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Bike shop staff don't know their products

Old 06-27-19, 10:14 AM
  #51  
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I say the same thing about most gun stores and car dealerships.
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Old 06-28-19, 11:13 AM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Amazon helps you even less..
Heh. :-)

Well, yes and no. Really, if you think about it, if the B&M store employees are zero help and I'm going to have to do my own research to educate myself about what to buy anyhow then Amazon reviews, forums and google searches etc. are going to be exponentially more helpful than some kid on a shop floor who knows next to nothing about the products he has for sale.
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Old 06-28-19, 11:27 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by Agent Cooper View Post
Heh. :-)

Well, yes and no. Really, if you think about it, if the B&M store employees are zero help and I'm going to have to do my own research to educate myself about what to buy anyhow then Amazon reviews, forums and google searches etc. are going to be exponentially more helpful than some kid on a shop floor who knows next to nothing about the products he has for sale.
A surprisingly high percentage of Amazon bicycle and bicycle component listings have incorrect or missing info. Most Amazon reviews are useless as well, IMO.
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Old 06-28-19, 12:11 PM
  #54  
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I guess I'm lucky to have multiple local bike shops with helpful employees. A couple shops are just the owner and a long-term employee or two, with perhaps some part-time help on the weekends. One of the bigger shops has a staff of extremely competent full-time employees as well as a ton of part-time sales people, all of whom are enthusiasts from the local cycling community who actually ride the bikes that the shop sells. The latter business model seems to work because sales and service bring in enough money to provide good wages/benefits to the full-timers, and many sales are made by part-timers who have other jobs and are really working for the discount.

I've noticed, as a general trend, that LBS service tends to be better between 10-4 M-F, when the shop owner or managers are likely to be around. I can usually figure out pretty quickly which shops have a bunch of kid employees running amok, and tend to avoid them.
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Old 06-28-19, 03:06 PM
  #55  
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When it's as easy for us consumers to become very educated about the products we buy, the need for a specialty shop is diminished. Used to be that a salesperson could add value through product knowledge. Product knowledge that consumers couldn't easily attain elsewhere. Now the internet delivers the information in milliseconds. Armed with that information consumers can surf the web for the best buy and buy the product from a company that doesn't need a sales staff. To compete against that a store must have a warm body on the floor. With that they struggle to compete on price, so there's not a lot of money to pay for that warm body. The stores get what they pay for.
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Old 06-28-19, 05:57 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
When it's as easy for us consumers to become very educated about the products we buy, the need for a specialty shop is diminished. Used to be that a salesperson could add value through product knowledge. Product knowledge that consumers couldn't easily attain elsewhere. Now the internet delivers the information in milliseconds. Armed with that information consumers can surf the web for the best buy and buy the product from a company that doesn't need a sales staff. To compete against that a store must have a warm body on the floor. With that they struggle to compete on price, so there's not a lot of money to pay for that warm body. The stores get what they pay for.
Yeah, especially once you add in the smart phone, even spur-of-the-moment products can become known.
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Old 07-01-19, 11:35 AM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by fidodido View Post
I went to a LBS today to check out the Trek mountain bikes for a MTB multi day tour that I hope to do this year. I was surprised that I felt I knew more about the bikes just from looking at the Trek website before going to the shop than the staff that was showing me around. I asked the staff what drivetrain the bike come with and he wasn't really sure and had to look down and gave up trying to count the number of tooth on the biggest sprocket. One of the selling feature of the bike I was looking at was the Sram 12 speed drivetrain but he didn't mention it. There weren't that many bikes on the floor, and I would have thought if he works there everyday, he would know the bike specs off by heart. Because I felt he doesn't know his stuff, I stopped asking questions to save him the embarrasment.


I bought a gravel bike two years ago and the experience was pretty similar in a number of stores, that most bike shop staff don't 'appear' to know their products. So I have a feeling that this is prevalent in the industry. You would think a bike shop attracts staff who are passionate about bikes, but maybe a passion in riding bikes doesn't necessarily translate to paying attention to bike specs. Another possibility I can think of is that most people who buy bikes aren't too concern about bike specs so the shop staff don't try to talk about these details so as not to confuse the customer.


