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Bike shop staff don't know their products

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Bike shop staff don't know their products

Old 06-25-19, 05:08 PM
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Had the same experience at the motorcycle shop. They had two brands and probably 24 different models and the sales guy had to look everything up! One would think the guy would know the sprocket tooth counts, bore and stroke of the bikes. Gee wiz, it is a lack of knowledge alright, or am I complaining because I like to complain?
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Old 06-25-19, 06:04 PM
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Sounds like my recent car shopping experience in which the salesman insisted that the model I was considering did not come in blue literally as we were walking past that model of car in blue.
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Old 06-25-19, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by event horizon View Post
One of the benefits of working at a LBS is that the sales staff can afford the new bikes on the salaries that they make - via "pro form" or industry pricing that is typically less than wholesale. That's in addition to employee purchase discounts that the shop offers, ex: 40% off.

Some really progressive companies even offer their employee purchase discount on top of their normal sales pricing and pay the race entry fees of their employees.

These benefits make working retail for relatively low wages a bit easier to swallow.
Had similar experiences working at a games shop a decade ago - we got whatever he could get at cost. Idea was we'd be more familiar with the product and be able to hook people on it.

In practice, that was still more money than I could really part with.

Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
I would be surprised if 'upselling' is a main component of TrekU... the easy way to increase margins on a bike sale is not to sell a more expensive bike, but to ensure the customer leaves with every accessory they could ever dream of. A $300 bike + $200 worth of accessories looks better on most balance sheets than just a $500 bike.

I admit this is sometimes taken too far - full fenders, front and rear racks, lights, reflective frame tape, kickstands, handlebar bags, computers... bikes can start to look a little gaudy. My bosses certainly never complained, though - it just offended my sense of style.
Yeah accessories are where they get you (sometimes I wonder about margins on some of those helmets...).

If there's a bag, though, you bet I'm looking at it.

I'm not saying give me 50 pounds of riding gear, though - I'm saying give me 50 pounds of your lightest riding gear!
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Old 06-25-19, 06:16 PM
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We’re spoiled in St Louis to have several shops that have knowledgeable staffs that are very active riders. I’d seek out shops that have organized rides. That’s a good sign.
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Old 06-25-19, 06:23 PM
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I think it depends on product line and personnel.

One shop I ordered my Bianchi from is a tri shop: Cervelo, Felt, Bianchi, Argon 18 etc. The folks there know the bicycles.

The shop near where I live has Spesh, Felt, Elektra, Dahon, etc. Just Specialized alone, I mean the amount of different bicycles and configurations is pretty dizzying. During the time I spend there, you got dedicated racer types, but also families with little kids there for their first ride. Urbanites like me looking for a first bike not sure about whether to go cruiser beach bike or hybrid.

I sold cars for a living and we were responsible for knowing the product line. Again, just Specialized alone, gotta be at least three or four times as many different configurations that I had to know. You got road, tri, comfort road, gravel, cross, hybrid, city, comfort, uphill, downhill, XC, etc, etc, etc.

I suppose I'm making excuses but the average bicycle sales person has a lot on his/her plate. I wouldn't expect them to be able to spec out one particular model of bicycle.

When I go into the LBS, its more important to me that I know what I'm doing, rather than counting on the salesperson.

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Old 06-25-19, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Well it's retail and the guy working the floor isn't always the most knowledgeable. That said, sometimes they're right and it was my knowledge that was incomplete.

