Friday, January 25, 2013

The Help

Over the years as I patronize local bike shops, I've often dreaded asking someone younger than myself for help. It used to be the younger the salesperson, the less knowledgeable they were at diagnosing problems with my 1980s bikes, or suggesting or pointing out alternatives, parts that would fit, etc. I've even encountered the young things saying "Wow, never seen a bike like that before" or "How old is this?" Really. Talk about making a potential customer ready to walk out the door!

Now, I immediately gravitate towards an older employee, one who might have been born before the 80s and possibly understand—not to mention, seen—early mountain and touring machines. This usually works in my favor. Flattery goes a long ways too. "They made great bikes then. Keep replacing parts and this'll last you a long time."

Either that or I get shuffled onto two or three sales people before my needs are met, which doesn't make for a satisfied customer. I have to bite my tongue, sometimes with a big sigh. My bikes may be old, but I've toured in places they can only dream about, I grumble to myself. So, I spread my bike wings among five LBSs, hoping for change, for that one retail place where I can do all of my business.

However, there's been a recent shift among the younger crowd. More help than hindrance. An employee—easily 20 years younger—suggested the whitewalls for my Ross. And to not be afraid of lower pressure tires. He said he'd look out for my bike on the road as it "sounded nice". Woah.

While this has been my first positive experience at one establishment, I often have good vibes at another shop, teaming with younger mechanics/sales people. They are mostly helpful, though the aging owner—ironically—can be cranky, depending on his mood, so I often shop elsewhere for a while. I attribute the shifting attitude to the trend in fixies and single speeds. Bike lovers are retrofitting 70s and 80s bikes for commuting and playing bike polo. It also allows practically anyone—this includes the lower wage bike shop clerk—to own an inexpensive bike. I believe this exposure has renewed interest in older machines. The "cool factor" not withstanding, clerks are becoming more knowledgeable and unafraid when a customer with a vintage bike walks through the door.

I've often wondered if my gender has anything to do with my treatment, but that's information for another blog post.

What has been your experience at bike shops?

1 comment:

  1. It can be very interesting the different experiences that you can have in various bike shops. In one of mine they are particularly kind and helpful, but also notoriously more expensive compared to others in the area. One I go to Kopps Cycles in Princeton is the oldest in the U.S. so I love it there for the history and knowledge in particular, but not the largest selection. And then there's one that I find has sometimes good service and other times it's lacking, but it is more affordable.

    You never know what you're going to get!

    I just saw that you have a Vintage Miyata 610, I have a 1980 Miyata 310 and I love it! Very cool that you ride the 610.

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