There was an article circulating over social media during the Thanksgiving weekend which was talking about bicycle mechanics and tipping them. ("Bicycling" February 2019) I wanted to slide my two cents in as a person that has wrenched on bikes professionally for 20+ years now.
First of all, as you might expect, there were a lot of trolls and comments to the effect that if being a bicycle mechanic requires anyone to tip, then "get a real job". These people are likely also the same ones that say that LBS mechanics are terrible and screw everything up. Using their logic, things would be bound to get better, right?
Good luck with that.
So, besides that nonsense, what I drew from reading comments on this article where it was posted in two different places, and on the original article, is that there are two camps of thought regarding bike mechanics and the work that they do. First is that it is such basic stuff that "anyone can do it" and so it requires little skill. It's mostly just specialty tools and nothing more, and since bike shops own the tools, why should some grease monkey get any money for a job that is basically on the level of flipping burgers.
The second opinion I saw voiced most often was that bicycle mechanics are a valuable resource and should be paid commensurate to their value to the community. Look at other mechanics and service people who make far more dollars per hour.
One side thinks bicycles are simple machines that require little skill to fix, and the other side thinks we are like car mechanics and the like. Guess what? Both have it completely wrong. Let me explain.
|It's just tools- anyone can do it. Right- Tell me what this is and how to use it. I know both.|
Bicycles? pffffft! We can live without those. So, the people that fix them are a luxury tax. A necessary evil. Why, these toys can't be that complicated! Any child with the right tools can fix a bicycle. And of course- that thinking is completely wrong as well.
Now- you need mechanics. Why? Because a LOT of people have no idea, inclination, nor talent to fix anything. That's why. Not just anyone can "fix". Give them all the fancy tools you want, it ain't happening. That is truth. I've seen these people and know them. They live all around me. And guess what? That's okay- because I don't cook all that well, and I can't sew worth a damn, nor can I do woodwork. You get the picture. I can draw portraits. You can't. Tools have little to nothing to do with it.
I find most people that think we don't need mechanics to fix bicycles, or that if we do- they should get minimum payment, are the ones that (a) are mechanics but don't work in the field and think everyone possesses this talent, or (b) are thinking bicycles are toys, not worth investing a ton of money in to, so a mechanic's pay is dispensable. Again- both have poor perspectives.
Tipping: I wish we weren't even having this conversation. I do not tip anyone but waiters and waitresses because their economy is jacked up and we have accepted that practice instead of actually paying for servers that get paid well. I don't tip a plumber, an electrician, or the guy bagging my groceries because I expect they are all getting a fair wage. Bicycle mechanics do not get a fair wage for their knowledge, skill, and for the amount of BS that many bicycle mechanics put up with.
Oh.....and I own my own tools, thank you! I have to buy new ones to keep up with ever changing standards. I have to learn new things every year to keep up with the latest in technology, which is delicate, subtle, and beyond the comprehension of even some engineers I have met. Sometimes I have to buy tools to cover old standards which might be found on jobs people bring in that I didn't already have tools for. I have to also know how and when to use all of these tools. You cannot expect to have a high school boy or girl, or even college aged younginz, know this stuff, because I've watched all of them come and go through the doors of the two shops I've worked at, and let me tell you- hardly any of them were, or are mechanics worth training.
So, when I read articles and the comments that go with them regarding bicycle mechanics, pay, and tipping, I shake my head in sadness at the misconceptions and laugh at the foolish thoughts on display. Most folks have little idea what bicycle mechanics actually have to know, nor what innate skills and thought processes make for a person with an aptitude for being a mechanic. They have no sense of what is appropriate behavior when dealing with mechanics. They have, in many cases, irrational expectations and beliefs. And articles like the one I saw only help to prove all of this.