Leprosy, Losing Customers, and How to Kick Ass

hey baby - does that rash go all the way up?I’m getting ready to move to Boulder, Colorado — as of yesterday, it’s only 2 short weeks till I load up the truck. Why the move? Because I love being outdoors. I want to roll out my front door every morning on my bike and ride for hours. Which is exactly what I did on Sunday this week in the company of my friend Jenn Fields (or, as she is better known, Mrs. Kittens). We were out for a good 3.75 hours and halfway through the ride, we remarked about how warm it was getting. Back at the car, the temp showed 96 degrees (and dammit all if we weren’t 2 degrees away from a shitty boy band). I downed my recovery drink and pointed the car back to Denver.

And then I noticed the leprosy. (note: now’s a good time to view the mouse-over text on the post photo, h/t Julie Angle)

A bizarre rash was developing like Polaroid film on my thighs. Huh. I wrote it off. By evening (we finished riding around noon), I was in full-on weltsville. Hives. Totally gross. Finally, calls to mom (who knows everything) and an email exchange with my doc ruled out everything from allergic reactions to sunscreen to detergent sensitivity. Seems that it’s a photosensitive reaction to a B-12 supplement I took (for the first time EVER) on Sunday morning. That supplement now resides in the trash. Don’t ever take THIS STUFF and go out in the sun lots, mkay? Mkay.

So, the good news? NO LEPROSY! But the incident did prompt me to ponder that a leper colony might be the only place where your date is more likely to fall apart before your relationship…

The bad news? That’s not the end of the bike shenanigans. In fact, it’s really where our story begins.

I love bicycles. I would spoon a bike if it weren’t such a cold, hard (heh) lover and god knows, the chain lube (heh) would seriously fuck up my sheets. I road bike, was pretty diligent about track cycling for about 3 years (Scarlet the Track Bike is now for sale), and my friend Doyle has done all he can to inflict serious potential harm to my financial well-being by introducing me to downhill mountain biking and NOW cross-country mountain biking.

Shit, shit, shit.

Since I don’t own a XC mountain bike, I have to rent them. So about a month ago, I called up University Bikes in Boulder and reserved a mountain bike for the day. WOO!

Losing Customers

I was jazzed. Bike ANYTHING jazzes me. Doyle drove us up to Heil Ranch outside of Boulder and we went at it. Brutal work (especially since I hate pedaling uphill and prefer the chair lift), but exhilarating nonetheless. It started drizzling while we were out and the trail got muddy. I decided to do what I do best and bomb back down the trail, not so sure of my bike handling skills on wet rocks and the sort. And damn, it was fun. So, we brought the rental bike back to the Ubikes when done. They checked it out to make sure I hadn’t launched it off a cliff.

And then informed me they’d be charging me a “cleaning fee.”

Huh? I asked them to explain.

They said that there was mud/dirt in the calipers…blah blah blah. I explained that it was a mountain bike. It gets dirty.

Then, here’s the kicker – the guy standing there holding his coffee while he detachedly explained all of this to me said, “We don’t recommend that people take the bikes out when it’s raining or muddy.”

My response, “Was I supposed to ride it in a parking lot?”

He didn’t have a response.

I said the hell with it. Charge me. Turned out to be $10. I had a very sick pet so I needed to haul ass back to Denver.

How to Kick Ass

The following weekend, Doyle and I decided to head out to Betasso and give me another go at the whole XC mountain bike thing. Rest assured, I wasn’t going to call Ubikes. So I called Full Cycle to reserve a demo bike. I asked them:

Are you going to charge me if I bring the bike back dirty?

The guy on the other end of the phone said, “What?”

I told him the story of my dirty mountain bike the weekend prior at the other shop. Here’s what the guy on the phone told me:

“Umm, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I want you to take the bike out, ride the hell out of it, and maybe bring it back a little scratched up.”

A much better answer. So I did. Save the scratches. I did ride the hell out of it. It was a better bike (so posh!), lighter, and even spent some time with the guy at the shop when I got back asking questions about getting my hands on one of them. Specs. Details.

