.

  18. #18
    Back in the Sooner State
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    Number one, if you had your bike in shop, the only thing that I can imagine stopped him was an overzealous boss and an insurance policy. I had both, and we got yelled at like crazy if we lent out tools. Second point- lending out tools means tools get stolen. Plain and simple. You're a good guy, but they don't know that yet. And letting a customer use a chain tool does open them up to a lot of liability if said customer is one that thinks he or she knows what he or she is doing when, in fact, they've never seen a chain tool before. He or she "fixes" the chain, which separates and causes a crash. He or she then sues the crap out of the LBS that the tool was borrowed from.

    All of that said, why the guy didn't take a minute to help you out is beyond me. Not like it's something incredibly involved, unless again it's an issue of liability. But still, not like he's going to document the repair. Big city life, I guess. I borrow tools from my LBS in Gallup all the time.

  19. #19
    serenity NOWWW! amahana1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waldo
    Go up to him, smack him in the face with a riding glove, and say "I demand satisfaction." See what that gets you.
    Yeah, that will work.
    In his surreal surroundings among the clouds, this was his flight! Until, he saw the master caution light.

  20. #20
    is slower than you Peek the Geek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordOpie
    Hmm, nope. That analogy doesn't come close.
    No? Why?
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  21. #21
    Zippy Engineer Waldo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amahana1
    Yeah, that will work.
    Hey, if it works on the Simpsons, right? Of course, someone eventually agreed to dual...

  22. #22
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amahana1
    Yeah, that will work.
    But the point is very valid. Unless the OP is swimming in excellent LBS's and this was the exception, I think it's always a good idea to go back to (the wrench first) and say, "What gives?" If his reasons don't cut it, I'd discuss what happened with the manager/owner.

    The hope here is that--even though the OP got the shaft (didn't borrow it; just got it)--maybe the shop will do business differently for the next cyclist in need.

    It does get a bit old (no offense, OP) when people come on BF and LBS-bash without having discussed the issue with the LBS first. Bashing and boycotting won't make things better for the rest of us. Reasoned discussions with the people in a position to change policies and practices might.

    Good luck!

  23. #23
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    I know what you mean.

    Good store - loan tools for the customers. The tools are beat but still do the job just not well enough for constant use by the mechs. The mechs will n not give advice on fixing the bike themselves as that undercuts them but everyone else is more than helpful. Although, standing in the checkout queue watching a 35+ year old guy with a 3000 bike ask for a tube change because he's never done it...you gotta laugh.

    bad store - as bad as yours. edit - no this isn't a just one time poor service so I'm p*ssed comment. Consistently POOR service every time I've been in there. The last time was an emergency and, yeah, that was the final straw.

    Surely service is part and parcel of running a successful business or is that wishful thinking.
    Last edited by markhr; 04-07-05 at 11:13 AM.
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  24. #24
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    You expect the mechanic to lend you his tools so you can avoid paying him to make a repair? Why not establish a little goodwill of your own and pay him to fix/replace your chain? It wouldn't cost very much and that why he's in business.

    I don't blame the guy for not lending you the tool. He had to buy it and it relies on it to make his living. He doesn't even know you.

    I have to side with the LBS here.

  25. #25
    Get the stick. darkmother's Avatar
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    Many bike store owners need to learn how to manage their staff more effectively. Bike shops have to be service oriented to survive-otherwise you might as well by everything online, and cut out the middle man. Many shops out there just aren't getting the message. Most of the local bike shop employees around here display the same poor business attitude, so I don't shop there, period. A couple of shops have been consistantly helpful. They get my business, repeatedly, even if their location is inconvenient.

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