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Working at the Bike Shop- Some days all is not bliss!!

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Working at the Bike Shop- Some days all is not bliss!!

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Old 07-10-18, 05:04 AM
  #1  
Tandem Tom
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Working at the Bike Shop- Some days all is not bliss!!

This is my 6 th. season of working at my LBS and it is always enjoyable and fun. Lots of nicepenice !! Except for yesterday. It started with someone one banging on the front window. So I walked outside and a lady is there,My tire is flat!" "Why don't you have an automatic door opener??" So I bring the bike inside and after finishing up another bike I mark mhe seatpost height and put it in the stand. She immediately says " Did you change the position of my reflector? It has to be in the same position." I said I have it marked. At this point she is in the service area and I ask her to step back outside of the area. She then launched in to a tirard that " If I was a man you wouldn't tell me to move,I demand respect" I told her noono is allowed in the service area. But she would not listen to anything I had to say. She then goes on tho say what terrible service and says "I fodon want you to work on my bike". So without saying a word zI return the seatpost to the correct position and wheel the bike outside and leave it with her on the sidewalk.
Fortunately this is a rare occurrence!!!
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Old 07-10-18, 06:27 AM
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Yeah, the vast majority of customers are cool, but it's that .1% that makes life interesting. I have a story or two myself.
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Old 07-10-18, 06:49 AM
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Tandem Tom: While it was unpleasant and maybe uncomfortable for you, you should actually feel good about how you handled that awkward situation. It seems highly likely that that woman has some mental health issues, and it would have been easy to escalate things to a real problem. You appear to have defused the situation in a calm and professional manner and, after a few awkward minutes, the day went on for everybody. "Experience providing mental health care" is probably not in your job description, but your calmness and caring response meant you, her, and many folks around you right then and there got on with their day without any major calamity.

Maybe not bliss, but definitely not a disaster. "You did good!"
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Old 07-10-18, 07:20 AM
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I think every job I have ever has has exposed me to people like this, some jobs more than others. Imagine having someone like this as a boss or supervisor. I have.

The key for me is to find work where my exposure to such people is minimized, and my escape options are maximized. Try as I might though, I still end up dealing with people like this no matter how hard I try not to, and when the money they pay you puts food on your table, you can't just tell them off like you would a stranger.

For me, realizing that people like this individual create really unpleasant situations like this one all on their own, unassisted, and bear sole responsibility for them. Even though it becomes my job at some point to try to talk them away from the ledge, while not losing my own temper. It's not easy.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:33 AM
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Unfortunately, this is the reality of any job that is service oriented in which you deal with the public. If you put them in perspective, as you have, and realize they are the vast minority, it helps to deal with them. When faced with this kind of person, I usually go into the kill 'em with kindness mode, defuse the situation, and get them out of my hair quickly.
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Old 07-10-18, 07:45 AM
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Come work in urban municipal construction where we disrupt people's lives daily for months on end.
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Old 07-10-18, 08:10 AM
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The LBS business is particularly hard for some because of this. Some great mechanics don't have the patience to get past what some customers are living with every minute of their lives. Bicycles are the last resort for transportation for many who are forbidden by society from driving or have been banned from forms of public transportation. The reasons why often manifest themselves in other behavior "issues". We see legally blind, DWI'd, autistic, OCD/bi polar, the big chip on their shoulder, the "I'm paying you so you're my slave" and more types frequently. During the winter these riders stand out even more as they usually don't retreat to their trainer stands or spin classes, they're still out there riding because they have to.

Sometimes this stuff gets to me too but I've grown a bit of a thick skin and have come to realize that the way I get treated isn't a personal thing.

As a side bar I wonder about the situations where I have fired a customer. I always felt bad when it happens, as though I failed to handle things well. But now with the recent Supreme Court ruling about wedding cakes, gay couples and a shop owner's claim of religious restrictions I am wondering if I can fire any one I wish to and not be wrong, as long as I claim it's against my faith to serve someone. Andy (who doesn't write satire very well)
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Old 07-10-18, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Tandem Tom View Post
So without saying a word zI return the seatpost to the correct position and wheel the bike outside and leave it with her on the sidewalk.
Fortunately this is a rare occurrence!!!
IMO you probably did the right thing. Some customers are not just hard to deal with but are a detriment to your business. Just having a customer in your shop ranting about anything can often scare away other customers particularly if they know little about bikes and any kind of discrimination accusation can scare off hordes of people despite being totally baseless. If you don't have a sign in your work area telling customers they are not allowed inside it would be a good idea to get one.
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Old 07-10-18, 11:32 AM
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I worked customer service most of my life, lifeguard, bike shop, sales, gyms, you run into these people everywhere.