Personally I'd much rather that the guy looks something up than try to bluff his way through it. You don't necessarily have to be an expert, just be honest.
Somewhat along this line of thought - I worked as a Chevy car salesman for a while and you learned fast to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER try to one-up anyone who came in to buy a Corvette. Those guy are 'car guys' and know all about the car. Just know the basics of what you have on the lot, take them for a test drive, and the car would usually sell itself. If you don't have what they want (color, auto or manual trans, ZO6 or basic model, etc) you usually loose them pretty fast and you can move to another customer without having wasted a lot of time trying to make a sale.
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Old 06-25-19, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by cb400bill View Post
Retail in most industries is a tough business. Low pay and low, or no, benefits leads to high turnover and low quality interactions. It isn't just the cycling industry. It affects many consumer products.
I'll second that with first hand knowledge. I retired 6 years ago but about 4 years ago I took a job with a retail business that deals with another subject/sport that I'm very involved with. I didn't / don't need the money but, after year of retirement, I got bored and tired of all the extra "honey do" projects with no pay at all. This job deals with something I'm interested in and when I'm working as an instructor the pay is much better than when I'm selling stuff. Employee turnover is extremely high mainly because of low pay and zero benefits not to mention these guys/girls are working two or three jobs. Out of about 30 people I started with, within 2 years all had moved on but 3 and those 3 (including me) were all retirees doing something they liked. More to the point of this thread, the company I work for (they have several locations) even advertise that in order to work there you don't need to know anything about the product(s) they're selling. By comparison that would be something akin to working in a bike store but never having pedaled a bike before.
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Old 06-25-19, 08:11 PM
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If I were selling bikes or owned a bike shop I'd make a cheat sheet with the specs on it like they have with cars. Like the specs you can find online. And I'd attach it to the bike in a plastic sleeve so customers and employees could read it. In addition to the specs of the bike in question I'd add a line like "also available in color XXX".

I would have a cheatsheet for employees that included the above and added things like what differences there were between this bike and the lower level model or whom the manufacturer thinks the bike is designed for. I bought a Trek and their website has sections for each bike entitled "It's right for you if..." and "Why you'll love it".
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Old 06-25-19, 08:55 PM
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A couple of points from working as a bike salesman for 10 years. First - if you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in a bike, you probably should know as much about the bike(s) as possible, and that might mean knowing more specific details than the salesperson. You should know what type of mtb you want, what you want to pay, have an understanding of suspensions, etc. You need to self-serve to an extent - as much for safety (mtb riding can be hazardous) as for knowing your chosen sport. If you are not going to think about these things, then why are you counting teeth on a sprocket? Second - in the store where I worked, we had around seven brands of bikes with around a hundred different models within those brands (mtb, road, gravel, hybrid, cruiser, folding). It was virtually impossible to know every little detail (tooth count on sprockets, e.g.) for every bike. The salesperson should know how to size you, what the different components add to a bike, what the strengths and limitations are for the bike, how to set you up for a test ride, and where to go to get answers that he or she can’t immediately provide.

So, to the OP, I think you could have gotten more from the salesperson, but your expectations are perhaps a bit skewed, too. Obviously, you knew the info you needed to know, so maybe you should have cut to the chase and just started doing test rides. That’s where the decisions are really made.
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Old 06-25-19, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
Yeah, the kind of people who tend to know a lot about "stuff" tend to be able to sell better-paying skills elsewhere. The last time I worked retail I had a pretty good handle on things but that was only because we had a very limited focus (shipping / packing related goods and services).

I don't go into my local Wal-mart much, but I had noticed over the years that there were fewer and fewer compared to how I remember it being as a kid. Back then, there were department specialists - my mother even had a friendship with one who ran the crafts supply section. That doesn't seem to be the case, now, as I've definitely seen the same lady pushing carts of petfood to one section as I've seen handling the groceries and baby supplies. Probably not really any time to oggle the goods and develop any working knowledge of them.

I also noticed this at Lowes, too - a decade ago, my Lowes had some dedicated lumber guys who did cuts and other stuff like that. Now I just kinda have to find a guy, and the last time I was in there I went through two people who weren't confident in using their saw enough to do cuts for me. I knew a guy who worked there - for about three months of the year he was lawn and garden - the rest of the time he was in the loading docks (and this year he was only in lawn for a couple of weeks before having to cover some other section). Can't say I'd bother to learn much either.

The saw at Home Depot or Lowe’s is always located in the back by the wall, and there’s always an emergency exit in close proximity. Rather than hunt for an associate, open the emergency exit, which will set off an alarm. You’ll have a least one associate there fairly quickly. They are typically very happy then to help do the cut for you and get you on your way. ;-)
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Old 06-25-19, 10:56 PM
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most bike shops are just satilite dealerships , they just have a shop mostly for show , no parts , they usually dont even have any of the high end bikes in store !!!
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Old 06-26-19, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by TheRef View Post
I understand your frustration but the currently offering from most manufactures is insane. Nevermind if the LBS is a multi-brand dealer.

