Monday, April 19, 2010

selling bikes

Yesterday at work, I spent a good 20 minutes (it seemed) explaining to a guy why buying a $419 mountain bike from a local bike shop was far better than buying from a guy who was selling and shipping bikes from the Lower-48 (apparently from the back of a truck) or buying a bike from Costco.

New bikes of good quality, with a warranty, adjusted correctly by experienced mechanics. The correct size (he was about 6 ft), follow-up adjustments. Now, what's wrong with buying a bike at Costco and saving a hundred or so? Pretty much that a bike purchased from Costco is the opposite of what I just listed here. What about buying the Costco bike and having our shop do the adjustments? *Sigh* Spend at least $50 making it work right and it's still not the right size.

He asked about buying used bikes and I said that unless you know what to look for or have a friend who is very knowledgeable, you can end up making a mistake by buying the wrong used bike (wrong size; worn out parts, etc). He was a nice guy and I can appreciate trying to save a little money, but he was trying to be too cheap. If you can save a few bucks by buying your cereal at Costco, by all means, do it. But your bike? No way.

As it happens, this morning I made a run to the local Costco. There, between the produce and the frozen foods were a couple rows of bikes. I glanced at them, without really noticing anything right away. Hardtail mountain bikes, hybrid comfort bikes, bmx. All under $400. Then I walked down the row. One comfort bike had the fork installed backward (note to self: bring camera next time) so that the brake was mounted facing the back. No, dear readers, it was not a Manitou fork! I grabbed the handlebar and placed one leg against the front wheel while I turned the bar. It was so loose that I was able to turn the bar easily so it no longer lined up with the wheel.

Vandalism? No. Just maybe a customer will notice that something's not quite right with that bike. Even better, an employee will notice that this bike isn't assembled correctly and would be a danger to a rider. I walked away to finish my shopping but returned to the bikes to check more stems for tightness, noticing that another handlebar was already turned askew. I easily turned a few more bars. I noticed at least one threaded stem (yes, you can still get those) that was more than an inch above the minimum insertion point. I noticed that they still, indeed, only stock one frame size for each bike model.

I don't want you to think I'm only harshing on Costco here, because they aren't the only mass merchant that doesn't hire qualified staff to assemble their bicycles. But I do think that it's unconscionable (if not foolish from a legal standpoint) to assemble something so poorly that it could lead to someone being hurt. I believe it's called negligence. If stores are going to sell something that looks like a bike and is said to perform like a bike, it damn well better be built by someone who knows what they're doing.

ps: dear Costco, please don't yank my membership; I'm doing you a favor here.


Charlotte said...

Hurray! You said it. I won't let anyone I love buy a bike-shaped toy so big box bikes are out.

I will repeat however, my used bike sales pitch which is basically that if you do your homework* and you still end up with the wrong bike you can generally always sell it for what you paid for it. This is liberating from a size perspective.

*meaning you don't pay too much, you don't buy anything broken, and you don't buy anything unsafe

mike said...

Dude I got busted by the costco police last year for riding their bikes in the store.

She scolded me and said the bikes are a hazard because they're not assembled well! This was at the Dimond location.

Anonymous said...

so does this mean your back in the store full or part time helping out and the writing career is on the back burner for the summer.

bikegirl said...

Charlotte - the key is doing one's homework & actually knowing what to look for in a used bike.

Mike - she was right!

J. - I'm working 3 days a week, should be thru the end of May, just to help them during the busiest couple months.