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Old 09-26-09, 03:29 AM   #1
danielmolloy
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Bike Shop Ethics re. stolen bikes

Is it right for a bike shop to call the police to check if a bicycle is stolen when a customer brings it in to have it fixed?

I was faced with a real ethical dilemma today, with a very suspicious bicycle that ended up being stolen after I called to check. The bike was taken by the police, and now the customer is out the money they paid for it, with no recourse. My position is that they should have checked before they bought, but is it right/ethical for me to act on hunches? I'm glad one stolen bike is going back to it's rightful owner.
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Old 09-26-09, 03:45 AM   #2
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If you were the true owner of the bike, wouldn't you be glad that the LBS did that?

I'd like to hear the story about how the customer came to be in possession of that bike.
Did anyone happen to share that with you?
What tipped you off that the bike might have been stolen?
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Old 09-26-09, 04:41 AM   #3
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Is it right for a bike shop to call the police to check if a bicycle is stolen when a customer brings it in to have it fixed?
I always did. Whenever somebody brought a bike into me along with a story that didn't quite match I called the cops. They'd send an officer to the shop to read the serial number. None of the bikes that were brought to me had been reported stolen, but at least I did my part.

How'd the subject come up? You obviously had some reason to suspect the bike was stolen. Giving the benefit of the doubt, the person who bought the bike should have been suspicious too.
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Old 09-26-09, 05:09 AM   #4
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Is it right for a bike shop to call the police to check if a bicycle is stolen when a customer brings it in to have it fixed?
You have a moral obligation as a good citizen and the responsibility as a good business owner to contact the police when you suspect wrong doing. It would hardly do well for your bicycle business and your ability to function in the community if you earned the reputation of ignoring stolen goods, or worse being a fence for them. Law abiding people talk about such things, and as a former police officer I know for a fact criminals ALWAYS talk, and it wouldn't have taken long for the word to get out that your business was the place to take bicycles obtained illegitimately. Whatever harm your customer may suffer because of your honesty, it is more then made up for by the good you did returning the bicycle to its rightful owner. That really, really doesn't happen very often.
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Old 09-26-09, 07:25 AM   #5
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Sometimes the right thing sucks.But it's still the right thing.
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Old 09-26-09, 08:38 AM   #6
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did the bike infact get returned to the owner or did the Officer just take it away and now it is sitting in the property room at the station, or worse yet just outside in a jumble of bikes?
like the others said how did you come to think it was stolen? was the customer present when the Officer came to check the bike?
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Old 09-26-09, 08:47 AM   #7
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You did the right thing.

I like the idea of putting identification inside the bike so that, if a bike gets stolen, and goes in for service the mechanic will be able to check that against the work order.
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Old 09-26-09, 10:56 AM   #8
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You did the right thing.

I like the idea of putting identification inside the bike so that, if a bike gets stolen, and goes in for service the mechanic will be able to check that against the work order.
I do that on ALL of my bikes. I have laminated cards with my name, permanent address and DL number made up; I usually tape one to the fork head tube and put one in the BB and possibly the seat tube. I also maintain photos of my bikes to include the serial numbers, and special features. I keep copies at home as well as in a safety deposit box. The photos include any upgrades have made along the way. There is no reason not to do it with the ease of digital photography.

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Old 09-26-09, 11:11 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by danielmolloy View Post
Is it right for a bike shop to call the police to check if a bicycle is stolen when a customer brings it in to have it fixed?

I was faced with a real ethical dilemma today, with a very suspicious bicycle that ended up being stolen after I called to check. The bike was taken by the police, and now the customer is out the money they paid for it, with no recourse. My position is that they should have checked before they bought, but is it right/ethical for me to act on hunches? I'm glad one stolen bike is going back to it's rightful owner.
IMHO you did the right thing. Were it my bike and I knew that happened for me to be able to recover it you'd be the proud owner of a case of good beer.

You might not recieve such a warm response had you posted this on bikethieves.com tho
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Old 09-26-09, 05:09 PM   #10
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Refund that money before YOU are arrested for stealing.
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Old 09-26-09, 05:44 PM   #11
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You have an obligation to contact the police and make certain the bike is returned to its rightful owner.
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Old 09-26-09, 05:49 PM   #12
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Refund that money before YOU are arrested for stealing.
I think you misunderstood -- they didn't pay the LBS for the bike, they brought it in for service; apparently, none was done, no money paid up front.