I purchased a Trek Checkpoint a couple weeks ago. I knew more than everyone at the shop including the two owners who I know are avid and knowledgeable cyclists. The check point comes with 3 frames and they are all very distinct. Add that every frame level (AL, ALR and SL) have several builds and women specific builds and sizes (some smaller sizes have different mounts) and you end up with 30+ combinations. Now add that some builds have 2 or 3 color schemes and it's impossible for a sales employee or even the owner to know all the nuances. And we only talked about one model.

If I was managing a shop (or any retail store ) I'd train my staff to know where to find the info and know the generalities. I'd never expect them to know the details like an enthusiast buyer who has been researching a specific model.

Another mistake us, bikeforums nerds make is to assume we represent the majority of cyclists/consumers out there. We are a minority, we are nerds who not only like riding but like to read about, talk about and discuss at nauseum. I even have some doubts if some here actually go out and ride.

Now... if the employee didn't know the difference between a presta and schrader valve I would be very concerned.
I say.. or maybe they do exist.. Bring back the printed catalogs! They're actually fun to flip through and if accessible to the browsing in-store shoppers, can be a good point of sale technique for an LBS.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:59 AM
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Bike Shops have the same problem retail everywhere has: If you're smart, knowledgeable and ambitious enough to be a really good bike salesman, then you are smart, knowledgeable and ambitious enough to not have stuck around in such a low level retail job for long and will have moved farther up the career and income ladder long ago.

Retaining talent and skill demands pay rates that most bike shops cannot afford.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Agent Cooper View Post
Bike Shops have the same problem retail everywhere has: If you're smart, knowledgeable and ambitious enough to be a really good bike salesman, then you are smart, knowledgeable and ambitious enough to not have stuck around in such a low level retail job for long and will have moved farther up the career and income ladder long ago.

Retaining talent and skill demands pay rates that most bike shops cannot afford.
Can confirm. Last retail I worked, all my co-workers and I were just transients - as soon as we could move on, we did move on. Can't live on like $8/hr forever.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:59 AM
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Bike shops have always had a problem keeping high quality employees, and I usually seek out the owner, if the shop is a sole proprietorship. We had a couple of bike shops in our town growing up, and most of them had high school employees who were in to the BMX or freestyle scene.

Back in 1991 I was offered a job in a bike shop on my 16th birthday (earliest legal age to work) because the owner was a family friend, and he was sick of his BMX'er employees stealing from him and showing up late. I knew nothing about bikes, but I pored over the product catalogs, absorbing all of the subtle differences between bike models and groupsets, and quickly established myself as the shop "techie". I also picked up the mechanical side of things quickly.

It was the the beginning of the hard tail mountain bike boom, and then soon after came the beginning of the hybrid boom--certainly not the most exciting era for "enthusiast-level" bike sales. But I studied the catalogs at home at night and learned the price points. Even though I wasn't a "salesy" super outgoing person, I quickly became good at selling bikes when certain customers realized I knew what I was talking about. Having knowledge of the ins and outs of different models gives a salesperson credibility, and to this day I always seek out the most knowledgeable salesperson I can find in any industry over the guy who just wants to buy you a steak and a drink.
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Old 06-26-19, 11:10 AM
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The people at my LBS (only one in town) are very knowledgeable but it's the owner and his son and they are both avid cyclists and bike technicians, which I suspect is not typical. If they have any other employees, I've never seen them.

As others have said, retail doesn't pay squat so anyone smart and / or motivated, is likely going to move on to something that pays better.
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Old 06-26-19, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
I would luv to talk bike allday as a retail worker. But the real problem is not pay, it is the cost of living is so high. There's no affordable housing. They build new homes that are all expensive. And healthcare cost, etc.
Dunno, if my experience working in a games shop is anything to go by, you wont be "talking shop" all day with any regularity. That was what I'd looked forward to as an employee, and what seeingly a dozen kids a day applying / asking for a job there also wanted. Basically didn't happen unless the shop was unusually dead. There was always something to clean, stock, inventory, find, work on, etc. Pretty much the only "regular" time to talk about stuff was in basic salesmanship, which was overwhelmingly the same basic stuff about a handful of core products.