So How Do Leprosy, Losing Customers, and Kicking Ass all Come Together?

When you’re passionate about something — whether it be bikes, motorcycles, fishing, football, gardening — think about what you’re willing to endure to get from where you are to where you want to go. I have a raging rash on my legs from mixing B vitamins and a long as hell road ride. I put on body armor and ride ski lifts to run a bike down a mountain at about 30 miles an hour through trees and over rocks. I ride through the damn rain, soaked to the bone, to learn how to XC mountain bike, loving every minute of it. When you love something, there is nothing that will keep you from it — leprosy, rain, dirt, or even moderate levels of inconvenience.

A $10 charge didn’t just ruin my day that was previously filled with fuck yeah — it lost a customer flush with cash and full of passion. $10 was the difference between not only a repeat rental customer, but also a future purchase in the range of $1700 to $3000. Full Cycle wanted me to enjoy riding the bike because happy bike freaks spend money. And Ubikes — tons of people I know have great experiences as a customer there (which is why I went there in the first place). But they didn’t want me to enjoy the bike. They wanted the $10 for bringing something back dirty that’s supposed to get dirty in the first place.

Not only was Full Cycle $10 less for the daily rental (well, $20 after the “cleaning fee”), I spent another $40+ in retail merchandise on my way out of the store. They’ve earned a customer for the long haul — and they’ll be seeing my road bike in soon for a tune-up.

The Bottom Line on the Nickel-and-Dime

Nobody goes to work for free in the morning — myself included. So we charge for the work we do. Which is right and just and makes unicorns everywhere hump with glee (which goes miles towards repopulating the dwindling unicorn population, might I add). But take a look at your billing practices: do you nickel and dime? Because that nickel might be costing you a whole lot more than you think.

Sometimes absorbing a charge is the difference between a referral and losing a customer. Sometimes a bit of time is the difference between a one-time fly-by and a post written about your company by a blogger who’s a columnist for a national magazine with over 10,000 blog subscribers, 20k+ Twitter followers, and nearly 7k rabid Facebook fans saying that your company is the HIZZY. And it doesn’t matter who I am or how many folks read my shit, frankly. What matters is that you do good business. And sometimes, good business is asking, “If I charge this, what could it cost me?”

$10? Fuck it. Run my card and watch me walk out the door. Because I’ll go to your competitor where I’ll spend over $100 all said and done when I walked in to spend $50. And then I’ll bring them my road bike. And eventually, I’ll buy a mountain bike. Then you’ll get to service my downhill bike for $400 per season. And I’ll buy a water bottle. And Booda Butter (which ROCKS and is made in Golden, CO — the best thing ever to put on ink!). And a snack. And…

Yeah. The nickel-and-dime? I get it. The economy is tight. Bills have to be paid. But sometimes, not charging $10 can make you a whole lot more than if you’d actually charged it. It’s the difference between unpopular and unlikeable — and maybe I just wrote a book on the concept. Knowhatimsayin’?

So here — the floor is yours. Have you lost business when you could have (and wanted to) keep it? How have you made concessions in order to keep your customers happy? Let’s have it. And yes, drop links into the damn comments. They’ll be held for moderation, but I’ll approve them.

But before we go, I thought this was an amusing story about how businesses get peeved at bloggers for honest, yet not entirely favorable, reviews. Black Swan, anyone? (hat tip, Scott Stratten for the link) Not everyone is ever going to like what you do, but what you can do is thank them for giving you a shot and keep your ears open for ways you can better serve the people who are looking for what you have to offer. YUH.

83 replies
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      I did tweet them on Twitter and let them know. Full Cycle as well. Not so much stupid, as I pointed out to Stacey. I’m hoping it’s a matter of an employee doing what they were told and management seeing this and going — yeah. We need to rethink that cleaning fee, especially when I rented a downhill bike ALL last season and Winter Park never charged be for getting the damn thing dirty 🙂

  1. Lou
    Lou says:

    So, I haven’t finished the BitchSlap yet but… um, yeah sorry about this… You have AWESOME thighs… (I am lecherous) (However, you are leprous… so there!)

