Can you put a price on loyalty? Do motorcycle shops have an actual price tag attached to potential customers for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years? I guess what I am trying to say is when you are in a shop looking to spend money, do shop owners think of the potential income for years to come if you leave that shop satisfied. A motorcycle is a luxury item, not a need. Sorry readers if I am ruining things with your spouse right now. You need a refrigerator. You need shoes. You need food. You don’t “need” a motorcycle despite whatever argument you want to throw out at this point. So when I go to a shop and look to spend my hard earned dollars on a luxury item, are shop owners thinking I will be back again someday looking to unload some more cash?
There is a dealer about five minutes from my house and way back in 2003 I purchased a new PW50 from there for my son. I won’t name the dealer but for those of you who know where I live you can probably figure it out. To take it a step further, although this shop had changed ownership a few years earlier, the shop had sponsored my lackluster racing career back in the day and when this shop became a Suzuki dealer I actually picked up their first six new bikes for them. Along with the bike we also purchased new gear, helmet, oil and other assorted goodies. As my son had just started flat track racing, the following season it was time to move up to a 65 cc machine. A friend of ours from racing mentioned he had been in this particular shop a few days before and they had a brand new 65 in the showroom that was a one-year-old model and that they had offered it to him at a very reduced price. This friend wasn’t in need of a bike so when he told us about it I thought I had hit the jackpot. Boy was I wrong.
Walking into the showroom I saw the bike that I was told about and there was a price tag hanging from it. I should point out that this price tag was $700 more than the price that was offered to my friend two days earlier. $700 isn’t much if you are buying a house. $700 is huge if it is almost 20% of the price of that particular item. Apparently they had indeed offered my friend an amazing deal in order to get the one year old bike off of the showroom floor. So I started talking to the sales guy (his family owns the business) and I tell him I would like to purchase that machine. He does some quick calculating and next thing you know I am at a price that is actually more than $900 above the price that was offered to my friend. I mention this and sales guy says that the price offered to my friend was because he is a repeat customer. I tell him that I had purchased a new PW50 from them a little over a year earlier but he quickly responds and tells me that doesn’t really count because it was only a 50. I proceed to point out that we had also purchased a helmet, boots, gear, oil and even a hat when we bought the bike. Drop in the bucket is his response. I ask how the bike can possibly be more than $900 above the price that was quoted to my friend a couple of days earlier. I have cash. I am ready to buy. Two days earlier was a one day sale is his response. I point out that my son is eight years old and could potentially be a customer for decades to come. Seems unlikely is his quick reply. Flabbergasted at this point I said a few things that can’t be repeated here. Walking out the door I assured the sales guy that I would never purchase another bike from them as long as I lived and I would be sure to share my experience with everybody I talked to. The only response from sales guy was a smug smile as I walked out the door.
The next day we purchased a new bike online from another dealer without giving a second thought to contacting my local dealer that is only five minutes away. Not only was this bike $800 cheaper than the price I had been offered the day before for the same bike, but they actually delivered it from over an hour away at no charge. My son raced for another 13 seasons and at the ripe old age of 25 there is always the chance he returns to the track someday. There were bikes bought in the past and potential bikes in his future but it seems unlikely that any of them will come from the shop that is just five minutes from my house.
Last year I purchased a new machine for the street. Despite my local shop being a dealer for the brand I was looking for I stuck to my promise from years earlier and looked elsewhere. Ultimately I ended up purchasing a bike from a dealer in downtown Toronto and although it wasn’t the most convenient location for me, the price, customer service and ease of the transaction made it well worth the drive. Is there a new bike or two in my future? It’s really impossible to tell. What I can tell you though is that if I am in the market I will be headed down the 401, not down the street.
Now I am not a business owner and I have no idea what it takes to make a business successful. It seems like happy and repeat customers could be something to strive for as a starter. Obviously you need to make money but if you chase people out the door that may be tough.
I should mention that way back in the day that sales guy in question gave me a call a couple of days after we purchased the 65 from the other dealer. Where he got my number from I’m not sure but he had a sweet deal for me he said. I could have that 65 for $300 cheaper than he had offered it to me two days earlier. Too little too late I told him, wishing he could see my smug smile as I hung up the phone.
- From Todd Vallee