What Happens When We Get It Wrong


As H.I. McDunnough once said, "These are the salad days". Great projects rolling in, even in the dead of winter. Fantastic customers and a vibrant staff that has me constantly smiling on the inside.

When things go well, everyone is all smiles. However, the true measure of a company is how it reacts when things go bad. We recently had a situation where we were asked to do something specific. Through a series of miscommunications, this was not achieved, and a customer was less than thrilled. Our success rate is astronomical (reviews), but every once in awhile, one slips through the cracks. This is the story of Work Order 5528.

A customer brought in his prized 1993 Bridgestone MB-3. For those of you that think Bridgestone is just a tire company, please please please reconsider and have a look at this company's amazing bike lineage. Their 1993 Catalogis basically a work of art. These are the bikes that we as a shop crave to work on, and our reputation for these classics precedes us. We are the shop that handles these types of bikes, hands down.



We have a pretty established and choreographed process for taking bikes in to be worked on, and we pride our selves on our communication. This interaction has to be top-notch between mechanics and with the customer.

To generalize the story, the customer came in with a list of things he wanted to be checked out and repaired, and with the specific request for us to retain all of the original parts from his classic bike. The bike passed through a number fo hands, and eventually the main message had gotten lost, We replaced the brakes, but upon return of his bike, we had misplaced the originals.

We have procedures in place to ensure customer requests get passed along, and we return old parts as a matter of habit. In this situation, this fell apart, and in the end its my responsibility. I have learned that throwing employees "under the bus", especially in front of customers, is childish and short-sighted. Here is a Yelp example of this, written by a bike shop owner (bike shop to remain nameless):

"Hey, I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience. We just fired the very mechanic your (sic) talking about. I'm really upset to hear about his surly attitude. I'll warranty the repair 100%, schedule a time to bring the bike back and give us one more chance. At least that mechanic isn't here anymore, He was rude to a lot of people when I wasn't around. I'll comp you two more new tires and we can talk smack about him during installation. Email me at...and we'll set this up...."

This achieves nothing in terms of repairing the relationship with the customer and at the same time does nothing to constructively work on the scenario in the shop. We try to deal with those issues internally, but to the customer I take the hit in terms of the shop as a whole. We all failed, not just mechanic x, y and z.

So, how was this resolved? In addition to comping the work on this customer's bike, we ripped the shop apart looking for his brakes (Dia Compe 986 cantilevers). Once we determined they were nowhere to be found, I went on Ebay and found a NOS (new old stock) pair from 1993, still in the box. As you can imagine, they werent cheap.


The customer was upset but at the same time seemed to appreciate our honesty and commitment to fixing the situation. I contacted him every few days to update him, as opposed to hoping the situation would just go away.

Situations like this, where I need to get directly involved to make a situation better, happen infrequently, as I have the best staff in NYC. However, things happen and none of us are infallible. In these cases, hitting the situation honestly, swiftly and head-on in the best policy.

Anyone can smile through the good times; how a company handles adversity is what defines them.