Bob asks : I’m struggling between being a good supporter of my LBS and keeping my budget/bike stuff spending in check. I know I need to support my LBS and buy stuff from them. But it’s tough to justify when they sell everything at MSRP and I can find most of the items online for 10-25% less. Is it fair to ask for a discount from the LBS? or does that make me an ass? I don’t expect them to match the prices but maybe we could meet in the middle somewhere. To be clear, I think I’m a pretty decent customer. I buy parts from them because I know I’m going to need their help when I inevitably screw up what I’m working on. I’m very comfortable paying for labor and my LBS guys are great about sharing their knowledge. My friend from the LBS even came to speak at my work when I hosted a seminar on bike commuting.
Another way to phrase this question is, “How do I support my local Charlotte bike shop when they aren’t the cheapest?”
Supporting local businesses is tough in today’s market. Amazon gives you two day shipping, eBay gives you slightly used parts at a huge discount, and your local businesses pay for a lot more overhead than many eCommerce only businesses not allowing them to be the cheapest on the block (or they would go out of business quickly).
When running bike shops I respected that everyone was trying to save money and tried not to take it personally when customers that had spent 30 minutes asking a great deal of questions were in front of me asking for me to match the price they see online. The following is my recommended litmus test to deciding between buying online or buying in the store.
- How much time did you take of the sales person? Were you treated with respect and your questions answered fully? Keep in mind most shops work at a $60-100 an hour rate. If you took 30 minutes, are you saving $30 or more by buying it online? If not, buy the product from the shop.
- Is the reason you are buying it because the store had it for you to look at and try on / test? Buy it. They saved you a lot of time & hassle.
Is this shop going to be installing it for you?
Buy it from them and allow them to order the specifications. Too many times customer brought in wheels, derailleurs, handlebars, etc. that weren’t compatible with their bike because they didn’t know all the small crazy nuisances and the mechanic was left spending additional time figuring it out, calling the customer and then making it work, or selling the customer a part to make it work. By the way, mechanics are typically not billing you hourly, they are billing you by job and “customer mistakes” are typically not a billable job in the system. If you are installing it yourself, or your friend is then feel free to buy it online. In fact, do you see that “Ask for Advice” button in my navigation? Ask me what you need and I’ll send you a link to Jenson. I’ll make some commission off of it if you buy it, but I’m providing you technical knowledge and you don’t pay anything extra for it.
Is this Charlotte bike shop one that you want to “support”?
At the end of the day I believe it comes down to building your local community. Sure we all want to save money but we don’t bulk at a $3 cup of coffee. If this bike shop is making a difference in your community, is always there for you, and keeps the product in stock please buy it. If the shop does not add value to your community, stock product you are interested in or is helpful when you go in then don’t support them.
Other tips on getting a great product at a great deal
- If you are wanting to price match another bike shop be very upfront in the conversation, not after spending an hour with the sales guy. Possibly call or email before hand to save everyone time.
- If you are going to ask for a discount based off what you saw online, do it discreetly and early in the conversation. Do not do it in front of other customers or at the check out counter. Again, possibly call or email before hand to save everyone time.