Wednesday 24 February 2021

You're Doing It Wrong: the pain of dealing with dealers who don't like what they do

My local dealer is one of the biggest 'power sports' dealers in the province and they're only ten minutes down the road from me, but they aren't who I think of when I think about motorcycles.  When I was all Kawasaki I found dealing with them challenging at best.  Now that I'm Triumph and Honda (two brands they don't represent) I'm glad I've had an excuse to experience more positive customer service elsewhere (Inglis Cycle and KW Honda have both been positive, engaging and enjoyable to work with).

Pack 'em in tight and no one can sit on 'em...
This local dealer is the only one I've ever used for servicing, but again and again I've found them dismissive and quite arrogant, as though my paying for service was a favour they were doing me.  I've been in the showroom of all three dealers.  The best I can hope for at my local is benign neglect.  The bikes are parked close together on purpose so you can't sit on them and the sales people in there are so focused on the sale that they don't even particularly seem to like bikes, let alone want to talk about them.  Even when I see other people sitting down to sign deals everyone looks like they're sitting in a bank getting a second mortgage rather than purchasing joy.

When I first went to Inglis Cycle the year I got the Tiger the owner of the place stopped and had a chat and then encouraged me to sit on the latest model of my bike.  Even though I wasn't there to purchase one that day (the only thing that seems to matter at the local dealer), he had time to provide a positive impression on his customers.  Inglis isn't some big, fancy, new bike-mall, but the people there seem to genuinely enjoy motorbikes and take the time to treat you like a fellow enthusiast rather than a wallet with legs.  I hadn't intended on buying anything but that positivity prompted me to buy a t-shirt with the Inglis logo on it; something I couldn't imagine doing from my local.  Since then I've bought thousands of dollars of parts and gear from them.

It ain't fancy but they love their Hondas
and encourage you to sit on 'em.
When I went over to KW Honda the first time I didn't own a Honda and just popped in to see what they were about.  The senior salesman on the floor was amiable and chatty and encouraged me to throw a leg over a beautiful new VFR800.  We then had a good chat about the CBX 1970s six-cylinder they had on display.  I made a point of going back there for parts when I finally became a Honda owner and there too the parts guy was chatty, curious about what I was doing and came out to see the old Fireblade.

Last time I was at my local looking for Kawasaki parts, I put my Roof Helmet on the counter and the woman who was new there displayed curiosity about it, so I showed her how it works.  She was enthusiastic about both the style and functionality of my strange, French lid and it left her wondering out loud why they didn't carry such a thing.  The old guy next to her said they were no good and wouldn't sell - in front of the guy who owned it.  That kind of caustic culture must be what takes the shine off everyone there so quickly.

Being a bygones kinda guy I contacted them by email the other day as they have a nice looking C14 Concours and I'm casting about for just such a thing.  We're in the middle of the winter of COVID and it's -20s with six foot of snow outside, so I don't imagine they're very busy, but getting the salesman to have a conversation over email was like pulling teeth... again to the point of rudeness.  I understand that dealers have to mark things up to pay for the premises and I wasn't expecting to pay what private sellers are, so I (foolishly) assumed that starting with offers at over 90% of the value of the bike would prompt a haggle, but emailing this guy was like playing a joyless game of 'no' tennis against a brick wall.

When I asked if there was a possibility of a trade he said he'd consider it, so I made an offer and got a no.  Then a I made a better offer and got a no.  Perhaps I've been watching too much Henry Cole doing Shed And Buried, or perhaps this is a cultural thing (Canadians don't barter), but I'd think a customer offering close to the value of the bike as advertised would be worthy of a conversation and a counter bid rather than series of terse 'noes'.

I was going to reply to the last email and ask why this business would want to turn such an enjoyable thing as the possibility of getting a new motorcycle into such a dreary experience, but I think I'll just cut my losses and finally learn my lesson, bygones be damned.  This latest experience, in line with all my previous ones, will have me looking elsewhere for parts, service and bikes... which is a shame.  I'd love to support a local business and talk them up positively (I do this whenever I can), but these guys can sit in their mega-edifice in misery.  I'll take my enthusiasm for my hobby/sport and my purchasing power elsewhere.

Some awesome local motorcycling businesses in Southern Ontario (from first hand experience):

Mostly Ironheads (my real local motorcycle service provider): in Elora, Ontario - if you want passion and customer service (along with quick turnaround times on work done), this is where you go

Inglis Cycle in London, Ontario

Kitchener Waterloo Honda in Waterloo, Ontario

NCK Cycle Salvage in Woodstock, Ontario

Perth County Moto in Stratford, Ontario

Revco - located in Ontario but found online