The Angry Singlespeeder: Don’t “Showroom” Your Local Bike Shop

Opinion

Brendan Collier of The Hub Cyclery in Idyllwild, CA works in front of a warm fire.

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

The other day I was at my neighborhood bike shop when I saw this schmucky looking dude trying on some cycling shoes. I too was checking out shoes, but only ones that were on sale because, well, I’m a cheapskate. After trying on three pairs of spendy carbon sole shoes, Schmuck seemed to find a pair he liked. So instead of putting the shoes in the box and walking to the register, he pulled out his smartphone and took a picture of the shoebox.

Considering I still rock a dumb-phone and am clueless about anything related to apps, I asked him what he was doing.

“There’s this cool app that lets me check to see if I can buy these shoes for cheaper online,” said Schmuck. “Yep, here we go. Sweet. I can get these for $75 less on Amazon!”

Schmuck got up, put the shoes back on the rack and walked out the door. For a fleeting second I thought it was a damn good idea for an app, but then I realized something; as much as I think Strava sucks, trying out products at your local bike shop, then using your smartphone to buy it cheaper online is even worse.

What Schmuck was doing is called “showrooming” and it’s become a huge issue for independent bike dealers worldwide. According to marketing research companies Aprimo and Forrester Research, one in five consumers are now showrooming, and one in three leave the store like Schmuck, and then purchase the product from a competitor.

I don’t care if you want to go to Target or some other big box, corporate-owned store worth billions of dollars and showroom a set of cooking pans or a Dutch oven for your wife, but woe to the schmucktard who walks into a local, family-owned bike shop and showrooms.

 
Bike shops supporting bike shops. A mob of Adams Ave. riders at Velo Hangar in Solana Beach, CA

Hey, here’s a crazy idea. Why not take that pair of shoes up to the counter, show the owner of the shop what you can buy it online for and see if he might be able to work a discount? The bike shop might not be able to sell it as cheap, but you’ll save on shipping, you’ll get personalized service and most importantly, your schmucky cheapskate actions won’t be slowly eroding the business of a local bike shop owner and the entire bike industry as a whole.

If your weak justification for showrooming is that don’t you like your local bike shop anyway, then don’t go there to begin with. Either buy the product online and run the risk that it might not work out, or find a bike shop you like and support them. If you try to use some lame economics 101 justification about “healthy competition”, stop for a second and think; do you care the slightest bit about an industry that provides you with incredible technologies to ride a bicycle further, faster and more effortlessly than ever? More importantly, do you care about the people in the bike industry who work tirelessly every day to make a living?

Of course consumers aren’t entirely to blame. Some online retailers and eBay sellers make matters all too tempting, advertising product prices lower than what a bike shop can even buy them for. Companies like Shimano and Specialized are putting an end to this, cracking down on retailers who sell below minimum suggested pricing (MSP). But there are still plenty of brands out there that can be showroomed.

If you do decide to showroom or choose to buy a product online instead of at your local bike shop, if and when the product breaks, don’t be a colossal schmuck and march into the bike shop you just slighted to demand they warranty it for you. The extra money you pay at a locally owned bike shop is for the personalized service that no online price-finder app can deliver. Who knows, they might even help you find a pair of shoes that fit your feet better and cost less than the pair you just showroomed.

If you’re a true cheapskate who does all his own wrenching and simply refuses to pay full retail for products, then either stick with quality online retailers without showrooming your local bike shop, or better yet, buy what you seek slightly used from private sellers on Craigslist or eBay. There’s always someone who paid full retail for a bike that did nothing but collect dust in a garage, and these gently used bikes can be bought for less than half of retail cost.

In the end, you get what you pay for. The little extra you spend at a reputable, locally-owned bike shop will not only pay off with personalized customer service, but you’ll also feel good in knowing that you’re supporting a fellow cyclist who lives in your community. And most importantly, you won’t be acting like a schmuck.

The Angry Singlespeeder: Don’t “Showroom” Your Local Bike Shop Gallery
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The Hub

Brendan Collier of The Hub Cyclery in Idyllwild, CA works in front of a warm fire.
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Adams Velo Hangar

Bike shops supporting bike shops. A mob of Adams Ave. riders at Velo Hangar in Solana Beach, CA.
About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • Jimbo99 says:

    They didn’t have the exact bike I wanted and I had to order it anyway. So I went with the best price. The LBS can tune it or fix & replace things as they wear out. But those folks can gouge and many of them are playing the on-line vendor game just the same, just won’t tell you they have a different & better price for shopping on-line.

    • Brantley Smith says:

      Yes, you can play the price game. However, if you bring a bike in for service that was not purchased at my shop, you get a free pass to the back of line. Bikes purchased in my store get priority service scheduling. I have been known to stay late after hours on many occasions to get a loyal customer back on the road for a ride the following morning. Didn’t come from my shop? I’ll get to you in turn in between everything else that’s going on at the shop. So it’s way more than price… but some people’s kids just won’t ever understand that concept. And come in and talk with me all about bikes, sizes, styles, etc, etc for an hour, then leave and order online.. might be an extra few days before I can find time to work on it. You get what you pay for.

