Anyone else having a hard time finding a respectable LBS?
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  1. #1
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    Anyone else having a hard time finding a respectable LBS?

    This is going to seem like a rant, but I see a lot of people pitching support for LBS, and I'm starting to believe that not everyone has the luxury of a decent LBS in their area. I may start looking 20 miles away for a new LBS, as the three in my area seem to be more interested in making a quick buck than helping.

    It started last year when I began to get the urge to begin biking again. Unfortunately I was on a pretty tight budget (me and my wife are full-time post-grad students, parents, and part-time workers), so I had to limit myself to $1000. I started by going out to a local Specialized dealer who carried... well, Specialized. I told them I was interested in buying a bike but that due to a long vacation from biking, I knew very little about bikes. The guy asked me a few questions, my riding habits, budget, etc. I made it extremely clear that I could not spend more than 1k, that it was not an option (this meant a bike around $700 and $300 worth of acc/tools/etc). Without batting an eye, the guy starts showing me $1500 bikes. I'm laughing, thinking it's a joke, but he's continuing to explain to me that with the amount I'll be riding, I can't spend less than $1500, and that I should be spending $2200; he continued by throwing $110 shorts and $210 shoes at me. I tell him, kindly, that I don't have the option of spending that much. Instead of showing me the sub 1k bikes, he tells me that I should take a look around and let him know if I have any questions on the bikes, hands me his card, and thanks me. This happened not once, but three separate occasions with different attendants. I wasn't at all trying to come off as if I didn't want their help, as I was explicitly asking for it.

    I was a little harsher to the second shop, as the same instance occurred even after explaining to them my restrictions very clearly. I ended up getting annoyed enough to tell the guy that if I wanted a $1500 bike I would have asked for one, thanked him for wasting my time, and walked out.

    I didn't bother with the other shops in my area as I was now convinced I'd have to do my own research. I ended up buying a bike online for $700 along with most of the accessories. I saved the helmet and shoes for the shop, along with tools.

    So I go to the second shop to check out shoes, thinking I was a bit harsh on them while bike shopping. The woman helping me was showing me all their different options, and actually pushing me into some of the cheaper shoes, because it's what she uses. I notice that they have some '08 Sidi Genius 5s on clearance for $180 that fit me perfectly. The price is a little steep, so I told her I'd have to run it by my wife before I make such a large purchase. She decides to, as if I had asked, tell me that the '09 Sidi Genius 5 "pros" were basically the same thing but I won't find them for less than $300, and that the '08s are still going for $200+. I don't mind her trying to close me, so I thanked her, and left. That night I decided to look up the differences between the '08s and '09s, as I didn't know anything about the Sidi "pros" and I found them for a staggering $155 from CRC. I printed the page and brought it to the woman I had spoke to hoping to strike a deal; she almost seemed to get angry with me, explaining to me that the pros are actually made cheaper and that they don't price match international sites, warning me that I could get scammed.

    Regardless, I bought to shoes online and decided to get the helmet as well. I'm going to be needing some maintenance tools soon, and I don't even know where the heck to go, because I don't want to give my business to either shop (the woman at the second shop was the co-manager with her husband). The Specialized dealer looked at me like I was crazy after I responded to his question of where I got my bike and seemed hesitant to even help me. I ended up having to seek out someone else to ask them about a bike fit after my salesperson bolted to help one of the regulars.

    Does anyone else have these issues? I've never seen such terrible businesses, and I'm hoping that's not a custom of all shops in my area (I'll have to go 20 miles to check out the other 2 shops). I'm sorry I bought my bike online, but knowing what I know now, I'll never buy from either LBS. After hearing so many people on these boards tell me what a good idea it is to "get in" with my LBS, not only am a wary of any LBS, I'm wondering why I should have to "get in" with a shop to get good service. I should be treated the same as a new biker. The scary thing is that both shops seem pretty popular, and been more than patient and as courteous as I could be with both of them.

