A Bicycle Tire Miracle?

I had to change a bicycle tube last week because I got a piece of glass in it. After patching it, I unknowingly pinched the tube and tore a big gash in it. I could not patch it because of the size and position of the pinch. Fortunately I had an older tube that is the wrong size, but was still in good condition. It worked for a few days, but then started loosing air. It was not a fast leak, but would be flat overnight. I decided to get another tube of the right size instead of trying to patch it.

A couple of days ago I stopped into the bike shop around the corner from our house and bought a tube. I did not get a chance to install it until yesterday. I asked for a 26″ tube, but they gave me a 28″ one. Frustrating, but no big deal. I had my son take the tube back to the bike shop to exchange it. He came home again with a different tube, but it too was 28″.

I have had an up and down relationship with this bike shop. While they are convenient and have fair prices, they tend to do these types of things. They have no attention to detail. My 86-year-old bicycle friend, Victor, has great respect for the man who started that bike shop. But now the shop is run by the man’s son and Victor has trouble finding anything nice to say about the shop. I would go to Victor to get my supplies, but he never lets me pay for anything. I feel like I am robbing from a good friend if I get parts from him.

So I sent my son back to the shop with the second wrong tube and asked him to exchange it again. He came back with a 26″ tube. Great! Almost. It was now the wrong diameter. It was time for me to go to the shop and get the right size.

Turns out they didn’t have the size tube I wanted. Wouldn’t have one for a couple of days. But they didn’t think that telling my son that information was important. I need my bike most over the weekend. Waiting until Monday was not something I could do. I asked them for my money back. He gave me most of it. I wasn’t willing to lose my temper and testimony over $1, so I let him keep that. I went to another bike shop near the house. They only sell high-end racing bike parts and did not have a tube that would fit my bike.

So I went back home and put my bike together with a tube that did not fit right. This is the tube that would lose air overnight.

By the way, for you bike geeks, I also rebuilt my rear hub with new cones and bearings while I was at it.

Last night when I went to bed the tire was still holding air. This morning it was still well inflated. This evening it was still holding air. Is this a bike tire miracle?

Though I have been tempted to abandon the local bike shop many times, I think this was the last straw. They just don’t seem to care about the customer. They only want to sell parts. If a shop doesn’t care about me, then I have trouble caring about them.

In contrast, the hardware store near the bike shop has all my respect and business. One time I was in there and they didn’t have enough change for me. They told me I could pay them the next time I was in, even if it took a few days. A couple of weeks ago I sent my son to buy some nuts, bolts and washers. Because I only needed 5 of each, they gave them to my son for free. While I can easily pay $3 for the hardware I need, they are a business that understands $3 is a small price to pay to have a loyal and faithful customer.

The next closest place I know about to buy tires, tubes and parts for my bike is about 3 miles away. Even though they are further away, I have always gotten exactly what I asked for. I guess they will get more of my business in the future.

How NOT to get repeat business

Monday I dropped my expensive dress shoes off at a shoe repair shop. I made sure I talked with the cobbler to let him know how much those shoes meant to me. I have had them for 8 years and I would not mind having them another 8 years, or more. I was wanting the man to realize that I prized the shoes and having them repaired well was more important to me than what it cost to repair them (within reason).

I needed a couple of busted seams to be re-stitched. Through the years both shoes have had to have some re-stitching. The last time they were done by a different repair shop, the cobbler did not do a very good job of cleaning up his extra thread. What did not break over time started to look ratty. I wanted the new guy to clean up the mess and re-stitch some parts of the shoes. While he was at it, even though I probably had another 3 or 4 months worth of sole left on them, I wanted him to re-sole the shoes.My nice shoes

All of this was agreed to be done by 10:00 Wednesday morning (today) for $15. Yes, soles are much cheaper here in Mexico than they are in the US. I emphasized to him that I really needed the shoes Wednesday morning at the agreed upon time because I had to have them that afternoon. He said he understood and that they would be ready.

The odd thing about this cobbler is that he wanted some money up front. While that is common practice here in town, especially where goods are involved, I have never had to pay for my shoe repair up front. I want to know that the job is done well before handing over my cash. I had no cash with me because I did not anticipate this.

I went in this morning at 11:00 to pick up my shoes. They were not done yet. He had not even started working on them. He said they would be ready at 5:00 this afternoon. He said that it would cost $16 and I needed to pay him up front. I argued with him about the price and the time. While $1 is nothing in comparison to what I was having done, it was not the agreed upon price. Furthermore, the agreed upon time was 11:00 am not 5:00 pm.

He finally said that he could have the shoes ready by 1:00 for $15. And if not, I would pay nothing. I did give him $10 at that point and promised that I would be there near 1:00.

I was not able to arrive as close to 1:00 as I hoped, but I was there shortly before 2:00. My shoes were ready and I paid him the final $5. Then I added that I would never be back in his shop and that I would tell my friends to avoid his business based on the fact that he had wanted to change the price and that the shoes were not ready on time. I did consent to him that I understood that sometimes things happen to prevent deadlines from being met, but there is never an excuse for changing the price.

I am not asking for special treatment in any way. But, I think the cobbler could have seen an opportunity and seized it.

While I am not rich, I am richer than most people who would be in this man’s shop. His normal clientèle would be people who are too poor to buy a new $30 pair of shoes so they have him replace the soles for $10 or less. I walked in with a story of having had these shoes for many years and that they were precious to me. I wanted the best treatment I could get for them. I happened to be dressed that day in nice clothes. As a person conducting a business, I think I would have looked at a customer like myself and realized that this could be a very good repeat customer. The cobbler never saw that. Not until I made plain to him that he would never see me again in his shop did he start to think that he should care for the customer and their needs more.

Directly across the street from this cobbler is the jeweler that I have been taking my watches to for the last year. I have been unusually harsh on my watches lately and they have had to be in the shop too often. This jeweler immediately saw me as a potentially good customer. Just recently he did an easy job for me that required $9 worth of parts. He charged me $9. He knows that maybe losing a little bit of money on labor now, will cause me to look to him when I want to buy a new watch. I have already recommended him to a couple of friends. He is a man who knows how to grow a business.

If you work in the service industry you have to remember that your business is people, not shoes.