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  1. #1
    surly inbred
    Reputation: TroutBum's Avatar
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    Life in retail (tell me about bike shop life)

    I've been presented with an opportunity (bike & ski shop.) For those in the know... tell me more about shop life. The 'passion' side seems obvious.. tell me what sucks about the business.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TroutBum
    tell me what sucks about the business.
    There are certain breeds of customer that you will learn to despise.

  3. #3
    pedal pusher
    Reputation: f3rg's Avatar
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    More of your time may be spent working on cheap department store bikes that don't function properly than on really sweet rides.

  4. #4
    Freshly Fujified
    Reputation: Call_me_Clyde's Avatar
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    The hours and pay suck

    I hope you like nights and weekends, and low pay.
    'If Wal-Mart sold parachutes, who would jump?' Frank Havnoonian (quoting his father) Drexel Hill Cyclery

  5. #5
    Is that Bill rated?
    Reputation: Lord Humongous's Avatar
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    Don't look for complaints

    You will not find a better job. There is nothing more satisfying than working in bikes, if you like bikes that is, and who doesn't like bikes?

    Yes, some customers expect a lot, but they are spending their leisure time and leisure money to keep you employed; pamper them and they will love you for it. Everyone has a bike that cost as much money as they were willing to spend. Everyone feels like their bike is important so don't worry if it is a bike that you consider cheap because it is still a bike!

    Always respect your products and services, if you show that you value what you have your customer will be more likely to value it as well. Never repair a bike unless it will be returned to the customer in a state that you would ride yourself, if you show concern for your customer's well being they will appreciate it, although they may not agree with your evaluation. Never charge for tightening a stem, putting air in tires or oil on a chain, no one else does and you will come off looking bad.

    Expect to get asked on more rides, expect your opinion to be constantly asked, expect your opinion to be constantly ignored, expect to have fun more than at any other job you have had, expect to still work for your pay.

    Hoorah, yay bikes.
    Well, it was a good try.

  6. #6
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    Reputation: NateHawk's Avatar
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    Sometimes it's horrendously slow.
    Sometimes it's horrendously busy.
    Some customers are awesome, and if they like you, they bring food and/or beer.
    Some customers really suck. They might want to haggle on the price (when your margins are much lower than online shops), so you're constantly having to explain why buying it through your shop is a better value than buying it online. They might also expect miracles from you with regards to cheap dept store bikes (and as such, many shops flat out refuse to touch them). They might also expect you to not only to swap a stem, pedals, or seat at no charge, but also the tires, wheels, shifters, grips, and on and on at no extra charge and you'll have to explain that if they want to custom-build an entire bike, they should buy a frame and then choose each part they want on it rather than buy a mass-produced bike and change the parts they don't like on it.

    You'll spend a whole lot of time building/servicing low end bikes and not much time at all building/servicing high end bikes (unless you're lucky to live/work in a market that can support a shop that only deals in high-end products).

    You will constantly be dealing with product selection issues. Someone wants to buy a product NOW that you don't have on hand, but they are unwilling to accept an alternative you do have on hand, and are also unwilling to order what they want through you (b/c if they wanted to order it, they'd go online). Along these lines, many bike companies run out of many models/sizes at certain times of the year (spring) so satisfying customers can be pretty trying if they want to buy a bike. Sometimes you have to bend over backwards and call other shops and work with your rep to get one in. Sometimes, the answer is just no and that sucks.

    Shop rides are awesome, especially if they occur on a day the shop closes early or never even opens.
    Being able to ride your bike to the shop and park your bike inside where it's protected is also awesome.

    Shop hours are usually fairly convenient for customers, but not so great if you want to get things done after work.

  7. #7
    Axles of Evil
    Reputation: SS-Dad's Avatar
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    ditto most of the above

    I've been in the outdoor/ski/bike side of retail for over 15 years. I agree with most of what is stated above. Lord Humongous and NateHawk hit it on the head. It still comes down to what you make of it. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. Sometimes it sucks (there are alot of stupid people out there) but mostly it's fun (there are alot of great people out there).

    Oh and Yay bikes!

