Monday, June 16, 2008

Mostly True Tales from the Trenches

Nice customer story number one:

Bubba Dirtbag came in with his bruised drunken woman and said, "I need a tire."
I ask what size.
"26 by one and three-quarters."
What sort of bicycle is it on?
"An old Schwinn."
Do you happen to have any other numbers off the old tire? There is more than one size called that. Does it say one-point-seven-five or one-3-slash-4?
"It's a 26 by one and three-quarters."
The woman is looking vacantly down and off to one side. A little fidgety, too. Is she used to this?
Well, I'll need to see the old tire, or the bicycle, or the wheel so that I can sell you the right size.
"I said, it's a 26 by one and three-quarters."
Yes, and there are at least four different sizes that are called that, and they are not interchangeable. The rims are different, the tires are different, they are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE. (thinking: I'm not going to sell you a tire and then: a. you use two screwdrivers to crank it on, ruining the tire and your rim, or b. it goes on too loose but you're too ignorant to realize it and it blows up in your face. In either case it'll clearly be my fault for not recognizing that you're the world's most gifted bicycle mechanic)
"It's a 26 by ONE and THREE QUARTERS."
Yes, you said that, and you also said that it's from an old Schwinn, which further increases the chances that it's an odd size. Is it a 559? S7? S6? English? One-speed or multi-speed? (thinking: do you even know the difference between three-quarters and point-seven-five, or might it actually say three-eighths, but the sidewall is too crusty to read) I'll have to see the old tire, or the wheel, or the bike to get you the correct size. I'm not going to waste both of our time by selling you the wrong tire.
"It's a 26 by one and three-quarters. Don't you think that I know what I'm talking about? Do you think I'm some kind of moron? (getting a little hot now, starting to talk a little louder) I've been a mechanic for ALL MY LIFE, I can fix cars and motorcycles and lawn mowers and I've been working on bikes since I was a kid, and etc. etc. etc...."
I'm afraid I can't help you, you'll have to go somewhere else. There's another bike shop up on Littleton Boulevard, you can drive there in about ten minutes. Good luck.
I turn and walk away, and as he's leaving he can't slam the door because of the hydraulic closer. The woman keeps her respectful distance.

Nice customer story number two:

I show up an hour early many days in May and June so that I can be prepared to open on time. Today a half-hour before my clearly-posted opening time an SUV (of course) pulls up, and a woman gets out. She walks up to the door, pulls on it a couple times, looks at my hours, looks in the window, probably sees me working in the back room, goes back to her car, gets her cel phone, makes a call, and then stands by her driver's side door, talking, looking at her watch, leaning on one leg and tapping her other foot. Looking in my front window. Perturbed.
At quarter-to, I unlock the door, prop it open, and start to roll out bicycles which I display in the parking lot. I say, "I'll be with you in a few minutes." She's still standing there, tapping her foot, looking at her watch. By ten-to I've got my bikes out, lined up and cabled-up, and I go back inside, locking the front door behind me. I am not open yet.
Tapping foot.
Looking at watch.
Holding cel phone.
Not open yet.
I don't make her wait all ten minutes-I let her stew until about five-to, then I go put up the "open" sign and go out.
"I need to work early so that I can open on time," I say.
"Well, fine, then," or something like that.
"What can I help you with today?" I ask.
"What can you do about this?" she asks, opening her back door.
There's a beat-up department store bike lying there, two flat tires, dust and cobwebs, etc. "I can tune it up for you, put some thorn-resistant tubes in the tires, clean it up and then you can ride it," I say.
"Can I come back later today for it?" she asks.
I try not to laugh. "Tune-ups are turning around in two weeks right now, this is the busiest time of the year. I'll do a good job for you, but it will take about two weeks."
"Well, what can you do for me now?"
(me, now)
"I can pump up the tires."
"That's it?"
"Ma'am, this bicycle is a wreck, it needs a complete tuneup and no doubt two tubes, maybe a chain and some cables, and I'm not even going to begin it unless I can finish it. I'll fill the tires, so you can know in a day or two whether they need to be replaced, or you may leave it here and pick it up when it's done in two weeks, or make an appointment with a deposit."
"But my son needs it to ride to work."
"I'll fill up the tires if you like."
"Well, can't you do anything more for me now?"
"If you don't want me to inflate the tires, I'll have to be moving on."
"Well, can't you just check the brakes, and the shifters? Or do a Safety Check? When you pump up the tires?"
"No. I'm hestitant to even pump up the tires, and I'm definitely not willing to accept any liability for this bicycle by doing some half-way Safety Check. There is no such thing as a Safety Check. There's no bike that can be made safe with a check. This bike is UNSAFE. It needs a TUNEUP, which will make it safe to ride. I don't want to waste another moment on this, but I'll pump up the tires if you like. What do you want to do?"
"OK," she says, "you can pump up the tires for me now."
(me now)
I take the bike in, fill the tires, load the bike, and it will probably be in the dumpster by the weekend.

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