Here's a little tip from the inside: we love our customers, we really do, but walking in and wandering around moving stock around but not letting the sales staff help you find something you need (before ultimately walking out empty-handed) doesn't make you a customer. It makes you a visitor. Some of these visitors are talkers, who think that we are going to be scintillated by their thoughts and expertise on bicycles, but the reality is that the large majority of the talkers are catastrophic bores who will do almost anything to avoid actually spending any money. I suspect that a lot of these cheapskate bores are the ones who then go online and complain about their LBS.
I don't know what it is about bicycle retail that makes people think that the staff want to just hang out and have a long conversation with them without selling them anything, since no one would EVER assume that about most other retail operations, but there you go. And then people get annoyed when the staff act like their job is to make money and keep the doors open. I suppose book stores have this problem as well.
I like most of my LBS, particularly like two stores that strike me as low pressure and not likely to sneer or make fun of your existing bike. But even the corporate stores (Trek and Specialized dealers) are decent enough. There is a place that just opened not far from my house that I haven't made up my mind on. I stopped by there the other day purely out of curiosity, as I wasn't sure whether it was a bike shop, an art gallery, or a bike oriented exercise studio. Turned out it was a bike shop, but the high end carbon fiber bikes were displayed on the wall as if they were rare and valuable pieces of art. I met the owner of the place and he was pleasant enough, told me about some of the services his shop offered in addition to selling new bikes (like pro bike fittings for example) then I thanked him for his time and he said something vaguely insulting. He said when he saw me come in, he wouldn't have guessed I knew anything about bikes (but that now that he talked to me, I actually knew a thing or two). My 12 year old son said to me after we left, "Dad, I think that man just called you fat."
My go-to guy for stuff I can't fix myself is a super-nice, honest and knowledgeable master-mechanic at my local REI I have known for almost ten years now. I try to work on the relationship by giving him gifts at christmas and having the occasional pizza delivered when I know he's working. And one more thing, he usually gets my bike to me same day, no matter how busy.
My advice? If you have a cool local mechanic/bikeshop, work on that relationship, as I have kissed many frogs before finding my prince.
honestly its the snobbery of the LBS shops that turn me off, whether you're a woman or an overweight person, or wear walmart clothes to bike in, whatever. If you don't fit their image they have no interest in assisting you. i'd be happy to patronize a LBS and even pay more to do so, but i have been made to feel very unwelcome there, so why bother?
Here has been my experience with a couple LBS stores. I've shopped around as I recently moved into the Kansas City area, however, I had bought my bike the previous summer. The bike shop I purchased my bike from did very little to deter me from buying a bike with a frame that is now, in hindsight and comfort, to large for my arm length. They did nothing to appropriately fit the bike for me. They simply encouraged me to buy it, talked about how great the price was, and claimed that it was me adjusting to riding in a more forward position than a standard cruiser. I shopped around after moving to find a LBS that I enjoyed. The first one I went to was the closest, and had two locations. My first time there I had a sales person jumping down my throat before I could even circle the store, luckily I was there for a product, and they had some shoes that fit my order. I was also in the market for a helmet, however, they did not have one in my size or price point so I went to their other location shortly before close. When I arrived there, a bunch of men were just casually sitting around chatting and appeared relatively uninterested in my needs. This shop is the same chain and they were on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. I've been through several other shops, and have finally settled on one where I feel comfortable. I walk in, Jason (the owner) is always there working his own shop. He lets you walk around a bit, then asks if there is anything he can help with. He's perfectly happy to let you walk around if you don't need anything, or assist you with whatever you might be looking for. I bought a trainer from him over the winter and as a noobie had no idea how to change the quick release piece on the back tire (it escapes me what it's called); I took the trainer and my bike in and they provided me with an ample tutorial for how it works. After showing me how it works, he noted that my seat was not adjusted right and made a few quick tweaks to get me in a more comfortable riding position. I think this experience is what most people want out of their LBS. Not overbaring with their salesmanship, not incredibly distant, but making sure that your needs are met, and that their knowledge can benefit you. In fact, I'll probably go back there this week or next and talk to him about bike fit and options. I can't seem to ride for 2 hours without pain in my wrists, which to me means that I'm lunged to far forward and carrying to much weight on my wrists. This is not good considering RAGBRAI is only months away. I know when I go in that he WILL try to sell me something, but that he WON'T waste my money. It's about building relationships, and it sounds like a lot of people don't get these relationships right.
My bike mechanic lives around the corner from me. I dropped my bike off at his house Monday and he delivered it to my house Tuesday evening. Then I bought him dinner and a couple glasses of wine.
Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.
I usually walk into a shop looking for something specific, or just to check out a new place to get a feel for what they have. I don't have expectations except that they are at least respectful. I'm a guy who knows what he wants. I don't usually need much attention, and frankly don't want it because if they have it I can usually find it and if not I don't want to simply be sold "what they have in stock." So I try to avoid taking the time of the sales staff.
...Just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Funny, because I'm kinda a DIY idiot that has no mechanical sense, and last year I took one of my bikes in to one of the several LBS's here in Rochester convinced that I needed a new crank, and they talked me out of it, showing and explaining exactly why I didn't. A car or bike mechanic that turns down your deep desire to give them money is a keeper in my books!
I understand that some people that walk in are clueless or noobs and need to be told what to buy, I on the other hand like many experienced enthusiasts with discerning tastes am more than capable of making my own selections. A good salesman should be capable of realizing the difference.
on one hand, getting help 'too soon' seems a no-no, on the other the loose and casual approach is also a 'no-no'. Maybe the try from the LBS you seem to have settled in just hit you at a point where 'you' were more receptive.
