BikeBiz mulls over the pros and cons of entertaining the customer who drags in an un-built bike bought elsewhere

Comment: Bikes in boxes – are they worth your time?

IT caught me by surprise. A few months back while walking past a bike shop, a prominent sign in the window reading ‘we service and build bikes in boxes’. It’s stuck in my mind until I was drawn to a comment on the BikeBiz Trade Forum discussing the issue just this month.

Like most debates on what to do with a certain type of customer, this one has many sides and largely it boils down to whether or not you need, or have time, for the business. In an ideal world, all bike shops would chase the ‘bargain hunter’ who drags in a box from the supermarket next door out of the shop. Some may want to hurl a few spears after them, but for the sake of encouraging cycling, let’s at least downgrade to a Haynes manual bookmarked to the page on how to assemble a bike with the forks the right way around.

Without claiming to have all the answers, it does seem important that, should you choose to take the job on, that you should cover yourself above and beyond having public liability insurance.

First off, are you really going to lose sleep if the job doesn’t end up in your workshop? There’s perhaps more work than meets the eye with your average bicycle shaped object, so don’t undercharge and don’t be afraid to be honest with the customer. Make it clear that any work you do on a bicycle which you ultimately don’t trust may not necessarily make it ride any better. Before the customer leaves the shop, give them an estimate. If they’re not happy, Asda’s mechanics will surely take the job?

Make a judgement on the customer’s expectations of your business constantly. If at any point they get touchy on the price of labour costs, time taken to complete the repair, or replacement parts, consider the value of this piece of business. Will the customer be back every few days to ‘borrow a spanner’, or demand that you straighten a wheel that buckled while they were ‘just riding along’.

Remember, you are perfectly entitled to choose your customers and profit is not a dirty word. Make sure you’re charging well for the bike in a box job, as it’s perhaps the most likely to eat into your net profits if you don’t manage the customer well.

Better to engage and nurture a handful of valuable customers who will in turn spread the word, than be a busy fool with a backlog of jobs barely worth starting. 

If you’re in the business and you’d like access to the forum, sign up here, providing details of your trade credentials.

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