Sunday, January 06, 2008

Story - JRA putzes

I was reading spinopsys and saw the post on JRA ("Just Riding Along"). JRA is the bane of customer service oriented bike shops. You know those shops that want all their customers to be happy? At some point the customer is flat wrong and doesn't deserve whatever they're asking for from the shop or manufacturer.

I call those JRA people "putzes" or "bozos". They do not understand certain things, whether it's social etiquette, rules, perhaps responsibility. I had a moment of realization when I observed some kids playing - they simply don't understand certain things and so they'll do some things that you'd expect only a kid would do. A putz/bozo acts similarly. Hopefully the kids will develop some of the subtleties of social interaction after a bit of time and learning. So you have to be patient, explain to them how things are, and sometimes you have to be firm with them.

A few stories come to mind.

First, a long time ago a guy came in the shop with a Specialized mountain bike. This is back when they went to thinwall, oversize steel tubes with plug-type dropouts. No suspension forks at the Rockhopper level.

His fork was bent *forward* at an aggressive angle. He claimed it was a JRA incident and asked for a warranty replacement fork. We figured he landed off a jump way too hard and "chopperized" his fork. He wouldn't budge from his story though and we had no proof.

Specialized, to their credit, declined to warranty the fork. (I agree - cracks are warranty issues, bends are not.) We didn't push Specialized (we could have) as we felt the guy broke his own bike. A judgement call on our part I suppose. We didn't believe this guy, he was smirking the whole time he discussed this with us, so we never went to bat for him.

Specialized did offer to sell him a "scratch 'n dent" fork for $30 or something like that. That was a lot less than the $150 or so for a new one so he took it. The fork was in great shape so everyone got what they wanted.

To the customer's credit, he willingly paid for the labor to install it and came to pick up the bike. I talked to him at that time. "Look, you're getting your bike, you got a fork with a little scratch, and your bike works. Tell me what really happened."

He made me confirm that we couldn't charge him if he changed his story. I told him that we couldn't as he already paid and received his bike. In effect he was already gone. He smiled and admitted the truth.

"I was trying to jump down a flight of stairs and messed up."


Everyone knows that some guy was riding his bike with his QR not done right, the front wheel fell off, the guy lost a lot of teeth, sued the bike company, and won. This led to various iterations of the "Lawyer tabs", the fork dropout raised edges that prevent a wheel from popping off if the skewer is undone (intentionally or not). Most racers file the nibs down so that in a race situation, they can get a wheel change in 10 or so seconds.

Before the lawyer tabs there were some pretty terrible inventions. The worst were the metal tabs found on Schwinns for a while. The clipped into fork-mounted screws and held the wheel prisoner till you firmly unlatched the two latches to release the wheel. It required different axle nuts, a differently brazed fork, and were impossible to remove reasonably quickly.

Most shops (and riders) cursed this unknown guy with the new teeth that caused all these problems. They cursed the fact that this guy turned John Howard into an expert witness who testified that quick release skewers loosen up over time on their own. And they cursed him every time the wheel hung up on whatever safety device was on the bike.

Well, that guy with the new teeth was my boss for 7 months.

Yep. No one liked him - he was pompous, ineffective, and didn't have a real bone in his body. He is what I call a putz or a bozo. He's so clueless he doesn't even know what he doesn't know. I could go on and on so I'll do so in a different post.

After a month or two of his big fake grins (meaning the feeling behind the grin, not the fake teeth themselves), he learned I was a "biker". He came over to my desk and asked if I knew about the things that keep front wheels on. I replied to the affirmative. He then proudly told me that he was responsible for singlehandedly changing the bike industry since his lawsuit forced bike companies to have some kind of wheel retention system on all their quick-release equipped bikes.

He was a football coach for a high school team and rode his bike "all the time". (This was to imply he knew how quick releases work, which he didn't). One day he rode to school, then to practice, and when he left the field house after practice, his front wheel simply fell out. What I suspect happened (my opinion, no proof) is that his not-as-clueless football players played a little trick on him and just loosened his QR. If you ever met this guy, you'd understand. His total lack of substance just screams "play a joke on me". Even I'm saying it and I don't condone jokes like that.

Anyway, he said as he rode off the curb the front wheel came out and he face planted into the pavement. He lost a lot of teeth and sued the shop and the bike company (I think the victim was Raleigh). And he won a lot of money. It bought him some teeth, paid for his house, and got him some other stuff I forget.


A "tough guy", a former Marine (not to insult Marines in general, this guy probably shouldn't have been one), and a wannabe racer, Mr Unnamed bought a nice, mid-upper-range Bridgestone mountain bike. Great bike, great value, great performance, one of our favorites at the time.

When he picked up the bike he went with the guys on an urban ride - you know the kind, where you cruise down the sidewalks, get air off the little lips for wheelchairs, try and out-wheelie the other guy, things like that. The guys left the shop and rode over a couple-feet-high mound of snow piled up on the corner of the parking lot. Mr Unnamed sprinted at the mound of snow and basically t-boned it. No front wheel lift, no attempt to unweight the front, etc. He bent the fork backwards and bent the top and down tubes. The brand new bike was trashed.

He claimed it was defective, that it should have survived the impact. He pointed to the other bikes that made it. He never realized that he simply didn't know how to ride the bike.

At some point we thought he was a friendly guy, responsible (hey, he's a Marine), respectable, etc., but he got downright nasty about the bike and threatened to sue the shop. Bridgestone broke down and gave him a new frame and fork (probably one of the reasons they went out of business). He could never admit he broke the bike himself.

I saw him now and then afterwards and he was one of those guys who never got a clue on racing, group riding, technique, etc. He always insisted on doing things his own way and it showed. Since he wasn't smart enough to learn everything riders have learned over the last 80 or so years of current bicycling, he was always a few (or more) steps behind. He always had some new "training program" he was following, with specific workouts, a detailed schedule, etc. The problem was that he never bothered learning about riding in general.

I suppose that as long as there are people around there will be fully functional adults who simply "don't get it". The extreme end of the bell curve folks. The putzes, the bozos. And yes, I did mention something about observing kids who were acting in a similar non-societal way.

The difference between those bozos and the aforementioned kids?

The kids were 1 and 3 years old. Mr. Stairjumper was a college student in his 20s, Mr. Teeth was a manager in a prestigious IT firm in his 30s, and Mr. Unnamed (I don't know what he did for a living) was in his 30s in these stories.

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