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."
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.