      • Jon m says:

        So what if i need work on my bike and just moved to the area? Are you gonna shaft me on service simply bc I just moved here and didn’t purchase my bike through your shop? Your going to lose customers that way…

      • Andrew Baloga says:

        If it’s your shop and your policy, that’s your right. But I never purchase new bikes and often I build my own out of spares that I collect along the way. Any shop that puts me at the back of the line simply because I didn’t purchase my bike there will not get my business. Let’s face it, the real money is in parts, accessories and service. The bike sale is only part of the equation.

      • RG says:

        So you punish people who bring you business? Sounds like an ingenious plan and another reason people are flocking to online retailers.

        If you show someone good service they may be more likely to come back and spend more on something than they would’ve online. Once someone gets decent service they might just see the value in it, respect is earned… although that may be a shock to some LBS’. Just because you’re a local bike shop it doesn’t give you a right to be an a$$. The uneducated, don’t worry about relationships aside from the ones who overpay, LBS mentality is only going to hurt LBS’. It’s a new market, the ones who embrace change will succeed. Do some homework, maybe take some business and marketing classes.

      • Melkor says:

        My LBS isn’t morally bankrupt, so they provide service on a first-come-first-serve basis regardless of whether the bike was purchased at the shop. They also provide a work order signed both by the mechanic and the customer that acts as a simple contract telling the customer what the service will cost and when to retrieve it. You can play the waiter/waitress game of rendering piss poor service to those who don’t “tip” you well, so to speak, but people like you shouldn’t be in the service industry if you’re going to have that destructive attitude.

      • omgfantastic says:

        brantley,

        that is a pretty poor way of doing business. you service people who have made bike purchases in your store first? well, how do you know that someone who comes in for a tune-up is not looking to make a bike purchase or doesn’t know someone who may be looking?

        that is just dumb. how can you build a business of new customers giving preferential treatment to some?

        crap like this is why i can’t stand the bicycle community or feel sympathy for local bike shops. it’s made up of a bunch of arrogant guys.

        btw, since you’re so proud of this practice, kindly say which shop this is and where.

  • jb says:

    this is a sign of the times, there are few things the local bike shop can do. unfortunately most do not provide good customer service. first off a customer or ‘showroomer’ should not be left alone, but rather have an attentive and polite person helping them. these are hard times for us bike retailers, but maybe the unintended consequence of the ‘showroomer’ effect will be better customer service in the industry or for some shops, actual customer service.

  • Gillis says:

    While all the points are totally valid, this is nothing new. People have been doing this for a nearly a decade, smart phones just make it easier/faster.

  • C.Fallon says:

    One of my dealers coined the phrase FITLIFTER to describe this practice. He has a sign that describes what a fitlfter is and ask his customers to please not be a filtlifter. Fittingly he has this sign over his running and cycling shoe selection.

  • ChadNewby says:

    I fully agree with this article. I went to my LBS the other day and they had these ridiculously expensive shoes at full retail. When I got to the counter they asked if I had any discount codes (they were being kind). Since I had a smart phone I used it. I find it unethical to use the store to make a purchasing decision. BTW Kurt. You wouldn’t happen to live in or near a neighborhood with the initials RSP would you. I swear I saw you today.

  • ExShowroomer says:

    Jimbo, you believe things and yet you do not know things. LBSs that try to sell online lose money trying. It doesn’t work for them. Those that use their shop’s access to vendors to discount anonymously online are breaking their own dealer agreements with suppliers and shooting their own LBS in the foot, so they will defeat themselves, they don’t need your help. You don’t know who they are, anyway, so how can you justify schmuking an LBS just because some LBS somewhere is a bad actor? You throw ‘gouge’ around and don’t know what it means. Own a business sometime, work yourself exhausted trying to eek out a living, and then let someone else tell you that you ‘gouge’ because you have to charge more than a two-bit idiot in a cheap warehouse who will sell anything for next to nothing. eSellers are parasites living off of the work that local shops built and industry with and no one will get to sell any of it after the LBS is gone (and you won’t get to buy it).

  • Wally says:

    The demise of the LBS is on their own hands. The attitude they give every patron, their snobbery, their ignorance all make for great karma. When someone does walk in and the LBS employees or owner don’t say hello or offer assistance a patron is left to their own to figure it out thats why no loyalty develops. No relationship, no respect, so the consumer is going to buy the product they want at the price they want.

    The lesson, be nice and help people that walk into the LBS or they will continue to go out of business as parents and new riders flock to Walmart for their first bike. When a consumer is made to feel welcome and talked to like a human they are much less likely to ‘showroom’. Customer service will eliminate showrooming every time.

