The latest issue of Outside—the official magazine of yuppies concerned with which overpriced brand of outerwear is fashionable for the rigorous adventure of driving a BMW to Starbucks—contains an essay from a writer lamenting the loss of bike-shop snobs. Modern competition, he argues, has made shops friendly and welcoming, thereby robbing cyclists of the valuable initiation process of feeling inferior and having to earn knowledge and acceptance.
First of all, bike-shop snobs haven’t completely disappeared. Even here in little ol’ Anchorage I hear frequent complaints from less-experienced riders about their encounters with one particular shop, and there’s another place I virtually never go into because it employs an arrogant prick.
But if snobbery is generally on the wane, I say good riddance. I still remember the conceited jackasses I encountered while shopping for my first mountain bike back in the '80s. Those dudes all seemed to think they were the next Greg LeMond.
I endured them because I was dying to get a bike, but not everyone is committed to making a purchase. Snobs intimidate the casual shoppers who would just like to give biking a try. And that's not just bad for business, it's bad for the sport.
Treating customers badly isn’t cool. It’s stupid. In any kind of business. Why drive a customer away just because you think you know more about wine, car parts, widgets or bicycles than he/she does? Why turn them off on bicycling—or scare them off to Sprawl-Mart where they’ll buy the kind of junk that will convince them we’re all crazy for riding bikes?
Do that, and the next thing you know, they’ll decide it's easier to read Outside than it is to ride outside.