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Bike Shop etiquette/professionalism

This topic contains 34 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  Mick 1 yr, 5 mos.

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Italianblend

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May 9 2013 at 1:46pm #

I recently used Biketek in Squirrel Hill for a tune up. I have a mixed feeling about my experience there, and wanted to share and get your opinions. I’m not really here to call out the shop or anything – and if someone here is affiliated and you feel like this is inappropriate – that’s fine, please delete. I just want to see if this is normal for a local bike shop.

The shop itself opens at 11 – which seems a bit late for me, but that’s fine since they stay open late. I was standing by the door when they opened. Nobody was in the shop yet. Their first employee seems to arrive at 11 right on the dot. There was another waiting to be let in. I thought it was a customer but it was a worker. A young man came and opened the door and said hello. The person waiting to be let in proceeded to go in. He sort of held the door open for me, but was in a hurry to get inside. It wasn’t a welcoming “Hi, welcome to our shop” door hold, it was just because I was there. Or, that’s just the way it came off.

So anyway, the guy turns on the lights and I proceed to leave my bike there. This was Monday at 11 AM, and the young man said that he was pretty busy and it wouldn’t be ready until Thursday. I didn’t really expect it to take that long, but I was fine with it. Told me how much it would cost and everything – this part was fine. I left.

Got a call the following day that the bike was ready. This was nice, as I wasn’t expecting it – but I can’t help but wonder they over-estimate all repairs so that they look good.
Went in Wednesday to pick up. Tall dude at counter barely acknowledged me. I had to ask if I go to the tech station to pick up the bike and he said yes.

As I was walking over there, another guy who was probably testing a bike pedaled right past me in the store – didn’t say excuse me or anything – which I would’ve considered polite. The young guy (who seemed like a nice guy) gave me my bike and was pretty quick about it. I got to the counter and the tall dude checked me out. As I was leaving, he was giving the tech a really hard time about writing something down on the slip. Something about the chain. Yelling back and forth between the counter and the tech station. I understand that there are conflicts at any workplace and I’m fine with that, but to shout at each other in front of a customer that just paid for something is not a good feeling. It’s awkward and unprofessional. The tall dude might have been the owner or manager, not sure.

For the record, I have no problems with the work done on my bike. It seems to ride much better.

A few questions about this scenario:

1) Is it typical for a bike shop to over-estimate repair times?

2) Is the old-fashioned “Welcome to our store, is there anything I can help you with, sir?” mentality totally gone? Or, can you find this anywhere else in/near Squirrel hill? (is a good location for me to get repairs because I work there and I can bike to work. I have a small fiat and I don’t have a bike rack, so I need something close enough.) I’m sorry but I want to feel welcome in a bike shop. The air in there was so awkward.

3) Is $113 a typical charge for tune up, 2 brake pads and a new chain? I don’t know and have nothing to compare it to.

4) Would you feel as if I was overreacting to wanting to find a more friendly bike shop?
Thanks for any opinions.


rsprake

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May 9 2013 at 2:07pm #

1) Is it typical for a bike shop to over-estimate repair times?

It’s not an exact science and it was still the week of and they called you when it was done. I’ve dropped of my bike at places and had to call them to check if it was done.

3) Is $113 a typical charge for tune up, 2 brake pads and a new chain? I don’t know and have nothing to compare it to.

It doesn’t sound out of line to me. If you want to compare, Thick Bikes and Trek of Pittsburgh have tune up prices on their website, Thick even has installation prices. For a chain you’re looking at $8 plus the cost of the chain.

4) Would you feel as if I was overreacting to wanting to find a more friendly bike shop?

Everyone has their favorite shop. Find yours.


Drewbacca

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May 9 2013 at 2:38pm #

Sounds like a bad experience, for sure. Could really be one of two things. 1. they don’t care if you come back to their store 2. (more likely) It’s Spring and shops are busy… stop in any bicycle shop during the slower months and you’ll likely have a much different experience. During peak season (now) it’s best to stop by on a rainy and overcast day. On the nice days, everyone and their mother will be out shopping for a bicycle and getting a tune-up.

As for price, it depends on what they did. If it was a full tune up (true the wheels, adjust brakes and gears, adjust bearings, replace cables, full inspection and lubrication of all joints…) then it was the same as you’d pay anywhere for that service plus the chain. If they didn’t do all fo that, then it was overpriced.

