|Workin' It! Keep Workin' It!|
I've been a bicycle mechanic off and on again since 1993. In between I was an auto mechanic for 5 and a half years. I've seen both sides of that. I was also in retail for 17 years before all of that. So, all that to say that I've learned a thing or three over the years.
In my opinion, the answer to the slide share's question of "why" bicycle mechanics don't get paid more is a complex one. There are no simple answers. However; I am going to pull a few bullet points from my experiences and knowledge which I hope will point to a few answers to this.
- Bike Mechanics Don't Do It For The Money: While this may seem like some altruistic, pie in the sky philosophic bull dookey, it has a double meaning. Yes- there are a few mechanics that just love working with their hands, love bicycles, and are willing to suffer getting paid less than a high school drop out. Then there are those who are willing to submit to the low wages to get the deals on parts and complete bikes. So, yeah......it works both ways!
- People Do Not See Bicycles As Essential To Life: When I worked on automobiles, I often was the one that had to "break the bad news" to clients in the waiting room. The utter fear, the blank stares, and feeble cries of helplessness, (yes- really) were shocking to me at first. Then I realized that without their cars, people's lives completely came unhinged. They couldn't function without it. They would pay anything to get it back running again in most cases. Bicycles? Not so much. Bicycles are non-essential toys- recreational amusements on the way to dinner and drinks later. A way to get to the coffee shop. If it is broken? Ehhh! Well, if it doesn't cost too much to fix, maybe.....
- Shop Owners Aren't Killing It Like You Might Think: Ever see a bike shop owner living in a ritzy neighborhood or driving a fancy car? (Okay- maybe once in a while that happens!) Trust me- the shop owners I know are doing "okay", but they aren't pulling down wads of cash and bilking consumers like some innergoogle forum nut jobs may make you think. Bike retail is some of the lowest margin business one could get into that I've been around.
- Since Shop Owners Are Making So Much Cash- They Pay Mechanics Like Kings: (<===HA!) Obviously, if you payed attention to the above, you know that this is purely sarcasm.
- Consumers Get What Shop Owners Can Pay For: There are endless bitch sessions and nightmare stories about bad shop mechanics and retail experiences. I agree that there is a lot of room for improvement, but there is also the fact that you, as a consumer, are getting what shops can afford. Generally speaking, that is a very transient, under-trained, under-skilled workforce. Most do not have much, if any, retail experience. And let me tell ya- working retail, and doing it well, is a darn tough thing to master. (Not to mention wrenching) Some few are endowed with the proper skill set, but most often, the high school/college kid you see at a bike shop has almost zero idea of what to do from a sales and/or mechanics standpoint, and the shops generally can't spend the time/money to train them up when that "investment" leaves in a few years or less. So......you get what got paid for.
That's just a couple of things I can think of, but it goes beyond that. I can only speak for myself when I say that being a bicycle mechanic is a good job, and I like it, but the pay isn't good. It just is not. Heck, I made more money working retail in 1988 than I did last year, as an example.
But I am not complaining either. I wish bicycle mechanics like myself and all the others out there could make more money, sure. Why wouldn't I? But I also am very grateful for the job I have for its flexibility, the opportunity it allows me to work with my hands, and for being able to hang around bicycles on a regular basis. I have met some of the finest folks I have ever met in any job through being a shop mechanic. It is by far the most satisfying job I've had in my life. No- it does not pay all that well. But that's par for the course.
Should bicycle mechanics get paid more? Probably, yes- they should. However, I feel it will take a fundamental change in the view of what bicycles are worth to the average American before it starts to change, and I do not foresee that happening anytime soon.