Saturday, November 28, 2009

That'll be twenty bucks...

I don't know what it is that makes people who are out on a ride think they can just stop into the shop ask me to fix something and then think they don't need to pay for services rendered. Recently a racer-type in full team kit came into the shop with her bike while her teammate waited outside. She said she was missing a spacer in her cassette. Actually, she wasn't missing a spacer, one of the 10s spacers was simply not in the right spot so there was a double-wide gap between two cogs and another two cogs are snuggled up against each other.

So, I get that all sorted out, wheel back in the frame, shift it through the gears to make sure everything works, squeeze the brake levers to check for proper brake adjustment (it's quite surprising how many roadie bikes have brake calipers that are not properly centered and her's wasn't either) and fix. Do a quick headset assessment (it's quite surprising how many roadie bikes have headsets that are just a touch loose) and adjust the headset.

This is where it gets interesting (to me). In the past I've had other riders come into the shop needing road-side repairs and sometimes I do them pro-bono and sometimes I charge. Depends on what's involved. It I have to put the bike in the stand, I'm going to charge. If I can fix it with a 3-way allen wrench in under a minute, I might not charge. Most of the time the rider says "How much do I owe you?" If I tell them no charge, they are very appreciative and say they'll spread the word about my shop.

Sometimes, however, after I've said all better, the rider simply heads out the door without offering to pay or me saying that'll be 10 bucks. So, I tell the racer that her bike is ready and that I solved the cassette spacer orientation issue, adjusted the brake, and adjusted the headset. She simply says thanks and heads out the door. I thought about saying "hey, you owe me $20," but was kind of flabbergasted that she didn't even think about asking how much. She did say thanks, but dang, I did an amount of work that warranted payment.

Lesson learned for me. Next time, I speak up and tell the person with the repaired bike twenty bucks. Even if she was on the road with no money and no credit-card, that's not a reason to not offer to pay. Earlier that day, I had another racer type who came in with a shredded tire and no money or card to pay for a new tire, tubes, CO2 cartridge...so I do what I've done on other occasions and tell them no problem, I'll fix your bike, get you back on the road and when you get home, just call me with your credit-card number or mail me a check. I've done this on several occasions and have never been burned. And I'll keep doing this. But next time I perform any work on a bike that warrants payment, I'm saying "that'll be twenty bucks" after the work is performed.

(What's playing: Minus 5 The Long Hall)

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I worked in a shop in Seattle for years, right off of the bike trail. We had this experience all the time. Or riders would ask to borrow a tool. It can be a catch 22 situation. You want to be cool and friendly, yet you are are running a business that is trying to earn a profit.

blackmountaincycles said...

Asking to borrow a tool is a tough one. Those tools are how I make my living. No one goes into the baker's shop and ask to borrow the oven. Had that happen yesterday - "can I borrow a wrench to tighten my seat?" Yep, it's a tough one.

Jim G said...

Hi Mike, yep, that's a crappy story. People often don't remember that time is money. One way around this is to put the bike in the stand, check it over, and then, before you do any of the adjustments, tell the customer "I can fix that cassette problem (it'll be $10), plus I noticed your headset is loose ($5 to fix) and your brakes are wonky (another $5)."

blackmountaincycles said...

Great advice, Jim!

Ben said...

I can't tell you how may times I've been there. We have legions of little bmx kids in town. Tightening a chain is now $3, period.

Things like filling tires of tightening a stem or seat bolt is one thing. It if takes me under a minute to fix, that's fine. If the bike goes in the stand, it's a charge.

I am having a chalk board made up with an ala carte list of simple services listed on it with clear prices. I think this will help a lot with issue of this type. It's easy for a customer to look at it and see what it will cost, and it keeps me from being nice and just saying it's all good and not charging. Posting a shop hourly rate also helps I think. Then it's easy to look and consistently charge for simple stuff. If it takes 7 min to fix, it's easy math to figure out the charge.

We recently looked at our books in detail and figured out our cost just to be open for business for one day.
That'll make you think about free services for sure! It's an interesting point to bring up with particularly stubborn customers as well. I've found telling someone it cost you X amount of dollars just to be here for a day makes many of them think a little differently.

Anonymous said...

Bummer. Maybe as you put any drop-in bike in the stand say, "The shop rate is X per hour" which covers everything and lets them know a charge might result. TD in Boulder.

bhc said...

Just the opposite where I live.
The LBS changed ownership this past summer in our area. (only shop for 50 miles in any direction) Three times I have been in for minor things, (labor and small parts) all three times they have said no charge, but each time I tip enough for the mechanic to eat lunch. I suppose they are trying to make a good first impression, but I expect them to charge, got to keep the place in business.

blackmountaincycles said...

Good on ya bhc!

Chris said...

Unfortunately, this kind of nonsense happens frequently and it happens everywhere. When I worked in a shop it seemed to come from the extreme ends of the spectrum, either the folks who were of "the bikes as toys" mindset and bitched about the cost of a tube change or those ultra-racer types who thought we should be grateful to have worked on their bikes.

Jason said...

Man. I think this was after my girlfriend and I stopped in and drooled on all your awesome older bikes and the 45c tyres in your cross check (and another one on the floor).

Hopefully this didn't bum you out for the rest of the day, but it is crappy for people to do that to you.

You have a great shop - keep up the good vibes and I'll swing by again next time I'm in town.

In the meantime, I'll continue to spread the word about the shop.

blackmountaincycles said...

Thanks, Jason! It'll take a lot more than that to bum me out. I does make for a good blog post, though!

avedis schwinn said...

I suspect that customers who expect something for nothing are unlikely to become good customers. I don't think it's uncool to value the service you provide - and I'm a very mechanically disinclined rider. When I know someone is good and is going to charge, I feel better about bringing in my silly little problems. John

Anonymous said...

that female rider/racer is lame...expecting for the bro hook up since she didn't pay full price on anything due to her 'team deal'

not even offering to pay is downright disgusting....next time speak up and ASK for the $20....if she or he doesn't have it, they can always phone in a CC or send a check....

hopefully that person is reading your blog and will do the right thing.

Tom Hardy said...

A guy takes his wind-up alarm clock into the clock shop to be repaired. The wise old clockmaker looks at it, holds it gently up to his ear, and then gives it a HUGE smack on the dial, with his fist.

The clock starts ticking again, and he hands it back to the customer and says "that'll be $51 please".

The customer looks a little startled and says "HOW much?!"

The clockmaker replies "a dollar for hitting it, and $50 for knowing WHERE to hit it".