  8. #8
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    I love it, did it for 9 years before going corporate. Bike shops are tons of fun most of the time IMO. Sure, it gets crazy busy and some customers are less then pleasant (true for any industry) but overall I can't think of a much better way to eek out a meager living. That is the one downside if you're looking at full-time work...it doesn't pay much at all. I still love it though, it's so nice to not mind going to work everyday.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
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    Hmmm, sounds like it may be a "chain" bike store. If it's open past 7 during the week 6 on Sat and more than 5 hours on Sunday RUN!!! You will be around bikes all day hat you can't ride. I worked for a bike/ski chain, and it's not as much fun as a nice "no more than 3 store" LBS. Any multi sport "store" won't have the vibe of a bicycle only "shop".

  10. #10
    i also unicycle
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    depending on where you are, the off season will be brutally slow and kinda suck. the busy season, especially before big charity rides or whatever(in iowa we have the biggest casual riding thing ever: ragbrai) and you will be crazy busy and stuffed full of customers who want a "good road bike" but only have "at most $400" to spend. of course there's the other end of that when a regular customer asks about high end stuff and just geeks out about bikes for a while, getting paid to talk to other bike nerds about bike nerdy things is pretty awesome. plus wrenching is fun and rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but still not a bad deal. i think 70% of the amount of fun you can have working at a bike shop depends on the owner/management, if they like riding and having fun, you'll be fine.
    mtbr says you should know: i work in a bike shop.
    bikes & beers (on my blog) http://idontrideenough.blogspot.com/

  11. #11
    Want Smiley Sauce w/that?
    Reputation: cannesdo's Avatar
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    I'm self-employed but not in the biz. I think if you treat your customers well, they'll cut you slack when it comes to the hours. And I think a huge part of being happy, whatever you do, is not pushing yourself to the point where you start to loathe your passion.

    Having experienced the freedom of an internet business, I couldn't do retail again. I love not having an alarm clock.

    I did own a kayaking business years ago and it was a great experience. We lived upstairs and people would bang on the door early in the morning. That part -- not so fun....Live somewhere else and make yourself scarce when you're away from the shop.

    I don't really believe in wrong roads. If you feel so moved, give it a shot. If it's too much you can always move on to something else.
    Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I QUIT. Someone pass me the asparagus."

  12. #12
    2006 Yeti AS-X
    Reputation: Lawson Raider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Call_me_Clyde
    I hope you like nights and weekends, and low pay.
    I am telling you that if the gas prices keep going up, folks are gonna be driven to start riding bikes to work. It get 5-7 a gallon, I would think folks would pick up the bike. If that is the case, owning a bike shop is like being a flashy car dealer! I dunno maybe wishful thinking?

  13. #13
    pedal pusher
    Reputation: f3rg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawson Raider
    I am telling you that if the gas prices keep going up, folks are gonna be driven to start riding bikes to work. It get 5-7 a gallon, I would think folks would pick up the bike.
    Yup: http://www.nbc10.com/irresistible/16241786/detail.html

  14. #14
    slow
    Reputation: sgltrak's Avatar
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    I worked in or owned bike shops for 16 years, and the last 6 we also had ski shops. Most of the time it was good. The thing that always got to me was when everybody had to have their service now! Skiers came in on their way to the slopes and wanted tune ups during the busiest rental hours. In the spring, all of the bikers brought their bikes in for tune ups and repairs the day before they were headed down to Moab. I always wanted to tell them that poor planning on their part did not dictate an emergency on my part, but usually I would smile and work late to take care of the customer. I tried to schedule my staff so that many of these issues would be avoided, but there were a few unreasonable customers.

  15. #15
    Doesntplaywellwithmorons!
    Reputation: DeeEight's Avatar
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    Don't forget the customers who will lie to you about them never tinkering with their bikes, when they bring back their new bike and the fork is leaking oil.... or the derailleur is out of adjustment, but the handlebars are also cut down and a seatpost of a smaller diameter is in the frame.... and that WASN'T done by your staff.
    I don't post to generate business for myself or make like I'm better than sliced bread

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