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Retailers should test the ID before allowing a test ride

Published March 19, 2020

Editor's note: A version of this story ran in the March issue of BRAIN, part of our series of articles about smash and grab thefts.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — A typical busy Saturday during the spring will challenge even the most organized bike retailer’s staff. 

That fussy customer who needs extra help finding the right helmet.

The guy dropping off a bike that requires a lot of service and subsequent lengthy check-in.

The woman standing off the side who needs a tube from the shop.

In the middle of this, a customer wants to test ride a bike or two. A license and credit card typically are required, and if retailers aren’t careful, they could let that bike walk out never to be returned because of fraudulent identification.

Detective Rob Brunt of the Vancouver Police Department said he emphasizes to retailers the need to be especially careful when handling test rides no matter how busy the store is.

“You need to educate your staff to engage the customer,” Brunt said. It (test ride theft) is on the upswing. I’ve been on the job 24 years, and it’s something that we are starting to become more familiar with.”

Scott Chapin, a bicycle industry risk specialist for Marsh & McLennan Agency, said a lot of carriers don’t cover test ride theft. Marsh & McLennan uses insurance coverage originally designed for auto and motorcycle dealers.

“A lot of shops don’t verify the credit card is real; they don’t get a copy of the ID,” Chapin said. “I’ve had shops that had a very high-end bike go out on a test ride and never return and then they look, ‘Oh, jeepers, the credit card and ID don’t even have the same name on it.’ And that’s a crazy common claim for us. That’s why we added the coverage because it was excluded. That’s something I see shops not doing a good job with.”

In addition to looking closely at the ID, Brunt recommends asking the customer to recite address and birthday. 

“I know a lot of stores are running the (credit) card and putting a deposit on it,” Brunt said. “If the card is stolen, it will come back with a hit instantly. A little inconvenient for the customer, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.”

Bryan Hance, co-founder of bike registration service Bike Index, said quality fake IDs from China for $20 are commonplace.

“A lot of these shops will post their stolen bikes but will not post the circumstances, and I’ll email them. ‘Hey, what happened?’ and it’s a bike stolen from a test ride,” Hance said. “It used to be a lot harder and more difficult to get at least passable fake IDs, whereas now you can go on a website and it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.”

Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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