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Old 02-15-11, 11:17 AM   #1
Garilia
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LBS Shopping

A counterpoint to the online Shopping thread

So since I’m 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.’ I have mixed feelings about all of them, and none of them hit me with the right vibe, but I keep trying, as I’m still not sure what road bike I’ll 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 (that’s good news). He doesn’t sell roof bike carrier racks. He does sell MTB shoes, they’re “$90 and in boxes on the top shelf.” So I walk over to the area he was pointing at and looked at the lovely boxes all lined up, he didn’t 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, “Would you like to try on a pair?” 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 I’ve 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, “Hey brother!” I say “Hey” and look up, he’s 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, (I’m 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 “lap” 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 I’m really a ghost. Too bad Jennifer Love Hewitt wasn’t on staff to see me. This is the shop I was hoping to go to for a professional fitting session. I seriously doubt I’ll 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 I’m 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 Bontrager’s for $90. He showed me some pedals (Shimano 520’s and XT’s), I asked about the Shimano m540’s, 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 I’ll 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 can’t 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 doesn’t 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 I’m 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 “on hold.” 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. “Teh interwebs” is always open. I don’t have to worry about what time they close.
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Old 02-15-11, 11:46 AM   #2
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I have to say that anything that requires a fit- I try before I buy and that has to be at a shop.

My shop is good on prices for me- but Things like pedals or Deraillers- I would buy online. (If I did not have my LBS) Price differential is so great for most of us that it pays to shop around.

To show how good my LBS is- 5 years ago I wanted a lamp- a Good lamp. Retail was £325 but on line I could get anywhere for £295. One store had it for £280 but that was the best deal around. I owed a few favours to the shop in any case so I asked them to get the lamp but warned them I had looked on line and could get 10% off. Week later and the lamp was in and they apoligised as they had changed the lamp to the Enduro version as it had better battery life but it was more expensive. "How Much"---£275.

So my LBS came in at a lower price for a better lamp. I also wanted a Helmet lamp and asked them to look out for one- Immediate answer- Unless I want to pay £100- the best deal around was at a camp shop in town and they had one that they recommended for £35 but take your helmet in as it does not fit all helmets.

It sounds to me that you have not found your LBS yet. Keep looking- it must be there somewhere.
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Old 02-15-11, 12:06 PM   #3
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I've noticed the same lack of customer service in many places I shop, not specifically local LBS's but other stores. I was in the local supermarket some weeks ago when the checkout person asked me if I had found everything I had been looking for. I said "No, I didn't", which was true, and she didn't respond at all but just kept scanning my purchases. I buy lots of bike stuff online, though I have no complaints with my LBS's. Price are simply to high, though I've taken to buying my clothes at the higher prices so that I can try them on.
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Old 02-15-11, 12:06 PM   #4
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It sounds to me that you have not found your LBS yet. Keep looking- it must be there somewhere.
As I said on the online shopping thread, I have been to 7 shops in my local area and find them all lacking. You are fortunate to have an above average relationship with an above average shop. Now if you lived near me, you might have been the guy walking in with his bike and broken chain who the staff was willing to drop what they were doing and ignoring other customers, give assistance to.

If I wind up having to drive 50 miles (80 km) or more to find a decent shop, I might as well go for the online purchase. I wonder how far people would be willing to travel to go to a "local bike shop?"
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Old 02-15-11, 12:08 PM   #5
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I've noticed the same lack of customer service in many places I shop, not specifically local LBS's but other stores. I was in the local supermarket some weeks ago when the checkout person asked me if I had found everything I had been looking for. I said "No, I didn't", which was true, and she didn't respond at all but just kept scanning my purchases. I buy lots of bike stuff online, though I have no complaints with my LBS's. Price are simply to high, though I've taken to buying my clothes at the higher prices so that I can try them on.
Yeah, the "did you find what you were looking for" question is part of a script. I don't think the automatons have been trained what the response should be to "No."
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Old 02-15-11, 12:54 PM   #6
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Sorry not everybody has a positive experience at their LBS.

As someone who helps out at just such a LBS, I can see the situation from both sides of the counter.

Some people who come into a LBS expect 110% attention as they spend an hour comparing and buying a patch kit ... others can't abide pushy sales people and are very happy to tell you so ... when we see you for the first time we have no way of knowing. Most of the time we try to steer a middle path.

Believe it or not it is often quicker and easier to sell a $3000 bike, than a $300 one. People look at a $300 bike know they can get one that looks like it for $120 in Dick's. People who want a $3000 bike know what they want and what it's likely to cost.

I'm just sorry Garilia wasn't able to try a few shops around here. I'm sure he'd have had a better experience.
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Old 02-15-11, 01:32 PM   #7
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Sorry not everybody has a positive experience at their LBS.