What the OP was referring to was the money the bike owner paid to whoever to get it -- presuming, of course, that the 'owner' wasn't the thief, but just a guy who bought a used bike.
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Old 09-27-09, 01:27 AM   #13
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If you were the true owner of the bike, wouldn't you be glad that the LBS did that?

I'd like to hear the story about how the customer came to be in possession of that bike.
Did anyone happen to share that with you?
What tipped you off that the bike might have been stolen?
The bike that came in was equipped with all 8 speed sora equipment (entry level bicycle), but had oem wheels from a different brand of bicycle, and a 10 speed ultegra cassette. Because of the much wider 8 speed chain, it didn't seat on the cassette. The customer brought the bike in and told me that she bought it on craigslist, and the person she bought it from told her that it would "need to have the gears adjusted". The bike frame was covered in stickers that were pretty obviously trying to change the look of the bike to conceal it's identity. The wheels and cassette were the biggest tip off that the bike was probably stolen. I had an internal debate as to call the police to check the serial number, or to sell the customer a new 8 speed cassette and keep them as a customer, but I thought of all the other customers who come in every day whose bikes were stolen and how bad I would feel if my bike were stolen, so I felt that my only choice was to check to see if my hunch was correct. It was. The customer lost their newly purchased bike, but I know I did the right thing.

The customer gave my shop a terrible one star review on yelp, basically saying that we checked to see if their bike was stolen without their permission, called the police, and now they are out a thousand dollars and they will never come to our shop again. I feel bad for her, but it's really her fault for not checking out the bike before she bought it from somebody on craigslist.
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Old 09-27-09, 02:03 AM   #14
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The customer gave my shop a terrible one star review on yelp, basically saying that we checked to see if their bike was stolen without their permission, called the police, and now they are out a thousand dollars and they will never come to our shop again. I feel bad for her, but it's really her fault for not checking out the bike before she bought it from somebody on craigslist.
Yeah, but you see, almost anyone reading beyond the one star rating might have a completely different intrepratation. I doubt you business will suffer as a result, and as someone mentioned, crooks talk. The only business you are likely to lose is business you don't want in the first way. Your reputation just might go up a notch. Really though, you think she actually paid a thousand for a bike with visibly Soros components?

Not that I'm pretending to know what a 'yelp' is.
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Old 09-27-09, 03:59 AM   #15
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The bike that came in was equipped with all 8 speed sora equipment (entry level bicycle), but had oem wheels from a different brand of bicycle, and a 10 speed ultegra cassette. Because of the much wider 8 speed chain, it didn't seat on the cassette. The customer brought the bike in and told me that she bought it on craigslist, and the person she bought it from told her that it would "need to have the gears adjusted". The bike frame was covered in stickers that were pretty obviously trying to change the look of the bike to conceal it's identity. The wheels and cassette were the biggest tip off that the bike was probably stolen. I had an internal debate as to call the police to check the serial number, or to sell the customer a new 8 speed cassette and keep them as a customer, but I thought of all the other customers who come in every day whose bikes were stolen and how bad I would feel if my bike were stolen, so I felt that my only choice was to check to see if my hunch was correct. It was. The customer lost their newly purchased bike, but I know I did the right thing.

The customer gave my shop a terrible one star review on yelp, basically saying that we checked to see if their bike was stolen without their permission, called the police, and now they are out a thousand dollars and they will never come to our shop again. I feel bad for her, but it's really her fault for not checking out the bike before she bought it from somebody on craigslist.
If it was my bike that was stolen and I happen to spot it in the service area while I was in your shop I would have called the cops on the spot and you (your shop) would have a whole bunch of explaining to do.

As it is you did the right thing morally, and covered yourself legally. You did good.
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Old 09-27-09, 05:06 AM   #16
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Too many people buy things from CL because they can get it cheap...it is cheap for a reason. Buyer Beware. FWIW I have looked at old bikes at flea markets and thrift stores and walked away and reported the serial numbers to the local authorities. I have had several bicycles stolen over the years and would love to have had a few of the nicer ones returned.

