Rants… and a few ‘Thank You’s

Posted: April 2, 2011 in Cycling, People
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m dumbstruck with the test ride & return policies of the cycle store chains in London.

On one end is Halfords with a clear policy of no test rides and no returns despite selling bikes worth £1000 and more. I wonder what kind of people bought these bikes from then in such large number without testing them.

At the other extreme is the (otherwise much hated by me) Evans Cycles with a policy clearly defined on its website and stores – they take a photo ID and a credit/debit card with a 1p authorisation before letting you take the bike out for a test ride. Also clearly listed on their website is that if I ask for a bike not in the store to be brought in for a test ride, they take a £50 deposit for a maximum of 2 bikes. They accept full value returns within 28 days but with bike in ‘showroom condition’. The only thing that baffles me is that even if I ride the bike just 5 days to figure it doesn’t fit my needs and want to return it, it’ll be already way off the showroom condition. Still, I appreciate the fact that they have all terms clearly displayed both on the website as well as in the store.

Somewhere in between those two, and garnering a lot of nays from me, is Cycle Surgery. Their website mentions that they allow test rides and that they have a 21 day returns policy. However, nowhere does the website mention the terms of the test ride. The CS store nearby that I’ve been visiting to get the new wheel built for my Trek, didn’t ask me for much proof. The first time, when I test rode the Allez and Secteur Elite, I just left my backpack with the DSLR with them. Next time, when I tried the Trek 2.1 and the Secteur Elite again, I didn’t leave anything at all. However, when I called another Cycle Surgery store in the City to book a test ride, I was curtly told that I would have to pay the FULL VALUE of the bike before taking it for test ride and that they’d refund it after doing a basic check on the bike once I’m back. Frankly, I was taken aback – this was equivalent of telling a customer we trust you as much as a hardened criminal and will treat you so! I checked the CS website and didn’t find any terms. So, I wrote to them and they confirmed that it was indeed their policy. What did I do? I called my regular store and asked them to call the bike in store. And two days later I test-rode the same bike without paying a penny or leaving any deposits.

As if Cycle Surgery’s test ride policy is not obscure enough, their returns policy is worse. The 21 day return policy on website is only for sales made through the website. There is NO information about returns of purchases made through their stores. To add to that, the guys at my neighbourhood store assured me that they had a ’28’ day return policy. Suddenly, the Halfords with a no-test-ride and no-returns policy starts to look better than Cycle Surgery. At least one knows what one is buying into! So, if as a last minute decision, I decide to not go in for the Secteur Comp from Cycle Surgery, you know what tilted the scales.

Those were the rants. Hrmphhhh. Now for the thanks :)

I’d like to thank the fellas at my neighbourhood Cycle Surgery for the help with new wheel build as well as the test rides and related advice. I won’t be taking their names here lest they fall foul of the corporate sharks (Lawyers) and whales (HR) in their firms but it shouldn’t diminish my regards. I had decided on the new rims I wanted but was disappointed to know that when built with the new hubs, it would not take the freewheel from my current setup but require a new freehub cassette. I had budgeted for about a £100 for the wheel but with the new hub and cassette, the total was nudging £150. I told them my predicament and within a span of my one test ride, they had found discounts totalling £43 to get the cost of new setup down to £107, close enough to my budget :)

Not just that. Later, when I decided to upgrade the rear tyre as well as another component, they gave me a straight discount on them as well. And I can’t forget to mention their support with the test rides, specially for bringing in two bikes for me from the warehouse/other store without any security deposits or even promises to buy. Finally, the thanks is not just for the actual deeds but for the extremely friendly behaviour from all the store staff, even those not working with me. It was very unlike the experience I’ve had at most other cycle stores around the city where the staff are aloof and snooty considering anyone but the most serious of racers / fixie riders as beneath them. Such good service a store which has no public policy on two most important inputs in bike purchase.

I would also like to thank Laurent at Chamberlaine Cycles. He has been another extremely helpful chap. I met him for a brief while on Tuesday and then gave him a call out of the blue today – he remembered my exact requirements, budget and the bike size. Moreover, he frankly discussed all the models they stocked, helped me test ride two bikes even though one of them was almost £500 above my stated budget and assisted in finding the right geometry on the model I finally selected (Defy 1). What was better was that after I told them that I needed a little more time to decide, he didn’t rush off to attend to other customers at most other shops but stayed around to discuss what other bikes I had in my choice set, even offering to make a few changes to the Defy 1 to upgrade the specs a little while still staying within my budget. And before I parted, like most non-natives, we shared a few notes on riding and weather in our respective home regions – South East France for him and North / West India for me :)

Thanks Laurent, and thank you to the good guys at Cycle Surgery. I don’t know which one of you will I buy the bike from but I shall sure be returning to you both for repeat business in the future.

Cheers!

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Comments
  1. Steve says:

    Fascinating. Why people are willing to spend a rent check on a bicycle without first test riding it is beyond me. Brits test ride cars before buying them, don’t they? Motorcycles? I can’t imagine why bicycles would be any different. I think you are wise to stay away from stores who will not accomodate this basic request as it makes one wonder what else they’ll be unhelpful with. Good luck!

    • raven says:

      Thanks, Steve.

      All I can say is I’m as dumbstruck as you are. I test rode 3 bikes 2-3 times each before settling on my current one even though it’s less than half the price of one I’m trying to buy now. Yet, it seems people are just not interested in selling. I’m beginning to think that folks at certain stores do not work on sales commission basis.

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