    • Ken says:

      Wally, I wish you were right (“Customer service will eliminate showrooming every time”). But not everyone is as ethical as you. I work in an LBS with award-winning, excellent client service (we call them “clients” — as in, valued clients who trust their professional service provider, not “customers” — i.e. someone who buys products). We can spend a lot of time & care with a person who then opts to buy online, sometimes just to avoid sales taxes (which pay for his streets, bike paths, police & fire protection, among other things…. how smart or sustainable is that?). Some people just don’t get it.

    • Andrew Baloga says:

      Exactly, Wally. Customer service is the key and too many shops forget that. Fortunately, the good ones do get it and will gain my repeat business and referrals. I do purchase on-line from time to time, but it is because I know what I want and I don’t have to visit a shop to know that.

    • michael says:

      SOME shops are snobby, most are not,.
      Our shop has the best, most helpful staff around, AND offers competitive pricing, yet showrooming is still a major problem.
      Sorry, sir, even if your shop does provide poor service, that still does not justify showrooming. If you go to the store, buy from there. If you want to buy online, then do not steal from the store (after all, that IS what it is, stealing. Theft of time, theft of resources, etc)

  • Nate says:

    When technology changes, you need to adapt or die. Don’t whine about it, don’t guilt people about it, and don’t tell them they’re not welcome in a retail store.

    Bike stores can start by actually delivering “customer service.” Too many are elitist, ignore customers (especially women, when they’re not condescending to them). Or the minimum wage kid working the sales floor has a bad attitude.

  • Fred Zapalac says:

    Showrooming is just a cute little buzzword that the media invented during the bottom of the economic slump to mask what they were really talking about in all of those “how to be a better shopper and beat up your local retailer” articles. “Showrooming” is actually theft, just like shoplifting. Just because you don’t walk out with an unpaid piece of inventory doesn’t mean that you haven’t stolen a product. A retailer’s knowledge, their employees (who are being paid to help you), their retail space (with neat little amenities like electricity, air conditioning, etc. that all cost quite a bit), and their actual product that you’re handling (all paid for and owned by the retailer) are all products, and anybody that walks into a retail store and avails themselves to any of those products with the intention of buying the items that they’re handling cheaper online after trying them out locally is a thief, pure and simple.

  • Dirtysanchez says:

    Im sure specialized polices their product, but shimano doesn’t. The shop I work at has a price match policy if it’s from an authorized dealer. Shimano and continental are easily the products we get crushed on the most. We have to stock those but quit stocking a few other brands because of how easily they are showroomed.

  • Kark says:

    Hey Jimbo, how those shoes workin out for ya?

  • TF says:

    I agree with the article, but it does come across as a bit hypocritical to have a link to bikes direct right next to it.

  • Charity Froggenhall says:

    I just figure I am paying for the expertise and hands-on service of the bike shop folks and leave it at that. Since I’m a newb, some things I’ll buy at the shop the first time after discussing it with the folks, then buy online later when I know better what I want/need.

  • Joe Biker says:

    You know, the author and commenters are missing the point here. This isn’t about gouging or poor customer service or evening “doing the right thing” by buying local. If you want to buy something like shoes or a helmet and feel that you need to try them on first before buying, then I’m sorry, you need the services of a physical store. And if that’s the case, then you need to pay for those services in the form of typically higher prices.

    I have no problem with new business models and shopping online. If there are new technologies and economic realities that allow for distribution of goods at a lower cost and higher convenience, then bring it on. Some of these new models, though, do eliminate some of the services that most of us have come to expect with more traditional sales channels – especially for technical products. One of these is the ability to try out products for function and fit before you buy and to have a local location that can help you make the right choice before you buy and help you after the sale if something goes wrong. You might not like how your LBS behaves in these services, but you can’t deny that they cost money to provide – a cost that online-only retailers do not invest in.

    As for prices, I can say with certainty that brick and mortar retailers are not gouging. There are no secrets about the margins that shops make on bikes, and it’s not much. Unlike doctors, there aren’t too many store owners driving around in BMW’s. You might think that they’re rolling in the dough because they always seem to be riding the latest Colnago with Super Record, but that bike is a marketing tool for the shop that is usually heavily subsidized by the manufacturer and that will be sold at the end of the season to break even.

    You need to decide how much that LBS inventory and service is worth to you and act accordingly. By all means, browse local stores and make your decision on price alone. But don’t expect that it’s OK to use their services for free. If you need to have someone assemble that new bike that you bought online, want to find out what size you are for that new pair of SIDI’s or even just need a little help tweaking the settings of that new Fox shock you bought online today before the after work ride with your buddies, you’ve got to pay for the ability to do that. Pure and simple.

    And finally, it was probably a local bike shop that helped get you started and excited about riding, right? How much did you learn about bikes by hanging out in your local store talking to the owner or shop guys? There are also many local shops that fight for local cycling issues such as trail access in their (and your) communities. What would a world without any local bike shops be like? And yes, price is important, but take in the whole picture. To play on Pricepoint.com’s slogan, price is not the only point.

