From the Forums: Bike Shop Etiquette

How to navigate the world of online and in-person retail

From the Forums
bike shop etiquette: Advice on how to navigate the mixed world of online and in-person shopping and bike shop etiquette.

Advice on how to navigate the mixed world of online and in-person shopping and bike shop etiquette.

The influx of new mountain bikers brings with it the opportunity to highlight some dos and don’ts of bike shop etiquette. Mountain bikers in our General Discussion Forum are helping new riders navigate the mixed world of online and in-person shopping. Specifically, is it rude to buy bike parts online and ask your local bike shop to install them?

The retail landscape has changed dramatically in recent years—not to mention recent months—and many shops have focused more on service than sales. Here are a few insightful takeaways from Mtbr members:

Nat“Sometimes I buy aftermarket parts that shops don’t even carry and they’ve been open to providing the labor. I mean, I could do the labor myself but hiring the shop to do it is one way of supporting them.”

Jayem: It should never be a faux pas, but you shouldn’t expect any special treatment either. Labor is not cheap and keeping lights on, employees paid, leases paid, etc., all costs money.”

kpdemello: If you buy stuff online and take it to a bike shop to install, and they get offended or treat you badly because of it, then you’ve just found a bike shop with poor customer service that you should never visit again.”

d365: What I don’t think is cool, is when people take up the [local bike shop’s] time figuring out what they need when they know they’re just going to go home and order it online.”

bike shop etiquette: Don't waste the time of the sales and service staff with myriad compatibility questions if you don't plan to purchase your parts from them.

Time is money: don’t waste the time of the sales and service staff if you plan to purchase your parts and accessories online.

The general consensus among our members is that there is nothing wrong with shopping online and asking your local shop to install the parts. (As a former professional mechanic and service manager with a decade of experience working in and managing bike shops, I agree. This is the reality of modern retail.) That said, there are a few caveats I suggest new mountain bikers should keep in mind.

  1. When in doubt, let the professionals handle it – If you lack the mechanical aptitude to install a component yourself, there’s also a good chance you might buy parts that are incompatible with your current mountain bike. There’s a confusing array of “standards” for new riders to navigate and saving a few dollars on a discounted component online can end up costing you more when you buy the wrong part.
  2. Good service doesn’t come cheap – One of my favorite expressions from my bike shop days is “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” It’s also completely true. Quality service from skilled professionals who treat their work as a career, rather than a hobby, comes with a price tag to match.
  3. Make sure you factor in the entire cost of a component or repair – Few bikes shops are able to match the prices of online retailers, but some will install a component free of charge when you buy it from their store. This is something to consider when you’re accounting for the total cost of an item (price+labor).
  4. Don’t waste time if you plan to buy online – As one of our members alluded to above, expertise comes with a price. Don’t waste the time of the sales and service staff with myriad compatibility questions if you don’t plan to purchase your parts from them. The Angry Singlespeeder’s tirade on this topic from 2013 still rings true today: Don’t “showroom” your local bike shop.

Want to share your opinion on bike shop etiquette? Click here to join the discussion in our forums. 


About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.



Comments:

  • Circuitsports says:

    #1 what bike shops do right now will follow them forever. If your shop is staffed by people who don’t care, have rbf and act like they are vegan betters or complain about any type of customer fkm.

    If a customer asks about a part that’s free marketing, even if they buy online and frankly every shop should be price matching Amazon anyway, installation and maintenance is valuable, finding replacement customers because you only use plant based seat pads and don’t feel like listening is not.

    I was at a shop where my mask was below my nose because they didn’t have ac in 105 degree temps and I was dying, this little expletive runs over to “correct” me – I gave him a state that will haunt his grandchildren’s dreams. I won’t ever go back there.

    My local shop is tacking in 30% to bikes forgetting that last year they had to close other locations because they sucked so bad then.

    If you are so busy you can’t answer the phones hire more people, pay them more bring in temps, when this is over there will be a glut of shops and only the best now will survive then.

    • Ridem says:

      100% agreed, the few bike shops left around here (because most sucked so bad) all but one have bad attitude. We stopped at a couple for a chain and rear mtb derailleur last week at our lunch time and ya we drove away from them all after snotty attitude and didn’t have what we wanted anyways.

    • alias says:

      So what you are saying is that your comfort is more important than the shop staffs safety? I am guessing that they wont miss you as a customer.

  • Teleken says:

    In the late 80’s when a top end MTB was $1000 a customer said “Quality only hurts once.” Good advice for those bike or bike parts shopping.

  • Daniel Elwood says:

    I do not walk in to a bike shop with any kind of service request without expecting to drop $200 plus. That is why I started doing my own research and buying my own tools and parts online. That said, most of the time when I have technical questions I cannot figure out on my own I have found that my LBS has been more than happy to help as long as I am upfront with what my plans are. I find that most respect that you are doing your own work on your bike regardless of where you buy the bike.

    Circuitsports: Try keeping your socio-political comments to yourself. Does it really matter if the person you are dealing with eats meat? Also 30% margins are pretty average for any brick and mortar retailer. What you are paying for is not just the expense of their facility but also their expertise. If you choose to do the research yourself and order on Amazon to save the extra cash…more power to you, but there is no reason to berate a retailer because of some personal beef you may have with them.

    Also, regardless of the situation WEAR A FRIGGIN’ MASK! Be a part of the solution…no the problem you friggin’ A**WIPE!

  • Alan E Shultz says:

    Also- bear in mind that most shop employees are totally burned out about now- even more so that “normal.” This summer’s been non-stop brutal, parts are out of stock and unavailable, and the quality of most bikes coming into shops varies from Wal-Mart to worse.

  • Mikey c says:

    I’m really glad to have read this, particularly number 1.
    I’ve been getting really into biking and have been daydreaming about an mtb for over a year. I only had the money to get one when the covid part shortage popped up, and due to seeing all my choices dissapear from the market, started buying a frame and some parts just to ensure that I could actually ride something that I like and not have to wait for everything to restock, if that ever happens
    Took it to a local shop and the guy spoke to me like I was an idiot and stopped responding to my emails. All my parts fit and are compatible so it’s not like I just bought random stuff because I saw it online.
    I was really worried that I committed some faux pas and would never be able to ride. Glad to see that guy was a dick

  • Mark says:

    It is unfortunate that many bike shops do not provide good customer service. If you are buying a bike or making some other expensive purchase, they seem to be more receptive. However, when it comes to repairs/upgrades, the techs seem to have little interest in assisting. I agree that it is important to not waste their time. However, it is the good customer service that will entice a customer to return, which you can’t put a price on. Because of COVID, bike racks at stores are empty and bike shops are backed up for weeks. It has forced many to become at-home mechanics. That is a lot of business lost. While many businesses have been devastated by COVID, local bike shops are benefiting. So hire a few more techs to lower the backlog, respect the customer, and keep customers coming back.

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