Editorial by Tom Demerly.
I hate waiting. I ordered four bikes for myself back
in September and I haven't received one of them yet.
When I ordered each one of these bikes the manufacturer
gave me an estimate of the delivery time. With the exception
of one manufacturer, all of them are late. Very late.
I don't have even one
of the bikes I bought yet. I also paid for each of them
early- presumably to get a little better shipping from
the manufacturer. It hasn't worked (except in one case).
First off, I should mention the one company that did
deliver when they said they would is Yaqui. Ves Mandaric
at Yaqui actually builds his own bikes and he said my
new Yaqui Carbo would be done in three weeks and it
was done in three weeks. It is on the way here now.
I should have it up and running in about a week or two.
Why do bike companies make us wait so long? There
are a number of reasons. First off, I think a lot of people
envision a bike company as an office with a bunch of cubicles
and people in those cubicles taking orders then pressing some
buttons on a computer and then an order printing out in a big
warehouse somewhere. When the order prints out a guy goes, "Oh,
hey! We have an order for Bikesport here, let's get this shipped
today!" Then a couple hours later the bike gets loaded
onto a waiting UPS truck and is on its way here.
Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. The bikes
we sell and you buy are not commodity items. They cost hundreds
and many times thousands to produce. Most of the companies that
build them are very, very small- less than ten employees. As
a result, they cannot afford to make any extra bikes. They can't
afford many defects either. At any given time there are basically
no bikes sitting around waiting to be sold. The larger guys
may have some in inventory available for open sales, but in
general everything is sold well before it is built. In fact,
the bike you buy from us today was probably ordered b us back
in September of '02 before you even thought of buying it. Now
your name gets attached to that bike order and you own that
place in line. If we didn't do it that way you (and I) would
have to wait even longer.
Other factors that compound the wait are the day-to-day
happenings in every person's (employee's) life. In a small company
with two to four (at most) guys packing bike orders for every
account in the world there is little room for attrition. If
one guy gets the flu then 25% of the workforce is down. That
means delays. More delays.
Today I talked to a very popular triathlon bike
company on the phone about an accounting error they made. When
I tried to discuss it with their credit manager her voice mail
said she would be gone for a number of weeks to have a baby.
Now, that's understandable. It's one of the events that take
place in people's lives. The thing is, she is the only credit
person. So I had to phone back four times to get our inside
sales person to help with this problem. She did help and she
did a fine job, but it did take 25 minutes to finally get to
her, another 2 minutes to explain and about 8 minutes for her
to fix it. That's 35 minutes and that's just one invoice from
one bike company. And it wasn't even our mistake- we pay cash
for almost all of our bikes so there should (theoretically)
never be any hassles.
Today I got a letter (one of many) from another
bike company. They were addressing the price increases and delays
in bike delivery. This is what the letter said:
"Currently the industry is facing very long
lead times because of key parts delays. Shimano and many other
component makers are feeling the success and growth of the road
market; this is causing much longer lead times than these component
makers have given us over the last few years. "
The letter goes on to explain why things are late
and why they now cost more. But it doesn't get my bikes (or
yours) to us any sooner. They also can't tell us when the bikes
will be here.
So, in some sense, its business as usual. Every
year there are delays. Strikes happen, currencies fluctuate,
people get sick, pregnant, leave to change jobs, etc. So delays
always happen. But it is maddening. Including my own bikes I
am also waiting for another 217 bikes. Those are your bikes.
At this time of year the bulk of my work day is spent tracking
those bikes down. I am on the phone with vendors (or trying
to get them on the phone), trying to find out where the bikes
are, when they will be here, how to get damaged ones replaced,
etc. etc. I wish I could spend this time selling, fitting and
building bikes. But instead, I have to spend it babysitting
bikes that have already been sold. It's frustrating and makes
for a long day. Most days nothing has changed at the end of
the day. I don't know anything more than I did when I started.
Then one day, usually without warning, the bikes
just show up. They're late and we had no good indication of
specifically why, but they do finally arrive. It never fails.
Like I said, I hate waiting and I bet you do too.
But it has been this way for years and it is getting worse with
the growth of road and triathlon cycling. A weak economy isn't
helping since some bike manufacturers are really strapped for
cash to pay for components they need to complete bikes. That
is another reason why we pay cash up front for the bikes we
buy. In many cases we do get preferential shipping because we
do pay most of our bike companies in cash.
So what do you do in the meantime? Well, I went
skiing for a weekend. I'm riding my old bike on the trainer.
I'm making sure all the parts I need to build my new bikes are
here before the bike arrives. But mostly I'm just waiting for
the bikes- yours and mine- to arrive. And there isn't a thing
I can do about that. As a matter of fact, it's about time for
me to call another company to find out where some bikes are
us your feedback on this editorial here.