    • Tom B. says:

      I am an old guy who uses the services of my local bike shop. If I have a question I can call these guys and get good information. I can also depend on them to service the bike, that I bought from them, when the need arises. I pay for some services and others they are happy to provide for free. They have never charged me for the advice or hints that I have found priceless. I have also tried to purchase items online but have never saved enough to nake the difference. I also have never had anyluck when I tried to call them for assistance after the purchase. I have a smart phone and use it often, sometimes even to call my Local Bike Shop to make an appointment for a service I need. Just for the record I know these guys also put a lot of money back into the community because they live here too. It is not always about price.

      • ChuckD says:

        Well I guess I’m getting to be an old guy too, at 54. Back in the day I raced Cat. 2 and paid for it wrenching at a couple different shops. I want to be like you. I want to (and now can) pay a little extra for what the LBS provides. Over the past three years I’ve spent about $1000 at Plaine’s in Schenectady, NY for bikes and accessories for my wife and daughter. In addition I’ve visited their shop for help on things twice and they’ve been very friendly and helpful. So I have no gripes with them, nor them with me, afaik.

        That said, last year I decided it was time to finally replace my road bike I had raced back then with a new fancy-schmancy carbon job and started shopping around. At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted but was prepared to pay ~$3000. First stop then was Plaine’s. It was quiet when I went, one other customer being helped by a sales person with bike choice. I walked around their extensive collection of road bikes pulling out one once in a while to look it over, straddle to see how it felt. All the time hoping someone would stop over and offer to help. After 20 minutes no one even said hello even though there clearly were staff around who could have. Should I have asked for help? I could have. Should I need to? I ended up leaving a few minutes later with no new information.

        Months later after doing my own research on the net I decided I wanted what Fabian had and decided I’d get a Domane, probably a 4.5. I identified 4 Trek dealers within reasonable driving distance, one being Plaine, Steiner Sports in Glenmont, Blue Sky in Saratoga and Placid Planet in Lake Placid. At this point I knew the 4.5′s weren’t yet readily available so I sent email inquiries to them letting them know I was interested and could they let me know when I’d be able to come in to have a look and discuss a purchase. My experiences with each follows:

        Blue Sky never responded.

        Placid Planet did reply, and followed up later that I was welcome to come up and try another similar Domane for a ride to get a feel for it until the 4.5′s arrived. Unfortunately they’re a 3 hour drive so that wasn’t the top of my list of options.

        Steiner Sport, I should say, I visited, and after getting past a young man who insisted it was pronounced “domain” and seemingly reluctantly getting the owner from in back to talk with me, I was able to get some more information about the bike and its availability. He was pretty helpful and followed up with a couple emails but then seemed to go silent after I asked about possibly swapping out the wheels and cranks, and about financing (my credit scores are in the 700′s). Haven’t heard from them since.

        Plaine again required me to approach a salesperson who seemed reluctant to discuss much other than the purchase (I guess). When I asked about swapping the wheels and cranks I got, “well what are we going to do with them?”. My biggest beef with that experience was their apparent bewilderment at my wanting to test ride the bike. I was told I could probably take it for a spin around the block. I offered to leave my credit card to take it for a real ride but they wanted to try to lock me in, ‘buy the bike and if you don’t want it we’ll work it out somehow, but we don’t do returns’.

        The result? eBay. As luck would have it, a Domane 5.2 came up in my size with <300 miles. I took a chance on a private purchase and won the auction and now have close to 500 very fun miles on it.

        I wanted to work with one of these shops (to a lesser extent Placid Planet, only because the logistics didn't work). I didn't make demands, only inquiries. I'm not buying a DVD player, and I'm not going to just drop $3000 like I was. I assumed they would be motivated to sell a $3000 bike and I wanted to work with them to make it happen but 3 out of 4 shops utterly dropped the ball and one of those bordered on insulting.

  • Knofler says:

    Unfortunately, cycling is an industry by A**holes for A**holes. By catering to the “enthusiast” (smaller mkt share) with an elitist snobbery that turns off the casual rider, you get what you deserve. So it leaves ppl to resort to buying a POS from a big box and having to run the risk of buying a bike that may not fit their needs. So it really is hard to feel any empathy for the LBS’ that refuse get with the times and evolve their customer service game and brand themselves to be a valued community resource. And to the author, how are you an better? You admittedly were looking looking for a “sale” item, that the store was probably taking a loss on to move out. But hey ya gotta love the phoney outrage!!

  • Teri says:

    Bike shops generally suck. I try to shop there but they wear me out…and no one has time for that. Like last week, all I wanted was a pair of road pedals to match the cleat style of my mountain bike pedals. Nashbar had them for 50, the manufacturer had them for 60. I would have paid 75 or even a 100 to get them quick but no luck. One place had the only had the superpro versions that were all well over 200. The next 3 places wanted to sell me a different cleat system (which would mean new MTB pedals for me too). I ended up buying it at Nashbar. Another one that made me mad was trying to get a white seat post. The Origin8 rep and the bike shop guy just stared at me like “over my dead body will I order you a white seat post”. I just walked next door, got some coffee and ordered it off eBay. So I just go to the forums now, describe my problems and find someone that knows to help me out.

