Friday, January 30, 2009

Working in a bike shop—It's all about attitude

The opinions expressed below are from a frustrated UK shop owner with an attitude and in no way reflect North Road Bicycle Imports's attitude. Should we arrive early for critical work and find someone tapping their foot, we will continue past the shop and proceed to go for coffee, adding about fifteen miles to our morning constitutional — as many physicians of high standing caution that hurrying is not to be encouraged in our line of work.

Besides, a proper cyclist should be equipped, practiced and prepared to fix a puncture — otherwise it only encourages one to develop these problems. My father always felt that walking long distances while pushing a bicycle was a great teacher for anyone who forgot the Scout Motto: "Be Prepared."

Originally published on the web site of the North Road Bicycling Club


From the editor of the Corinium CC Newsletter (Previously published in the North Road Gazette Jan 2003)

You wake up in the morning, open up the curtains and the sun is shining which bodes well for the commute to work — of course undertaken by bike.

You arrive at work at 8.30am ready to get the shop open for 8.45am, but as you turn the corner, so you see the first customer of the day already stood outside, tapping his feet and looking at his watch impatiently. As you pull up, without him even saying good morning, he demands "I need my puncture fixed in a hurry, I'm on my way to work".

You open the shop up, go inside and put his bike up onto the workstand — all the while he's looking at his watch, tutting and murmuring something about being late. You then of course discover the wheel nuts are rounded off. Anyway, you eventually get the job done, then when you tell him the price he moans about how expensive it is but finally pays up and without so much as a thank you leaves the shop still tutting and murmuring under his breath.

The shop can then be opened up properly and your next customer comes in — another puncture — and it's the dreaded rear wheel on a three speed shopper bike! Of course the lady has just ridden through a message that a dog has left on a grass verge, so you don rubber gloves and face mask ready to dive in. Being a three-speed wheel it has a steel rim which — as everyone who has ever tried to remove a tyre from one of these rims would know — is near to impossible. Two snapped tyre levers and two lots of skin removed from knuckles later, the lady pays up and leaves the shop, satisfied as you drip blood all over the counter.

The shop goes quiet for a while but then in come two deliveries — as always you can guarantee there is something missing and it takes you half an hour to convince the supplier that the bits were not in the box and you're not trying to con parts out of him.

Then suddenly he arrives! Mr. Roadie! In his brand new Cofidis gear thinking he's David Millar. He'll start to talk to you about the merits of 9-speed Shimano Dura-Ace over 10-speed Campag Record. This banter will go on for 20 minutes before you discover that all he actually wants is a spoke key, which you have priced 1.50. He then mentions something about spotting it 1.40 in 'The Comic' (real roadies always refer to Cycling Weekly as 'The Comic'!) and can you match the price? Finally he waddles out in his Look cleats.

The next person that comes in is quite normal looking in jeans and t-shirt, but you know you're on to a loser when he starts to ask if you have Shimano part number 84A 5179. You reply with a blank stare and the question "what might that be sir?"

To which he answers, "It's the return spring for a 1995 left-hand RSX lever", as if you should have known? When you tell him that you haven't got this part in stock but you can order it from Shimano he says "I thought you were a proper bike shop and carried spares". He then asks the price and when you tell him it's 50p he says he's got to think about whether he can afford the expenditure.

Anyway, it's now getting onto time for a tea break and you can absolutely guarantee that as soon as you take a bite out of your buttie either somebody will come in or the phone will ring.

You plod on through the day until about 3.30pm when it's the dreaded going home from school time and the shop fills up with kids with no money and big ideas. You have to watch them like a hawk, for the very second you look away all of your accessories can be emptied into their school bag and they'll be out of the door.

It's getting close to closing the shop now, it's 5.30 pm and you want to go home. The shutters are down, the lights are off and bingo! — somebody pulls into the car park. When you tell them you're closed, they reply "but I need a waterproof jacket tonight", and never wanting to turn down a sale you agree reluctantly to open up. You spend the next hour-and-a-half talking about the difference between Gortex and Pertex and them trying on every jacket a least three times. Then after the hour-and-half they turn round and say "OK, I'll think about it — sorry, have I kept you open?" You'd love to punch them in the mouth, but you grit your teeth, smile politely and bid them farewell closing the door at last.

So you still want to work in a bike shop?

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson

North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999

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