I switched gears and went medical for my grown up career. That's not always particularly pleasant either. Just be glad this lady didn't soil herself and you had to clean it up.
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Old 07-11-18, 07:55 AM
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Glad you were able to keep calm about & deal with it like a pro. I owned my own repair shop ( not bicycles ) for many yrs and have had to throw out a few customers, after trying to kill them with kindness didn't work and they started to get verbally abusive the gloves came off and I unleashed on them, a few times I had customers who know me there and they said they don't know how I put up with it as long as I did before I lost it. Some people can be such dicks lol

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Old 07-11-18, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Pilot321 View Post
Unfortunately, this is the reality of any job that is service oriented in which you deal with the public. If you put them in perspective, as you have, and realize they are the vast minority, it helps to deal with them. When faced with this kind of person, I usually go into the kill 'em with kindness mode, defuse the situation, and get them out of my hair quickly.
But their numbers are increasing all the time. People seem to be getting more and more entitled and self-righteous with each passing day.

This guy did the right thing by simply refusing to do the service (and thus enter into a contract) outright. Given how easy it currently is to initiate credit-card chargebacks, he could have been in for future headaches down the road (something I have personal experience with in my own job).
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Old 07-11-18, 11:02 AM
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A lot of times we give off vibes or adopt postures or say something inconsequential that ends up being misinterpreted and all goes downhill from there. I am sure you have reflected on what might have been the trigger (if there actually was one other than the affront of the flat). I have had a long term habit of smiling when people are yelling at me. Just can't help it, it's just amusing that folks get so worked up. Naturally my smiling doesn't help the situation. Anyway, I imagine she reflected on her behaviour whilst walking her bike home.

You need to set up a camera, these sort of interactions are gold on YouTube.
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Old 07-11-18, 11:49 AM
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I have often thought that their needs to be an annual award, "The Sheldon Brown Professional Bike Mechanics Forums Contribution Award". There are a several of you whom posted on this thread that in my mind would be in the annual running. I appreciate the contributions you give. But is more than the contributions, in general, there is a tone of civility. I now see that it may come in part comes from having to deal with difficult personalities.

So when you have had a bad day and somebody has un-justly crapped on your head, Come here to the Bicycle Mechanics Sub-Forum, where your wisdom, knowledge, and professionalism are GREATLY appreciated. you are among friends.
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Old 07-11-18, 12:27 PM
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"So without saying a word I return the seatpost to the correct position and wheel the bike outside and leave it with her on the sidewalk."

I wish I could just do that with some of our customers
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Old 07-11-18, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
As a side bar I wonder about the situations where I have fired a customer. [..] Andy (who doesn't write satire very well)
I can't tell if this is part of the satire or not .. have you fired customers? For what, and how did you give them the news?
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Old 07-11-18, 05:02 PM
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On the other side of the equation, I had an interesting experience at my LBS the other day. I'm in the process of stripping down a frame to install a different groupset, and I got stuck at the Shimano bottom bracket that I don't have the correct splined tool to remove.

So I stop by the LBS on my way home to ask if they can do it (no, I didn't ask for a price quote), and they said sure. So I come back with the frame 10 minutes later, the mechanic glances at it and mumbles something to the main guy in another language (which I really don't care about), after which he says, "It's $20 to remove it, $30 if it's stuck." So I laugh, point to the park tool splined nut on their rack and say, "How much is that?"

"$15" he replies. So I say, "You sure you wouldn't want to remove it for $10 and keep me as a customer?" (I sometimes buy tubes and other bits and bobs from them, despite being more expensive than the internet, just to support them).