  • Tim says:

    I go to my LBSs (plural, I’m lucky enough to have easy access to 2 shops) for the service, education, and conversation. I once went in for a pair of tires. I wound up in conversation with three of the shop staff (two “shop rats” and the manager) and got more info on tires in 20 minutes of spirited conversation than I thought was possible. I got some sound advice, and I left with a pair I thought I’d be happy with. I was.
    After about 50 miles, I hit something in the road and got a 1/2-3/4″ gash in my back tire. I searched around and could not find anything that I thought could cause that kind of damage. I went back to the shop to see if there was anything they could do for me (It wasn’t a bargain tire). They couldn’t warranty it, but they sold me the replacement at cost. I thought that was fair. That tire lasted for quite a while longer, but developed a slight bulge in the tread/sidewall transition area. I asked the manager what it could be, mostly if I should worry about it or not. He took a look and gave me a new one on the spot, changing it for me as well.

    That’s just a small example of the kind of service I get from both LBSs nearest to me. So, yes I’ll pay a few dollars more for a tire, or a pair of shorts, or whatever, because I know that I’m getting way more than just the product I came in for, I’m getting service, expertise, and an advocate with the manufacturer if something goes wrong.

  • Nate says:

    The sense of entitlement on display here is shocking. Create real value for your customers, instead of telling them they should pay extra for the privilege of talking to you.

    We own a small tackle store. We compete directly with Cabela’s, Bass Pro, eBay, Amazon, you name it. We deliver truly great customer service: everyone is welcome, and everyone leaves happy, even if it’s to buy the same thing at Bass Pro. Our sales grow by double-digits every year.

    If your business is struggling, start looking at yourself. Stop blaming other people for your problems.

  • Dansky says:

    i too take pictures of shoes when i go shopping – only to send them to my wife for approval though !!

  • The Angry Singlespeeder says:

    @ Knofler – I was at my local bike shop looking for a sale item that I was going to buy at my local bike shop. How does that make me any different? Because I bought it at my local bike shop! I’m helping them out because they’ve got old inventory they need to get rid of, which is way better than me not buying it at all.

    Yes, I’m a fully admitted cheapskate, but I’m not a schmucktard with a smartphone who uses a local bike shop for information then intentionally buys it online. And my outrage is always geniune. Never phony.

    ASS

  • Moe Moesly says:

    I know that without the brick and motar shops, there is no trying things on first, no wrenching or tuning, and the shops are the one who support the local race scene. Without them, all that will go away.

    And it will go away. Business is changing. Guilting customers and shaking an angry fist isnt going to help shops adapt. It sucks, but it is just the way it is.

    I recently asked a LBS owner to match a price. I did not really expect him to. He didnt. He told me that I didnt understand. This was HIS money. This is the money he uses to pay for his families expenses. If he budged on prices, he could not afford a new car, or his kids school tuition.”

    Well **** him! Because the money I would have spent would have been MY money. Money taken away from paying for my families expenses. My wife and I drive shitty old cars. And my kids dont have tution, because we cant afford to send them to private school. I never did buy the item in question, online or from the shop. But after insulting me like that, I’ll be damned if I ever spend another dime in his shop. Why am I supposed to be concerned with the finances of this shop owner over my own?

    So remind me again, why I am supposed to feel bad when the local brick and motar shops go the way of the dinosaurs?

  • alec holland says:

    While I think the person in question was exercising poor taste, this is the reality of the world we live in. We can’t turn back the clock before this ‘unfair’ competition was possible. The only thing an independent retailer can do to complete is add value. That’s repairs, assembly, advice, fittings, store-sponsored events, and so on. I’ve never worked at a bike shop, but I’ve worked at two retail establishments that technology has rendered less relevant- a record store and a bookstore- both found ways to stay afloat and profitable while many others folded. There’s no reason to support local businesses simply because they’re local business. Some of them really suck. If you can’t offer anything above and beyond, and have to rely on ‘no photography’ policies, you don’t deserve to stay in business. you lost the game.

  • Cory says:

    There are 2 LBS in my area and a Scheels. Scheels pumps more money into our local economy than the two LBS combined, has far better prices with the about the same quality and level of experience. Every bike salesperson or mechanic that works there might not have a ton of time in the business, but there is always someone there that does and knows a rather large deal of information. And when I go in ghere and ask a question they don’t give me the “did he really just ask that dumba** question?” look. I am sure scheels is killing the two mom and pop shops, however those shops refuse to embrace the current market strategies. Neither one has an online catalog – essentially refusing to compete with each other, they will price match each other on the same accessories at th expense of the consumers time. If they don’t carry it they say they can order it, well I can order it too and save 7% on sales tax alone, not to mention the pricing difference. And their buying experience is not any better than Scheels, they have small displays, if any at all. I recently went in to buy a garmin edge 810, and wanted to play with one before plunking down $500 plus $35 in tax, but neither store had a demo model-why would I buy from them when I can blindly purchase the same item from an online retailer for over $50 in savings plus saving $35 in tax and with free shipping both ways if I decide to return? I work hard for my money and make every dollar stretch, LBS should work hard to get my dollar which means they should go back to fully embracing their specialty shop status and offer services that are not easily obtained elsewhere.