  2. Bombdigity702
    Bombdigity702 says:

    I’ve got a really weird rash on the inside of my arms that I can’t figure out where it came from!  After reading this, I’m wondering if I’ve had a similar reaction because 2 days before the rash showed up I started taking Super B Complex supplements!!  How long did it take for your rash to go away?

  3. Stacey Hood
    Stacey Hood says:

    First off, glad you don’t have leprosy. It’s funny how companies can’t see any further than what’s right in front of them. I can guarantee you that the guy didn’t think that you would possibly be a returning customer when he charged you $10. But now they lost a customer for life and they will suffer from the WOM that you will be laying down. Idiots. 

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      I don’t think it’s idiocy. I think it comes down to empowering employees and training everyone to look out for the customer and think of every customer as long-term, y’know? (Also – pretty stoked I don’t have leprosy)

  4. Sshooter38
    Sshooter38 says:

    I went to Hotel  ZaZa and thought there customer service was superb. But when I asked about their dog policy I was told they had  NONREFUNDABLE  $250 deposit. If you don’t return it don’t try to disguise it by calling it a deposit. Minor I know, but still deceptive.

  5. Aaron DeLay
    Aaron DeLay says:

    I’ve had similar experiences and it makes me chuckle.  There are plenty of smaller/bigger businesses ready to prove how much better they can serve you across the board…and they’re hungry for your business.  The other ones forget you’re a human being – someone who has passion and a love for whatever they might be selling.  Engage the passion and take a moment to get to know the customer – because once you do you’ve got a new best friend who will trust you and spend money because you’ve decided the customer is worth spending time and effort on – and maybe taking a small loss is worth the return business.  Nobody has a monopoly on their market. Denver and the metro area is a big city with hundreds of places fighting for a market share.  A lesson I take away from your story – don’t ever give up that fight.  The war is won and lost on battles for customers every day.  And most of those customers have a voice on twitter, blogs or with friends.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      This? Yes, this. Thanks, Aaron. “Nobody has a monopoly on their market. Denver and the metro area is a big city with hundreds of places fighting for a market share.  A lesson I take away from your story – don’t ever give up that fight.  The war is won and lost on battles for customers every day.  And most of those customers have a voice on twitter, blogs or with friends.”

  6. Jenny Floria
    Jenny Floria says:

    Love this perspective, E. What’s the long haul impact of pleasing a customer? Screw the $10. 

    I hope you are using copious amounts of cortisone cream on your red, welty thighs. That actually looks like a heat rash, to be honest. I got one from going inline skating for 2 hours in 90-degree weather. Not fun.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Funny thing is that it doesn’t itch. I’m using tea tree oil and that’s helping. But they definitely think it’s a B-12 + boatloads of sunshine photosensitive reaction…either way, I’ve still got that slot at the leper colony on hold 😉

  7. Ellen Berg
    Ellen Berg says:

    Love this.  It’s the lost art of customer service wherein we, the customer, are supposed to kiss their asses for existing.  Unfortunately (for them), the economy tanked and people are pickier about spending those dollah bills.  Right now the places that give me good service and make feel welcome are the ones that get my repeat business.  Indifferent?  Well, you can suck it since you have so many others beating down the door.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      People become parts of brands that make them feel respected, not like a dollar sign. And proof – I will always pay more for the exact same thing from a business where I love walking through the door.

  8. John Heaney
    John Heaney says:

    Thanks for introducing me to an entirely new way to precipitate road rash without actually introducing gravel into the equation. 

    As a consultant, I never nickel and dime, even when my contract allows me to. Can I charge you for the 15 miles and parking? Yes, I’m allowed to, but what’s my return on the $10.50 invoice? A reminder that after committing to thousands of dollars that my focus isn’t the big picture but the inconsequential one. Fuck it, I’ll eat the $10 and also spring for lunch so we have a room full of shiny happy people all excited about the project, not dreading the cost.

