March 2, 2005

    I recently bought a bike and before I test rode it felt fine. But after I bought it my knee started to hurt.
    I had this problem before with a bike I bought and was able to return it. But the next day I called the bike shop owner and told him what happened. He told me that he could change the gear ratio but not refund me my money because there was not a defect in the bike—the problem was with me. But the geometry of the bike is what’s making my knee hurt and the bike is my size.
    I called the owner of a different bike shop (which I should have gone to first) and asked him about his return policy. He said he usually gives a customer a week to return a bike. If there is a nick in the paint job he charges a 15 percent restocking fee, which seems reasonable.
    Another thing: On my receipt there is no policy on returns or exchanges or even one in the store. When I asked the owner if he had a policy in writing he said no, but said he can write one for me. That’s B.S. After my call he probably printed one up. He is acting like an asshole and wants to keep his sale because it is the winter and it’s slow.
    I am frustrated and am trying to look for a way to get my money back. It's been two days now and the bike has only been ridden for one hour tops. I can literally eat off of it, it’s so new.
    Is there any consumer organization I can contact to help me, or do I have to get legal help?
    I don’t even want to give my business to this guy now. Why should he get my money after performing bad business practices? I am sick and tired of business owners thinking that consumers have no rights when it come to things like this. Please, any info would help.

Keith U.

    I find that most business owners don’t want to get the bad reputation that comes from regularly screwing customers.
    On the other hand, I know how impatient I can get when I perceive a merchant has given me bad service. In these cases, I find it works best to take a deep breath, smile, then go in for the kill.
    Uh, not that last part. I suggest you try these steps:
    1. Ask yourself: What would it take for this shop to satisfy me? Possibilities include: getting the current bike set up so it doesn’t hurt you; getting a different size of the same model but fitted so it doesn’t hurt; getting a completely different bike; and getting a refund. Seeing as you wanted the bike to begin with, I urge you to carefully consider the first two options.
    2. Go in person with the bike to the store and talk to the manager or owner. Tell them what you want and ask them what it would take to give it to you. Show that you’ll work with them—not just call them assholes and storm out (which rarely has the power to persuade anyone, I find).
    If you really just wanna ditch the bike and not shop there any more, suggest things that might help them give you a refund. For example, what if they inspect the bike to make sure the next person "can literally eat off of it"? Or what if you let them deduct five percent of the refund?
    If such reasonable approaches fail, as a last resort you might turn to your state’s consumer protection services. I see you hail from Illinois, which has such services in the attorney general’s office.
    You now know that, in the future, before making big-ticket purchases it helps to know a merchant’s refund and warrantee policies.
    Finally, a variety of little things can cause knee problems while bicycling, and you can fix many of them very easily. You might just want to try them before you go much farther with any bike purchase. Ask the dealer or see my book’s chapter on equipment.

Mr Bike

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