  • crossracer says:

    In the end it does come down to customer service. I absolutly agree. I have walked in shops and been completely ignored. I blame the owner or manager for not getting peopl ein there that want to help people. Come by the small shop i manage, no matter what the question, i treat it with respect and try and find the best answer for the person.

    I dont expect you to give me your money, but i had a guy the other day who didnt like the pedals i had in stock, and asked if he went to another store and got them would i install them for free. Ummn, no, i wont, but im sure the bike shop you buy it from might be willing to help you. WIth customers like that im at a lose as to what you can do.

    Matching prices is a toughy. We had a big discussion on the forum about this. Is it better to make 80% of what you normally would? Or 70, or 60, where do you draw the line?

    And its a double edged sword. If you pay your employees more, say 10-12 an hour, then prices might need to go up to ensure the shops survival. But again, even there, you cant just buy quality. You have to hire people who are friendlier. I would rather hire and train a person with almost no knowage of bikes, but it friendly and willing to learn, then take the local “pro” who is surley and decidely not friendly.

    Showrooming exisits. Some items (books, cd’s, etc) are easier and cheaper to sell online. But bike assembly is still way above many of the general population out there. (yes, i know most of us on here are all master mechanics and this isnt rocket science blah blah blah). But the one eyed man is king in the land of blind men. And any good mechanic in any bike shop sees more crazy repairs and everyday repairs in one month then most home mechanics see in thier life times. Thats the experience that you are paying for.

    Bill

  • Stuart says:

    It’s my hard earned money so I’ll do what I want and spend it where I want.

  • GG says:

    No, you won’t be shafted (bad attitude), you will be serviced after those who arrived before you. Good shops don’t give bad service; they give good and extra-good service. Find a shop to support and it will support you. It needs to go two ways.

  • OhYouCanSmellTheAbsurdity says:

    @The Angry Singlespeeder
    Then why did you wait for a sale? Did you confirm their supplier doesn’t have a return policy for dated models/dead inventory?

    ASS.

  • Gabe says:

    I was a LBS guy, until I moved to a region with one bike shop chain. I was charged $60 for a tape change, when my wife crashed her bike ($40 for the tape, $20 for the install). The helmet she wrecked? Well, they wouldn’t honor Giro’s crash replacement plan. Why would they, when they have the market cornered in this region.

    My solution since this has been to become my own mechanic. I don’t even both to set foot in their store anymore. The sad thing is that I LOVE going to the LBS. There is nowhere better to spend a Saturday, after a long ride, than shooting-the-shyte with the guys you just finished hammering with, and comparing it to others! I go to LBS’s when I go out of town, including a certain one with seven yellow jerseys hung on the wall.

    Unfortunately, just like everything, the LBS must evolve or die. How do LBS’s in certain cities survive and thrive, while other cities starve and die? I don’t know, but I think it’s most likely a case of being unique, and offering good prices.

  • The Angry Singlespeeder says:

    I waited for a sale because I’m cheap. But I still buy from the LBS. If they got inventory they want to liquidate, I’ll gladly help them out.

    ASS

  • fergie348 says:

    Well now – anyone who comes into your shop for any reason whatsoever is a potential customer. Some customers only care about price – nothing you can do about that. If they’re not gonna buy anything and they’re not stealing the product I say let them be. The only true customers you have are the ones who value your expertise. The LBS cannot compete on price, it’s just not possible anymore for a variety of reasons and cartel-like behavior of the LBS collective won’t change that.

    So what to do, if you’re a specialty retailer? Focus on the customers who value your expertise and bring them the best possible service you can. Make your store ‘newbie’ friendly. Pro shops should have services available that you can’t find on the web (fit stations, power testing, shop rides, a fleet of demo bikes, etc.). You’ll never make it if all you want to do is hang up a sign and sell commodity bikes. Differentiate yourself through expertise and relatedness to your customers. If you’re not connecting with your clients, you’re not adding value and you’re not justifying the added expense of running a retail operation.

  • Bike review 2013 says:

    having a special and cool bike is hard to find for you have to look for its quality , it doesn’t mean expensive it is already excellent sometimes we are being trick by that . we must be familiar and wise in purchasing a class and high quality bicycles :)

  • Bo says:

    I bought my first road bike in my LBS. I can give you a very long list of things they should’ve told me but didn’t. I ended up spending nearly 1k on a bike with the wrong size frame and the wrong components for how seriously I wanted to get into the sport (they must’ve assumed that I wasn’t serious).