HAving a slesperson come up and ask if you need help, when you enter a store, should be expected. If that doesn;t happen, then it doesn;t bother me to find a salesperson when I need direction or help. And I expect to give them time to get to a good stopping point if they're in middle of something...
In any case, stores and staff need some slack to perform properly and maybe multiple visits to make an impression. Some guys are just not 'friendly' but know their craft well and do it with consideration for the customer - I can grok that...
I would expect the 'owner', in most proprietorships to be as you describe, doesn;t mean chain stores are worse. They hang more on the 'culture' which the store mgmt provides. This is also the case for stores where the are employees who work independent of immediate owner oversight.
Bike shop guys are not paid to be psychotherapists, yet they are expected to deal with a vast array of customer types, from complete noobs who don;t care to do any of their own info searching, to 'egg-spurts' who know it all.
I'll generally cut them some slack if they have an 'off' moment or can't quite figure me out...
I go in for a cable, they'll try to sell me some housing - I'll say "thanks, but Im good.." I'll pay, they move on to the next customer, no handwringing needed, life goes on, it's all good.
There's one guy who used to work here in Goleta at Velo-Pro, now moved to the downtown Santa Barb store. I truly miss him. He was a genuinely NICE guy, and I always looked forward to his interaction - I just don't get downtown that often. All the other guys are also good, in all the other shops.
Here in SB we have quite a few shops and I've never had a bad 'experience' - some of that is I know what I need and when I don;t know, they do... They're not infallible, so if it's really important I do further checking, just to make sure.
In any case, we're lucky to have all good shops in the SB valley.
As for your bike size and 'fit' issues. I'm not inferring anything as to what the actual appropriateness of your current bike size is, relative to you - BUT - I would say it's rare - and I mean RARE - that too large a bike causes too much weight on the hand/handlebars. Not making assumptions about your current physique, but not having the saddle in an optimum place is more often a consideration - along with adapting the position to someone's core strength and, of course, girth.
How your place your hands when you ride and your overall position, has a huge effect on that comfort; don;t blame the bike.
Golden rose, the color of the dream I had
Not too long ago
A misty blue and the lillac too
A never to grow old
In one of his books, or maybe his blog, Grant Peterson suggesed buying something (even something small like an inner tube or set of tire levers) every time you go into a bike shop. I try to do that, though in the case of the store that actually hides the small dollar items (thus the only non bikes visible for sale was expesive pro style kit, it is difficult.
Golden rose, the color of the dream I had
Not too long ago
A misty blue and the lillac too
A never to grow old
Regarding the first point - here's what we do at my shop. A customer comes in. We give them a friendly greeting and ask if we can help them with finding anything. If they are looking at bikes, then we go ahead and try to sell them a bike. If they are looking for a tire or some accessory or another, we don't try to sell them a bike. If your shop is trying to sell you a bike when you've come in clearly looking for tires, that's stupid and wrong. If you come in and are window-shopping the bikes, they're going to see if they can convert that interest to a sale. Because that's what you do. They shouldn't be pushy about it, but you don't let an opportunity go.
I'm still kind of blown away by how many people think that a retail store SHOULDN'T try to sell something to people that walk in the door. Again, it's wrong to be pushy - if someone says they're just looking around, we'll let them be for awhile (if they stick around a bit, we check in again). But it's just as wrong to ignore customers until they approach you. A lot of people will walk away if you don't try to sell them - even though they want to buy something. It just goes to show, you can't please everyone.
man, i hope i am not on my LBS's blacklist. They have some attractive offerings but in the end the price is just not good enough to be competitive with the interwebs.
Last time I was there though, the staff that served me could not answer any of my questions about the bike. I don't mean to put him down or feel superior at all. It was just a bizarre experience.
I am one of those customers you loathe. I will check out what I am after first. I will even go from bike shop to bike shop to check inventory on the items I am looking for, and yes, I will price shop (it is, after all, my money and I decide what to spend it on). I will check the specials bins, too. Often, I will go away, think about what I have seen, then go back and drop a swag of money on what I want.
I don't want a jackass hanging around me like a bad smell. I don't want to be sold up on a product. I don't want to be regarded as a potential shop thief, with someone following me around. And I certainly don't want to be treated like absolute crap at the counter when I am purchasing, irrespective of how much I am spending.
One of the most successful bike shops I have come across doesn't sell bikes. It stakes its reputation on good service -- as in customer service and fixing bikes. I has picked its market -- leisure riders, commuters, tourers, randonneurs -- and has a huge range of stock, that includes second-hand stuff as well.
It has been very successful at staying in business for a long time. The staff are mature in age and approach. Working in a bike shop does NOT mean selling bikes.
Dream. Dare. Do.
With the exception of groceries and (sometimes) clothing, I tend to comparison shop and 'sleep on' nearly everything I buy. on the rare occasion that I do not adequately research a purchase, I have significant buyer's remorse. I know what works for me. I know what quality is, and I care a lot about function and ergonomics. I don't buy until I've found what I want. I am sometimes willing to pay more for a thing if I can afford to, know it's what I want, and it helps me to support a business that I value, as long as the price is still within the realm of what I find reasonable for that particular widget. It has to be competitive, though. There's no way I would pay $75 dollars for one GP4000 tire when they can be so easily found for ~$40 a piece or less. Which, by the way, is what they should cost.
"Winning is the best deodorant. Someone can look at your bike and say it stinks, but if you win with it, suddenly it's okay." - Jim Busby