My daughter has learned to love mountain biking and she turns 14 on Monday, so we’ve been shopping for a new bike over the past 10 days or so. She ended up choosing a Specialized Rockhopper, which we happily brought home today.
We spent part of the afternoon converting it to presta tubes, setting up her tool bag for the season, installing a bike computer and bottle cage, and washing her old bike in preparation for sale. Bringing home a new bike is always fun. Unfortunately, shopping for one can be frustrating.
Too many bike shops across the country are plagued with shitty sales staffs. I often hear new riders complain of feeling intimidated by arrogant shop employees who speak in condescending tones and treat customers like morons. It’s a legitimate complaint. I see that kind of thing happen all the time.
We checked out bikes at six stores in Anchorage, and I was annoyed by the time I walked out of two of them (REI and the new Bicycle Shop on Dimond). Some people might think two out of six ain’t bad. I think two out of six means that 33.3 percent of the stores we visited employ at least one arrogant prick.
When anyone is shopping for a product and asking questions, sales people should tactfully assess the customer’s level of knowledge and respond accordingly—and respectfully—whether they’re selling microwave ovens, cars, bikes, or toasters.
I’ve bought many bikes over the years but I don’t do it every day, so I’m genuinely interested in what a shop employee can tell me about the new models, or how a bike fits. But I want opinions, not edicts, and I want to be heard when I express my thoughts on what I’m looking for.
I’m always interested in new information from people who spend 40 hours a week around bikes. On the other hand, I’ve considered myself a “serious” rider for 20 years and I can build a good bike from a bare frame and a pile of parts, and have a good time doing it, so I don't want to be treated like an idiot. Nobody else does, either. Regardless of their experience level.
The worst part of this problem isn’t how it turns away business from individual shops. I couldn't care less if a jackass employee hurts the owner's bottom line. The worst part is that some people who would like to try bicycling end up walking out of shops and going home, and they decide that they were right all along—the whole bike thing is too foreign, too much of a clique. They end up never discovering how much fun it is to good hooked on riding a bike.
And that’s a damned tragedy, in my opinion.