I should probably declare first - I was given a discount at the Auntie Shop in Kaki Bukit Avenue 2. It was a 1% discount on the overall price I paid for the things I bought there. May seemed significant to people to have the impression that I am writing this because of pecuniary interest, but then again, I urge flame-throwers to think first, 1% of $100 is $1, and how much do you think someone will spend just buying accessories for a Phantom?
I like many others who have been forewarned of Auntie's attitude had been very influence to shun this shop unless necessary. Given the lack of accessories shops which affords variety, I finally succumbed to the greed of modification and hunt down this shop, despite its rather frequent movement over the past few years. Yesterday wasn't my first visit to her shop. I went to her shop many years ago when she was still sited at Kelantan Lane (beside LAB). Given the impression formed by the internet back then, I wasn't really too gleeful to have visit her shop then - she was what most forummers said she was, haughty, not incline to show you the things you want to see, etc etc. I walked away from her shop and bought nothing. Subsequently, I visited Madman and bought the things i needed.
Yesterday was quite a different experience. But not without some attempt on my part. I admit that I must have aged over the years to become more mellowed. She maintained her same self when I arrived there. Very assuming, not service oriented etc. But having been in the service industry over the last few years, I became more emphatic of people in the same industry. We often encounter customers who may not be right all the time and still insist that the customer is always right. Somehow or rather, this takes a toll on the way we deal with our customers, some became better, other became more non-chalant, some even became worse, lost faith in the job and left. I was incline to just leave and come back to this forum and maybe blast her for her attitude again, but again, the shiny chrome accessories charmed me to just stick around and see what I could leave with in the Phantom Disneyland I had just re-discovered.
Incident 1 - I asked how much it would cost to modify my rear brake level and gear shifter to look like a shadow slasher's forward controls. Her answer sounded rather offending, "How much are you willing to pay?" Taken aback, I restrained from lashing back and joking replied that I am a poor chap, and without some pricing, I wouldn't know whether i could afford. She persisted and said, "You tell me how much you are willing to pay and I tell you whether it can be done. No point of giving you a price since everything could be done if you can pay a lot right?" Something just struck me in the head when she said this. Take away the porcupine approach, Auntie was a very pragmatic person, even in her way of communication. She does not want to engage in haggling over prices. You tell her how much you are willing to pay and she will tell you whether she can achieve it. And especially in this age of internet, everyone seemed to know how much everything cost. I gave her a price and she gave me a satisfying reply - "workable, can be done and requires one day of work." Sadly, my schedule does not permit me to leave my bike inside a workshop for one day, else I would have resprayed my bike long ago. I told her I needed my "bicycle" to move around, and maybe some other day I will come back for this modification. She just laughed.
Moral of the story - human interaction is always a case of tit for tat. You try to be nice, and others may not return the favor. But if you don't try to be nice, there is even more reason why people should not be nice. And if you are not nice, high chance is that people won't be nice either. Unless of course you are a billionaire, or the most sexiest person alive.
Incident 2 - After surviving the first encounter, I began my selection of stuff. The first thing I asked to install was a chrome rear brake pedal. $25, she said, "ride your bike inside and I'll get it installed for you". Very assuming. No time wasting, and didn't even give me a chance to bargain. But bargaining sometimes is a double edged sword. If a shop tend to mark up its price by 200%, even eventually if you got a 50% percent discount, you would still be paying 150% more. And having bought this type of thing before from someone, I knew the price was much cheaper. I didn't want to waste my time either.
Moral of the story - I guess its called looking at the bright side of things. A lot of unpleasantness is a result of what psychology termed as "self-fulfilling prophecy". You believe yourself that Auntie is a haughty (or in Hokkien what we call "HAO LIAN"), "chop-head" businessman, eventually you will seek out traits which she displays as "see, the internet was true about her after all!" Learning to see past chatter allows us to make judgement better sometimes. And hey, don't start crucifying yourself early too. People don't look down at us all the time. Its just the way they communicate.
Happy New Year to all bikers - Singaporean and otherwise, PK and others as well. The world is becoming flatter, our skill colors doesn't seem to matter anymore, its fast becoming just different shades of tans.