    I've seen so many people tell new bikers to support an LBS, but I have to warn people that you shouldn't put up with bad customer service, no matter the industry.

    (longest... post... ever.)

  2. #2
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    no reason to support a shop that wont support you.. or wont even give you the respect of honesty..

    my lbs bike was cheaper than anything i could find online actually.. and i got to test ride it first, get fitted, and have a place to return it for warranty work.. i think thats a benefit of buying locally, but you're really doing yourself the favor with that, not the lbs..

    but for misc parts, you're not getting much benefit paying 3x as much at the lbs. but yeah, no way im bribing a shop with beer and food just to get half decent service.

  3. #3
    cs1
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    Most people have really outrageous expectations of what an LBS or any business should do. Having owned several businesses I can say that there's a huge difference between a brick & mortar and online. The overhead of a B & M is huge compared to the online shop. You can't have online prices and B & M service and stay in business long.

    The only exception is the "Wholesale Club" model. Which is a wharehouse with cashiers. You get no help, no service and no product knowledge. That doesn't seem like what you're interested in.

    I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience. Instead of *****ing why didn't you expend your energy on looking for a shop that could help you?

  4. #4
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    Live in Southern California with lots of Bike Shops.
    Most all of them are terrific and really try to help me out and don't give me the feeling they are just trying to make a buck.
    There are several in the San Diego area that are superb and I would recommend to all my friends.
    I think times are tough for LBS, with the economy and Internet competition.
    I try to support my LBS as often as I can.
    John
    John Lapoint / San Diego
    God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy!

  5. #5
    wim
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    Some thoughts.

    I can't be sure what you're telling the bike shops, but perhaps you're sending out conflicting signals. For example, you write here that you're on a tight budget and cite a little hard-luck story to go with that, yet you're willing and able to spend $1,000 on what essentially are luxury items. You also say that you know very little about bikes, yet you seem to know the exact pricepoint of the bike ($700) and the accessories ($300) that fit your riding style. Given discrepancies like that, I can see how some salespeople could react in a manner not entirely to your liking.

    It might be helpful to do some homework and find a $1000 retail MSRP bike/accessory combination that fits your bill, then go to the bike store and see if they have these items or something comparable. If you still run into problems, move your business completely into the internet for now, then revisit a brick-and-mortar shop when you're ready to "upgrade."

  6. #6
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    come to think of it, when i got my mtb, the shop pulled the same kinda thing. i went in, explained that i wanted to spend only a few hundred bucks, and they start trying to set me up with bikes STARTING at twice my budget. their reasoning for this was something about how, as a consumer, i should try a high-end bike to "feel what a good bike feels like," and then pare back on the bike until i get one that fits my budget. actually, that's a sound bit of advice...but it woulda been nice if he told me that up front.

  7. #7

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    One sales person does not make a shop.
    My LBS seems to have about 20 employees, not counting the seasonal help and I seem to get better results, and advice from some than I do from others. Maybe you have to keep going back until you find your guy. IMO, some sales person's point of view is colored by how they participate in the cycling. I can't tell you how many sale people told me the bike they were showing mw was "race-able" when I never said that I wanted to race.

    When I was bike shopping, I was also constrained by budget.
    I went to my LBS, told them what my goals were and test road their recommendation. I did some research and when back and talked to them again. I repeated this process over and over. Each time refined my needs/wants. If you do this enough, you can go in there and tell them the bike you want instead of asking them.

  8. #8
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    I can't relate since I live in an area with six very good bicycle shops of which two are top 100 rated. All of them have serious riders as owners and the larger ones have a lot of salesmen that are serious riders yet all are personable.

  9. #9
    toomanybikes
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    I can't help but wonder if some of the people responding to this thread actually read the OP.

  10. #10
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    Competition breeds better LBS's. Madison has many great ones because of this and other reasons. The Chicago-area scene is very different, OTOH. Some are absolutely great, while others are snobby, yet others don't realize they own a business.

