Friday, February 18, 2011

"Bicycle Design Is Faulty"

I sold a guy a mountain bike for his kid, one day, back in 1994.  It was a steel-framed bike, with a rigid fork.  (This was before the suspension fork had worked its way down to the inexpensive end of bicycling).

The next day, he brought it back.  The fork was bent backward about 2 inches, and Dad was hopping mad.

"I just bought this, yesterday, and it's already broken," he said, steam coming out of his ears.

"What happened to it?"  I asked.  "What did your son run into?"

"He didn't run into anything," Dad lied.

"Sure he did," I said.  "That's how this happens."

"All he did was ride up onto the curb!"  He was almost shouting, by then.

"So, basically, he just ran straight into the curb, without lifting the wheel, then,"  I countered.  "Did he flip over the bars?  Is he okay?"

"He's fine," Dad said.  "I want you to replace this."

I explained to him that crash damage was not covered under the warranty, but I would be glad to do a "crash replacement", which meant I would buy a new fork for his bike and install it, but only charge him wholesale for the fork and throw in the labor.  That was what we normally did for the hard-luck cases who trashed their bikes right after buying them.  It was not a real unusual situation.

But, that wasn't good enough for this guy.  He wanted a free replacement or, even better, a new bike.

"So,"  I said, "imagine that you go down to the Chevy dealership and buy your son a car.  Then, on the way home from the dealership, he runs into the back of a dump truck and knocks the front end of his car off.  Do you think that the Chevy dealer is going to fix it, for free?"

"Well, this shouldn't have happened.  The design of this fork is faulty!"

I just looked at him, for a moment.

"Do you not realize that this fork design has been in constant use for about 100 years, on hundreds of millions of bikes around the world?  People have circumnavigated the globe, won races, jumped ditches, and just generally done everything that's ever been done a bike while using a fork just like this.  And, just because your son wrecked his bike and bent the fork on it, that means that the standard fork design, which has worked for so many people for so many years is at fault;  not your son."

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Yes."

At that point, I realized that this was that father, the one who would never hold his son accountable for anything and would probably be blaming the bartender after the kid got a DWI.  And, I pretty much lost all patience at that point.

I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I would do a crash replacement, but that was all I was doing.  If he didn't want to pay for a fork, he could take the bent one home with him.

After the obligatory demand to talk to the owner, and after Scott told him exactly the same thing, he left the bike with us and we ordered a fork for it.  Three days later, he came and picked up the repaired bike.

And, defective design and all, he paid for the damn fork.


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