Duck Feet -a work story
Eminem Pssst-ed me. “Psst! Keith,” my tall, fit, enthusiastic, young and green co-worker hissed, “can you help me with this guy’s pedals?”
“This guy” turned out to be a gentleman my age of similar build sporting a mountain-man beard and a Cary, North Carolina BSA tee-shirt accompanied by his esposa. Em introduced us with, “Keith, Bill. Bill’s looking for some pedal washers and I can’t find any.”
Even though I was distracted by Bill’s boy scout shirt, both of my sons are Eagle Scouts and the younger one sports a groomed, foot long beard, I offered my hand and replied, “Pedal washers? Sure, give me a minute.”
I knew where a pair was hiding, grabbed them, brought them to the waiting Bill and Em, declaring, “Ta-da!”
Em asked where I’d found them, I countered with, “Ancient Chinese secret,” (Calgon anyone?) “anything else?”
“Well,” Bill asked, “you got any more?”
I’d been on auto-pilot up until now, given a simple task of search and retrieval I’d jumped through the hoop asked of me and provided the desired item. Given further inquiry I made one of my own. “Sure,” I said, extending the word, “whaddya need ’em for?”
“My feet rub my crank-arms and I’d like to push the pedals out a quarter inch or so.”
“Ohhh,” I replied, forming the letter’s shape with my lips, “not a good idea. Pedals are cantilevered out and have a lot of leverage. You might get away with two pedal washers but that’ll only extended the pedals maybe one-and-a-half-millimeters, call it a twentieth of an inch.
“Last thing you want is those pedals to strip out of the crank-arms as you’re torquing them standing up on a climb. They do make extended pedal axles, though.”
“Oh yeah?” Bill asked, “You got any?”
“I’m not sure. Let me check real quick.” Standing next to our pedal display I did a visual check and come up empty. “Hang on,” I added, walking from Bill to our cash register, “let me check inventory.”
The computer said we had none and zero plus zero left me with nada. “We’re out, but let me see what’s available.”
Bill consented, I used the WWW to pop over to QBP, one of our main distributor’s websites, and searched for Shimano Ultegra pedals. Matthew 7.7 declares, “Seek and ye shall find,” (I Googled the chapter and verse. Hell, I Googled Matthew.) but though I Sikh-ed there was no rabbit underneath that turban.
“Hang on,” I told Bill, “we are experiencing technical difficulties.”
I was the technical difficulty. Shimano pedals were now sold directly to bike-shops rather than through intermediaries such as QBP. I had received and ignored an email instructing me to update my Business-To-Business Shimano web creds and had failed to do so.
“Bill,” I semi-confessed, “I’m not having any luck here. Can I get back to you with availability and pricing?”
Bill consented, I confirmed that the phone number and email we had were correct and I left him in Eminem’s fit, young, capable hands.
Retreating to a far corner of the bike shop I whispered, “Crap,” to self as I followed Shimano’s B2B credentials instructions. “‘Be prepared,'” I said to self, sarcastically quoting the boy scout motto. Finding the pedals in stock on Shimano’s website, I emailed Bill that he had two choices, top-of-the-line Dura Ace or one tier down Ultegra, sending him pricing information and moving on to the next busy-Saturday-at-a-bike-shop-in-spring task.
Monday comes around and Bill has left me a message requesting that I order the extended axle, four millimeters longer, Ultegra pedals. El jefe chances to hear of Bill’s desire for Larry Craig, Minnesota, wide-stance pedals and asks, “Que pasa?”
I fill jefe in with Bill’s quest for wider pedals to keep his heels from scrubbing crank-arms and jefe asks if Bill is bandy legged. “Huh?” I reply, my witty repartee always at the ready.
“Do his legs bow? I’ve done thousands of bike fits and I’ve only had one instance where extended pedal spindles made sense.” Jefe went into a lengthy explanation concerning bio-mechanics, efficiency and compensating for physical weaknesses via poor fit solutions. After discussing the ins and outs of a proper fit versus a quick, customer dictated solution to an un-diagnosed proximate cause for pedal scrub jefe asks me to pitch a fit.
I am a team player. I am coachable. I pride myself in following the Syrian principal of, “I speak, and I listen.” I sigh and consent. Why does everything have to be so hard?
Bill’s phone rings, I get his voicemail and detail what I have learned, asking him to call me back when he has a moment. He does, we recap and he’s game for a fitting.
At the appointed hour Bill returns with his wife in tow, I greet them, we chat and jefe notices that Bill’s bike is tired and in need of maintenance. Jefe directs, “Keith, would you take a look at Bill’s bike and see what it needs? Then bring it to us in the fit studio?”
I do, and Bill’s steed needs a lot of love. I write up a wish list, bring the bike over for the fitting and tell Bill we can talk about what I found when he’s, “Done having a fit.” Bill shakes his head, I wink and leave jefe to perform his flexibility/history/fit/camera analysis.
After the fitting Bill and I talk about his bike. He needs tires, a new chain, a new set of rear gears. He’s decided to get new shoes and go ahead and order the Larry Craig extended-axle-pedals. A taller stem will allow him to ride more comfortably and this is added to his repair ticket. During the fitting jefe asks Bill how he came to hear about us. Bill lives twenty miles south of our shop and there are dozens of bike shops closer to him than we are.
A year ago, Bill had attended a bike ride we supported and been treated warmly; something he had found lacking at shops closer to his home. Receiving no special service, no miracle fixes, he’d just felt welcomed by our honest desire to be part of the cycling community. From a single positive interaction a year ago, a door had opened that provided us an opportunity to develop a relationship, an opportunity we do not take lightly.
I hope that by listening, caring and looking at the big picture as well as the minute details we’ll continue to earn Bill’s trust and, hopefully, be the best fit he’s ever had.