    Maybe I'm fortunate, but you shouldn't have a problem finding a good LBS unless you're in a very rural area...

  11. #11
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    There's so much I can say about a LBS. I've posted on other forums so if you know me you can ignore this but I had a similar situation. My closet 'LBS' is over almost 45 minutes away. When I decided to shop for a bike, and I was in the same situation as the OP, been out of biking for a while ect ect, I went to 4 different shops. I ended up going with the closest mainly because he wasn't trying to 'sell' me anything I didn't want. It wasn't until later that I really just realized he didn't give a rats a$s, atleast that's the vibe I got. My sizing and fit consisted of asking me how tall I was. That was it. I was in there quite regularly for a month or so and he had yet to figure out I was the same person. It's not like biking is huge where I live, because it's just not. Long story short. I would tell you that having a shop to help you 'size your frame' is nice but after that if your bike shop doesn't make you feel like the most important customer every time you walk in then it's time to find another. You shouldn't feel obligated to buy anything from them and online shopping is perfectly fine. I went with an online vendor for my new group simply because I didn't like the way I felt when i walked into the shop. He was even nice enough to not tell me about the 'free adjustments' I had for an entire year. Well that year is gone and I never even knew. Just goes to show just because you want to support local doesn't always mean you should. If it means driving a little further then by all means do it.

  12. #12
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    Find out where the serious riders go, and go to that place but not on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the place is packed. They won't have much time to spend with you. I did that when I got back into riding last year, found out the hard way and left a little disappointed. I went to another shop which is good, but now I like the first shop's "vibe" better. My most recent purchase was from them and happened in early January while they had a lot more time to talk. I'm not saying to wait until winter, but maybe a rainy weekday would give you a totally different first impression of a shop than a sunny Saturday afternoon.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by cs1
    Most people have really outrageous expectations of what an LBS or any business should do. Having owned several businesses I can say that there's a huge difference between a brick & mortar and online. The overhead of a B & M is huge compared to the online shop. You can't have online prices and B & M service and stay in business long.

    The only exception is the "Wholesale Club" model. Which is a wharehouse with cashiers. You get no help, no service and no product knowledge. That doesn't seem like what you're interested in.

    I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience. Instead of *****ing why didn't you expend your energy on looking for a shop that could help you?
    Wait, you're a business owner, and you're trying to claim that receiving basic customer service is some sort of luxury that I shouldn't expect? There's a difference between attempting to up-sell a customer and offering no realistic service that fits that customer's needs. It has nothing to do with overhead, cost, or any of the excuses you're trying to infuse here. Does overhead give a shop an excuse to sell an old model for 25% more than newer models online? No, and if you're a business owner and you're having THAT hard a time competing with online markets, then you have something glaringly wrong with your business model (and it's obvious when you're trying to backpedal a customer before they have attempt to do real price research).

    I have noooo problem supporting my LBS if it's within my budget, and I'm more than happy to pay $100 for a pro bike fit; but when I'm made to feel like an idiot for wanting to stay within that budget, I feel pretty insulted.

    So instead of responding to my *****ing with meaningless insight into the world of poor business, perhaps you should be working on your profit margins. I kind of thought this was a forum where people post things regarding the cycling world, respond, and discuss; weird concept.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomH
    no reason to support a shop that wont support you.. or wont even give you the respect of honesty..

    my lbs bike was cheaper than anything i could find online actually.. and i got to test ride it first, get fitted, and have a place to return it for warranty work.. i think thats a benefit of buying locally, but you're really doing yourself the favor with that, not the lbs..

    but for misc parts, you're not getting much benefit paying 3x as much at the lbs. but yeah, no way im bribing a shop with beer and food just to get half decent service.
    I was just wondering if I was a whackjob for expecting more and as a consumer it's difficult for me to support a business that can't deliver the basics to good service. I've literally never had these issues with a retailer outside the bike industry.

