For the past several summers, I have contemplated getting a bicycle. I owned a bike as a kid, and I adored it. I would spend hours riding around the neighborhood; my bike was my first “set of wheels”, my first taste of what freedom feels like. Being privileged enough to own a bike, and living in an environment where it was safe enough to ride a bike, were both truly wonderful.
Then I turned 16, and got a real “set of wheels” (read: car), and my bike went into the storage shed, never to be seen again.
In college I turned to walking as my primary form of transportation. When I entered the adult world, I pursued other physical hobbies like running and yoga – and I just never got back in to biking.
But last year I started volunteering at a local elementary school, which is literally just over a mile away from our house. For the first few weeks of the academic year I walked back and forth to the school; but then I started to develop lesson plans that required extra supplies, and it became too difficult for me to make the 20-minute one-way walk loaded down with papers and dominoes and books and yarn and other “stuff”… So I started driving one mile to the school, feeling quite guilty every time I did it. (Poor environment…) Then, I started thinking about other errands I sometimes run (to the library, to the local yoga studio, to the post office, even a small grocery trip), and I thought I might be able to do all of these on a bike versus in a car. So maybe, maybe it was time to get a bike after all?
But I kept pushing off the idea. I didn’t know if I would use a bike enough to justify the cost of purchasing it – so I decided to save the money, and stay with the status quo.
However. This spring and summer I have been battling a pretty bad case of shin splints – and rather than continue damaging my legs and potentially giving myself a stress fracture, I thought maybe some cross training might be in order… so if I used a bike for both errands and exercise, maybe then it would be “worth it”?
A few days ago I went to one of the local bike shops, just to do some initial data-gathering. A sales person approached me within seconds of my entering the store, and I quickly explained to him that I was just getting information – I was not sure I wanted to buy a bike at all. “Sure, no problem,” he assured me. “Why don’t you tell me what you think you might use a bike for, and I can let you know if we have anything I think you might like or might be able to use.” So I explained to the sales guy what I just shared with all of you, and he showed me a light-weight, street-friendly, hybrid bike. He encouraged me to take it for a ride in the nearby neighborhood, saying, “I recommend you take it for a nice long ride. Twenty minutes at least, if you have the time. Get a good feel for the bike; really see what you do and don’t like about it. Relax, explore – have fun with it!” So I did.
I rode the bike on a few sidewalks, and on a paved path, and on the street… and I had an absolutely wonderful experience. It had been literally twenty years since I was last on a bike; I genuinely forgot how fun they are! After fifteen minutes, I returned to the shop excited, but also still doubtful. Yes, the ride was fun – but was a little bit of “fun” worth this kind of financial expenditure? Would I really use the bike?
I asked the sales guy to assemble an estimate for me, which he did quickly and easily; I then left the shop with a long list of items and their associated costs.
The next morning I woke up really eager to ride a bike. But looking at the detailed estimate and the final number at the bottom of it tempered my enthusiasm. I called the shop and asked to speak to the sales guy. I decided to be 100% honest and transparent, and told him all of my desires and hesitations. I then offered a few possible ideas (as I don’t like to present a ‘problem’ without also presenting some possible ‘solutions’): What if I paid in cash instead of using a credit card – could I get a discount then? Your store wouldn’t have to pay any merchant transaction fees – so could those dollar savings be applied to my bottom line? The sales guy said that the store didn’t have a cash versus credit card policy, so that idea wouldn’t work… but, “There is another bike in the shop I can show you. Its’ gear shifting is slightly different than the bike you rode yesterday, and it weighs about half-a-pound more, but otherwise the performance is pretty darn comparable – and it’s $70 cheaper. That could be a good option…” It was a nice start, but I needed more. “Well, you said you were going to get a different saddle [seat] for the bike; I could probably give you a credit for the saddle that comes with the bike if you want to trade that in…” Better, better. Anything more that can be done? “Hmm…. You know, I bet I could find a ‘friends-and-family’ discount around here that I could apply to your purchase; how about 10% off the total?” You have a deal!
So yesterday afternoon, I went back to the bike shop to pay for and pick up the bike (and various accessories). After my credit card cleared, the sales guy congratulated me on the purchase, then told me it would be an hour or two before the bike would be fully assembled and ready for me to take home. Ugh. Having spent literally eight hours in the car yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was hang around a bike shop for another 1-2 hours. Again, I decided to be 100% honest, and I shared this with the sales guy. I then stated that I totally understand the logistics of running a business, and that the situation simply is what it is; but today I just can’t deal with it, so I’ll go home, and come back tomorrow to pick up the finished bike. Before I turned to leave, the sales guy wanted to know more about my trip. He asked me where I had been and what I had been doing all day. I told him the name of the small town I traveled to – and it turns out he is from that area, too! He then pressed for details about what I was doing there; when I told him, he felt genuine sympathy for me. (Yesterday’s trip was not a ‘just-for-fun’-type of deal.) I told him no worries, I truly appreciated his compassion, but I was understandably tired, and I just kind of wanted to go home. He nodded, gave me a pick-up slip for the merchandise, and said he would call tomorrow once the bike was ready.
I walked out to my car, put on my sunglasses, fastened my seat belt, took a drink of water, and was about to turn the key in the ignition when the sales guy quickly walked towards my vehicle. Umm…. What’s up? He explained that he talked to the guys who do the bike assembly, and they agreed to bump my bike to the front of the line. They also agreed to both work on the bike at the same time (instead of having only one technician do it, which is their standard practice). “So, we should be able to get your bike done in 20 minutes or so, if you can wait that long? That way you can ride it yet this weekend, and you don’t have to make a trip back here tomorrow….” The sales guy trailed off, then looked at me and waited for my response.
WOW! That’s fantastic! Thank you all so much! I really, really appreciate it!
So, to summarize. This very kind sales guy:
- didn’t pressure me into buying anything.
- did find me a better bike to fit my needs and my constraints.
- did get creative in giving me as much value as possible (trade-in credit, discount).
- showed an interest in me as a fellow human, and went well above-and-beyond the ‘requirements’ of his job to rally other people to help me.
At the end of the day, the man saved me money, time, and energy; and gave me information, support, and encouragement.
I definitely got one heckuva ‘deal’ on this new bike!!
(And I am very impressed that you read this entire post all the way to the end; thank you for your support, too!) 🙂