If you just needed the gears and brakes adjusted, then it should have been under $50. But, this could have been a miscommunication as well.


edmonds59

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May 9 2013 at 2:38pm #

This is a delicate area in which to tread, but I will try to tread delicately without editorializing.
If a customer perceives a particular situation as awkward or unprofessional, it, by definition, is.
Re: estimated time, there are a lot of variables, not the least of which is the tech deciding to walk out if tall dude was being a complete asshole. Better to overestimate than over-promise.
$113 does not seem terribly out of line with the work you describe. If the bike rides markedly better, as it should, it was the right price.
I personally have experienced some odd exchanges in that shop. I can’t presume as to why. The surly bike shop guy is kind of a stereotype, maybe they’re just trying to live up to the stereotype.
Bottom line, next time try another shop if there is one that’s in any way convenient.


myddrin

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May 9 2013 at 3:16pm #

I go to BikeTek a fair bit, and friendliness really does seem to be a seasonal thing. I remember popping in mid-Jan and having a long conversation with the ‘tall guy’, who normally isn’t very talkative.

Price-wise: That seems just about right both for their typical prices and what I’ve seen at other places.

I will say that shopping around for a shop is a good idea. If your looking for classical good/friendly service, I think Thick Bikes and Iron City Bikes may be more to your liking. I end up at BT more often that not because 1) they are close and 2) when shopping w/ my wife for a bike for her, the sales person (probably the young guy you mentioned) talked directly to her, rather than to me… which she and I both appreciated.


Mikhail

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May 9 2013 at 3:37pm #

Italianblend wrote:1) Is it typical for a bike shop to over-estimate repair times?

Spring time and everyone tries to tune up their bikes. My second (beater) bike would spend about 2 weeks at Thick and I don’t care. :) If you want your bike faster then do your tune up in January-February-March. It took one day for me in December.

Italianblend wrote:
2) Is the old-fashioned “Welcome to our store, is there anything I can help you with, sir?” mentality totally gone? Or, can you find this anywhere else in/near Squirrel hill? (is a good location for me to get repairs because I work there and I can bike to work. I have a small fiat and I don’t have a bike rack, so I need something close enough.) I’m sorry but I want to feel welcome in a bike shop. The air in there was so awkward.

It depends. Some people think that it would be too pushy. So lots of time people on the floor let customers browse for a while before they ask them: “How can I help you?” I am completely OK with this tactics.

Italianblend wrote:
3) Is $113 a typical charge for tune up, 2 brake pads and a new chain? I don’t know and have nothing to compare it to.

Thick — $60 per hour for tune up. Chain could be from $18 up to $90. Chain installation — $8. Pads could be from $5 per pair up to $30 per pair.

Italianblend wrote:

4) Would you feel as if I was overreacting to wanting to find a more friendly bike shop?

Everybody has one. find yours. I am OK with this kind of behavior.


Pierce

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May 9 2013 at 4:12pm #

A pair of break pads is about $20 (are they disc brakes?, those are more), a chain is about $20, labor is about $50 an hour

Surprised they didn’t also sell you a new cassette with the chain

If you want to save money, I’d consider doing the work yourself and you can use your own labor and get all the parts cheaper as well

FreeRide and Kraynicks both have affordable parts and people who can help you with the job you’re trying to do


boostuv

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May 9 2013 at 4:44pm #

That’s been my experience there as well. I bought a bike from them in January of last year and it was an awesome experience. I went back in and Spring and it was like you described. I’ve since started visiting another shop but not due to the service or employees, more so because of team sponsorships.


edmonds59

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May 9 2013 at 7:24pm #

OT italianblend but I don’t suppose you have the 500 by chance, cause if you do I will be totally jealous.


Italianblend

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May 9 2013 at 9:23pm #

edmonds59 wrote:OT italianblend but I don’t suppose you have the 500 by chance, cause if you do I will be totally jealous.

Are you referring to a fiat?


mr marvelous

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May 9 2013 at 10:25pm #

I was in Bike Tech a few years ago. I was looking for a Giro Ionos helmet a fairly expensive helmet. When I walked in the owner was publicly scolding his employees for how long it was taking them to set up a display calling them lazy and slow. I felt a little uncomfortable because it was in front of a few customers. When I told the owner what helmet I needed and I noticed they had about 15 of them near the counter. He handed me a $30 helmet. I repeated what helmet I was looking for. His reply was I didn’t look like I could afford such a nice helmet and the helmet is made for stronger riders the you, he said you should stick to things you can afford. I left Bike Tech that day bought my helmet at another place and will never return there.


edmonds59

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May 9 2013 at 10:32pm #

^^yes.


Drewbacca

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May 9 2013 at 10:56pm #

Based on what I’ve heard of the place, I don’t plan to ever set foot inside… but, I was trying to be more positive and assume that it was just a bad day (everyone has one).

Once you been in a few more shops, you start to recognize what sets a good shop apart from a bad one. The top attribute on my list is not being talked down to by any employees. The second is that the employees are competent. Sadly, only about 50% of the shops I’ve been in meet this criteria.

Still, it’s never fair to judge any shop on a busy day. Go in on a slow day during the off season and you’ll know if it’s a place you want to frequent. I’ve found shops where it literally felt like I was hanging out on the back porch with friends having a beer… that’s what you are looking for!


