The SNEWS View: Flat-out good service makes a shop special

My boyfriend was traveling from New York to Augusta, Ga., for work, when he got a flat tire -- and he called me at home in Montana to help him out.
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My boyfriend was traveling from New York to Augusta, Ga., for work, when he got a flat tire -- and he called me at home in Montana to help him out.

Although it may seem odd to expect me to help change a tire thousands of miles away, it wasn’t any ordinary flat tire. Bill’s in a wheelchair, and one of his tubes popped in the cargo hold of the plane. He was on his way to the rental car desk and needed to find a bike shop locally to change the tire.

I did a search on Google, typing in “Augusta Georgia bike shop” and three listings popped up. They were neatly arranged and mapped -- A, B, C -- with store names, addresses, phone numbers and websites.

Whew, that was easy! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m still amazed by the power of the Internet. Without it, I would have been calling directory assistance in Georgia, trying to track down info that basically popped up on my computer screen in seconds.

I started scanning the websites and found all the shops would be closing at 6 p.m. I glanced nervously at the clock: It was close to 5 p.m. in Georgia. Between filling out paperwork at the rental car agency, driving time, etc., he probably wouldn’t be at a bike shop until at least 6 p.m.

So I started dialing and explaining the situation to bike shop clerks. I hoped if I played the “he’s in a wheelchair” card, someone would stay open to help out. The first shop was sympathetic, but they were leaving for a store ride and wouldn’t be back until late. No one at the second shop was willing to stick around.

I dialed store No. 3 starting to think this was a lost cause and assuming I would strike out again. The polite Southern voice of a woman answered and I went into my schpiel again. I don’t know if it was because I got a woman on the phone this time instead of a man, but she said the magic words: Sure, they could help out. They were staying late anyway to catch up on bike repairs and would be glad to take care of him.

I called Bill back and told him someone had taken mercy on us and was willing to stay open. After we got off the phone, I sent mapped directions to his Blackberry – ya gotta love what the Internet and mobile technology allows us to do these days.

Bill made good time, but still didn’t arrive at the bike shop’s door until 6 p.m. He called to let them know he was there. Someone from the shop came out, got his tire, and took it back into the shop to repair it. Everyone he talked to was friendly, helpful and chatty.

While a shop whose employees were going out on a ride is a good thing as clearly the shop is active in what it sells, the fact they didn’t want to stay a few extra minutes to help a potential customer in obvious need implied they put their desire for a ride before a customer’s real need. The shop whose employees simply did not want to stay a few minutes late left me with the feeling the shop was just a job for them, and that’s certainly not where I would want to take my business given a choice.

It is worth remembering that even when business is tough and the economy stinks, making a real connection with your customers and addressing their needs with compassion and understanding marks the difference between a store that’s special and a store just around to sell stuff. Although I live thousands of miles away from Augusta and may not travel there anytime soon, I’ll always remember and appreciate the experience we had with that shop…and you can be sure I’ll tell many others about it, as will Bill.

And, thanks to the folks at Chain Reaction Cycling-Fitness for going the extra mile when it mattered!

--Wendy Geister

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