I have a friend… let’s call him 'Steve'.
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Steve wants to buy a bike. Steve would like to get a new bike with the latest technology and engineering, something really up to date. So Steve carefully watches videofeeds from the brands, and reads all the first rides over the summer to work out which bike he wants.
It’s a whole chunk of cash, so Steve wants to make sure he gets the right bike for him, and is careful in his research.
When the bike is finally available to buy, a few months after the initial media launch, Steve hunts round for a demo event so he can give it a proper test. There aren’t many around. Luckily for Steve, he lives near a retailer that offers a demo fleet and happens to have a bike in his size, so he pays a deposit and takes it out for a ride.
There are other bikes Steve wants to test, so although he likes this one, he doesn’t want to make a snap decision without trying the others. So Steve does a few more demo rides and finally decides on the bike for him.
But when he comes to order it, the first lot of stock is already sold out or allocated. He can’t get what he wants. So he orders a bike for the next stock influx, due to come in in about two months' time.
This took most of the autumn, it’s spring now, and summer is fast approaching. Steve is keen to ride but won’t have his new bike in for a while. He also wants to ride it for a specific event, and the arrival date is quite close to the event date. Will the bike arrive in time?
It does — relief! And Steve has a great time riding the bike at the event, safe in the knowledge he made the right decision.
Two weeks later, Steve is reading his favourite online bike websites, when he sees there is a new version of the bike he has just bought, with some interesting upgrades, coming out.
Steve feels a little hard done by. If he’d been able to get the bike when he’d first decided on it, he’d have had most of a year of riding on it, so maybe wouldn’t have felt that his new, expensive bike was about to become… last year’s news.
Steve is a little bummed out.
Okay, this is a fictional story, and a worse-case tale, but it’s cobbled together from the experiences of many people I’ve met and heard about and it's happened with a number of different brands.
Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to actually get your hands on the bike you so desperately want.
To be fair, it’s usually with bikes that are a little more niche that this arises — those from more boutique brands, or in less popular sizes — though it can also happen where a model from a big brand has proven more popular than expected.
And yes, I understand that ordering, making and shipping a huge quantity of bikes takes time.
And yes, there may well be extenuating circumstances.
But it’s immensely frustrating from the customer’s point of view, and it seems like, for some brands, that clearly communicating the lead time or the reasons for the delay is a problem they haven’t quite got to grips with.
Is this story all too familiar with you? Have you been through this all before? And what do you reckon the solution is? Let us know in the comments section below…
Main image: Flickr Creative Commons Alex E. Proimos