CPollack

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May 10 2013 at 12:15am #

To help solve your problem, try this:

Go to Thick.


salty

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May 10 2013 at 1:25am #

I’ve never had an issue at Biketek – I haven’t bought a bike there but I’ve bought other stuff. They seem to do a good job of keeping parts in stock and the shop has always done decent work for me. I usually go to Thick but sometimes 1 mile away is a whole lot more convenient than 5.


ericf

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May 10 2013 at 4:55am #

+1 for Thick
Have never been to BikeTek, didn’t one of the owners used to work at the old Pittsburgh Pro on Murray?
Do yourself a favor and check out other shops. there are enough around that you will find one you like.


Italianblend

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May 10 2013 at 5:44am #

Yep I have a beautiful light green fiat 500 pop. It’s my little slice of Italy.


edmonds59

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May 10 2013 at 6:03am #

oooooh. Great color, classic. Love it. Want.
Now you need a Bianchi to go with it. Another slice.
Ok, back to topic.


Italianblend

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May 10 2013 at 8:00am #

Grrr, now I want one. Does anyone want to buy my llbean bike so I can buy a Bianchi?


steevo

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May 10 2013 at 8:31am #

1) If he had told you 3 day repair time and it had taken 5, imagine how
long of a saga you would have written?

2) stuff is crazy expensive. 10 speed chains at bike shop cost are like 50
bucks. They are paying the mechanics 10-12/hr. They have holding
costs and they have to make a profit. It costs money to have EVERY
type of brake shoe in stock so when you come in and want your bike
in 2 days nothing needs to be special ordered.

If you knew what you were doing, and knew it well, it still would have
cost you 60 bucks and several hours + having tools and time. I
have no idea the quality of work, but people need to eat and
running a business costs money.


Pierce

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May 10 2013 at 8:34am #

@mr marvelous

I forgot that horrible story


Ahlir

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May 10 2013 at 8:51am #

In all fairness, I was in there 2-3 years ago looking for a new helmet (having been told that the one I had was too “old”).

I got the same reaction, more or less. Basically, “you don’t need to spend more than $30 for a decent helmet; paying more is not worth it”.

I didn’t quite get it, especially since the folks up the street will normally start off by showing you their $200 models. But I guess there’s no accounting for some people and their ideas.

fwiw: I try to buy this or that at each of the local shops just on the principle that the more of them we have the better off we are as a group. Of course at some point there will be more than enough of them, so getting picky will be ok.


edmonds59

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May 10 2013 at 9:10am #

I don’t often require the services of a bike shop, but occasionally I will scratch my head and figure out something I “need” just to have a reason to go to Thick.


ajbooth

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May 10 2013 at 9:33am #

1) I’ve had similar experience at the shop you mention, almost as though I was annoying them by being in their store.
2) The $113 seems fine to me for the work you had done.
3) I’ve had excellent experiences at Thick Bikes, and at West Liberty Cycles. Both shops were very welcoming, and very helpful. In particular, I’ve purchased several bikes over the years at WLC,and have sent many friends there. Quite a few of them have purchased bikes, and thanked me for sending them there.


JaySherman5000

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May 10 2013 at 9:46am #

Here’s my experience with a few local bike shops over the last year or so:

-Iron City: always personable, patient, and willing to stay past closing just so I could test ride bikes. Their advice feels like sage advice. They get it.

-Perfomance Bikes (Penn Ave): My experience has been about 60/40 Bad/Good. They usually leave me alone when I walk in, unless I start looking at bikes. Then, a sales guy will approach and engage. I was in the market for a touring bike last summer, and one of their salesman ignored my repeated statements of “I’m looking for a touring bike with cargo capacity” and kept insisting I just needed a new road bike (with no eyelets!) and trying to push one on me. On another occasion, they gave me a free brake mounting bolt, but then recently I was ignored at the register for 5 minutes when I just wanted to buy a tube. The cashier saw me approach and pick up a tube, and then he walked away.

-Trek (Shadyside): despite going in with the desire to spend $1000-1500, their sales staff completely ignored me. In fact, I have never been approached by a salesperson at this store, ever. Even when I started molesting the bikes on display, nobody approached. That said, when I wheeled my beater into the shop, I was instantly engaged by an employee who fixed my problem for free.

-Pro Bikes (Sq. Hill): Good shop, slightly expensive for parts. I bought a pannier from them and the strap tore off after a couple months use. The manager was nice enough to keep me updated when the replacement was backordered from Germany. Another time, I brought my bike in from a downpour to get new brake pads. The new pads were on in about ten minutes, for a fee of $5/wheel.


Drewbacca

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May 10 2013 at 9:47am #

Italianblend wrote:Grrr, now I want one. Does anyone want to buy my llbean bike so I can buy a Bianchi?