Whatever the reasons why staff don't know their products, I felt it was a pretty poor retail experience. I may as well buy a bike online and if I need things fixed, take it to a shop that are more mechanically inclined (usually small shops that focused on servicing bikes rather than selling bikes). I'm happy to pay full retail price from a shop that have knowledgable staff and can guide me to choosing the right bike. Is this really too much to ask?
I'm lucky: I live near a bike store where they DO know bikes (I doubt that all the sales people know all of the specs of every bike, though: that would be really difficult, it's a big place)...the staff is very knowledgable. However, what you say is true in general just about everywhere...you can go to home depot, and some of them don't know anything except maybe where in the store it is....musical instruments? Often sales people are really ignorant...stereo equipment (I mean, who buys that anymore, anyway) etc...over the years, I've been checking out many things, and found sales people who knew less than i did...and when I bought my last car (2016 Golf wagon) I would have bought the more expensive one with all of the bells and whistles, had not the sales men gave me wrong information about the added features...as others here have said, there are good reasons why a lot of people in retail don't know all of the info....it's only an issue when they pretend they do.
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Old 07-01-19, 11:38 AM
  #58  
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I guess LBS-bashing threads never get old. But it is low hanging fruit.

The LBSs I patronize know their stuff, which is why I patronize them.
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Old 07-01-19, 11:46 AM
  #59  
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You sound like the kind of customer people can do without. If you have all the info, don't ask questions to try to be superior, you'll just come off looking like the fool. And don't go back for service, people never forget the bad customers, or the smart alecs.
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Old 07-01-19, 11:47 AM
  #60  
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This post nearly put me to sleep. I can feel for the people at that shop.
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Old 07-01-19, 12:07 PM
  #61  
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Don't you hate to get behind customers like this one at the fast food store?

"What fertilizers were used on the organic romaine lettuce in the salad? How long before slaughter was the last antibiotic administered to the beef cow? WHAT?? YOU DON'T KNOW?!"
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Old 07-01-19, 01:16 PM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
There are a large number of people who play a game I like to call "Stump the Bikestore".
People playing STBS might come in with tricky questions about obsolete parts ('you don't know the different between EA3 and S6 tires?!' or 'don't you sell skip-tooth chainrings?!'), looking for obscure parts that they believe a shop could not possibly have in stock, but that they have no intention of buying (Customer: "do you have a titanium left-handed adapter for a Brand X patch kit?" Clerk: "Why yes we do! We got a box of them yesterday and they are fifteen cents each!" Customer: "Oh... Well I'll keep that in mind.") or asking for prices on random disparate items they have no intention of buying ("how much is.... <looks around the store> ... that wheel?! ... those snowshoes?! ...that tool kit?!... that pair of gloves?!")

My sense is that you win at STBS by leaving the store feeling superior to a bike shop employee.

seriously? do people actually do this? i have no time for this, these people must have issues.
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Old 07-01-19, 01:40 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by riverdrifter View Post
The manager told them to get used to it because all employees would be covering all departments from now on. It's the way retail is going as business moves to an all online model.
It is interesting that the one place where people will need help and will need expertise (mixing paint) and where Walmart could differentiate itself, they failed.

Also, I love how the manager couldn't do it so they assumed that one of the workers could. It used to be that managers were managers because they knew MORE about the product then other workers.
Also, I love how the management assumes that any worker can do any job - no need for expertise! These are "simple" menial jobs that anybody can do, right? Anybody but a manager, I guess! Idiots.
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Old 07-01-19, 02:02 PM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by riverdrifter View Post
I trired to get some paint mixed at Wal-Mart a couple weeks ago. Could not find anyone to do it. Finally got a manager to attempt it, and he kept trying to call for help. He finally got someone to come and they complained the whole time that it wasn't their department.
Hope you never have to match that paint!
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Old 07-01-19, 02:11 PM
  #65  
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Blame the shop owners

In Chico there was a couple of shop owners who hired friends or friends of their kids regardless of cycling knowledge or even experience. One didnít know that sew ups were still being made and ridden, another didnít know a foldable tire from a steel bead. One of the owners assured me he could face my frame and fork, he has been in the biz forever, turns out he was wrong. I blame the shop owners for not taking their customer base seriously. One of the benefits of a college town? An endless stream of new customers not too fussy about cycling.
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Old 07-01-19, 07:03 PM
  #66  
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I find this same scenario in all types of retail environments. For example, I know a fair bit about Martin guitars, having played them for over 40 years. Iíve made it my business to know the particulars of most of the models in their lineup, and can discuss them somewhat intelligently(usually). Yet it never fails that when I go into a major retailer to kick the tires, the sales force typically knows very little about them. Small shops are just the opposite, with the owner typically onsite and ready to answer any questions.
The best we can do is educate ourselves and be prepared to make smart buying decisions, with or without help from a salesperson.
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Old 07-01-19, 07:41 PM
  #67  
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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.
If only the grocer or landlord/mortgage company took bike parts for payment

It's a common joke that to survive long term in this business one needs a smart and financially stable partner. Andy
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Old 07-01-19, 08:05 PM
  #68  
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Second thoughts come later for some of us.

