Wiggle Chain Reaction Merger Romance

Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles Romance put to the Test

The merger of the two biggest online bike shops, Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycle is now being put to the test by being referred to the Competition and markets Authority (CMA) in the UK. Reported on BikeBiz, they have noted that the CMA are surveying bike and Parts and Accessories suppliers who need to respond this week. 

Online retail can be a double-edge sword for bike brands. On the one side, online shopping in booming and it provides an opportunity to sell a lot of stock to this growing market. On the other, online shops compete with the traditional bricks and mortar bike shops and the distributers who are also vital for marketing the brand and customer service.

Suppliers can be pressured into discounting their stock for online retailers – it means lower prices for customers online while distributers and bike shops who have traditionally supported the brand pay more for the stock and have increasing online competition.

The Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles entity has not released details about changes and whether both brands will continue to operate independently. For customers, it is likely that the brands will remain separate and behind the scenes, management, supply-chain and logistics can be optimise.

 

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Damaged Bike Delivery

Bike or gear damaged on delivery? You need to know this!

You can’t hide the disappointment when you order online to find the bike or gear damaged on delivery. This is going to be painful! But there are a few things you should do to turn wrongs into rights and avoid frustration and heartache.

 

1. Don’t accept badly damaged deliveries

If the package looks as though it has been through disaster zone, simply don’t sign for it. Tracked packages will go through the system and because it is recorded and returned and that you havn’t received it, you can clarify with support whether a replacement should be shipped or you want a refund.

 

2. Don’t open the package

For deliveries you may not have a choice, it doesn’t need to be signed off, or a family member, colleague or neighbour may have signed on your behalf. If the box is is a really poor condition, don’t open it. Leave it unopened and take photos and report to customer service.

This is a judgement call, if you ordered cycle wear then a crumpled box may not bother you. but it doesn’t hurt to take a photo before opening.

 

3. Document everything and take photos

As soon as you have a suspicion that something isn’t right, start taking photos, for example unpacking the box so you have photographic documentation to ‘prove’ to customer support for your favourite retailer that this was the condition in which you received the item.

Documentation continues to making ordered notes if you speak to customer support on the phone (time, date, name and reference number) and being organised. This will save you from trying to locate lost details and ensures that you can back yourself up.

 

4. If it looks fine, inspect it anyway

Take the time to check your order, is it complete. What about the condition of each item. While you may not spot mechanical defects, take the time to carefully look at the bike or gear, look for scratches, damage or anything which is out of the ordinary. Wheelsets should be true, bikes should have original protective wrapping and be in pristine condition while parts may be in original packaging or OEM packaging.

 

5. Report to the retailer as soon as possible

The better retailers include ‘returns’ information with the delivery as well as with confirmation emails to make it easy and efficient for customers. (Likewise, the bad retailers hide this information and make it difficult and painful to lodge a return).

Provide the details of your order and describe the issue. If you are emailing rather than phoning, you may have to wait for a response and instructions.

 

6. Don’t use or ride the bike or equipment

It is temping to use or try equipment, but if it is not in order, resist this tempation. In an example, a customer reported a damaged Colnago from Wiggle however took the bike for a short ride. Wiggle staff responded The tyres, chain, and brake rims show considerable signs of clear use and rejected the claim suggesting that the customer had caused the damage. Wiggle documented, though included photos of a different bike – and the question is, who is telling the truth?

 

7. Don’t break it

The bike or the cycling gear may have arrived safe and sound, but removing it from packaging, assembling and simply accidently misusing can cause damage. Take time to browse any instruction and unpack and assemble with care. Don’t rush and be sure you know what you are doing.

Assembly can be tricky, Many bike parts, particularly Carbon Fiber, have torque specifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or ask to borrow a torque wrench. If something does happen, go to part three and document.

 

8. Be polite, be persistent

It is frustrating dealing with canned emails and 5 different staff members where you have to start again. The best retailers allocate a single staff member to help resolve your issue, while the worst ones bounce you around, don’t respond in a timely manner or simply ignore you. Be polite, by firm and persistent. Include your preferred resolution.

If you are ‘absolutely right’ but getting no where, it may be the support staffs role to reject or deny claims. Ask to elevate the issue or to speak with a manager.

