Season of goodwill

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, wheels for a start. I prefer a bike with wheels.”

“Oh, I see, I’m sorry. I thought we were just replacing the frame.”

“You were, but I imagined you might attach it to all the other bits. Seat and handlebars for example. Call me old fashioned, but I like my bikes to have a seat. Where’s the rest of it?”

“I dunno”

Over the past two months I’ve become fatter, grumpier and more irritable. A fully-fledged curmudgeon, in fact.

I blame Evans Cycles. This may seem unreasonable given they just helped me get a ¬£1,000 replacement frame free of charge, but, as I said, I’ve been a little irritable recently.

Being without a bicycle from November 3 to December 17 has not left me in the best of moods, particularly as those seven miserable weeks coincided with the run-up to Christmas. The season of goodwill. Apparently.

My bad mood is, of course, entirely the fault of the company that has deprived me of my bicycle. And I have to say that the fat bearded guy in a red romper suit hasn’t helped. Neither have all those fucking baubles or those dicky little lights where a single duff bulb requires the patience of a brain-dead saint to identify and a degree in mechanical engineering to fix.

A bicycle is essential for my mental equilibrium. Without it, I miss the exercise that prevents me from going mad. And without it, I have to catch the train at Clapham Junction. And that means being crushed in an over-packed cattle truck with drunk unwashed revellers in pink fairy costumes with over-sized wings.

I have history with Evans. Last year I entered an email exchange with their CEO, a Nick Wilkinson, over their treatment of one of their regular customers. Me. Impressed that Mr Wilkinson would take the trouble to reply to me personally I gave them one last chance.

They fucked that one last chance up.

So earlier this year I decided to boycott Evans. Not that they noticed. Their business happens to be in the right place at the right time. (A place, incidentally, I could have been had I stuck with and developed my student bicycle venture.) Evans are able to get away with crap service because for every disgruntled ex-customer like myself they have hoards of unsuspecting new customers walking through their doors as Britain increasingly becomes a bicycle nation.

I took my bike instead to a one-man independent cycle shop for a service. He called shortly afterwards to advise of a problem. He had found what looked like a crack in the frame. He said it might be a fissure in the paint, but its location suggested a hairline fracture of the frame. (He didn’t actually use the word ‘fissure’, he was only a bicycle mechanic not a pompous middle-aged blogger, but that was the gist of what he said.) He advised that it might be dangerous to ride and suggested I contact the manufacturer.

The bike is a Scott. Their website refers to a three-year guarantee, five years if serviced regularly by an authorized dealer. My bike is four years old. The authorized dealer in my area is Evans.

I emailed Scott to ask why a high quality independent dealer (albeit with limited vocabulary) who had spotted a potentially life-threatening fracture in my frame didn’t qualify as sufficient proof of care, whereas a low quality retail chain, who may or may not have missed the fracture previously, did qualify. They ignored my question and told me I needed to return it to Evans.

End of boycott.

I explained the situation to the guy at Evans. I asked him to access my service record on their system. He said he couldn’t easily do this as their system was very slow. He said it would take at least 20 minutes and it would be easier if I could find copies of all my receipts at home (something that would end up taking four days of my time). I was both furious at such unhelpful service and elated to receive further proof that my boycott had been justified.

I returned the following week with some of the receipts and fortunately encountered a more helpful member of Evans staff who easily and quickly found the remaining evidence that I was indeed a loyal customer of theirs. I asked him how long it would take to resolve. He thought a couple of weeks.

Five weeks later and having heard nothing, other than a call a few weeks previously to say that Scott would honour the warranty, I returned to Evans.

“Where’s my bike?”

“What bike?”

“Look mate, I had a fairy wing stuffed up my nose on my journey home last night. I’ve had enough. I want my bike back. Please find it and call me to let me know when you might return it”

No call.

I went back in the next morning.

“Good news, we’ve found your bike on our system”

“Where is it?

“I dunno”

I politely asked that they work out where it is and then call me to let me know when I might get it back.

No call

I went back the next morning.

“Good news, we’ve found your bike. It’s been delivered to our shop in Holborn.”

I returned the next morning, a Friday, to collect it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised it wasn’t there. They told me it was in Holborn. I told them I knew it was in fucking Holborn. It had been in Holborn yesterday. And it should be in Waterloo today. “Do I look as if I’m in Holborn?” I asked a slightly bemused young sales assistant who was regretting his decision to serve the curmudgeonly old man. He might not know what a curmudgeon was, but he was beginning to realise they weren’t much fun.

Come Monday morning I was back in Evans engaged in a conversation about how long it takes to get from¬†Holborn to Waterloo. It’s 1.3 miles from the Evans store in Holborn to the Evans store on the Waterloo Cut. Given that they had found my bike was in Holborn on Thursday morning, they had had four working days (during which they were open for 38 hours) to transport it those 1.3 miles. To get from Holborn to Waterloo in this time would mean travelling at an average of 0.034 mph. According to the Natural History magazine a giant tortoise has an average speed of 0.17 mph. I pointed out to the guy behind the counter at Evans that they were therefore 5 times slower than a giant tortoise.

“Even a three-toed sloth could have gone from your Aldwych store to your Waterloo store and back again, twice, in the time it has taken you not to deliver my bike that distance. A garden snail that set off first thing Thursday morning would be arriving at lunchtime today. The way things are going my money would be on the snail getting here first.”

Tuesday morning, Evans revisted. Groundhog day.

And yet finally there was progress. Their system indicated the delivery had arrived. I waited patiently while the assistant went to retrieve my long-awaited bicycle from the back of the store.

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, wheels for a start. I prefer a bike with wheels”

“Oh, I see, I’m sorry. I thought we were just replacing the frame.”

“You were, but I thought you might attach it to all the other bits. Seat and handlebars for example. Call me old fashioned, but I like my bikes to have a seat. Where’s the rest of it?”

“I dunno”

    2015-01-03 13:07:01
    "I do hope Nick Wilkinson is a follower of your's on Middle-aged meanderings (..... and Norman Tebbit). Happy New Year Chris"

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