Shopping for bicycle parts recently I was shocked by the bad vibes at several GVRD shops. Short story - some of the businesses have unhappy players (both management and staff). And this seems to be unique to bike shops. I do not notice it in other small retail shops here. It's really stressful. Why I don't know. It wasn't this way in Hanoi or Bangkok. Is it this way in USA right now? Maybe it has its origin in economic troubles, or because of fear (two bicyclists shot recently). Or because selling bike parts is labour intensive and employees and managers both feel they are being taken advantage of? Examples from Vancouver area...
My ratings are very subjective.
Caps New West: 4/5 good vibe, prices 2/5, service 3/5, stock 3/5. Proprietor is founder's son. He is full of knowledge and helpful. Large selection. Mechanic seemed like he was happy in his job. Hands-on manager who deals directly with customers. Nothing weird about staff. Very good parking. Native speaker staff. My only disappointments are shop location is a bit inconvenient for me (on Colombia Street near BOORMAN'S ARCHERY, another institution, prices are not the best. Plus the part I wanted had to be ordered, which I did so. But I got a duplicate, an identical much cheaper and in stock at JV - where I loath the proprietor. How can you win? Why did I even buy *anything* at Caps New West? The boss kindly called around to find me someone who would do custom work on a seat post. So, I felt obligated to spend some money in his store lest I be a time-waster. Do I want to go back? Maybe.
Second time in (after tire came in) I non-judgmentally told him about the same tire was so much cheaper at a competitor. He installed it free. But it's rubbing on brake now! Clearly I have to do a test run after any work at a bike shop before I leave the area.
Caps Westwood: 3.5/5 good vibes, prices 2/5, service 2.5/5, stock 3.5/5. My neighbourhood bike shop. Largest space, let me open packages and try stuf, nice staff. Customers have strong opinions on which branch of this established family business they prefer. Unfortunately they won't ship between stores. Do I want to go back? Yes.
Reckless,Vancouver: 3/5 good vibe, prices 3/5, service 2/5, stock 3/5. Despite multiple staff when I went in early evening it was very busy. People lined up. Mix of immigrant and local staff (as at JV). Very cramped store like in Taiwan. A bit tense in the air but no vibe of if the lights went out they would murder their boss and the world would be a better place for it. Someone already tried that here. A disgruntled employee was engaged in a *** battle with police a few months ago after trying to do so. Do I want to go back? No.
JV Bikes: 1/5 good vibe, prices 3.5/5, service 2/5, stock 4/5. They had what I wanted and at a reasonable price (one item was 30% cheaper than Caps, and they had it in stock). But the vibe was *horrible*. The senior staff at the bike shop side are both arrogant and unfriendly like Starbucks waiters. But at the repair shop side I was even more appalled. It appeared that the multiple mechanics are afraid of their rather rude Bulgarian (?) boss. The air was so tense. Fenando was very agreeable and did his best to help me but the boss was so verbally insulting and condescending to to his staff, I couldn't wait to get out of there. Do I want to go back? If I absolutely have to, and I probably will have to for my folding bike. I will keep looking for another Vancouver area who specializes in folding bikes.
Mountain Equipment Co-op: 5/5 good vibes, prices 5/5, service 4/5, stock 2/5. Very good value for parts, accessories and maintenance. Maybe prices *aren't* any cheaper but the fact that prices are posted impressed me. Knowledgeable staff and low cost intro bike courses. Not crowded. Do I want to go back? Yes, but it is unlikely they will have the niche market folding bike parts I need. Sense of community.
Walmart: 4/5 good vibes, prices 5/5, service 1/5, stock 1/5. I expected this hypermart to have disgruntled employees based on the way journalists talk about then. To my surprise the opposite is true - while staff usually know nothing about the products they sell, they are pleasant - if you can find anyone outside of electronics. Mostly low quality accessories but ocassionally I will find something where I say to myself, 'Wow , why should I pay three times the price at a bike shop, I can get a functional alternative here.' Do I want to go back? Maybe, if I am in the store shopping for other things already. Otherwise, this is NOT a destination
So, in conclusion I will go to one store for service, another for folding bike stuff and another because I like the female cashier. I don't like shopping and until there is a superstore for cyclists started I will try ordering online and therefore I will be another nail in the coffin of mom n' pop bike shops.