If you feel like driving to Philly…

http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/bik/3794739794.html

As for personal experience in local bike shops:
Trek in Shadyside: meh
REI (either): meh
Performance: meh
Iron City: meh… but more like meh+ (might have been a bad day).
Big Bang: meh+
Dirty Harrys: A is for awesome!
Trek at Settlers Ridge: A is for awesome!
Thick: never been (somehow they always manage to be closed when I’m in the area).
Probikes: never been


Pierce

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May 10 2013 at 10:26am #

As much as I hate agreeing with Colin, I’ve enjoyed Thick myself too

You can walk in the door and talk to the owner Chris, the younger guys seem cool and enthusiastic too

@Ahlir

If the owner said “You can’t afford this,” I think that carries different connotations. Why does the guy even carry expensive helmets if he’s down-selling to cheaper models


Pseudacris

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May 10 2013 at 3:23pm #

I usually end up at Iron City in part because it is so easy to walk 2 blocks to the 61a,b,c bus stop. My main beef with the place is that it could use a good cleaning. Ive used Thick a few times and have been treated well there, too. The location is a pain for me. @Italianblend I agree with what others including steevo have said about price & turnaround time for service. Pick a shop with better manners. It’s good we have some choices. I avoid places where I see employees being treated badly, too…


mr marvelous

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May 10 2013 at 5:26pm #

It was a long conversation with the guy at Bike Tech and I’m only writing the highlights. But he has a problem with slow riders owning high-end stuff. He hates slow riders with expensive bikes. Also it’s one thing to suggest a cheaper helmet and it’s something different to tell me I don’t look like I can afford the expensive one or deserve to own it because I’m not qualified. He also went into a rant about slow riders with expensive carbon bikes, but in his defense that seems to be something a few cyclist tell me that irritates them. I just don’t get the problem.


Pierce

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May 10 2013 at 5:34pm #

He sounds like a video game character, if there was a video game where you had to work your way up the bicycle races, and he was like your trainer, like in Rocky

First you have to buy a $30 helmet and do some Flock Rides, then maybe a $60 helmet and do some alleycats, then maybe you can buy a $100 helmet and do some races on the oval, etc, etc, etc

Maybe you could unlock other shops too, like Big Bang (I think they carry some expensive stuff too, only been in there a couple of times even though I pass it on my way to work)


joanne

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May 10 2013 at 5:38pm #

^That’s appalling, Mr. Marv.

I have no experience with Biketek, beyond the time that I walked in there to pick up my bike because I confused it with ProBikes down the street. It was like an Abbott and Costello routine until we figured it out. :)

I’m a big fan of Iron City Bikes–I just took my bike in with brakes that were nearly clamped shut, slipping gears and a flat tire. They fixed everything up the same day, my bike rides beautifully, and it was only $53. And, they have a really cute shop dog.


Pierce

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May 10 2013 at 5:50pm #

Oh yeah, I forgot about the cute dog

Iron City was the first bike shop in Pittsburgh proper I visited. I got two flats in the South Side and then some random cyclist was like “Hey, why don’t you come to Iron City and get some tire liners.” He showed me the way and we went from the jail trail down to Bates from (OMG! I’ve never said this before!) where the dirt path used to be.

They seem pretty cool too and the owner gave me a cool bolt-thing to keep my old rack functional in a stripped eyelet


byogman

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May 10 2013 at 6:00pm #

^That’s appalling, Mr. Marv

I’ll second that. I’ve been into biketek a couple times because I live in squirrel hill and just sometimes the convenience overrides especially if the bike isn’t very rideable.

In terms of choosing biketech in particular, I like that there are two shops in Squirrel Hill and prefer to support the underdog, all things being equal. And I guess I also assumed all other things being equal assumed a smaller shop might mean more attention to and better treatment of customers. I haven’t had any bad experiences, but then again, I was always in at a low demand time, not buying high end stuff, and wouldn’t have faced intertwined racist/classist assumptions if I did.

I think next time I’m in Squirrel Hill and my bike isn’t rideable, I’ll give Pro Bikes a go.


Ross

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May 11 2013 at 9:22am #

…heard about Thick for a long time, but finally went there last February. Now I *finally* have a local shop I feel good about emptying my wallet into. I’d carry my bike past any three of the other shops just to take it to Thick.

I tend to be a fiercely loyal customer to people who do things right. I just love Thick.


Mick

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May 13 2013 at 11:47am #

One cold, dark winter evenging, I was in the slush next to road trying to get some debris out of my chain. Some big guy riding past stopped to help me. I did ‘t really need the help, but it impressed me.

It turns out the guy was Bob, who owns Iron City Bikes. That’s also the bike shop closest to my place. So I’m their customer now.

The experience when you walk in the door can vary – sometimes they are busy, distracted, or maybe hungover. They are still a pretty solid place.

The stores in Squrrel Hill have much better windows.

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