Should bike retaillers be choosing their customers?

Comment: With customers like these…

Finally, after years of hearing about the practice, I recently came across a retailer who will only service bikes sourced from their store alone.

As well as refusing to fit parts sourced from elsewhere, London’s Velorution (profiled in the May print edition) told us that they stand firm on the policy, which, without doubt, does see custom lost, but in favour of a workshop that’s always available in an instant for its existing customer base.

Is such a model sustainable for all bike retailers? Probably not, but at the very least it’s my feeling that parts sourced from outside your four walls should come fitted at a premium. Certainly, such instances should not be attended to at “mate’s rates” in a bid to encourage more of the same behaviour, or ‘repeat custom’ as I’ve heard it called. That’s not the kind of customer that you can earn a living from, rather one that’ll eat up your man hours and expect an even better deal (for them) next time around.

Earlier this month a retailer told me of a Twitter dialogue in which a ‘customer’ had expected him to leave the shop in order to fix a puncture at the roadside. A handsome reward waiting for such a service? Nope, the chap wanted it done for free as it was “only a small job”. You don’t need customers like that either. 

The point I’m slowly coming round to is that, while you can’t screen them before they come through the front door, frothing at the mouth, clutching a slashed tyre and shouting “warranty”, you can choose your customer to a certain extent. 

Your job as a bike shop owner is to make a net profit. All things considered, is the customer staring you down and demanding a price match on a perhaps already- discounted bike worth investing in? Are they going to be back in ten minutes having had a mishap with an endo gone wrong, telling you “I was just riding along and it buckled.” You know the customer; they’ll expect you to adjust the saddle height on a seized in post, but will forget to tip the mechanic with as much as a thank you on their way out.

With all the time and energy saved from turning away bad business, the next loyal customer through the door will get the best of you, and you the best of their trade.

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