Friday, April 30, 2010


I work in a place that has a busy service department. People wheel in - or carry in - their bicycles for repairs and upgrades. Sometimes it's just a flat fix; sometimes it's a full drivetrain replacement. One of the first questions people ask is "When can I have it back?" Remember, I said busy, and we're in the height of the spring frenzy with bikes being hauled out of garages or off decks, even, sadly, emerging from snowbanks. The mechanics are up-front about setting expectations. Turn-around could be about a week. No, you won't have it for the weekend, unless it is that simple flat fix or some other small thing that can be done while you wait.

Tune-ups are parked out of sight of the customers, so they don't see the couple dozen bikes awaiting their fixes. But our customers do know that when the time comes, their bikes will be given the TLC they need and they'll be able to pick the bikes up on the scheduled date. Unless a part must be ordered or something unexpected comes up: "We found a crack in your frame." "Oh." So I have high expectations for service. Yet here I am posting from Jon's computer instead of mine because mine is in the shop.

I wouldn't mind so much that my computer should be done later today, except that I was told it should be ready on Monday. But it wasn't done when I called them on Monday, so I called again on Tuesday. Then Wednesday. "Should be ready tomorrow." Okay. "Yes, we have both your numbers." When I made the call this morning, I was thinking, be calm. Be courteous and understanding.

"It's on the bench." (Funny, seems it's been "on the bench" all week.) "He's installing the data. It should be ready by noon; but you should call before you come over." "I'd like you to call me." "The techs are pretty busy; they can't always call." "I want to get a call." 'They can't call everyone." "It was supposed to be ready Monday; I want a call. Can you give him a note to call." This was not a question. And I think it's reasonable to get a call saying: "So sorry it took this long; the laptop you desperately miss is ready. We had some technical difficulties and wanted only our best tech on this." Sigh... And I thought about an event from yesterday.

A customer came into the shop to pick up a layaway that was originally scheduled for pick up in about 10 days. She said she'd called earlier and that someone had told her the bike was ready. As I figured the total she still owed on the bike and she stood nervously at the counter saying someone had already told her the total I explained that one of the add-ons she'd phoned in hadn't been tallied in. Sorry. It would be $20 more. But she was in a hurry. Yes, yes. I rang her up then went to the back to retrieve the bike from the shelf and noticed it needed a bit more air in the tires. This took maybe three minutes, tops.

I need to record the serial number; oh, you don't have your receipt. Let me record it on this copy & mark the bike as paid. Normally there are a few things we show you before you take a new bike...I'm late. I'm sorry, I hope you will come in at another time so we can... I'm late, I need to get to the gym. And off she went, pissed, mumbling her displeasure to her friend that I had taken 10 minutes of her time when she was in a hurry. Wow. I tried to remain calm and kind. Strange that the more stressed she got, the longer it took me to do things, not wanting to make a mistake. Positive... positive. (Sometimes I wonder why I must save so much kindness for people who are rude to me...)

Typically, when we sell a new bike, after finishing paperwork, we describe and demonstrate features like undoing the brakes, using the wheels' quick-release mechanisms. We set up the seat height, go over correct tire pressure, show presta valves and review shifting. We explain lubing the chain and offer to answer other questions before sending the happy, informed customer off on their first ride. Because she wanted to squeeze in this important errand, she got none of this information and will, I predict, not return for this information. I did my best to expedite her, but only one person can be responsible for her happiness with the bike or with our shop. She picked up her bike and rushed to the gym.

I finished my day, climbed onto my bike and rode home with a welcome tailwind.

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