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Old 09-27-09, 05:35 AM   #17
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Right is right...good job.
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Old 09-27-09, 06:04 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielmolloy View Post
The bike that came in was equipped with all 8 speed sora equipment (entry level bicycle), but had oem wheels from a different brand of bicycle, and a 10 speed ultegra cassette. Because of the much wider 8 speed chain, it didn't seat on the cassette. The customer brought the bike in and told me that she bought it on craigslist, and the person she bought it from told her that it would "need to have the gears adjusted". The bike frame was covered in stickers that were pretty obviously trying to change the look of the bike to conceal it's identity. The wheels and cassette were the biggest tip off that the bike was probably stolen. I had an internal debate as to call the police to check the serial number, or to sell the customer a new 8 speed cassette and keep them as a customer, but I thought of all the other customers who come in every day whose bikes were stolen and how bad I would feel if my bike were stolen, so I felt that my only choice was to check to see if my hunch was correct. It was. The customer lost their newly purchased bike, but I know I did the right thing.

The customer gave my shop a terrible one star review on yelp, basically saying that we checked to see if their bike was stolen without their permission, called the police, and now they are out a thousand dollars and they will never come to our shop again. I feel bad for her, but it's really her fault for not checking out the bike before she bought it from somebody on craigslist.
She says she paid $1,000 for a seriously used-looking, 8-speed Sora equipped bike with mismatched parts that didn't work right? NOBODY'S THAT DUMB!

How could she not know what the deal was? My bet is she's working with whoever stole the bike because they can't sell a crummy looking bike that doesn't work. If it was me, I'd HOPE she never comes into the shop again. If she does, I'd watch her like a hawk and I'd check my inventory of small items, like computers, after she left.
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Old 09-27-09, 07:16 AM   #19
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I'd even consider making it known that she is not welcome in the shop, period. She already badmouthed you (the LBS owner) and she is nothing but a liability. Maybe its best to tell someone like that, that her business is not welcome there at any time, now or in the future.
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Old 09-27-09, 07:21 AM   #20
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She says she paid $1,000 for a seriously used-looking, 8-speed Sora equipped bike with mismatched parts that didn't work right? NOBODY'S THAT DUMB!
Oh, yes they are. She probably would've been the kind of person to have a shop fix a flat instead of doing it herself, too.

But...

Quote:
How could she not know what the deal was? My bet is she's working with whoever stole the bike because they can't sell a crummy looking bike that doesn't work. If it was me, I'd HOPE she never comes into the shop again. If she does, I'd watch her like a hawk and I'd check my inventory of small items, like computers, after she left.
That could have been very true, too.

I should go take numerous pics of my bikes and their serial numbers now.
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Old 09-27-09, 05:13 PM   #21
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Is it right for a bike shop to call the police to check if a bicycle is stolen when a customer brings it in to have it fixed?

I was faced with a real ethical dilemma today, with a very suspicious bicycle that ended up being stolen after I called to check. The bike was taken by the police, and now the customer is out the money they paid for it, with no recourse. My position is that they should have checked before they bought, but is it right/ethical for me to act on hunches? I'm glad one stolen bike is going back to it's rightful owner.
Doesn't sound like much of a dilemma to me.
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Old 09-27-09, 07:58 PM   #22
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You can also contact the folks who run the Yelp site. Just tell them you had a legal obligation to report a likely theft to the police.
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Old 09-28-09, 12:49 AM   #23
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I wonder how much she is cooperating with the police investigation to find the actual seller of the stolen property. I would guess if she was legit she would burn the craigslist seller and then sue to recover in small claims. BUT that's only an assumption on my part if she was for real. Contact YELP and tell them you had both a legal and moral obligation.
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Old 09-28-09, 09:18 AM   #24
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Here's a true story from a few years ago. A student reported her bike stolen to our department. Needing a bike, she went to the nearby bike shop a couple of miles from campus. As she walked towards the door, this fellow standing by a van said..."Psst....Lookin' for a bike?"
Seems he had one in the van.... The student looked, sure enough it was hers. She told the guy she needed to go use the ATM to get money, and used the time to call police...

One bike thief down....
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Old 09-28-09, 12:33 PM   #25
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Here's a true story from a few years ago. A student reported her bike stolen to our department. Needing a bike, she went to the nearby bike shop a couple of miles from campus. As she walked towards the door, this fellow standing by a van said..."Psst....Lookin' for a bike?"
Seems he had one in the van.... The student looked, sure enough it was hers. She told the guy she needed to go use the ATM to get money, and used the time to call police...

One bike thief down....
I love it when a plan comes together.
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