As someone who helps out at just such a LBS, I can see the situation from both sides of the counter.

Some people who come into a LBS expect 110% attention as they spend an hour comparing and buying a patch kit ... others can't abide pushy sales people and are very happy to tell you so ... when we see you for the first time we have no way of knowing. Most of the time we try to steer a middle path.

The middle ground is to greet every customer that walks in the door, and ask if you can be of assistance. I don't frequent any of these shops often enough to be known as a waste of time customer, so it's not like the customer that you cringe when see walking in from the parking lot because they come in frequently and bother you and waste your time.
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Old 02-15-11, 02:33 PM   #8
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The middle ground is to greet every customer that walks in the door, and ask if you can be of assistance.
I think we can agree on that ...
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Old 02-15-11, 03:40 PM   #9
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Old 02-15-11, 04:11 PM   #10
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My first question is whether the shop has what I want. Or, at least can help me find out what I want. The next thing is whether they are at all interested in treating me as a person. Amazing how many shops take a look at the silver hair and decide either that I'm too old, or that with age came a loss of thinking ability. I've even had shops completely ignore me while taking care of people who more fit their image of a cyclist. I left one shop that came highly recommended because they treated me as though I had no brain. Now there are people who like to be treated like that. I'm not one of them and they should have known the difference.

Next, is the sales person knowledgable and focused on me? I have had shop folks focused on bad mouthing my ride, proclaiming their cycling prowness, talking about Club activities, etc. Or, like one shop, not even knowing what a gear set was, and this was a bike shop and the guy said he was their head tech.

The two shops I've found and use are both knowledgable and focused on my riding pleasure. Neither are cheap, nor are they among the most expensive. But, I trust them to do right by me and so far they haven't dissappointed.
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Old 02-15-11, 04:21 PM   #11
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Man, I'm really glad I don't live where you guys do. There must be 10 shops within 15 miles of me (maybe more, but I can't think of more than 10 right now.) There's only two I won't go to. The first, it's more a matter of them having almost no inventory all year round. The second is geared toward tri-athletes and I'm just not headed in that direction. Four of the other shops know me by name and give GREAT service. Three that recognize me and are very engaging and helpful. The last one, well I've purchase five high end bike there in the last six year. They know me well enough that they send me emails when something comes in they think I might want to see (sometimes it's just someone's bike that is in for repairs but is in someway unique.)
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Old 02-15-11, 05:05 PM   #12
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As others have said, there is no defending a store where every customer doesn't at least get greeted. However, I have found that a lot of decent shops with knowledgeable employees have a bit of trouble with that initial greeting. When a known customer comes in, everyone knows what to expect. Also, many shops will make every effort to keep known customers happy and will often give them discounts from time to time. I wish every shop understood that a new customer is just a few good interactions away from being a regular customer. I try to give my local shops more than one chance. We all have bad days and wouldn't want to be judged by our worst performance ever.
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Old 02-15-11, 05:18 PM   #13
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This was not my first time in any of these shops, as I visited them 6 months ago when shopping for my hardtail. I didn't have a satisfactory experience then either. So now, not only have I posted this story on 4 cycling websites, I have posted a 1 star review on Google reviews. So now my disgruntled experience resonates a little further than me just telling my cycling and drinking buddies about them. Meanwhile, my friend Larry is going to help me true the front rim on my wife's Jamis Boss Cruiser tonight, and you know I'll be telling him my sad tale of woe.
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Old 03-03-11, 11:10 AM   #14
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So because of my interest in looking at Bianchi bikes, I found a Bianchi dealer about 15 miles southwest of me. Sun Cycling Center in Hialeah. I had to run an errand after work which put me a little further northeast, so I left for this dealer around 4:30 from this other location. I was able to get down there before the store closed at 6:00. I don't usually travel that way, and I always forget how bad traffic gets, so what should have taken me no more than 30-45 minutes, took me 75 minutes of driving time. In my Pondering a Road Bike thread, I have talked about my visit there yesterday. Overall it was a good visit, and I might purchase from there. But their store hours are limited. Open Monday - Thursday from 10a-6p, and Fri-Sat from 10a-5p. No Sunday hours, no evening hours. Considering how difficult it is to get down there, I wonder how often I'll be using it for post sales support (other than what might be warranty type stuff).
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Old 03-03-11, 11:42 AM   #15
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Garilla, remember what Mama said, "Stupid is as stupid does". Didn't she aslo say an "LBS is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get"?
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Old 03-03-11, 11:59 AM   #16
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Garilla, remember what Mama said, "Stupid is as stupid does". Didn't she aslo say an "LBS is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get"?
I've been spitting out a lot of chocolate lately.
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Old 03-03-11, 05:09 PM   #17
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I had a second thought about this thread. As I noted earlier, I've got lots of good choices where I am. However, I was in my favorite LBS a few days ago and noticed that none of the regular mechanics or staff were on duty. I asked the owner what was going on. She said something that makes complete sense to me. She indicated that she staff the store and schedules work based on highest levels of traffic. Specifically, Tuesday and Wednesday between opening and about 2 pm during the winter and spring months there is almost no traffic. So, she saves the hours of her best employees for higher traffic times. I guess my point is, it might make sense to visit a shop more than once or twice and at different times of the week. You might get an entirely different vibe.
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Old 03-03-11, 05:11 PM   #18
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I had a second thought about this thread. As I noted earlier, I've got lots of good choices where I am. However, I was in my favorite LBS a few days ago and noticed that none of the regular mechanics or staff were on duty. I asked the owner what was going on. She said something that makes complete sense to me. She indicated that she staff the store and schedules work based on highest levels of traffic. Specifically, Tuesday and Wednesday between opening and about 2 pm during the winter and spring months there is almost no traffic. So, she saves the hours of her best employees for higher traffic times. I guess my point is, it might make sense to visit a shop more than once or twice and at different times of the week. You might get an entirely different vibe.
I understand that. I've been in shops after work and on weekends. That's when I have available. Florida is a year round bicycling climate.
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Old 03-03-11, 05:18 PM   #19
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If I owned an LBS, I'd do something along the lines of being open a little later for working people, and seven days a week. I would embrace the online ordering phenomena by actually advertising that I would offer custom fits for online purchases. I might have a few examples of different online bikes as display models and for rent. I would let people know that I would offer pro-builds for their online purchase, and offer professional consultation with their purchases (kind of like a lifestyle coach).

