Sunday, January 30, 2011

Too Much What, Now?

The last bike shop in which I worked full time was called Campus Cycles.  At the time, it was owned and operated by the couple who had opened it, years earlier, Greg and Mary.  They have since sold the business to some new owners.

Greg had been in the business, for a while, before opening the shop and had actually been the first employee at Wheatridge Cyclery.  Greg took his business model from there, and had always concentrated most on moving product out the door and very little on customer service.  He told me, as I interviewed for the job as Service Manager, that he and Mary were hoping to build the Service Department up into a real "Service" area, and therefore build more customer loyalty.

I was happy to hear that.  The shop had just moved into a large building, from the location where Kaladi Brothers Coffee now operates, and the service area was a blank slate.  After I got the job, I actually built the work benches, laid out the parts storage, etc, as well as implementing new policies which I had developed through the years in order to better serve the customers.

It wasn't long before I started having some friction with Greg and Mary.  I was used to much more of a "family" vibe at Destinations, and the "very serious business" vibe at Campus sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

It all came to a head in late August, when I met Greg and Mary for breakfast, to have my first Annual Employee Review.  I'll never forget it.

"We're concerned that you are doing too much service in the Service Department," Greg said to me.

"That's the definition of my job, Greg," I said.  "I am there to help my customers keep their bikes working."

"They aren't your customers," he spat back, his face turning red.  "They're my customers!  And I want you to stop fixing everyone's bike and help sell them on the idea that they need a new one."

"But...but..I'm a Service Manager.  My job is to do service."  I still couldn't quite believe how this was going.

"Well, we want you to sell bikes.  If you don't see that as being your job, you need to think about whether you want to work for us," he said, taking a bite of his fried eggs.

I had never had a bad Annual Review at any job I ever held, before this.  And, I had certainly never received a thinly-veiled threat that I would be fired if I didn't toe the line.

A week and a half later, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occurred.  I sat in my living room watching as the towers fell, then rode the two blocks down to Campus to see if we were going to be open.  Of course, we were.  We couldn't take the chance that we might miss making a buck or two.

I don't think we had a paying customer. all day.  For some reason, people didn't really seem that concerned with buying bikes, that day.  But, we all had to be there, just in case.

The bike industry trade show was a couple of weeks later.  Commercial air travel had resumed, after a short period of all the airliners being grounded by the government, and Greg, Mary, a couple of sales guys and I flew to Las Vegas to attend.  We spent 4 days and 3 nights, there, then flew back.

I felt odd about the whole trip.  After basically getting my ass handed to me for doing my job correctly instead of lying to my customers (and, yes, I still considered them mine, thank you), palling around at the show and eating dinner with Greg and Mary at the casino buffets just had a hollow feel.

The next day that I worked, during the first week in October, I saw Greg at the front of the shop, as I walked in.  He was counting out the cash to put into the till, for the day.

"Morning, Greg."


"Do you remember telling me that I should think about whether, or not, I want to work for you?"  I asked him.

He stopped counting dollar bills, and looked at me.

"Well,"  I continued, "I've been thinking about it... and I don't."

"What?" he asked, as if he just couldn't comprehend that I'd rather hold onto my integrity than my job.

"I won't betray my customers and lie to them about whether their bikes can be repaired, or not,"  I told him.  "I just can't work like that."

He didn't bother to argue with me about whose damn customers were whose, thankfully.  He told me that he understood, but he was disappointed to lose me, etc,. etc., and assured me that I could work until I found another job.

Three days later he told me that I was out, at the end of the month.

Happy Halloween to me.

I can't say that really surprised me, but it sure inconvenienced me.  It took me two months to find another job.  If it hadn't been for my family helping me out, I would have been on the street.

It was then that I decided that the retail bike business, as it was evolving, was no longer for me.


1 comment:

  1. A familiar story to me. When you get old and reflect on your life your integrity and how you handled it becomes very important, maybe as important as life itself.
    As for the "do it or else" option SWMBO and I agree without hesitation. We choose "or else" every time. Instantly. In fact if you are out of matches just give her a thinly veiled threat with an "or else" option and I guarantee there will be fire.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.