Living #BikeShopLife

Right now during COVID-19, some folks may feel that we're living the dream because we own a bike shop. "That's great you're so busy!" is a comment we hear continuously. We're supposed to be thankful because we have a job that was deemed essential, yet folks don't seem to grasp how emotionally challenging it is.

This is a writing I shared on Instagram recently:
It's been a long day.
I said "no" more times than yes.
I heard the disappointment over our service turnaround times.
Over the lack of bikes in the store, sizes, styles, colors, etc.

We continually have to explain the COVID-19 situation to folks, who are surprised over how affected we are. (Lack of product available and all of the service work.) We are told, "That's good!" "You're so lucky!" but really? It doesn't feel that way. Not when you are continually disappointing folks for one reason or another. It's really a double-edged sword. Work comes home with us every day because that is the only way we can try to mentally prepare for the next day of saying "We're sorry." There are only so many hours in the day and we can truly do so much. We do what we can when we can. I hold onto the joy we bring when we can say "Yes!" #bikeshoplife
The struggle is real. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring normalcy to all. Unfortunately, it's not so easy.
Our lives are filled with early mornings and late nights. 10 p.m. supper and 11 p.m. bedtime. More days than not we feel like we haven't done enough. Folks are curious when it will slow down and all we can say is "Maybe September?" It's an interesting time. Everyone wants some sort of normal. Some folks forget that this is weird for ALL of us. Businesses are implementing rules for the safety of their staff and the customers. It makes me sad to hear about folks getting mad at businesses or their employees because things are limited. Because things are different. Different is here to stay.

Please be kind. Please appreciate. Please respect. We are doing our best.
#supportsmallbusiness #supportlocal #bikesarentcancelled #bikeshop #inthistogether #iamspecialized

That summarizes the current bike shop situation up. There is a lot of confusion over why we do not have bikes to sell. Folks assume new bikes will be coming in soon but the reality is, we have no clue when consistent availability of bikes under $800 bucks will happen.

The number of folks coming into our shop and leaving with new bikes is less than the number of folks we're disappointing because we do not have inexpensive bikes for their kids or kiddo trailers. Folks look to us for definite answers and we can only give estimates. Either way, those estimates are fluid and dates can change.

Because of the limited styles of bikes available, we have to explain that we can alter what we have to accommodate. Unfortunately, it seems that explaining that seems to cause more confusion than not. All we can do is try.

"No" and "We're Sorry" are said multiple times a day. We hear "Sounds like a good problem to have!" but folks don't understand until after the fact it's a terrible problem. For the first time in years, folks are coming in and really wanting to purchase products from us, and sometimes we can't sell anything because we don't have anything available that fits their needs. It's a situation that makes us feel extremely uncomfortable because for being in the service industry, we can't provide.

Service work is also challenging right now with longer turnaround times than we had in years. Folks think it's just because we don't have help, but that's not entirely the case. We have had helpers and Travis is still the one who has to finish the service jobs. It's because of the number of bikes we're getting in for service, multiple at a time. Bikes that haven't seen the light of day for 10+ years that need more work than anticipated. What one thinks may be a simple project turns into a mini-nightmare- it becomes a time sucker. 

If there was ever a situation that shows why folks should bring bikes in at the END of their riding season, COVID-19 season is it. We explain to folks our turnaround time and a few days later we're getting phone calls "checking in."

What folks don't understand is that during the week, we're so busy answering questions for folks coming in to buy bikes that we can hardly touch service jobs. Service work is being tended to after hours if we aren't having to build up bikes. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. No matter what, folks are going to be disappointed and their patience is going to be tested, all because of a virus that made everyone seek the outdoors for some sense of relief and enjoyment of life.

No. When you own a bike shop, you give up your riding time. That has been the case this year more than any other year. My rides have been cut in half or more, because more days than not I'm staying late after work to help out/finish vouchering, cleaning rentals, etc. We hear that we need to "take care of yourself" and "get out for a ride" but there isn't time. We have to put a firm foot down sometimes and tell folks that when we close, we're closed, simply so we can have some undisturbed work time. Folks don't realize that cutting into our before hours or after hours time causes extreme anxiety- it's very precious work time.

It seems, in the ideal world, our shop would be open 24/7 or have similar hours to a bar. Unfortunately, we can't do that because as human beings, we need basic things like sleep and time to eat. (Which that is definitely affected this season...the whole sleeping and eating bit.) A wee bit of respect goes a super long way, and it is a relief when folks do so.

Folks don't realize that we go home with anxiety for the next day after we hear "We'll be there right when you open!" ...having to steel our emotions because we won't hardly have time to unlock the door before we have to help get rentals set up. We stress that we need patience, but it's always a "we'll see about that" situation. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it's like herding kids in a candy store...a mess of talking, not listening, etc.

Everyone at some point should have a job in the service industry. They should deal with the phone calls that end in an abrupt hangup because we didn't give the answer that the customer wanted. Folks should experience the anxiety and stress that comes from a customer voicing their unhappiness over turnaround time or lack of product availability that is beyond our control.

Folks should understand that we are in the unfortunate position of having to decide every day whether or not we should try and hire someone on or just keep it to ourselves. We're in a spot where we do not have the time to train anyone. Everyone that wants to work at the shop does not want to work with customers or answer the phone, which is part of the job. If we can't have someone come on who can instantly work with customers (and feel comfortable doing so during COVID-19 time) then we are better off just running the show as a team of two.

It's a very strange time. It's a strange time for many businesses, and I stress that. I am saddened by seeing Facebook posts where a business admits that customers were treating their staff persons poorly because of restrictions in place for SAFETY.

I cringe internally every time someone asks if they "need" to wear their mask inside the store when we have signs recommending masks. Really? How honest should I answer the question? As someone who has asthma issues, a mom in her mid-60's, and someone who is continually exposed to people on a daily basis...YES. Yes I would, we would, appreciate you wearing a mask. We do not have the luxury of rest and relaxation during this time, we have to be ON, and if you would like us to not close up the shop because we're ill, then a mask is a great step.

I have to brace myself for customer interaction every day. Everyone in the service industry right now is likely going through or feeling similar feelings. For us, the weird feelings that COVID-19 brought don't go away. More and more folks seem to be gravitating towards wanting things to be normal and we're still battling the anxiety that the whole situation brought.

What I would like to remind everyone is that respect is key. It's extremely important that we respect all businesses that are open in any capacity during this time. The folks that are putting their health on the line daily so folks can have some sort of "normal" deserve respect. Folks need to remember to ask questions, listen, and understand that there is a lot right now beyond our control. We want to help, but there will be limitations, and that is going to be ongoing for some time.

Patience. Respect. Kindness. Those are key ingredients for living life. All the time.