    Funny, but I know the blogger here in Cleveland who posted about Barre Cleveland and their attempt to commit social media suicide. It was the fodder for today’s Orange Envelopes post (shameless plug) at http://ht.ly/bGiCG I’m pretty certain that blog posts should not incite knocks on your door followed by an officer reciting “You have the right to remain silent.”

  9. Kim
    Kim says:

    Looks to me like you get a heat rash from the elastic on bicycling shorts just like I do.  Try smearing  BodyGlide Anti-Friction Skin Formula on your thighs before cycling – problem solved!

  10. Downing Street
    Downing Street says:

    No road biking here but definitely full downhill. The get-dirty and keep-your-shit-from-going-over-the-handlebars kind. Let me know if you want to hit up Keystone sometime for a day of downhill. They DON’T charge for dirty bikes and the beers afterwards make your bruises feel better. 

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      We hit up Winter Park pretty often in the summer, so yeah, I’d love to try Keystone – saw they just opened! Drop me a line on the contact form. I’m down. And thanks! Also: endo = bad. Dirt = good.

  11. Walker Thornton
    Walker Thornton says:

    I’m always amazed at business owners who forget that the customer is the main, nay ONLY reason they are in business. I’ve worked retail on and off for years and I see it all the time. It’s a great lesson, unfortunately the people who most need to hear it aren’t open to the conversation!

  12. John Heaney
    John Heaney says:

    Oh, and one more thing… although I am loathe to admit it in print, I have a fashion addiction. I own an embarrassingly large collection of suits, jackets, shirts, pants and accoutrements lovingly crafted for me from virtually every stylish designer from Armani to Zegna. How bad is my addiction? The best part of my divorce was getting custody of a second custom walk-in closet.

    So, you can imagine how longingly the salesmen at my local men’s shop look at me as I approach their door. I am their ideally profiled customer, and they know it.  Which is why I haven’t spent a dime on custom tailoring in over 15 years.  

    I can bring in any item that I own, or even that my son or my girlfriend owns, and they will make any alternation that I request and never ask me to pay. I could have bought a suit at Saks, a pair of pants from Nordstrom or a jacket from Boss and they’ll make sure that it fits me perfectly. For free.

    I’ve certainly made offers to pay for their tailoring services. I know how much tailors charge and recognize that their time and effort should be compensated, but they always refuse my entreaties.  Because they know the real ROI of $12 that they could have charged for hemming a pair of pants: thousands of dollars in new clothing sales.

    Yep, if I bring in a suit coat to have the sleeves shortened a half-inch, they’ll take the opportunity to show me a new Armani jacket that just arrived, or something in orange linen from Ike Behar. They’ll invariably convert a minor expense into a sale while reaffirming their role as my go-to clothing guys. How much is that personal commitment worth? They’ve done the math and know that their investment in keeping my wardrobe fitting perfectly is returned at least 100x in sales. Pretty good ROI if you ask me.

  13. JosephRatliff
    JosephRatliff says:

    That kind of stuff freaks me out when it happens to me (unexplained rash etc…).  Glad to hear it was only a B12 reaction.

    Loved the tie – together for the article Erika… creative 🙂

  14. Ted Fickes
    Ted Fickes says:

    While this may not be the case for Full Cycle (good for them), why is that bike shops tend to be staffed by pompous jerks who mask their ignorance of bike and bike products behind a seething disdain for other humans who enter their shop looking to spend a great deal of money there? Lovely post with a great point. Bummer about the rash. Eww.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      I don’t go to bike shops like that. Bikes are bikes. I like ’em. I wanna ride ’em. I go to shops that make me feel good about wanting to ride bikes. Period.

  15. Ed Mahoney
    Ed Mahoney says:

    I think you should have linked university bikes to a URL like the wiki entry for idiots rather than to their actual web site.  

  16. James Taylor
    James Taylor says:

    This reminds me of cool kids cliques. Recently  was talking to a friend about cool cliques, bike shops can be that way, a little stand-offish, but really nice if they know you. As a former Colorado resident, I remember getting all kinds of inside deals that “gapers” would not get.  Everyone in service jobs back in the 1990’s treated tourists as rubes.
    You are so right about how today bad service can have huge repercussions. Best Buy is a good example. Anyone with internet knows how bad the service is in many Best Buy stores, they still wonder why people shop them and go buy online. In that case, people are deciding, “if I can’t get service or easy returns, I might as well buy online!”

