Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Long time subscriber, first time caller

Every day I, like my brethren go to my shop and do my best to try and build bikes that fulfill what the customer asked for. Of course, it is impossible to make everyone happy who comes in your door for your services but we as builders always seem to try, as if we thought it was possible. So why do we do this ? What personality defect makes us so blind to think that we alone are the final destination for this and any customer , regardless of what they want ? Is it the thought that maybe nothing is beyond our capeabilities as builders ? Is it because we are wanting to have a perfect failure-free 100% customer satisfaction record ? I think's probably more the fear of failure on the part of the customer and worse, the success of a competitor with the very same customer. So.....when we do fail and get called into question by the customer , why do we get overly defensive ? Why do we forget that it isn't possible to make everyone happy and to go through life without making a mistake or without occsionally pissing someone off ? Again, I think it goes to the personality type that chooses to do this for a living. I recently had an email exchange with a guy who had dealings with several framebuilders as a customer and on the forums. This guys assesment of framebuilders was that they were premadonnas for the most part and if I had had the same experiences as he, it is likely I would have come tothe same conclusion. That said, some of the builders he referred to are top-notch supreme craftsmen and have built amazing stuff over the years. I guess what I'm puzzled by is why most of us get so incredlbly defensive when someone dosen't find us to be as complete and flawless as we want to be ? How come we can't remember something as simple as " You can't please all the people all the time"? What is it that re-enforces our collective insecurities and unrealistic self images ? Is it the fumes from the flux ? Was it how we were raised ? Is it a part of our makeup that also happens to point us in the direction of building bicycle frames ? It is almost as if some of us-actually a lot of us are like feudal lords in really tiny castles , defending ourselves pathetically-I know, it's real stretch of an image but think of each builder as a separate'Kingdom" with its own philosophy, its own set of ethics that must be defended to the death. Builder "A" had a customer who waited X amount of months for a frame and then declared that it wasn't what he wanted, got a refund and then went to builder "B" and had a positive experience. Builder "A" was of course convinced that this customer was in error and that builder"B" was and is a hack. If it sounds like I have experience with this , I do. I have been both builder 'A" and builder "B". I would like to be neither for the duration of my career and try to keep the neuroses at bay-we all need to in my opinion because if we don't, every one of our customers will be going to the large companies for their see, the large companies don't get into the petty stuff that framebuilders do-they just take your money and that is that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

They will find you.

I'm a lucky guy. I have a buisness that I created and struggled with for many years and now it actually seems to be a for real livelyhood. I support myself by building bicycle frames.....just me in my shop with my crazy music blaring all day long, building bicycle frames. It's almost as if I got a pass on the whole growing up into an adult and getting a job thing. I'm still living as if I were and adolescent......maybe a bit more regimented but still like a teenager in a lot of regards. For this privalege I owe my customers a debt of gratitude for making my lifestyle possible. People getting in touch with me to order bikes from all over the world is still something I wonder at and don't fully comprehend. I just keep building 'em if people keep wanting 'em. That said , there are times when I'm found by a person who might not be somebody I can make happy with what I do. I figure that in most cases my website info and reputation will filter out all who might wind up regretting their decision to entrust me with the job of making their rolling dream a reality. Sometimes on the phone or even in an email I will get the sense that the person inquiring might be someone who should shop elsewhere. I have had several instances where I have had to refund a deposit or even buy a frame back from a dissatisfied client. I like to avoid these situations but sometimes I'm blindsided by a person who's motivation for the famebuider-customer relationship might be considered off the beaten path. These folks are what I would call " Psychotic". This is of course a very strong word and I can count the people who merit the description on one hand for my entire career. All the same, these few folks have taught me the most about what I should and shouldn't promise when talking about frames to anyone. About a decade ago I built a frame for a person who was very set on using some hardware on his frame that I was not familiar with. I assured him that what I normally used was superior and that I would build a better frame with what was familiar to me. This did not deter the customer....he wanted his dropouts and other fittings just so. I ordered the stuff requested and had a miserable time building the frame. The end result was not up to my normal standards but the bike was and still is a rideable racing bike. I sent the customer the frame and waited for his opinion on the work and for my payment. I got an email stating that the frame was not what he wanted and he immediately requested that I start on another one. I asked for him to send the frame back and offered to pay the shipping and refund his deposit ( I had not been paid the balance ) to which he replied angrily that I was dropping the ball in the middle of the project. I replied that I had done what he requested with the materials he specified to the best of my ability and was not going to chance having him reject another frame. He was livid but sent back the frame. I sent him his money immediatelty.....this actually impressed him. What I learned is that in rare cases there are a few folks who want the process of interaction with the builder but probably don't want the actual frame at all. What they want is for people like me to keep trying to make them happy while they keep either changing their minds or just become abusive. It's kind of a patrician-servant relationship.......they need to be catered to in ways unrelated to bicycles,riding or anything of that nature. I do not fully understand the motivation for this need and do not feel qualified to fulfill it. Not only that, I really should be building bikes for folks who will ride them , not argue about a file mark in a stainless steel dropout. Do I admit to failing these rare people ? Yes, by all means. Do I intend to get more in touch with their needs as customers ? No F-ing way. As Joe Walsh said ; " You can't argue with a sick mind ".