    But you're right, the bits and pieces are so much easier to just pick up from the shop, so I'm definitely putting myself at a disadvantage.

  15. #15
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    You must live in Canada.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmlapoint
    Live in Southern California with lots of Bike Shops.
    Most all of them are terrific and really try to help me out and don't give me the feeling they are just trying to make a buck.
    There are several in the San Diego area that are superb and I would recommend to all my friends.
    I think times are tough for LBS, with the economy and Internet competition.
    I try to support my LBS as often as I can.
    John
    We'll actually be moving to the Silicon Valley area for work next summer; from what I hear it's a nice area for biking, so I'll doubtfully have these issues then .

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim
    I can't be sure what you're telling the bike shops, but perhaps you're sending out conflicting signals. For example, you write here that you're on a tight budget and cite a little hard-luck story to go with that, yet you're willing and able to spend $1,000 on what essentially are luxury items. You also say that you know very little about bikes, yet you seem to know the exact pricepoint of the bike ($700) and the accessories ($300) that fit your riding style. Given discrepancies like that, I can see how some salespeople could react in a manner not entirely to your liking.

    It might be helpful to do some homework and find a $1000 retail MSRP bike/accessory combination that fits your bill, then go to the bike store and see if they have these items or something comparable. If you still run into problems, move your business completely into the internet for now, then revisit a brick-and-mortar shop when you're ready to "upgrade."
    Trust me, this $1000 has been a long time in the making (notice I've been biking shopping for more than a year). I guess it was stupid of me to not spend more time researching, but I had this inclination to do my research through the LBSs; I've had a road bike before, it's just been about 5 years since I've been into the sport. I had a good idea as to how much I wanted to spend solely based on my experience with accessory purchases in the past (I figured around $300 for accessories and subtracted that from my budget).

    I don't see how that excuses a shop attendant to react in any other way than to find the best items that fit my needs. after making it clear what my needs are. There's no discrepancy to what I was looking for and having worked sales myself, they made it feel obvious to me that my sub-1k purchase wasn't enough for them to spend too much time with me.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by immerle
    One sales person does not make a shop.
    My LBS seems to have about 20 employees, not counting the seasonal help and I seem to get better results, and advice from some than I do from others. Maybe you have to keep going back until you find your guy. IMO, some sales person's point of view is colored by how they participate in the cycling. I can't tell you how many sale people told me the bike they were showing mw was "race-able" when I never said that I wanted to race.

    When I was bike shopping, I was also constrained by budget.
    I went to my LBS, told them what my goals were and test road their recommendation. I did some research and when back and talked to them again. I repeated this process over and over. Each time refined my needs/wants. If you do this enough, you can go in there and tell them the bike you want instead of asking them.
    That's one thing I noticed, most of the people I've dealt with are mountain bikers. The first guy I talked to couldn't explain the differences between Dura Ace pedals and cheaper Shimano clipless, because he's "never used them" and that the cheaper ones "work just fine."

    I'll admit that due to time constraints I just kind of wanted someone to tell me what to buy. Hell, I figured I'd be the easiest sell ever; just give me something under 1k that gets me started on road biking, I didn't find that to be a difficult proposition. I am, however, glad that I began to do more research, as I'm quite happy with the route I went.

