Obviously bike shops come in many flavors and your story doesn't surprise me very much. In my limited experience shopping for higher end bikes, I've found that you need to be a little more discriminatory as a consumer. What I mean by this is that you need to be more selective about where you shop. You probably need to be looking for "boutique" type shops rather than the major brand retailers. If you are in a major metro area, there are probably a couple in town.
another option is to see when/if the demo truck for the brand you're interested in will be in town or nearby. I bought based on such a test when I wasn't really in the market when I went to the demo
how is riding it around the parking lot gonna tell you anything anyways?
Thing is, for the people who know exactly what they want, the LBS purchase doesn't exactly have much to offer. If they're just order-takers, they're overpaid.
My LBS has nothing BUT high-end bikes ($2500-$10,000). I can't afford a thing in there. Great shop, lots of gear and goodies...bikes are out of my price range.
"These are questions for wise men with skinny arms." - Khal Drogo
2011 Rossetti Vertigo w/ SRAM Rival 16.1lbs
I may not be the typical bike sales guy. I am a serious enthusiast who is retired and when I say I could not care less if you spend $800.00 or 8k I mean it. Not everything is about making the all mighty dollar. I want my bike buyers to be long term customers and friends of the shop.
Can you imagine a pro rider asking to ride the bike first before he signs up to a pro team?
Now, if you want to go with your "lure" idea, odds are that the lure makes him a lot more than one sale, otherwise he probably wouldn't be wasting his time. I doubt he has to be another lure every time he sales a bike. If so he isn't a very good fisherman.
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Despite knowing that it's hard for the LBS to allow rides on pricey $4k+ bikes, I find it unreasonable for LBSes to be that high and mighty that they can't offer test rides to people legitimately interested in purchasing one of these bikes.
If I can go to the local Honda dealer and test ride a stacked $45,000 Honda with no problems, I should have no problems with a $4k bike at the local LBS. There should be some sort of insurance or otherwise to help cover any accidents, similar to what car dealerships might have. I know you all will now say how impossible that is with the tiny margins LBSes are making, but I can say with certainty that I'd pay $100-$200 extra to buy a bike that I test rode than not. In fact, that's the sole reason I go to an LBS - otherwise, I'd just order online for pretty much that margin of discount.
My LBS snagged me good when I went in to check out Cervelos, and they not only got me on one, but without my asking/pushing, offered to set it up in my size while I was there. Hard to turn down a sale after that for an interested buyer.