 

9. Threaten the retailer

Having tried all reasonable approaches to reach a solution, if the retailer isn’t taking you seriously then it may be time to let them know you will be seeking alternative approaches to resolve. Keep in mind that defaming a retailer can get you into trouble, the online bike shop may become more interested in finding a satisfactory resolution if it keeps you from telling all of your friends, or reporting on social media and social communities or even reporting to the relevant consumer protection orgaisations.

 

10. When all else fails, take action

Some retailers may not be phased by a threat, running a poor business may mean they they are regularly threatened and that they know the threats are hollow. It is problematic if you have ordered overseas, customer protection laws may not apply however you should follow up with consumer protection agencies in the same country as the retailer.

Social media can be a good channel to draw attention to your plight though take care to be factual and publishing information which a retailer coud use to sue you. Other customers may have advice to help you.

Consider other options, if you feel that a retailer is not operating ethically you may be able to inform the consumer protection agency in your own country who can at least try to protect other consumes.

Posting a genuine, factual and detailed negative review on rating websites or evening writing a real letter (pen and paper) to management.

 

photo © Tracey Adams

Customer Service verses Company Policy

Sorry Sir, but if you refer to our Terms and Conditions, page 53, paragraph 7.3.8 it states that…

That’s right, the customer is always right unless they are wrong. Or if the ‘customer service’ staff feel that the customer is defrauding the shop and succumbing to customer needs is a sign of weakness.

Most problems raised by customers such as non-delivery, late delivery, incorrect charges, wrong or faulty or broken parts are genuine. Without suggesting that a Local Bike Shop will always resolve a customer problem perfectly – online retail is built upon reducing overheads and this is frequently interpreted as meaning reducing customer service.

A return customer is cheaper to acquire so it is worthwhile for a retailer to focus on existing customers, ensure customer satisfaction and benefit from repeat business and customer referrals.

Without diving into all of the ways that retailers have been known to avoid customers and their duties, there is an easy way to reduce overheads. And that is, quickly solve problems to the advantage of the customer.

Rather than standing behind the rules and company policy, make it easy, make it fast and take a hit with replacements and refunds because this is an investment. The marginal losses (much of which can be recovered) is a marketing investment. The best online shops are the ones that solve problems quickly and have customer friendly terms and a customer friendly approach.

How to tell if the online bike shop is genuine

In a physical bike store, you walk in and receive your goods in return for payment. With an online store however you pay and wait which creates an element of risk.

Here are a few tips to tell whether or not a bike shops is genuine:

• Physical address – If there is a post office box or the shop is based in an ‘exotic’ country, take care. With a physical stree address you can check on google maps and google street view and see if the building exists.

• Phone Number – A genuine business without a phone number is unusual. If they don’t have one you can start asking ‘why’?

• Cross Check the Address – Google to the recue, see if the address is listed in google. Many countries have online telephone directories with business listings and the retailer should be listed in a number of these.

• Shop Reputation – The effective way to see if an online bike shop is questionable is to search for the shop name with additional keywords such as “bad”, “problems” or “scam”. For example:
“ABC Bikes” +problems

While any shop will invariably also have bad customers, you will be able to judge how serious the problems are, often you will see search results with cycling forums and blogs and comments

Use  WOT (Web Of Trust) browser plugin which relies on community aggregation to rate good sites and suspicious sites. This can also highlight any other website which you visit which has been flagged. WAT is still in its early days so not foolproof however is growing in popularity. Available from: mywot.com

• Reliable Payment – Avoid “Western Union” payment and shy away from bank transfers unless you know and have used the online retailer. Instead, credit card and paypal have more reliable security and customer protection. Make sure payment is secure -the padlock symbol should appear and the web address start with https:// (and not http:// without the ‘s’).

There are more tell-tale signs, if a bike shop fails any of these criteria, then be cautious.

Three reasons why your Local Bike Shop is better than the Online Shop

Lets start with acknowledging that there are plenty of bad bike shops – we are not talking about them. We are talking about the good bike shops and why they are better than online shops. In the last article we looked at three reasons why your local bike shop can’t compete with online bike shops. Lets turn the tables and see what your Local Bike Shop can do better.