But yes, Cost of Living - two other coworkers of mine and I sought to split a two bedroom apartment in the area and it still wasn't workable on our minimum wage.
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Old 06-26-19, 03:13 PM
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Guess I'm lucky-the bike shops I use have very knowledgeable staff. I don't use but a couple, but I've also heard good things about some of the other bike shops we have in the general area.
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Old 06-26-19, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
OP probably researched online and the store offering was very limited compared to online. OP probably couldn't remember all details and wanted sales person to verify..... but apparently it is too much to ask that sales person knows the 10 bikes on the floor.

Which is why I buy online. Last time I stepped in an LBS there was a sales person who I think doesn't even ride or sold jeans a week before. Then the owner who is knowledgeable, but only acknowledges you if you look like buying the most expensive bike.

But support your LBS, no matter what.
Our shop has probably at the very least 60 different models of bikes on the floor (and so many more we can order) and all sorts of parts and many new parts coming in each week some of which I have seen and some I haven't. However I do my best to learn what I can about them or at least learn about the different components and such. Plus in this day and age it helps to know something about other bikes and parts you don't sell and people ask some pretty obscure questions sometimes so you have to know some odd info.

Sure I am with you on low quality sales staff, I can't stand some of my co-workers because they don't take pride in their work and don't take the time to learn their jobs or just don't always like to do them right but sadly it happens sometimes. Working for lower pay and sometimes not great hours and dealing with sometimes rather difficult customers who won't be satisfied even if remove your spine and twist yourself into a pretzel and give them more free stuff than a medical conference, can lead to poorer staff. Also some of these folks are also in school so taking time from their college or sometimes high school learning to do more learning for the job can be tough.

Not everyone is going to be a superstar all the time and not everyone can learn everything about everything. There is a lot to learn and when they are managed by younger folks they won't get the best knowledge. Luckily most of my learnification was done with older mechanics and salespeople who have done it a while and also on my own because I am a bike addict and nerd. However one of the biggest things that is more important than all that knowledge is honesty. If you are honest you will make it a lot further.

However all this being said I would rather be happy selling bikes, occasionally fixing bikes and riding bikes then stuck in an office writing TPS reports, staring at a cat poster and contemplating suicide. I love my job and really wouldn't want to do much of anything else. It is sad when people can't seem to find that joy with their jobs so they must go after other people.

At least Jeff Bezos allows test rides and fixes bikes at his shop...problem is it is hard to fit my bike in the internet tube

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Old 06-27-19, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by downhillmaster View Post
Replace the words bike and shop with the name of any and EVERY other retail business in the world and it is the exact same.
What’s your point here?
Felt the need to bash bike shops on a bike forum while providing no real data?
Sad but true. Recently, after ten minutes of internet research I knew much more about a type of couch than the salesperson at Ikea.

Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.
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Old 06-27-19, 08:13 AM
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On four separate occasions, I've walked over and shown both the LBS employee and the (other) customer how to fold a Dahon bike.

In other news, Dahon USA is moving to more of a direct-to-consumer sales model.
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Old 06-27-19, 08:29 AM
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It would greatly behoove bike manufacturers to include a "showroom floor spec sheet" for this very situation.

Like a glossy one pager about the overall model, and then checkboxes ticked for what that specific bike has on it. Bolder text for the more important stuff like groupset (gears), wheels, and size. Then a small print list at the bottom of the rest.

So many bike shops just have the single cheezy little paper price tag on a string on the handlebars like it's a kid's Christmas bike.

C'mon......maybe even just print the one-pager from Trek or Giant about the bike and have it there visible.
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Old 06-27-19, 08:36 AM
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Amazon helps you even less..
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Old 06-27-19, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by riverdrifter View Post
That scenario happens ALOT in guitar shops.
You ride a guitar? LMAO!!

But yeah, this is getting worse. My local shop was sold out to a chain store and now the "in house mech" is a high school kid that don't know crap!
Its frustrating.
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Old 06-27-19, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by sdmc530 View Post
You ride a guitar? LMAO!!

But yeah, this is getting worse. My local shop was sold out to a chain store and now the "in house mech" is a high school kid that don't know crap!
Its frustrating.
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