    I think I just need to find some bikers and ask them who they primarily deal with. There are a few teams in the area I could just e-mail for advice.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by K&K_Dad
    There's so much I can say about a LBS. I've posted on other forums so if you know me you can ignore this but I had a similar situation. My closet 'LBS' is over almost 45 minutes away. When I decided to shop for a bike, and I was in the same situation as the OP, been out of biking for a while ect ect, I went to 4 different shops. I ended up going with the closest mainly because he wasn't trying to 'sell' me anything I didn't want. It wasn't until later that I really just realized he didn't give a rats a$s, atleast that's the vibe I got. My sizing and fit consisted of asking me how tall I was. That was it. I was in there quite regularly for a month or so and he had yet to figure out I was the same person. It's not like biking is huge where I live, because it's just not. Long story short. I would tell you that having a shop to help you 'size your frame' is nice but after that if your bike shop doesn't make you feel like the most important customer every time you walk in then it's time to find another. You shouldn't feel obligated to buy anything from them and online shopping is perfectly fine. I went with an online vendor for my new group simply because I didn't like the way I felt when i walked into the shop. He was even nice enough to not tell me about the 'free adjustments' I had for an entire year. Well that year is gone and I never even knew. Just goes to show just because you want to support local doesn't always mean you should. If it means driving a little further then by all means do it.
    I'm thinking that perhaps my best bet is to focus on tools/maintenance items at my LBS (the second shop had a really nice vibe, was just put off by the manager lady) and when I'm not constrained to a budget, then I can start locally shopping. I just like face to face advice, call me old fashioned; though it now just seems easier to ask all my questions here. Buying online has been good to me so far, except buying a helmet a size smaller than I should (apparently I have a huge head) and having to pay international postage to ship it back for a refund (I've decided I'm going to the second shop to buy a helmet; pricepoints are much different than online shops).

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kleh
    I'm thinking that perhaps my best bet is to focus on tools/maintenance items at my LBS (the second shop had a really nice vibe, was just put off by the manager lady) and when I'm not constrained to a budget, then I can start locally shopping. I just like face to face advice, call me old fashioned; though it now just seems easier to ask all my questions here. Buying online has been good to me so far, except buying a helmet a size smaller than I should (apparently I have a huge head) and having to pay international postage to ship it back for a refund (I've decided I'm going to the second shop to buy a helmet; pricepoints are much different than online shops).
    be careful with internet advice though...some online sources will tell you that LBS's are just out to get your money, and will lie, cheat, and steal to get it...buuuuut, those same LBS workers tell you that internet guys are just kooks who don't know nuffin'

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by old_fuji
    be careful with internet advice though...some online sources will tell you that LBS's are just out to get your money, and will lie, cheat, and steal to get it...buuuuut, those same LBS workers tell you that internet guys are just kooks who don't know nuffin'
    Yeah, I've definitely seen both sides of the spectrum. I'm definitely not anti-LBS, I just felt the need to see if anyone else has had the same issues I have. Lots of people have told me that an LBS is a great resource, and a lot of LBS attendants look at me like I'm nuts for buying online.

  22. #22
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kleh
    Trust me, this $1000 has been a long time in the making (notice I've been biking shopping for more than a year). I guess it was stupid of me to not spend more time researching, but I had this inclination to do my research through the LBSs
    Wasn't my intention to pass judgement on how you got or spend your discretionary moneyŚmy point was more to describe what an LBS employee might think. I completely agree with you that researching a potential purchase by visiting bike shops should be a pleasant and rewarding experience, but often isn't.

  23. #23
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    I bought my bike in November, rainy day, pretty empty shop, and I was given the red carpet treatment. My LBS kept the store open an extra hour while they worked with me on fit, a couple components I wanted changed, etc. I started buying things from there frequently, and do my best to connect with as many of the employees as I can. I even go in and bring them a six pack periodically (after asking them what types of beers they prefer, of course) - especially when I bring my bike in for a tuneup - my bike gets miraculously done that day or the following, even if they have a week backlog.

    When I started going in saying I was getting conflicted information about the frameset I was ordering, they started saying "I wish you'd stop second guessing us and listening to those forums - those guys don't know what they are talking about!" Low and behold, they were wrong - you guys were right

    I also do as much homework as I can before I go in there to buy something. I find the best prices I can online, go in, and ask them for a price match. If they can't match (or get close to it), I'll order online. I think most shops will respect this fact if you're respectful with them when you tell them how you feel about it.