I would think about making my place a lifestyle center, maybe even a brewpub. The Bike N Brew serving the Tour de Brew Belgian Ale. Lance's Strong Ale. Bianchi's B!tches Brew (you have to be listening to Miles Davis live from Italy to drink this properly). Wait, did Miles ever perform in Italy?

I would offer coaching seminars and wine and cheese nights, maybe offer a ladies night. You have to be thinking promotion all the time, and hustle if you want to own a brick and mortar store.

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Old 03-03-11, 08:14 PM   #20
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I think New Belgium might have a problem if i marketed a Flat Tire Ale, but they couldn't object to a nice Flat Tire Mead (still, not sparkling) Orange Blossom Honey is prevalent down here and makes a very nice mead.
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Old 03-04-11, 12:27 AM   #21
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Perhaps you can find one here:

http://www.floridabicycle.org/cgi-bi...wshops.cgi?d=4
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Old 03-04-11, 05:38 AM   #22
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Over the years I've developed a relationship with the local bike store owner. We consider each other friends. He supports the club I'm in and he gives club members a 10% discount. I pay the CT state tax on purchases but I don't have to pay shipping and my purchases help to assure that the LBS will be there. There are a couple other bike stores around and when I go in to them I treat staff like they are people. Stuff like discussing various local routes or asking their opinions about a variety of gear/techniques/routes, etc. If I want help....I ask. When they are busy or not doing their job the way I think I'd do it...I don't take it personally. I have no complaints about any of them.
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Old 03-04-11, 06:10 AM   #23
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I've been to 4 of those shops, plus 4 that aren't on the list. Some of those shops are small chains with multiple locations that makes the list look larger than it is. And most of the ones that I haven't been to on that list are more than 20 miles away, as I live in the SW corner of Broward County. Believe me, I've been Googling and Yelping bike shops in Broward and Dade. Soon I might visit the shop in Boca "The Racer's Edge" that Bobthib mentioned.

And I always wonder how accurate these lists are, as I know that this shop:
Active Cycles
12389 Sheridan St.
Cooper City, FL 33026
(954) 442-2238
Has been out of business for almost two years. This shop used to be in a shopping center that is less than 2 miles from my house. I used to go past it every time I went to the bank, ordered pizza from Johnny Geeze, or went to Dunkin' Donuts.

Some of the shops on that list tend to be more beach cruiser oriented, and beach boardwalk bike rental oriented.

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Old 03-04-11, 09:41 AM   #24
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I guess I was just lucky that I found a great LBS, the only rub is, its 20 odd miles away. I go past several bike shops on my way to Tempe Bike because they give me great service and price too. They match online pricing as well so I get most everything I can there. Keep looking and hopefully you'll find a good one.
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Old 03-05-11, 10:58 AM   #25
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Ok Garilla!
More overlap!

http://www.bicycleshops.us/regional/fl13.htm

http://www.socalmtb.com/shops/shops....rd&loc=florida

http://www.floridabicycle.org/bikeshop/directory_4.htm
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