    Less than 6 months later, after countless hours of research on my own, I bought another bike that’s right for me (spending 3k+ in the process but very happy). Thinking back, my LBS was judgmental, condescending to newbies, and instead of educating me on what I was buying, confused me with jargons and a barrage of meaningless letters and numbers. In the end, I feel like I wasted my money.

    Unfortunately, most of us only like to be burned once. When I travel, I still visit many LBS and ask for their help but I can’t help but think they are only nice because I turned up with a 3k+ bike and that somehow means that my business is more important to them. In their mind, I must have deeper pockets.

    No, I do not show-room and I buy EVERYTHING online. I disagree with the assertion that online retailers don’t care and I’ve dealt with many and have had great experiences. Who are you to make them out to be the bad guys? I’ve bought the wrong things before and I’m happy to accept the consequences of having to deal with returns. One thing is for sure, the schmucks at my LBS ain’t gonna get my business anymore.

  • Mark says:

    I bought my bike from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in Canada, which is more or less an REI. They have taken a lot of flak from LBSs about the fact they now sell white-label carbon bikes and that the LBSs will all go out of business because of it. The real reason those LBSs will go out of business is the terrible customer service they deliver and the lack of useful inventory. A large number of LBSs have become bike boutiques and not bike shops. I support two local LBSs that have friendly staff and don’t try to up-sell on everything. No I don’t need a carbon bottle cage, nor do I need carbon handlebars, nor do I need a set of training wheels that cost $1000+. MEC has great mechanics and have gone above and beyond to help when needed.

    Engaging customers is the way to go. I’ll pay a little more to get great customer service, and if you don’t serve me well, I’ll go out of my way to avoid ever buying a product from you again. It’s a pretty simple formula.

  • CT says:

    I bought a +$10K bike from my LBS and after some time I needed help with a warranty claim. The shop ordered a replacement frame and I took the bike in for a component swap. I normally build all my bikes but this time I was so busy I said “let the LBS do the component swap”. Guess what? Whoever worked on my bike did everything wrong, every single component was installed incorrectly: headset, stem, BB, derailleur cables, rear d had the B adj screw threads messed up, cranks locking ring was scratched from using the wrong tools. Not only that but they rode the bike and the rear wheel was incorrectly clamped and rubbed the inside seat stay of my brand new frame! When I picked the bike the owner of the shop had the audacity to tell me that the frame came like that from the factory and that the issues with the components were “minor”. I ended up re-assembling the bike myself and since then I never walked into my LBS and never will again. If that’s the type of service I get from my LBS I don’t need it.

  • Clarence says:

    “Companies like Shimano and Specialized are putting an end to this, cracking down on retailers who sell below minimum suggested pricing (MSP)”

    Here in Canada – that is the problem – its like the Mafia up here. These bicycle companies tell the bike shops what to sell and item for and when they can have a sale. Excuse me?? This is MY shop and NO ONE should be able to tell me how much I can sell my item for. Its not the bicycle shops run by mom and pop – its the distributors and these companies who tell the bicycle shops how to run their business and the companies sell their products to the bicycle shops at a price that sometimes cant compete with the internet . That is the real issue in my opinion.
    These distributors and companies are the ones that are killing the bike industry and they must change with the times as more and more people are buying on the internet.

  • Mark says:

    @Clarence: Exactly. I’ll support the LBS, but up to a point. If I can get the same product online at 50%+ discount, I’m sorry, but I’m ordering from the UK. This is also partly the reason for the backlash against MEC: different rules since they are a cooperative.

  • Karamba says:

    A good article .. but. I am inclined to think that out of 100 who thinks showrooming is bad you can find at least one who would would not do it because it is wrong. People are too greedy to care about what is good what is right.
    Every one knows that when you dent someone’s car you are supposed to leave a note with your number. Over many years and dozens of dents on my family cars I am still to receive a single note. It is a nature of people. Greed is above the realization of what is right and what is wrong.

  • Lukaas says:

    I’ve spent a fair bit of money on servicing at my LBS, which is Look Mum No Hands in London. They don’t sell bikes, just some tools, bike clothes & hats, some wheels and a range of accessories like leather saddles, locks, lights etc. Oh and they sell awesome coffee, some of the best in England, and brilliant cafe food. They are friendly and efficient.

    I built an entire bike from bits bought online including a carbon frame direct from China, SRAM Rival shifters & derailleurs from Taiwan (eBay), crank from eBay UK, other parts from Planet X, wheels from Ribble etc. It all came to about £1400 including tax on the frame. The problem was when I tried to attach the BB there was resin in the threads. I put everything else together, chucked it in a taxi and got my LBS to finish it off. No hassles, no eyebrows raised, just great service at a reasonable price. And the finished bike goes like a rocket.

    Do I feel bad about buying stuff online? No. I don’t showroom at all. There are plenty of bikes and enthusiastic cyclists at work that I can check for ideas. And I still buy bits and pieces from bike shops around the place, occasionally admiring their fully made bikes. But if I was going to build another bike I would do the same thing again. Or get a fully made one from Planet X or Canyon, online.