    I'm sorry you had a poor experience. I'd be interested in visiting these shops that you're talking about. I've definitely noticed that the atmosphere's can be completely different! The first shop I went too was just another physical location of the same company - the workers were basically bike commuters in Olympia (to over-simplify). I didn't like the way they dealt with me, the fat guy that just wanted to throw down some cash on a decent Cannondale closeout. When I went to the Tacoma shop, I could tell the majority of the guys were younger, occasional casual racers, beer drinkers, etc. More laid back and I connected with them better.

    I hope you can find a shop with a staff that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. If you're ever in the Puget Sound region of Washington, send me a message. I'll show you an LBS

    -Chris

    P.S. I've also noticed, even at my shop, that most of the sales guys will do what they can to tell you to go a step further - you won't regret it... I think it just all depends on how they try to get that point across to the customer. I wish I had better advice for you, and I certainly hope you're able to find an LBS that's right for you.
    Me: Slowly thinning cyclist (PhysicsDiet profile: http://www.physicsdiet.com/Public.aspx?u=gtpsbert )
    My bike: '08 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3, '08 Red cranks, Neuvation M28 Aero3 wheels
    Just finished: '09 CAAD9 BB30 frameset, Cannondale Hollowgram Si SL cranks, Edge Composites Road 2.0 Fork, '09 Rival groupset, Mavic Ksyrium SL M10 wheels (http://forums.roadbikereview.com/sho...d.php?t=167402)

  24. #24

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    hey Kleh... BTW we're "cyclists", not "bikers". "Bikers" wear leather and put motors on their 2 wheeled contraptions

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoadBikeVirgin
    I bought my bike in November, rainy day, pretty empty shop, and I was given the red carpet treatment. My LBS kept the store open an extra hour while they worked with me on fit, a couple components I wanted changed, etc. I started buying things from there frequently, and do my best to connect with as many of the employees as I can. I even go in and bring them a six pack periodically (after asking them what types of beers they prefer, of course) - especially when I bring my bike in for a tuneup - my bike gets miraculously done that day or the following, even if they have a week backlog.

    When I started going in saying I was getting conflicted information about the frameset I was ordering, they started saying "I wish you'd stop second guessing us and listening to those forums - those guys don't know what they are talking about!" Low and behold, they were wrong - you guys were right

    I also do as much homework as I can before I go in there to buy something. I find the best prices I can online, go in, and ask them for a price match. If they can't match (or get close to it), I'll order online. I think most shops will respect this fact if you're respectful with them when you tell them how you feel about it.

    I'm sorry you had a poor experience. I'd be interested in visiting these shops that you're talking about. I've definitely noticed that the atmosphere's can be completely different! The first shop I went too was just another physical location of the same company - the workers were basically bike commuters in Olympia (to over-simplify). I didn't like the way they dealt with me, the fat guy that just wanted to throw down some cash on a decent Cannondale closeout. When I went to the Tacoma shop, I could tell the majority of the guys were younger, occasional casual racers, beer drinkers, etc. More laid back and I connected with them better.

    I hope you can find a shop with a staff that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. If you're ever in the Puget Sound region of Washington, send me a message. I'll show you an LBS

    -Chris

    P.S. I've also noticed, even at my shop, that most of the sales guys will do what they can to tell you to go a step further - you won't regret it... I think it just all depends on how they try to get that point across to the customer. I wish I had better advice for you, and I certainly hope you're able to find an LBS that's right for you.
    I'm also in Washington. Spokane to be exact.

    I've been in sales long enough to know that first impressions are everything, and I wouldn't expect someone I treated poorly to ever return to my shop. I just didn't know whether this was typical, and I'm glad to know it's not. I did find a third shop in my area I'll check out tomorrow.

    Thanks for all the responses. I really didn't mean to turn this into an LBS bashing thread, but have been so frustrated by them lately that I needed to make sure I was the only one.

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