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 [email protected]. 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.
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.