    Yours is a great lesson in Street Level Marketing. Making someone feel like a rube tourist will have ramifications for their business…

  17. Customcranium
    Customcranium says:

    I’d love to know what other people doing what I do charge for repairs and such, but there aren’t any other people doing what I do 😛
    I do offer a buy-back service and free repairs for life. I guess that’s why I have a fan club. Always learn something from you, even if it’s confirmation i’m already doing the right thing. That’s more valuable to me than money.

  18. Erica Allison
    Erica Allison says:

    A to the men! What I’m running into is a whole bunch of new clients who were screwed by the nickel and dime mentality. Now, I’m working against the legacy of those fab marketing agencies who nickeled and dimed their way right out of a contract with said client, leaving me with clients asking “am I going to be charged for this phone call” or this meeting, or this text? For heaven’s sake, sometimes a person’s just gotta talk and by listening, we as the agency or consultant can heaven forbid, do our jobs better.

    Stop it already. Give great service. Charge a fair, and appropriate fee for that service. Let some things just be part of the package.

  19. Bill Dorman
    Bill Dorman says:

    Are those legs shaved?……..

    You can be right, and you can be dead right. My world of commercial insurance has many instances where back and forth transactions involve discrepancies of monies billed and collected. I always try to put myself in the shoes of the customer and ask myself how I would feel if somebody is trying to collect this $37.15 and what were their reasonable expectations? 

    Just like the bike shop lost a customer, I have seen brokers fired (or not rehired) for essentially the same exact thing. 

    Good luck on your move and the biking; hopefully those wildfires stay away. 

  20. NikkiGroom
    NikkiGroom says:

    Businesses drive me bonkers when they don’t take the time to demonstrate an impeccable level of customer service . . . and so often this comes down to the PEOPLE YOU EMPLOY. Sure, in this instance, the nickel and diming was damn ludicrous, but the delivery would have at least eased the blow A BIT. The way you described him just standing there, without a decent explanation, as though he had never even ridden a bike in his whole life, nonchalantly dismissing your grievance — BADBADBAD. Makes me MAD (Incredible Hulkette style.)

  21. NikkiGroom
    NikkiGroom says:

     PS. I hope they had the foresight to set up a Google Alert for their company name. “Hi” *waves* — maybe, I dunno, waive your poxy $10 cleaning fee (what’s that involve anyway, a glob of spit and an old cloth?)

  22. Annie Sisk
    Annie Sisk says:

    E., I think this might be my favorite post of yours ever, of all-time, in the history of FOREVER. (Did I make that clear enough?) I LOVE that story about the bikes, and I think I’m more than a little in love with the Full Cycle guy (call me, maybe?) … now to go brainstorm how to apply this in my own biz … and how my clients can apply it in their businesses too…

  23. Jessica Downing
    Jessica Downing says:

    Full Cycle was one of the few things I liked about living in Boulder… The other was apres at the Med. yum. 

  24. Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
    Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 says:

    This post reminds me of story I heard  about a restaurant in San Francisco that just brings big ass jugs of wine to your table, and when you’re finished they trust you to tell them how many glasses you had.

    Most business owner’s knee-jerk reaction to this is, “What The Hell? You’re gonna rely on them drunk and thieving customers to tell you the truth!?! SHEEEEEIIIIIIT! Not me. They’ll drink me pour, eh, poor.”

    That was basically the person interviewing the restaurant owner’s attitude, “Aren’t you worried (softener word for SCARED) that you’re gonna be taken advantage of!?!”

    And the owner said, “Let em. If the line to get in ever stops going out and around the block, maybe I’ll consider doing something different. In the mean time I’m going to let this tactic keep filling this place up.”

    Too many people in business have the wrong mindset when it comes to what their customers receive. They act like the majority of the members of the general population who want the best deal for themselves – at the expense of others.

