Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Wampum and the Death of the Free Lunch


In the world of big business there is an understanding that palms must occasionally be greased to keep the wheels of commerce running smoothly. The same goes for even the most jaded and introverted of industries, such as the world of cycling. Or, at least that's the way I remember the way things used to work.

The scenario worked something like this: Rep walks into shop for first time in two months and wants to get his account excited about his latest widget. Rep knows owner is the typical industry hack that sees through the bullshit of unanswered phone calls and blown appointments, so he focuses on the malleable alliances of the underpaid and overworked backbone of the shop: The Crew.

Rep arrives an hour and forty minutes late, but, in hand is a large box of bear claws, strudels, and apple fritters. And, if said rep has been around the block a few times he understands that the crew isn't always just a bunch of hungry bastards prone to anarchy, so he'll hedge his compromised position with wampum. Socks, hats, shirts, or other small tokens of his "appreciation for your continued business" would be carefully distributed amongst the greedy horde, thus blinding their skepticism.

It was an arrogant and patronizing display, but it worked. The rep would leave with order in hand and a satiated Crew that once again despised their boss because he never bought them lunch or gave them anything like a free pair of $8 socks. Two months later, the whole wonderfully sleazy courtship began anew.

Sadly, today the status of bike industry rep generosity is dead. The two month stretch of being incommunicado is still common, but the days of free socks, XL T-shirts, and tacky little key chains are over. But, honestly. The hell with that shit. It's the food I miss. The glazed donuts and large coffees. The maxi-pads (strudel with raspberry center) and cream cheese filled bagels. But mostly, I miss the motherfucking beer.

What's going on with these cheap bastards? I refuse to buy into the "I'm broke" argument. I mean, goddamn. You're the one that just drove up in a new Audi A6 wagon and strolled in guzzling down a venti-mocha-double-caramel-pump-no-whip-skim-fruity-as-hell- latte with the equally faggy snickerdoodle cookie. I'm the one that's riding to work, bringing his lunch, brewing his own coffee, and making his wife drive around a used, twelve year old, piece of shit Toyota Corolla everyday to save a few bucks. And, I can still afford to spring for brews or the late afternoon round of sundaes for the Crew once in awhile.

Reps in the old days were a bunch of shifty dirtbags, but at least they knew what the hell kept the biz from spinning off it's axis. When that rep left the shop and I had a belly full of sugary goodness and a fridge stocked with beer, I was his, man. Putty in his hands. Nowadays, Crew and owner are one and the same: A bunch of skeptical, sarcastic, and downright surly sons of bitches that are tired of being blown off because the account two counties over is a "platinum" dealer and we're only "bronze".

Wise up and do your jobs like professionals everyday, chumps. Messing with the stomachs and livers of your accounts is like giving the proverbial monkey a loaded gun. We're gonna go off...someday.

5 comments:

The King said...

The bike industry ain't the only biz where the days of "swag" or as I like to say it "sh..waaag" are long gone my friend. It sounds like you need to consider a career change. Stop on bye and pick up an application. You will be sure to have lunch purchased for you at least once a week workin for the King. Cinabuns are guuuud. You need socks, I got your backbone.

gewilli said...

WHOOOO

kick ass Rant man...

i guess i was fortunate to have left the shop while the reps were still cool as hell and buying us beer...

STC Captain said...

Dude - I hear ya - its been 12 or so years since i saw the days of wrenching and constantly dirty finger nails. I can certainly recall the days of the schleps walking in with a briefcase in one hand begging for orders, and a box of schwagg in the other to appease the crew. No we never saw beer come in, but t-shirts, hats, and skull valve covers were always free flowing.

jg said...

Another part of the rep/shop relationship that has gone way downhill is warranty returns - I remember reps used to take absolutely anything back as a warranty. The Trek rep at my last shop didn't even look at them, we just gave him a list and then threw them away. This made it easier to take care of customers - if something broke too soon but wasn't clearly defective it didn't matter, you could hook them up, and chances are you would have a customer for life. I don't work in shops anymore, but from my experience as a customer it seems like those days are long gone.

Strangelife said...

jg-Yeah, waiting for warranty credits is like waiting for hell to freeze over. A big exception would be SRAM. They're fast, reliable, and actually know what the heck it is you're talking about. Keep it up dudes!

stc- If you never saw beer, then those reps were holdin' out on ya.

gewilli- Thanks!

King- Do I really need to fill out an application? C'mon man...