by Shawn Downey
Whoa baby, whoa! What have I done?! In last month’s column, I invited all satisfied and dissatisfied denizens of the motorcycling community to share their dealer experiences. How was I to know there was so many pissed off bikers out there? Due to the kazillion emails I received with MMM in the subject line, my ISP contacted me to see if I was running some type of bondage message board. “No,” I assured my Internet Service Provider, “it is merely a support group for pencil neck, mother-hating, white boy rappers.”
As human nature would predict, I received far more letters regarding dismal dealer experiences than letters ending with a warm fuzzy. They ranged from the believable to open-the-garage-door-because-the-CO2-is melting-your-brain. For example, I’ll believe the guy who picked his bike up from a Service Department and found several integral bolts missing from his motorcycle. But the guy who wrote me about a Service Department that replaced his frame several times, screwed up the registration numbers, melted a fuel line, etc. etc. Come on baby, I may be gullible but no Service Department is that damn stupid.
After wading through a month’s worth of emails, I was able to group the gripes in two columns: Day Of Purchase Price Fluctuations and Slim Shady Look-Alikes Posing As Sales Reps.
I have been a victim of the “Day Of Purchase Price Fluctuation” and can attest that it is one of the most disappointing experiences. After receiving 27 emails noting the same experience, I believe I may start a support group. For those of you not familiar with this tragedy, the practice works something like this: Contact a dealer in person or via telephone, negotiate a deal for a new motorcycle, arrive at said dealership with check in hand only to find the purchase price has suddenly increased by X amount. Said X amount may stem from freight or setup or some other mysterious charge. It may be legitimate, it may be a farce, but either way the dealer should tell you about it before you arrive with a bank check for X amount. In my attempt to recently purchase a new bike, I must commend the dealer for quoting me an “Out The Door” price tag. Ask for it, demand it, and if the dealer does not give you the “Out The Door” cost, give him a hurtz donut.
The “Slim Shady Look Alike Syndrome”, or SSS as I like to call it, appears to be quite prevalent judging by the 48 emails. This entails someone such as yourself who has been hungrily devouring every printed word about a particular model. You make a cardboard cutout and put it in the living room, you dream about it becoming intimate with Pamela Anderson, you dress it up in pink chiffon, oh never mind, the fact is, you know every detail about this motorcycle and expect the dealer to share in your passion. Then you roll on in to the dealer and instead of finding a sales representative having sex with your motorcycle, you encounter a Slim Shady Look Alike. He/she is wearing big pants, a wife beater tee, and too much stainless jewelry. You begin testing his worthiness by asking him detailed questions regarding your object of lust and he casually toys with his/her latest piercing while his/her mind drifts off to last night’s rave. What, do you think X-tasy wears off in eight hours?
As an interesting side note, I did receive several eye-opening emails from dealers. Several have been involved in the motorsports field for the past 30 years or more and were able to share some very valuable insight to their profession: Things have changed. Wow, someone call CNN.
Several dealers point to today’s customer as being the catalyst in the migration to the new world order of dealers. They claim that today’s motorcycle buyer is looking for more options at a reduced cost thereby forcing the dealers to carry more brands to move more bikes to support motorcycle mega-stores. Dealers are covering their bases by offering as many of the Big Four as possible thereby guaranteeing sales independent of which bike is deemed “Motorcycle Of The Year” or “Sportbike Of The Year.” As an offshoot of this low cost model, the dealers are forced to employ more Slim Shadys than Motorcycle Professionals which accounts for the overwhelming number of dismal experiences sent to my email address.
But what about the service? Is there a sliding scale in service as well? How exactly does that work? Okay, for $10 an hour we can get a guy capable of holding a wrench, for $15 an hour we can get a guy capable of turning the wrench, and for $20 an hour we can get a guy capable of reading where to turn the wrench. But no matter what, we will charge the customer $60 an hour. Several of the emails I received had quotes along the lines of, “For $60 an hour, I can screw up my own motorcycle just fine.”
As indicated in several of my previous columns, I am a very capable mechanic. Did I say capable? I meant sucky. Whenever I screw up one of my Brit Iron projects, I call up my Brit Iron fixit guy, he tells me exactly when he can take the bike in, how much it will cost, and when it will be done. I pay him $65 per hour and have never, I repeat NEVER, had to return to have the same job done twice. He even threads all the nuts back on.
So what have I learned during the course of this exercise in public opinion? I have learned that everybody needs to turn his/her spellchecker on or get a friggin’ dictionary.
Most importantly of all, I have learned that in my search for truth things have changed. New motorcycles are exhibiting rocket-like performance and high tech handling at bargain basement prices and it only cost us service. Yeah.