Did I miss the post about how shop personal can (and in most every shop I have worked at) help with being a smarter rider? We spend a lot of time (and don't charge for talk) about the customer's experiences and how with some help and info their experience (on their rides) can be better. Fitting, shifting, routing help, how to do this or that, what to do when... I think you get the idea. To limit this discussion (could have been titled "what good are shop sales people") to only stuff found in published data is missing the bigger value of fellow experienced cyclists. Andy
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Old 07-01-19, 08:29 PM
  #69  
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LBS knowledge

I had a fantastic LBS Iíve been going to since the 1980s. Last year I had to explain to an employee the difference between a freewheel and a cassette. Six months later that LBS closed. Connect the dots????
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Old 07-01-19, 08:39 PM
  #70  
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
It would greatly behoove bike manufacturers to include a "showroom floor spec sheet" for this very situation.
Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Our shop has probably at the very least 60 different models of bikes on the floor (and so many more we can order)
I'd suggest a "Matrix". Here's why. Research is pretty convincing (see "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less", by Barry Schwartz) that your happiness about your decision starts going down when the number of choices goes up. If you have 3 cheeses on a menu, you can choose one (or even all three!) and be pretty sure you got one of the top three cheeses they offer. If you are offered fifty, and the waiter goes through them verbally one by one, there's no way you can make a choice that you have any certainty over. First, it takes 15 minutes for the cheese list to be read. Second, you can't remember the description of cheese 13 when they're reading cheese 50. So its stressful. This is not speculation: I've been subjected to a 50 cheese list. Felt like saying "uhh, we'll just have the deep fried mozzarella sticks". Point is that a huge range of options is bewildering,and if you are selling you need to zero in on what the customer wants very fast so that you can offer him a limited range that he can feel he's mastered.

As to a Matrix... There's an example from the tool steel industry. Tool steels are the steels used to cut, stamp, and measure other steels, or that are used in machine tools to give high precision, or durability, or toughness.. As you can imagine, there's like, a zillion types of them. So we have the "50 cheeses" problem. Carpenter Steel makes many of these varieties of tool steels. Back in the 70s, they were probably facing an issue where they couldn't hire and train expert sales guys fast enough. So they created a "Matrix", and published it in a book. Each box of the matrix was a different Carpenter product. The columns were different classes ("Matched Sets") of tool steels. The rows represented durability (hardness) vs toughness (ability absorb shock and to bend but not break when stressed). Carpenter recommended that folks first consider W1 (a steel that you quench with water). If you needed a harder (more wear resistant) steel, use F2 steel. Need something tougher? Use S2. W1, F2, and S2 being different steel alloys. If you needed something that was more dimensionally stable in heat treatment, try O2. The point is, they gave a very simple paradigm for choosing the right tool steel. Engineers and machinists could order what they needed with confidence. And they could rule out a lot of noise. So out of a thousand different steels, you could guide a customer very close to their exact need. And in addition to the matrix (see below), the rest of the book went through each type of steel in the matrix and talked about applications, required heat treating, and technical data.

If you have 60 types of bikes (and there are 1000s online), customers can be bewildered. Salespeople need a rubric like this to allow them to get to the customer's needs fast, and to kill uncertainty. A matrix-like approach allows the salesperson to learn the basic differences faster. In fact, I'd bet that something like this would help wrest some sales back from the web.

Obviously, I consider the Matched Matrix of Carpenter a work of genius. I'd suggest that this might be a good example to try to follow - a matrix of bike models and trim levels. A tool that changes the 60 plus bike choice down to 2 or 3, and gives confidence to the choice made.

Here you are: 99% of tool steel applications in this matrix:


Last edited by WizardOfBoz; 07-01-19 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 07-02-19, 08:46 AM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by fidodido View Post
I went to a LBS today to check out the Trek mountain bikes for a MTB multi day tour that I hope to do this year. I was surprised that I felt I knew more about the bikes just from looking at the Trek website before going to the shop than the staff that was showing me around. I asked the staff what drivetrain the bike come with and he wasn't really sure and had to look down and gave up trying to count the number of tooth on the biggest sprocket. One of the selling feature of the bike I was looking at was the Sram 12 speed drivetrain but he didn't mention it. There weren't that many bikes on the floor, and I would have thought if he works there everyday, he would know the bike specs off by heart. Because I felt he doesn't know his stuff, I stopped asking questions to save him the embarrasment.

