Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The High Cost of Used

Being cheap can be expensive.  

The situation was really quite simple.  Jimmy had posted a bicycle frame for sale.  The frame itself was considered high-end at the time and had never been built or ridden - it was essentially brand new.  This frame would require the addition of a press-in bottom bracket, but other than that, it was ready to build. 

Enter the buyer, Scott, who decided that this frame would do nicely for his needs in a bicycle.  He contacted Jimmy and the two met, exchanged payment, and parted ways.

Months later, Jimmy was contacted by Scott, who said that the frame had broken after less than 200 miles of riding.  Scott requested either cash for the work required to repair the frame, or a return of his payment in full.

From an industry professional point of view, the frame itself likely had a defect.  When a bike is purchased through an authorized dealer, an issue like this is usually subject to a manufacturer warranty.  This frame would have likely been replaced at a minimal cost or free of charge, had it been purchased from a dealer.

Scott's frame was not purchased from a dealer.  Jimmy could not be held responsible as he did not develop, build, or design the frame.  The breakage wasn't really Scott's fault because he was using the frame the way it was intended.  However, as the legal owner of a bike with zero warranty, Scott was solely liable and it was his responsibility to replace or repair his own frame.

There lies one of the many risks of buying second-hand.

Scott and Jimmy's issue is an example of how buying your equipment second-hand catches up with you.  We all love to save a buck.  I realize that we all want to ride nice bikes without breaking the bank.  I have bought and sold many used parts and such throughout my life.

With that said, bicycle dealers exist for many reasons.  Warranties are one of them.  Frames break.  Wheels crack.  Shifters can fail prematurely.  Sometimes hub flanges crack.  Bike shops take care of things like that for cheap or free on bikes that are under warranty.  They also tend to only sell product that they can back, which is something that no private party can be expected to do.

I know that bikes, frames, wheels, and various other parts can be found on the black market Craigslist and Ebay.  Buyer beware: the seller is usually not the industry professional that you'd talk to at a decent bike shop.  The seller usually isn't fully aware of the condition of their own equipment.  They're often clueless and have no idea if what they're selling to you is "like new" or on the brink of failure.

It's in "great shape."
You betcha!  It's always in "great shape".  Tune-ups come to my shop all the time, fresh off of Craigslist, in "great shape" with cracked rims, ovalized headtubes, wheels up to 6mm off-dish, and even broken frames that the previous owner simply didn't know about.  It's usually not the fault of the seller or the buyer - its a blind-leading-the-blind situation.  Bikes aren't their line of work, so they can't be expected to spot every detail.  As the buyer, you have to expect to correct the potentially hazardous issues that the previous owner of a used bike has overlooked.

The Seller is not "upgrading". 
Who wouldn't sell their full Dura-Ace Cervelo for an 80% loss before the year is out? 

Get a clue.

Nobody sells complete bike that was a top-of-the-line anything after just 6 months of use - Maybe if they work for the dealer (maybe).  When a cyclist invests $5k or more in a bike, it is meant to be a long-term'er.  A seemingly-new used bike that is offered for less than half the purchase price?  We in the bike business generally know that bike as "Stolen".  If you know anything about Craigslist and Ebay, you know that neither site requires a seller to provide a serial number for any listings containing stolen used bicycles and/or frames.

Maybe you're okay with feeding the stolen bike trade, but I am not and never will I be.  As long as I've been in the bike business, I've actively avoided working for bike shops that deal in used equipment for exactly that reason.

The Warranty is non-transferable.

This applies to pretty much everything that comes with a warranty.  If I call a manufacturer about a broken whatever on a bike a customer has brought to me for a repair, I have to be prepared to provide evidence that the item is still in the possession of the original owner.

Without that proof of purchase - from a legitimate dealer and that rules out Ebay, mind you - sometimes I can talk the warranty department into a crash replacement "deal".  Usually they just laugh at me and then I get to have a difficult conversation with the cheap-skate who insists his 10-year-old carbon whatever should've lasted forever because he "bought it from a Pro" after haggling the poor guy down to almost nothing.

There is no "free" replacement for a broken frame without proof that you respect the manufacturer enough to buy a bike from their dealer.

Considering all of this, I realize you're going to buy whatever you want from whomever you feel like.  And you should.  Just get a tune-up before your first ride.

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