buying a bike by researching on the internet

Normally, researching on the internet before you buy something is a really good idea.

In fact, it’s something I always do. Not only does this get me the best product, but I also get the best price.

It was my wife’s birthday yesterday, and she’d been dropping not-so-subtle hints that she wanted a bike. So I started looking online. I found some good deals. Obviously I didn’t want one to get shipped to me, as I’d have to build it myself, so I checked the websites of stores that are local to me. That way I could find out who sells the same bike for less before I bother to drive there. There’s no point in driving to 4 different bike shops to price match when it can all be done online or over the phone.

I find the lowest price for a DiamondBack Lustre 2 at SportsAuthority.com. I decide to go to the shop, and they tell me that it’s $60 more than the online price. They explain that sportsauthority.com is a separate entity. I ask them if they price match. They say “no” and say that they’ll gladly build a bike I buy on sportsauthority.com for $75….. No thanks.

Then, I find a different bike that’s heavily discounted at taylorsbikeshop.com The prices are pretty good, and the shop is local (there are only three in the world, so I figure it can’t be a separate entity). Luckily I decide to call them first. Apparently the online prices don’t include building the bike. If you want the bike built (who doesn’t) they charge an additional $100.

Ridiculous for two reasons.

  1. Who on earth wants to buy a bike that’s not even built (maybe pro bikers, but not someone who’s spending $300 on a bike)
  2. It feels like a bait and switch. They have low prices online to get you to go to the shop, because you think it’s cheap, only to surprise you and tell you that the ‘real’ price is $100 more. They then figure that once you’re there, you’ll like still buy, whereas, had you originally known the correct price, you’d never have gone.  I hate it.

I got all excited when I saw that their prices were $50 less. Well, actually like $50 MORE when you add in the secret building fee.

I ended up buying the bike in-store at Sports Authority. For the Lustre 1 the price was actually about the same as at Taylor’s Bike Shop, and guess what, it is actually built!!!! So, for the exact same bike I get $100 off. Enough to buy a helmet and an extended warranty (for free tune-ups/repairs).

Not bad!

I’ve never understood this tactic. Ask yourself a question. What are the most successful stores in the world? Is it the store that doesn’t allow returns? Is it the store that has bait and switch tactics? Is it the store that has bad customer service? I think not. In the U.S.A. The most successful stores are exactly the opposite. Wal-Mart, Costco have been extremely successful in large part due to their great return policies. I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart, but I know that I can buy something and I’ll have no problems returning it. Same with Costco. If an item costs the same at Costco and K-Mart, I’d much rather buy it at Costco because I trust the place and because I don’t feel as though they’re out to trick me. In the case of some of these bike shops, I know what they’re trying to do. They are trying to compete with some of these online-only bike shops, that have a clear advantage (due to now having to operate local stores), whilst also competing with the local shops.  I understand this mentality. Obviously they want both the in-store type of customer, and the online customer. But not clearly stating a $100 different in price is not acceptable. I’m positive I’im not alone in thinking this. In fact, I’m sure they’ve had hundreds of customer run in only to leave extremely disappointed when they find out the price they read online wasn’t really accurate. And when I say accurate I’m making an assumption. The same assumption most people would probably make. When I buy a bicycle at a local store, I expect it to be pre-built.