Whatever the reasons why staff don't know their products, I felt it was a pretty poor retail experience. I may as well buy a bike online and if I need things fixed...I'm happy to pay full retail price from a shop that have knowledgable staff and can guide me to choosing the right bike. Is this really too much to ask?
I understand that you were pretty disappointed in your experience, and you had further questions that you wanted answered so you could pick the right bike for your yet-to-come experience. And you have your right to your opinion. But don't forget that, like others said, many LBS's are fighting to stay in the marketplace, which is why they can't afford to always hire the most experienced staff. You'll usually see a couple to a few (depends on size of the shop) core experienced staff and the rest will be less experienced. They do have a responsibility to us too, but give some grace. Find someone else in there that would know the component groups better. And no, he's not going to necessarily know it by heart. It's ok to just expect him to know how to resource the info needed. In the end, try to support your LBS if you can.
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Old 07-02-19, 05:40 PM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
I'd suggest a "Matrix". Here's why. Research is pretty convincing (see "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less", by Barry Schwartz) that your happiness about your decision starts going down when the number of choices goes up. If you have 3 cheeses on a menu, you can choose one (or even all three!) and be pretty sure you got one of the top three cheeses they offer. If you are offered fifty, and the waiter goes through them verbally one by one, there's no way you can make a choice that you have any certainty over. First, it takes 15 minutes for the cheese list to be read. Second, you can't remember the description of cheese 13 when they're reading cheese 50. So its stressful. This is not speculation: I've been subjected to a 50 cheese list. Felt like saying "uhh, we'll just have the deep fried mozzarella sticks". Point is that a huge range of options is bewildering,and if you are selling you need to zero in on what the customer wants very fast so that you can offer him a limited range that he can feel he's mastered.

As to a Matrix... There's an example from the tool steel industry. Tool steels are the steels used to cut, stamp, and measure other steels, or that are used in machine tools to give high precision, or durability, or toughness.. As you can imagine, there's like, a zillion types of them. So we have the "50 cheeses" problem. Carpenter Steel makes many of these varieties of tool steels. Back in the 70s, they were probably facing an issue where they couldn't hire and train expert sales guys fast enough. So they created a "Matrix", and published it in a book. Each box of the matrix was a different Carpenter product. The columns were different classes ("Matched Sets") of tool steels. The rows represented durability (hardness) vs toughness (ability absorb shock and to bend but not break when stressed). Carpenter recommended that folks first consider W1 (a steel that you quench with water). If you needed a harder (more wear resistant) steel, use F2 steel. Need something tougher? Use S2. W1, F2, and S2 being different steel alloys. If you needed something that was more dimensionally stable in heat treatment, try O2. The point is, they gave a very simple paradigm for choosing the right tool steel. Engineers and machinists could order what they needed with confidence. And they could rule out a lot of noise. So out of a thousand different steels, you could guide a customer very close to their exact need. And in addition to the matrix (see below), the rest of the book went through each type of steel in the matrix and talked about applications, required heat treating, and technical data.

If you have 60 types of bikes (and there are 1000s online), customers can be bewildered. Salespeople need a rubric like this to allow them to get to the customer's needs fast, and to kill uncertainty. A matrix-like approach allows the salesperson to learn the basic differences faster. In fact, I'd bet that something like this would help wrest some sales back from the web.

Obviously, I consider the Matched Matrix of Carpenter a work of genius. I'd suggest that this might be a good example to try to follow - a matrix of bike models and trim levels. A tool that changes the 60 plus bike choice down to 2 or 3, and gives confidence to the choice made.

Here you are: 99% of tool steel applications in this matrix:

+1
This applies to all products.
Bikes have way too many variations for how small the industry is. After all they use the same or similar components and frames of different manufacturers are made in just a few factories. All that badge engineering also didn't pan out for GM..

Maybe bike manufacturers are right to offer 60 different models in all sizes and colors..... but an LBS can't have them all anyway and it takes a lot of research to find a bike and understand the nuances. On the other hand the bike industry complains about lack of profits. Maybe it is time to consolidate.

Cut out 30% of the models in each category and reduce each model to 1 or 2 trim levels.
Same for components.... do we really need multiple 8 speed drivetrains and 15 different hydraulic brakes from one manufacturer?
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Old 07-02-19, 08:45 PM
  #73  
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I think there are some really great bike shops. Grand Performance in St. Paul, for one.

I pity anyone who lives in a place that doesn't have such a shop.
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