Professional Advice: while the internet is a wealth of knowledge, the staff at your local bike shop get their hands dirty and should be on the top of their game mechanically as well as steer you in the right direction when you are buying a new bike. The best shops put your interest first – before a quick sale.

Immediate Satisfaction: Most bike shops sell the everyday items, inner tubes, tires and the accessories and parts to keep you on the road. No waiting, you are ready to go straight away.

Customer Service: This is underrated when buying online, until things go wrong. The big online stores work hard to improve this part of their business but the fact is, if you have a good bike shop and walk in the door with a problem, part of their business is to look after you and your servicing, repair and warranty issues.

When the price of that new bike too good to be true?

Imagine saving $2000 off brand new bike that is every other bike shop sells for $5000. What about a lovely Italian Pinarello or a firey Scott road bike, instead of 8K, you have spotted it online for 3.5K, less than half of the going price.

Though you have never heard of the online shop before, it looks professional and they have all of the top brands… all at heavily discounted prices. Lets have a closer look.

Have you ever seen a bike shop (online or physical) with such a wide range, brands which are usally never sold side by side in the same bike shop? Colnago’s next to Pinarello’s. Scotts next to Specialized and BMC’s.

This is one of the first signs to slow down because it is probably too good to be true.

The next tell-tale sign is that payment with Western Union is preferred – or a bank transfer.

Scammers can set up multiple online shops, each with a different design but all with unrealistic prices on brand name bikes and cycling gear to bait unsuspecting bargin hunters. If they can lure you in and convince you to pay then you have lost. As opposed to credit card or paypal payments which have an element of security and customer protection, Western Union and bank transfers don’t have these safety mechanisms making it impossible or extremely unlikely of ever getting your money back.

Yes, it can be hard to tell, the scam sites rip content and images from genuine shop but two easy steps can help get clarity. The first is google and searching for different combinations with the bike shop name and Web Address (URL) to see if customers have shared experiences or if there is any 3rd party information about them.

The second is to ask about the reputation of the online bike shop in forums. If no one has ever heard of the shop, be cautious. If you discover reports of scams and lost money, then avoid.

Sticking with the big name bike shops provides security but does make it tough for the new and smaller bike shops to compete for your business – however the chances are that even the new online bike shops and the small online bike shops have more realistic pricing and accept common and secure payment methods.

One in a while you will spot fantastic deals on bikes or parts, but if they are too good to be true, take care to protect yourself.

Online Shopping: Is the price you see, the price you pay?

The biggest motivation for shopping online is is price savings compared with buying in a local bike shop.  But it is annoying when you end up paying more than you expect, even if it is just a few dollars.

This is specific to overseas purchases, here is a brief overview of some of the common things that may affect the price – each shop will be different, the better ones ensure that price discrepancies are minimal:

• In Store Currency Conversion – online bike shops who serve an international audience often show prices in different currencies such as US Dollars, British Pound, Euro, Yen, Australian Dollars, etc.  However sometimes are converted on the fly with payment actually billed in one currency and customers have additional currency conversion fees and potentially a poorer ‘day rate’.

• Currency Conversion on Payment – Similar to the above although specifically for additional fees with your bank (or paypal) for making overseas payments.

• Overseas Payment Fees – Some banks charge a premium or fees for overseas payments, even if there is no currency conversion.

• Customs Duty -Depending on trade agreements between your country and the ‘origin’ country, customs duty may be levied before your goods are released. Some countries such as Australia have a minimum order threshold with orders under $1000 (AUD) in value exempt.

• Logistics Surcharges:  Watch out as some shipping companies such as UPS impose additional charges ‘local clearing fees’ – while they are not genuine (eligible) charges and shouldn’t be charges, often customers don’t question these and pay.

• Taxes – This is in two parts, often you will be exempt from paying the value added tax in the origin country for items purchase overseas. Some shops may automate this however with others you may have to claim – which can prove complex. The other component is added local taxes that may be levied when you import.

N.b. do your research and know if there are tax and customs duty exemptions which may affect how your ordered is declared at customs (to avoid time consuming manual claims).

• Incorrect Pricing – Numerous factors including human error can influence the display price – whether you are eligible for the price you were presented depends on the local consumer protection laws (where the shop is based), the shops willingness to resolve and your willingness to pursue.