    The people who really kick ass in business, for example Full Cycle, find ways to help their customers feel like they got the better end of the deal. Think about how the bike shop does this – They paid for the bike, they maintain the bike, they store the bike, they wash the bike . . . and I get to come along and enjoy the fuck out of this pristine piece of equipment for a microcosm of the expense they’ve put into it. If I take it back muddy and scratched a little I feel like I kinda took advantage of them.

    And that, I believe is the sweet spot. You want the deal to be so value-loaded that the customer feels like they’re taking advantage of your “kindness” otherwise known as “good business sense” and feel a little indebted to you, anxious to do it again, and excited to tell other people how they can take “advantage” of you as well.

    This “wanting the better end of the deal for ourselves” is so ingrained into us as a society and I thank you Erika for reminding me to snap out of this trance when I put my shop keeper hat on. 🙂

  25. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    Dernit if I haven’t been working all day on this very thing… a client who keeps asking for things that we didn’t agree on in the front end, but that were relatively simple things for me to provide.  I’ve wanted to pull my hair out, but kept thinking how small these things were and it was more important to build trust and a reputation for going the extra mile.  And how I LOVE what I am doing and can’t even believe I’m in this place.  I’m lucky. 

    And now, as our collaboration is at an end, she is ecstatically happy with the end product.   Now, I hope she will spread the word about how I went the extra mile and, in return, will bring more business to my doorstep.  However, I am also  learning how important it is to have a crystal clear understanding up front and a VERY detailed written understanding of expectations… learning as I travel this road, yo. Hives suck.  Hope you are feeling better!  

    • Janine Smith
      Janine Smith says:

       Is the client aware that you (happily) went the extra mile? Otherwise, she might tell potential clients all you did was included in her deal.

      A friend always does something extra for his clients, and makes a point of telling them he did so because they were so delightful to work with and he hopes to work with them again. It’s a nice way to end a project, with a present and a compliment.

  26. Janine Smith
    Janine Smith says:

    Would it have made a difference if they mentioned the possible cleaning fee before you took the bike, um, outside?

    I had an escalating series of bad customer service experiences at  a local computer store. I knew the owners. So I sent them a note that calmly documented what had happened, and finished with “I know this isn’t the superior service you want to give your customers.”

    Two days later: apologetic phone call, many thanks for bringing it to their attention, offer to make things right, and a complete retraining of their staff. They kept a customer, and everyone got better service as a result.

    Unfortunately, most customers won’t take the time to tell you when you’ve let them down. You’ll either get publicly embarrassed or just notice it’s awfully quiet and lonely in your place.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Yes, because I wouldn’t have rented a mountain bike I had to bring back clean. I even mentioned that it wasn’t mentioned to me at rental. They said nothing to that as well. OH – and Full Cycle sent me not one, but TWO emails today, thanking me. Ubikes? Nothing.

  27. Kathy Moore
    Kathy Moore says:

    This was a great post and I totally agree about going the extra mile.  But my question is — how do you tactfully let customers know that you’re giving them stuff for free that you could have charged them for?  And how do you draw the line?  I have a client right now where the nickel-and-dime “extras” have now added up to almost as much as the original contract.  Do I charge for all of that?  Forgive it all?  Somewhere in between?

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Could I be so bold as to say that it’s OUR responsibility to set limits on the hall passes? I don’t know the situation so I can’t really speak intelligently about it, but maybe it’s time to consider what you give, why, and to whom (a conversation I’ve had frequently in my own business).

    • Anna Cummins
      Anna Cummins says:

      Setting the stage before a transaction is made has always been the easiest route for me to take before closing a sale. Transparency is amazing! Be straightforward and what you will find is that more often than not, a customer will be more understanding and follow your lead. 

  28. John Falchetto
    John Falchetto says:

    Man what a way to lose a customer for 10 freaking dollars!!

    It’s amazing how it’s the small things that drive us insane with customer service, and yet we are ready to overlook the big screw ups when they are handled properly.

    People always complain about customer service in France, where the customer is often treated as a painful and disruptive guest rather than, ah, well a customer.

