A counterpoint to the online Shopping thread
So since Iím starting to use the 29er more for trail specific purposes I decided I needed some mtb shoes and clipless pedals, and because I am in the RPS (Research, Pondering, and Saving) phase of purchasing a road bike this has caused me to not only ramp up my online research, but also to visit some Local Bike Shops (LBS).
When purchasing the 29er, I visited about 7 LBS.í I have mixed feelings about all of them, and none of them hit me with the right vibe, but I keep trying, as Iím still not sure what road bike Iíll get, and whether I want to purchase it at an LBS or online.
Sunday tends to be a good day for me to attend to my bike needs. That scratches a couple of shops as they are closed on Sunday. However I did visit one shop (Pembroke Cycle) that has an owner and usually just one employee this past Sunday. He sells Trek exclusively, and did show me that he does usually come a little lower than the prices on their website (thatís good news). He doesnít sell roof bike carrier racks. He does sell MTB shoes, theyíre ď$90 and in boxes on the top shelf.Ē So I walk over to the area he was pointing at and looked at the lovely boxes all lined up, he didnít have a display shoe. While I was looking longingly at the shoe boxes, he started dealing with another customer, and after a couple of minutes I left. He never said the magic sales words, ďWould you like to try on a pair?Ē He never left the chair at his computer command center the entire time I was there. I know that I could have asked to see a pair and try them on, but lately Iíve had some customer service experiences at various shops (a drum shop that my son takes lessons at for instance) that have made me feel like I should see how their customer rapport is.
So Monday, I go over to another store that is considered a high-end LBS (Alex Bicycles). They sell Cervelo, Pinarello, Felt, Scott, Jamis, and Orbea. I walk into the store and see four people. After a couple of minutes I was able to determine that all four are staff, no customers in the store except me. I start walking around the store looking at merchandise. I look at some of the bikes. I start leaning over so I can read derailleur names, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, and so on. Nobody in the store has spoken to me. At one point while I was looking at something, I hear a guy say loudly, ďHey brother!Ē I say ďHeyĒ and look up, heís talking on a cordless phone. He walks away from me behind the counter to the back of the shop. I continue walking around examining merchandise. A customer comes in wearing biking attire, (Iím a teacher, and was in my work clothes, khakis, a casual shirt, and New Balance walking shoes). This customer brings in a MTB and a broken chain. Immediately the staff member behind the counter (who was actually working on something) stops what he was doing and offers assistance to this guy. Meanwhile I walk around the store some more. I am purposely not being pushy and demanding attention. I want to see how much they want to work for my business. I go over and look at a Mavic rim display and give them a couple of spins. I do another ďlapĒ around the store looking at bikes, walking past the counter, pausing near some store staff, continuing walking around, and then leave after 10 minutes in the store and nobody speaking to me. Maybe Iím really a ghost. Too bad Jennifer Love Hewitt wasnít on staff to see me. This is the shop I was hoping to go to for a professional fitting session. I seriously doubt Iíll ever buy one thing from them, let alone do a fitting with them.
I drive over to Z-Bikes (they primarily carry Giant). This time Iím greeted immediately by a staff member. I have purchased shorts, glove, and a pump from them previously. He shows me some Louis Garneau shoes that are decent for about $100. Louis Garneau are the only shoes they stock. He shows me a Shimano XT-M770 pedal for $140. Having done some online research ahead of time I was prepared to spend $200. So their limited selection made me hold off on a purchase.
I went to one more shop, a chain LBS called Bike America. They gave me immediate attention. They had Bontrager and Louis Garneau shoes in a variety of price ranges. I chose some Bontragerís for $90. He showed me some pedals (Shimano 520ís and XTís), I asked about the Shimano m540ís, they had them in stock for about $90 as well. So I was able to get my shoes and pedals for under $200. I was glad to get the pedals here as he also gave me a small inservice on installation. I know that I could have saved money buying these same items from JensonUSA, Amazon.com, Pricepoint.com, or Nashbar.com, but I like buying clothing and shoes from places where I can touch them and try them on. I must say that in the future Iíll probably buy the pedals online.
I have no idea how this will impact my road bike shopping decisions. The shop that ultimately served me well this time sells Trek and Cannondale, which I might or might not be interested in.
Customer service is dying off. In the age of increased competition for my dollar, the one thing that a local store should be able to do is provide friendly service, since they usually canít beat the inventory and pricing options of many online retailers. I get irritated when I am on the checkout line at the grocery store and the cashier doesnít talk to me, they just continue a conversation with another employee (I will complain to a manager about this, particularly at Publix, as I have many friends in Publix management, and they tell me they want this feedback. Meanwhile, I bring my son to a drum shop every week for lessons. We also have spent almost $2,000 there buying drums and accessories. Last week Iím there with cash in hand to purchase a $100+ item. While waiting on me the phone rings, the guy dealing with me answers it. He tells me to wait while he deals with the phone customer, then he finishes our transaction. Now, while I appreciate him communicating to me that I will be placed ďon hold.Ē I was irritated that a customer calling in with a question on the phone got a priority a cash in hand customer who was actually giving them money right at that moment. No wonder I tend to prefer shopping online. ďTeh interwebsĒ is always open. I donít have to worry about what time they close.