Sunday, August 26, 2007

Retail Hell: Buying a Bike

I just had an interesting experience, trying to buy a bicycle from "Toys R Us." Anna insisted on getting me a new bicycle for the 5th anniversary of our first date, and we started browsing on the internet. We found a nice bike, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, and wrote down the model number, SKU, etc. Next, we called the local Toys R Us store, to see if they had it in stock. I was hung up on 3 times before I found out that "no, we don't have it."

I had bought a cheap bike from them years ago, which fell apart 6 months after I bought it. The bike I was trying to buy now was more expensive, and made by Chrysler. I was told by a manager candidly that the bike I bought was junk, but they had better bikes, after the fact, of course. So, I gave Toys R Us another try, 6 years later.

Anna and I were already planning to go to the Green Acres mall, not far from that Toys R Us, and I suggested we go there, and ask if they could order the bike for us. As we walked into the bicycle area, the bicycle department employee was briskly walking away. Anna said "he saw us coming, and got the hell out, instead of helping us," and she was right. We looked for a rain tarp to put over the bike, but they didn't have any. In fact, they didn't have many bikes, either.

None of the bikes on their rack had fenders or chain guards, which are my two major requirements. There was a workstation with a PC, and I joked that I should use it to order the bike, because there was no one around to help us. We decided to head toward the customer service desk, or find an employee who could help us.

Crossing the front area, I asked a young male employee for help. I asked him "can you order this bike for me?" He said "no," and started walking away as fast as he could. I called to him, getting progressively louder until I hit the lower end of USMC volume. At that point, all the cashiers could hear me saying "Sir, who can I talk to?" He stopped, and pointed to the customer service desk, "with a look of exasperation on his face," according to Anna.

We were lucky enough to encounter the manager at the customer service desk, who informed us that the bike was only available online. He said I could get it shipped to my house, and then bring it to the store to be assembled, for 15 dollars (plus tax). We ended up going this route. I ordered it online, and it arrived on my doorstep from UPS, without me signing anything (a clear violation of UPS' rules, I might add).

I called Toys R Us to make sure that I could get my bike assembled there. I asked "can I get it done today?" The lady said "yes," and nothing more. It cost 16 bucks plus a tip for the cab over there, with the box, but I figured I'd ride the bike home, allowing 3 or 4 hours to assemble the bike. NOT.

The first thing they said at the customer service desk, after I brought the box in, was "tomorrow, after 5 PM." I work from 4 PM -midnight, so this meant 2 days. At this point, I was in no mood to argue. I thanked them all for their help, got a 9 dollar (plus tip) cab home, and took a nap before work.

I went to pick up my new bicycle today. It has a dent in the front fender, and some of the plastic nuts have been replaced by metal ones. I didn't bother making an issue of it, because it rides like a new bike, and it looks cool. Interestingly enough, though it's a Chrysler PT Cruiser model bicycle, it's made in China. Anna and I were both disappointed to find this out.

I have to raise the seat, as all the Toys R Us mechanics were off duty when I picked it up, but other than that, it was a fun 2 1/2 mile ride home. Let's see how well it holds up, because I am a notorious bike-beater. I ride alot, when I have a bike. I'm going to try to take good care of this one, because it's new, and a gift from Anna. Still, it was made in China, so I'm worried about the quality.

I thought the service at the store was atrocious.Toys R Us might also think of delivering online merchandise to a store, to be assembled and picked up by the customer. The culture I saw in the store was one of running away from the responsibilty of doing one's job, so they may not be up to the task. This is no way to run a business, and I know how NOT to run a business, from personal experience!

I'll take a photo as soon as I get the seat at the right height, and angle, but I like the bike, even with the low seat. I look like I'm a "low rider" with my arms fully extended as I stretch toward the back part of the "comfort" seat. I thought I broke some of the springs on the ride home, but it was a false alarm. Cross your fingers.