Comment: There's no such thing as a free lunch

Carlton Reid gets his cones adjusted. Two minutes later, and $14 lighter, he’s a happy bunny. Why?
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Last month I was in Utah for PressCamp and needed to get a borrowed Cannondale EVO fettled before a two-day sportive out in the boondocks.

The sportive’s tech support likely wouldn’t carry a full line of tools, and I needed a Chris King cone tool. I had been lucky enough to bag the use of some Enve carbon clinchers, but they wobbled and I didn’t fancy riding 175 miles on wheels that would only get wobblier, and certainly didn’t want to damage such premium bits of kit.

I was travelling with a Utah resident and he knew a bike shop which would probably have the right tools for the job. We decided to pay a visit to Contender of Salt Lake City. This is a high-end bike shop, with the best part of a million dollars of classy inventory stocked at any one time (that was my estimate, and it was confirmed by the shop’s owner). Contender is so high-end the shop-branded road jersey is made by Assos.

Contender’s mechanics took the EVO from me and adjusted the cones in a matter of minutes. The mechanic charged me 14 bucks. My friend was surprised I was happy to pay this. “But it only took seconds, it would be no skin off their nose to do that sort of job for free,” he said.

I was happy because the shop was charging for the use of specialist tools and the time of a specialist member of staff.
Now, there’s a lot to be said for doing some jobs as freebies for the ‘good will’ engendered – a bike purchase may be made next visit by a customer made happy by such largesse - but where do you draw the line? Does a car garage do these simple jobs for free in the hope a car purchase may come from it? Absolutely not!

Contender’s till receipt carried a menu item for cone adjustment. A tightly itemised EPoS system for the workshop clearly pays dividends for Contender. Time is money; expertise is valuable.

Many bike shops give away what ought to be charged for. And too many customers expect bike shops to do “simple” mechanical tasks for free. Some bike shops – and many customers – need to wake up and smell the coffee.

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