    Still last year I broke the carbon frame of my XC and guess what, even though it was clearly not a manufacture defect, they exchanged it. They gave me a brand new bike (well I kept my wheels).!!!

    How to get a customer for life!

    Now here is a link of a little hill around my backyard, sure it’s not Boulder but it’s still a tough climb

  29. Malgana
    Malgana says:



    Like most of your emails, this dropped into my “inbox” at exactly the right
    time. You somehow give me a kick in the ass or pinch on the cheek (old uncle style)
    when I absolutely need it! Thanks you mountain biking XC champion.

  30. Kate Kunkel
    Kate Kunkel says:

    I can’t even begin to say how many times I’ve made concessions to keep customers happy.  In all the businesses I’ve had, which ranged from a kids’ hair salon (don’t ask) to what I do now, which is harp therapy.

    You can imagine it’s a bit difficult to explain vibroacoustic harp therapy, so I give away a LOT of free demos. And in an effort to get some free advertising, I did one of those Ethical Deal deals, where I got paid $9.50 for an $80 treatment.  But that’s okay, because one of those deal takers was a blogger who just loved the experience.  You can’t buy that kind of publicity, and you can’t pay to get rid of the bad stuff.  http://itsallnewtome.com/2012/04/30/day-61-vibroacoustic-harp-therapy/

    And there’s this doctor that comes in for treatment.  A friend of his who is a friend of mine originally sent him in, and I had given her a deal. She told him what she had paid.  When I told him the real price, I could see he was a bit freaked, but I didn’t want to lose him.  So – I gave him her deal.   Do I lose money on every treatment I give him?  Yes, because I still have to pay rent at the clinic.  But it’s okay, because … he sends me clients.  At least two a month.

    I can remember my Grandma (who was a kick-ass business woman) say that being penny wise usually meant you were pound foolish.  So despite the fact that I don’t get paid in pounds, I hear her voice in my ear every time I’m faced with the choice of “to deal or not to deal”. 

  31. Gini Dietrich
    Gini Dietrich says:

    This is the whole cut your nose off to spite your face phenom. I don’t get it. Never have. But what I do get is the rush you get from riding! It’s a shame we live so far away from one another. I’d be out there every day with you, getting muddy, bloddy, leprosy, and weird cycling tans!

  32. lisagerber
    lisagerber says:

    XC mountain biking makes my heart happy, therefore your post makes me happy (however, not the 10 dollar ding from the short-sighted losers). Can we talk about our emotional connections with our bikes for a minute? Great. 🙂 I was lovingly putting my bike on my car rack Wednesay night and had to laugh. I thought, how can a person truly love an inanimate object so much? I look at that thing like I look at my dogs!

    Businesses that understand that will do well. The ones who don’t understand their customer because their eyes are strained from staring at P and L’s won’t get it. But might do fine anyway because they get enough tourist traffic to their primo location. 🙂

  33. tarable
    tarable says:

    I feel like your experience with University Bikes can be attributed to the tourists and students in town. If you can make money off stupid folks from Texas, then you do it. I’ve seen it happen in coffee shops, restaurants and all over Pearl street. No excuse for it, but as you pointed out, this attitude does not a local favorite store make.

    Great post and nice legs. Can’t wait to see them around Boulder.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      And baby, can’t wait to see YOU around Boulder. It’s been entirely too long and there’s much catching up to be doing. Wanna know what’s awesome? Savvy tourists use the interwebbies to do research. And they find blogs. Like this one. And…whoops — did you lose a customer? You’ll never know because they never walked into your store because they read THIS.

      Funny how the interwebz work. You should check out the RedheadWriting FB page — the GM of Ubikes dropped me a note today. It’s…interesting 🙂

      See you soon!

  34. Corey
    Corey says:

    From my experience working in shops, it is a major time suck to have customers constantly bringing their bikes in for service covered in mud as well as rental bikes coming back all nasty. Not making excuses for them and maybe they could have done a better job up front explaining their rental policies, but I can understand where this policy would come from and needing to draw the line if dirty bikes are affecting your bottom line. And I think there is a lot of pressure on shops to provide their time/services at no charge, so this might be their response to that. But why not just raise the rental price to cover the cleaning….

