Buying cycling products online can appear to save you a fair bit of money when examined at face value. After all, bikes, wheels, lights and clothing can often be found cheaper in another corner of the world. But what if we change the focus to overall cost over a period of time rather than purely the price each individual item?
A few years ago I decided to scrap online shopping. I wanted to feel more connected to my local bike shop and have that good feeling of supporting the local retailer. Little did I know that years later I would be reflecting on the decision, with an unexpected outcome:
I’d spent less money over the 24-month period I’d been shopping at my local bike shop, than I had when shopping online over the same period.
The light bulb moment came when my $80 front light stopped working. I’d been using it for about 18 months and all of a sudden it died. On my next visit to my local store I took the light in to understand if it was still under warranty. I didn’t have the receipt and it had been a long time since purchase so my expectations were low. I walked in, and within minutes I was walking back out with a brand new light at no cost. No receipt, no warranty concern, no questions. I just swapped it over and I was out the door.
At home, I was intrigued to understand what warranty the light had. It was actually under a 12-month warranty, yet my local shop Hampton Cycles didn’t care about a timing factor – it was more about providing empathy to a customer and demonstrating the real value of customer service. It’s now been 3 years since I’ve had to buy a light for my bike. I also like the look of the light – it suits my bike nicely. I can’t say the same for the previous lights I’ve purchased.
Another consideration when buying online – the look, the feel and the fit may be different to how it appears on a web page.
What’s the cost of buying a bike online which you don’t really enjoy riding in the flesh? What’s the cost of buying a set of carbon wheels that don’t seem to match the aesthetics of your ride? These items sit in the garage, shed, or back room, gathering dust. You may end up buying something else, doubling up on a purchase!
I had a number of wheels in my shed at one stage courtesy of this scenario. I was also left feeling guilty when I directed any questions about items I had purchased online with a local operator. They hadn’t sold these things to me, so why should they provide their expertise and advice because I wanted a convenient and trustworthy answer to my question?
To flip the coin, I am sure there are many out there who may have experienced mainly positive things with online shopping. They know their products, they know their fit and reliability has not been an issue. Online shopping can also offer a reasonable level of service, with facilities to send items back that have not worked out or with an online chat facility to answer any questions you have.
If you’re anything like me, however, you want to deal with a person face to face, see the product in the flesh and know that your purchase meets your needs. Those three things combined have created a lower cost option for me, which solidify my preference to support the local bike shop.