Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poor Customer Service is Annoying

Tree Fort Bikes, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, has moved to the bottom of my list of bicycle parts vendors.  I won't declare, "I'll never buy from them, again," because the day may come that I need something that is only available from them.  I won't cut off my nose to spite my face.

But, they will be the last place I check for availability.

As you may remember, I recently bought a Salsa Mukluk frame from them.  I also ordered a 100mm shell-width bottom bracket and a crank from them, a few days later.  On Saturday, when I started to assemble the bike, I found that the crank hit the frame, when installed on the bottom bracket spindle.

I called Tree Fort Bikes, and spoke to the only guy there, apparently, on Sunday.  He and I looked at the Fat Bike BB/Cranks page on their website, and he told me that he had no idea why the crank and bottom bracket weren't compatible with my frame.  He advised me to call back and talk to one of the "Fat Bike experts", on Monday.

"Cool," I said.  "I hope if I need another bottom bracket that I will be able to return this one..."

"Oh, yeah!  We'll take care of you.  I can't imagine why there isn't more information here, so we'll definitely take it back if you need the other one. This Fat Bike stuff is so new, it's like the Wild West out there.  Nobody has any experience with these things, and not many people know what's going on."

"Well, I certainly don't," I said.  "I am learning this stuff as I go, on this build."

I thanked him for his help, and rang off.  I entered Tree Fort Bikes into my contacts list on the phone, so that I could call the Fat Bike expert, later.

On Monday, I did just that.  Once again, I got on their website page, as did the Expert on the other end of the line.  Once again, I was told that he, the Expert, had no idea why I was having a problem.

"Let me do some research and I'll call you right back," he said.

That was Monday.  Today, I called him, since I never heard back from him.

"Did you figure anything out?"  I asked him, after being on hold for 5 ot 6 minutes.

"Yeah, and I have no excuse for not calling you back," he said.

"No problem," I said.  "What's the deal?"

"Well," he replied, in a dismissive tone, "it says right in the description that the crank only works with the Howitzer Bottom Bracket."

I was, once again, looking at the website as I talked to him.  Even after he told me that, it took me two readings of the description to find where it said that.  Still, I had suspected as much.  The Howitzer is an external-bearing bottom bracket, so the spindle is longer.

"I'll just order one of those, then," I told him.  "What do I need to do about returning the other bottom bracket?"

"Oh, you can't return that," he said.  "You installed it in your bike.  If we did take it back, you would have to pay a restocking fee."

I thanked him for his "help", and rang off.  It isn't going to ruin me, financially, to have a $45.00 bottom bracket I can't use, and I didn't feel like pulling the old "irate customer" act.  But, I wasn't particularly happy.

So, I ordered the correct bottom bracket, moved Tree Fort Bikes to the bottom of my preferred vendors list, and started writing this post in my head.  I am not saying that you shouldn't buy from them, or that they ow me anything.  I just think that, if two different employees can't look at the website and spot what my problem is within five minutes, that it is poor customer service to refuse to exchange the incorrect part I inadvertently ordered...particularly after the first guy assured me that they would, in his words, "take care" of me.

If you do buy from them, make damn sure you order the correct parts if you can't afford to eat the cost of a mistake.



At 3:44 AM , Blogger Big Oak said...

That's a bummer. They have to make a living too, but you'd think they would be more accommodating since they are new to fat bikes also. Unfortunately you paid their $45 lesson. I hope the new one works.

At 1:47 PM , Blogger Wilson said...

I count my pennies with all bike parts - I just need to do that. Funny though, they have a strong advertising presence in the mag I read and that alone makes them come off as trustworthy. Just shows that flashy ads don't mean much but just that.

At 3:37 PM , Blogger Brad said...

Hold on there a minute buddy! I'm gonna keep you honest on this one. How many times have you and I (as bike shop employees) told customers that if they choose to purchase parts online and try to install them on their own, and that if they are incorrect it's going to cost them extra? I'm not saying that TF bikes is right or wrong, but we have been on the other side of this argument. I know that we are generally the type to try to resolve and keep the customer happy, but if THEY chose the wrong part and installed it, then it's on them. But if WE chose the wrong part and they installed it, it's on us.

To clarify...does the site say to use the BB you ordered? If that's the case, they are in the wrong.

At 6:25 PM , Blogger Jon said...


I think you are missing a some points:

1. I am not asking a bike shop to fix a problem I created on the internet.

@. The employees didn't know that these parts would not work together, so I can't see that they should necessarily expect me to.

3. I am not asking for them to give me something. I simply think they should have accepted a return on the incompatible part when I purchased the correct part...from them.

By not doing so, they simply didn't gain any loyalty from me, which they would have, otherwise.

At 3:18 PM , Blogger Brad said...

You're right...I am missing them. Completely.

Sorry for recommending them in the first place.

At 9:45 PM , Blogger Jon said...

No need to be sorry. I am happy to have the frame, and, like I said, I will still buy from them if they are the only choice. I am just not impressed with their service.


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