    He may have made the comment about not riding wet trails because it ruins trails when you bomb back down them and does can do way more damage to a bike than a few scratches.

    Just my two opposing cents.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Hey Corey – thanks for stopping by. And you know what? I would have totally been on board with a “cleaning fee” if anything about it had been explained at the time of rental and not presented as a surprise when I returned the bike after getting caught in a drizzle inadvertently.

      And I’m all about taking care of our trails along WITH the bikes 😉 I see you’re from up in Steamboat — so thanks for being part of this state’s great bike culture. I have yet to ride up there but am confident I’ll get dirty at that elevation sometime soon. If you have suggestions for great intro rides in the region, do tell.

  35. Johnroket
    Johnroket says:

    It must feel powerfull paying out on businesses that aren’t treating you according to your expectations. Even though they have a business model they adhere to.

    You have posted about charging for your time and not working for nothing, to not expect to please everyone all the time and as a small business owner you should know that not every customer is as profitable and to focus on those that are. You have even advised as such.

    Yu are quick to dish out advice that sounds good to read but denigrate those that follow it to your inconvenience.

    You are a cheap fraud.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m a customer who had one bad experience and one good experience and I wrote about both. Profitability has nothing to do with this situation at all — it’s about customer service.

      And everyone is entitled to their opinion — but I guarantee you one thing: I am certainly not a fraud. Cheap? Honey – I’ve been called far worse. And unlike you, I didn’t call anyone names. In fact (should you have taken the time to read through the comments here), I countered many people who DID chose to call names. Not really my style.

      So, in any case, thanks for stopping by. And if you could, would you let me know what “paying out on businesses” means? I’m really not clear.

  36. Danny
    Danny says:

    the nickel and dime shit is totally unacceptable.  i’m a real estate investor and my contractors would diappear in a NY minute if i said, “hey you spent $20 on water for the crew, what’s up?”  i can eat $20 for water for the crew so they are hydrated and refreshed and want to work for me again…ubikes is BS to the nth degree for that crap.  glad you aren’t going to be going back.  i give my guys $10 a day for lunch cause they need to eat and it makes everyone feel good that they get a free lunch.  i hate nickel and diming and the credit card companies are THE worst ever at it
    bike on and be well erika
    millions to be made

  37. Keith
    Keith says:

    Come on up to Winter Park, I’d love to show you around the cross country trails!!!! I’ve been in the ski/bike business for many years. It blows me away of how some of our guests are treated. It doesn’t matter if they are from down the street, Texas (seems popular to poke at them) or another country, always treat everyone the same way you would want to be treated if the rolls were reversed!

  38. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Holy crap, Keith. I spend my summers at Winter Park and I’ll be up this weekend. Where are you at so I can come say hello? I usually schedule everything through Trestle but am always open to saying hello to a new shop and new faces 🙂

  39. Mike Masin
    Mike Masin says:

    Hey, I’m late to this party! I totally get the nickle-dime thing but I want to add a different spin on it. When your product is time (like yours and mine), sometimes we have to nickle-dime somebody because they’re taking advantage. (Obviously the bike guy was from Mars; that was like renting a jet ski and bringing it back dry.)

    I do track all of the time I spend with a client. I usually don’t charge for time that isn’t related to output, especially for repeat clients and clients that refer business.


    If you ask for my analysis about a new project and and haven’t signed a contract by the third project we discuss I am going to charge you for my time to analyze the 4th, 5th, and 6th, etc. projects.

    If you need a minor change to a project, I probably won’t charge for the extra work but if you’re changing a studio apartment to a 3BR/2BA I have to charge for the extra time.

    If you don’t know what you need, I’ll help you figure it out, that’s my job.  If you don’t know what you want, it’s gonna be a long, hard, journey.  I have to charge for helping with both of those services; my time is product and I haven’t figured out how to manufacture more of it yet.


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