Nope. So I bought the stupid nut for $15. Took me 1 minute to remove it from the packaging, and a further two minutes to remove both BB cups (and I was being overly cautious and deliberate). FFS...

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Old 07-11-18, 05:29 PM
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My father owned a plumbing service shop. One of my favorite quotes of his: "This job would be so much more fun if it weren't for all the customers."
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Old 07-11-18, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by rseeker View Post
I can't tell if this is part of the satire or not .. have you fired customers? For what, and how did you give them the news?
This first part wasn't, I do wonder about the people I interact with and when it goes badly I do replay the situation in my mind.

The usual reason to move on from a customer is because the basic communication/expectation/fulfillment triangle broke down. I'm not talking about rejecting a service job, which happens often enough if you know and respect your weaknesses. I'm talking ending up with the customer not returning. To want so is usually because the hassle factor greatly exceeds the benefit. Like when service work is agreed to, done and rejected as not needed at the time of pick up. In shop behavior which distracts other customers. Extreme body issues (like peeing all over the bathroom walls), Theft and fraud. There're more.

The goal is to have it go without drama if possible. Trying to have your no longer customer save face is a good thing. But being fairly blunt is also needed often. Each situation is different and how the moment is flowing will usually guide you. Pulling the customer aside often is good. Walking with them out to their car while you talk, although witnesses might be wished for if things turn real bad. Judging the customer is real important here.

It's reasonable for the customer ask about cost, time, results, options, and more. A well run shop knows their cost per time and sets rates as such. How the two come together is the challenge for both. Andy
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Old 07-11-18, 05:55 PM
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Canít wait for your Yelp review.
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Old 07-11-18, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
The usual reason to move on from a customer is because the basic communication/expectation/fulfillment triangle broke down. [..] Judging the customer is real important here. [..] A well run shop knows their cost per time and sets rates as such. How the two come together is the challenge for both. Andy
That's interesting, thanks for the detail. It takes a lot of skill to run a shop, and some skills I hadn't realized.
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Old 07-11-18, 10:45 PM
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I've been in a shop for years, and for the most part have had really good experiences with people, but there are always exceptions. I had a customer go to the owner years ago trying to get me fired years ago because I had the audacity to tell her that the reason she was getting pinch flats on her e-bike was because she never pumped her tires up. "Well you guys did that when I brought the bike in a few weeks ago, why should I have to?"

Give you one guess why she was on an e-bike.

But in my prior career, medical device sales, I had people in nursing homes asking me to bring them a gun so they could commit suicide. So hey, there are problems everywhere.
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Old 07-12-18, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Bicycles are the last resort for transportation for many who are forbidden by society from driving or have been banned from forms of public transportation. The reasons why often manifest themselves in other behavior "issues". We see legally blind, DWI'd, autistic, OCD/bi polar, the big chip on their shoulder, the "I'm paying you so you're my slave" and more types frequently. During the winter these riders stand out even more as they usually don't retreat to their trainer stands or spin classes, they're still out there riding because they have to.
Interesting point - probably correct for the USA, in (most of) Europe it's the other way round. Bicycle being a more common sense means of transport, shorter distances and good public transport making living car free much easier.

"Reading" people and "making them happy" is what the job is about. Of course, you can't please them all - sometimes one has to draw a line. OP did the right thing.
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Old 07-12-18, 07:08 AM
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My first job in 1978 was as a bus boy on the Air Force base my Dad was stationed at. I learned early on about the difficulties of a service industry. I've managed to avoid it since. I have the utmost respect for the way you handled that situation.
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Old 07-12-18, 07:36 AM
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On the other side of the counter,,, I was at one of my local shops yesterday scheduling a bike fit. The shop was busy so I had to wait about 10 minutes. While I was waiting I had to listen to one of he bike mech's complaining very loudly about how he was quitting because his job sucks and a subsequent conversation about how he planned on collecting unemployment insurance. I don't know where in the heck the manager was or why someone else that worked there didn't confront him. I almost did.
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Old 07-12-18, 08:11 AM
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I agree that bike shop staff are just like real people We have our good days and bad behaviors too Over the years the number of staff I have fired is greater then the number of customers I've moved on from Greatfully I have worked with and for some of the finer people We have some degree of control who we decide to hang around with Andy
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