Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Appologetic For The Surly Mechanic

I found the following on Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site today:

JANUARY 31, 2007 -- "It's no secret to anyone who has ever endured an encounter with a grease-stained, eye-rolling, heavily sighing bicycle shop employee that customer service in this industry has historically ranged from sullen to supercilious to overtly hateful. (It's one of the few retail industries where a condition for employment seems to be utter contempt for the customer, says one industry executive)."-New York Times, Nov.6, 2006

I find this to be an overly simplistic picture of reality here. On the surface, and from one side, this might be percieved as truth, but then that is a shallow perception.

Up front I will say that I have been a professional bicycle mechanic for 8 years, a car mechanic for 5 and a half years, and in some form of retail customer service for 26 years. Here's my take.

First of all, the condition of your everyday bicycle shop mechanic is one of a passionate person. Believe me when I say that bicycle mechanics aren't cleaning up on the labor they put out. I don't work for the money part of it, because if I did, you wouldn't be able to afford me! Car mechanics get three times the money a bicycle mechanic does, ( a sign of what we deem as "necessary" versus "a toy") , so if I wanted the money, I'd still be twirling a wrench on a car.

And as to the "toy" comment, that plays into the consumers mind. It seems as though many customers "know" as much or more about a bicycle as I do. Rendering my knowledge as "worth less", and their opinion as the "gospel". (Usually resulting in the grimy one rolling his eyes)

Customer service is a two way street, and the maxim often held by the customer: "The customer is always right", is .........well, wrong!

On the other hand: I will say that certain of the bicycle mechanic and sales help are woefully under informed, self righteous, and downright unfriendly. I have been in several bike shops that have suffered this mentality. It's as if, "Well, if you don't know the code words and the secret handshake, then buzz off pal!" So, I can see where stuff like the quoted text above can also be legitimate.

So, it's alot more complex than one might think. A good shop will have a knowledgeable mechanic that is most likely under payed, and expected to cover customer service, sales, teaching, managing, purchasing, researching, and student skills all in the same day. A lot of us are stressed, sure. I'm not saying, "Oh! Pity the poor, poor shop mechanic!" However; it ain't easy street either!

And to those "holier than thou" shop rats out there. Straighten up before the "Pedal Wrench of Karma" smacks you 'tween the eyes!

That's my take!

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