    Also, when I got my previous bike (a Giant Defy 1) from a different LBS (a shop that will remain nameless) the guy fitted the pump to the frame. It was weeks before I realised he was taking the piss out of me. And their initial “free” service left a lot to be desired. No adjustments were made to my riding position, and the gears went out of tune very quickly. I reckon they were more interested in selling products than servicing the products they sell.

    I certainly think we should support our bike shops and buy stuff from them when we need it or when they sell good value products. But online retail is here to stay, and bike shops are going to have to compete with it. I believe that products can be sold at a good price from the high street. I certainly agree that Mr Schmuck is a w@nker and that kind of behaviour is unacceptable. If you buy stuff online you deal with the consequences. Don’t externalise your own costs of doing business.

  • Andy M-S says:

    Building a good relationship with a shop pays off. Yesterday, I walked into my LBS and was greeted by name. I responded in kind and browsed about a bit, then asked about a handlebar bag I’d been considering via the web. They made me a great deal–a better deal than I could have obtained had I ordered via the web. I paid taxes, but no shipping. Is it always the cheapest? No. But unlike NashPerfAmazaBar, my LBS supports cycling in the community.

  • omgfantastic says:

    a lot of lbs people are legends in their own minds.

  • Chris Froelich says:

    Well, I see this thread is petering out, but I just read it and thought that I would put in my two cents worth. I would direct this mostly at the LBS staff and owners on this site if you want to know how your going to stay in business.

    I went into a few shops around town and was mostly ignored, especially when I explained I was 1. a newbie, 2. on a budget, 3. was a researcher and would probably take a long time to make a decision. Of course, I ended walking out of these shops without making a purchase. Finally, when I visited one shop, I was met by Chris, who was friendly and seemed genuinely interested in helping learn what bike would be the best option for me. We talked about lifestyle, what I hoped to get out of the bike, what my budget was, and time frame for a purchase. He let me take any bike in the store out for a ride, including long trail rides. When we finally decided on a bike, he made me a reasonable deal (about 10% more than online). He told me that of course, he knew that he could get it cheaper online and if that is what I did, he would still happily fit the bike for me for a small fee and service it in their well respected shop, but that if I did buy from him, that service would be free for the first year and the fit would of course be free. In other words, he made it clear that buying from him would have some value.

    I bought the bike from the LBS (layaway, no less) and he spent an hour fitting the bike. After I had the bike for about 2 months, I received a phone call from Chris asking how the bike was working out, if I had any good rides or crashes yet, and to remind me that I should really bring it by so they could adjust it after the break-in period. He also wanted to let me know about some of the group rides that went on, etc.

    For the next 4 years (as long as I lived in that community), this is the level of service I received. I bought EVERY single non-emergency bicycling purchase from that LBS, including another bike for me, and an upgrade for me. When I upgraded, the LBS listed my bike on eBay on their account and with my approval, sold it. They tuned it, shipped it and gave me the credit of the sale (minus $100 for this awesome service) toward my new bike.

    Not only did they get all my business, but most everyone else I knew who I could at all influence. This LBS was the very active in the community and they were reaping the rewards. The shop was the biggest and busiest in town (oh, and I’m pretty sure the owner drove a hummer).

    This is how local LBS compete with online sellers.

  • Shawndh says:

    I agree and disagree. It’s important to support a good local bike shop, but not all of them are good. Good customer service and knowledge are Important keys for survival in any business and I’ve found that some bike shops don’t provide either. I get pissed when some punk half my age is trying to BS me to make a sale or tell me My bike cannot be serviced because they don’t know what their doing. In those cases I walk and will buy from Price Point, Performace Bike, or wherever I can get a good deal since I’m not getting any local service.

    But on the other had I will drive for miles to get to good bike shop and support them by paying more for stuff I know I can get cheaper on line and pay for service that I know I could do myself if I trust them. There’s nothing like getting the hands on experience and knowledge of a good bike shop.

  • AdamD says:

    I’m often surprised that my LBS matches online prices (not as a policy, they are just priced at that point) I don’t mind paying a bit extra for the knowledge and expertise, but sometimes my wallet would whisper and I would wonder how much cheaper I could have bought the item online, so I used to check it out after I made the purchase. These days I don’t sweat it because their service is great, and past price checks have put my wallet’s mind to rest.

  • give me a break says:

    If a business model is around being a gatekeeper between customers and a product, the internet is going to put them out of business. There’s no value added in selling things at MSRP, especially when these things are available online for 40% off.

    Bike shops need to know this and adopt a service model.

  • Whypaymoe says:

    What a load of rubbish. Your waiting for the shoe to go on sale isn’t doing your LBS any favours, cheapskate. It’s my dollar and I’m not going to shop lower in the range to feed a dinosaur of a business model that relies on the verbal gratification from schmucks like you who will do it the favour of checking in weekly to shoot the wnd (but really to see if the shoes you want to buy have been discounted to the value that represents a fair price to you). Buy at full msrp or shut up.

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