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Retail Ray Still in 'Puppy Dog' Phase

Published July 31, 2009

I'm working one day a week on the sales floor this summer. Everyone I tell who also works retail wonders why. Everyone who used to work retail and now churns out product or press releases totally gets why.

For those of you who are still in retail (so the story goes), you don’t know how lucky you are. You get to work with budding enthusiasts every day. You get the personal satisfaction of turning people on to cycling.

Seeing them come back six months later, 50 pounds lighter, and looking to give you a hug for changing their lives. We on the Supply Side sorely miss that.
Of course, most folks who worked retail in their youth couldn’t wait to escape and start climbing the Industry Ladder. To quote The Bard of Saskatchewan, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

The guys at Bicycle Village in Boulder have been great to work with. They’ve been very patient about all my dumb questions, occasionally impressed (like last week when I re-tapered a cotter pin with a mill file to get a Peugeot UO-8’s crankarms back to parallel).

There are the occasional eye-rolls. Typical repair shop situation: A 12-year-old kid comes in for a tube, the mechanic asks if he wants us to install it, the kid says, “Nope, I’ll save the six bucks, can I borrow some tools?” Then he plops down on the floor right in front of the counter. Sheesh.

Ordinarily, I would shun this kid with the rest of the guys. Let him use Allen wrenches for tire levers and see how many tubes we can sell him.
Not me. I’m still in the Puppy Dog phase. Down on the floor with him. “Hey, let me help you with that, dude. My name’s Ray, what kind of bike is this from? You ride much? Oh yeah, where?  Here, try these tire levers, no sharp edges.”

Quickly enough, the kid’s aired up and out the door. Not exactly a customer-for-life opportunity. Knowing Boulder kids, he probably expected free help.

Just another case of the kind of GRE (genuine retail enthusiasm) we’d all like to see more of in America, whichever side of the counter we inhabit. Hope mine lasts through the back-to-school rush…

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