Incident 3 - A gentleman walked into the shop to exchange for an item he just bought. The way he chose to articulate his request was what a normal person would do in his situation "Hey, the item you sold me doesn't work! I want to exchange!" The exchanges was what I expected. The crew at Auntie shop simply barked back and asked the gentleman to bring his bike down and they will install the item for a workmanship fee. The gentleman became very angry and raised his voice. Eventually Auntie intervene and said she will let him change. But the process wasn't a pleasant one even for someone who is not involved like me. She took out a box of the same item, poured out onto her counter and ask the gentleman to pick for himself. The gentleman asked whether the items were new. He took one piece and left, and never to return to this shop again I guess.
The value of the item is not a concern. But rather the type of item. As much as there is a buyer's caveat (buyer's beware), shops are expected to honor their own business transactions when the items sold are a matter of manufacturing defects. There are explicitly some things which cannot be exchanged once you paid for the item, e.g. underwear, prescription glasses, and one thing which surprised me when i accompanied a friend to go shopping, "Kate Spade sunglasses". The sales lady even made my friend signed a form to say that the item was received in good condition and cannot be exchanged even if it is within 7 days.
Some motorcycles parts should fall into this category as well. Some shops that we go to for servicing, they changed some of our parts and even when the parts were changed, some problems persisted. Eventually, we changed more parts than what actually caused the problem. I'm sure I'm not the only person who experienced this. That is why its important to maintain some form of trust between you and your mechanic. If you really can't trust anyone but yourself, I guess you will have to take up an apprenticeship to learn how to service/repair your bike then.
Back to this incident, the item which was being requested to change was not so much of an accessory but a electrical component. Something which cannot be tested on its own, unlike a bulb or horn. Some of us like to DIY and buy stuff to change ourselves to enjoy the process and save money in the process. But it doesn't mean we are as competent as those who are doing it on a daily basis. I shorted a motherboard on my first attempt to DIY assemble my own PC. Because I forgot to ground myself and also another LPT cable. I broke a 1983 Seiko watch trying to change the scratched watchglass myself, (buying all the DIY stuff in Ebay). You get the drift.
Moral of the story - People exchange time for money, especially service industries like bike shops. Sometimes its not the value of the work they do, its the time they take away from other tasks to do the "small little thing" you ask them to do. There was this bike shop that charged me $2 for asking them to adjust my chain tension (when I wasn't there to change my EO). But when i was there changing EO, that same mechanic adjusted my chain for free. I know how to adjust my chain tension, and probably won't be as fast as the mechanic and would get my hands dirty too. But I would pay $2 to have it adjusted if I don't feel like doing it myself. Only fair right?
Incident 4 - while dismantling the risers, the male person (I guess its the auntie's husband) left after loosening the nut. When he came back, he covered my already slightly scarred tank with pieces of old clothing. I was rather touched by this gesture. (9 year old phantom, imperfect paintwork). I thanked him for the effort and he smiled and said its only right. Some mechanics (you will probably know who) don't even care when they are just servicing your bike. They will use a scissor jack without buffering it with cloth on your shiny exhaust, leave their hand prints all over your ferrings and leather seats etc. Unless its damn good and dirt cheap, I doubt anyone would go back to such shops after one experience. Imagine the tender loving care we give to items we care about - i have a friend who will wipe down his bike every time he stop his bike for long periods of time (before going off to work after parking at office, before going home, before going off to meet his gf after parking at the shopping centre). We shouldn't expect the same amount of love and attention, the mechanic probably doesn't share the same type of affection you have for your bike. But the least we could expect is some amount of care to do no harm, and this was precisely what I saw and experience.
After everything was fixed, it was past the shop opening hours. 31 Dec 2013, New Year Eve, past dinner. The male person and another younger male person (i guess its Auntie's son) was tidying up the last bit of installation and checks. The young male person surprised me further by taking out a piece of cloth and started to wipe down my bike. Not the microfibre type I use, not with AutoGlym or Mantis but just plain clean cloth and some cleaning solution. All the obvious oil stains were cleaned from my bike, or at least the places which are very visible to the naked eye. I told him it'll do and thanked him.
Moral of the story - No one will take care of your bike as well as you do (some of us don't even). So lets not penalize people when they leave dirty prints all over our bikes shall we?
If you didn't know better, you might have thought I am Auntie's relative, or just someone she employed to help salvage her horrendous reputation in the world of internet. Nope, meet me for the 10 Jan 2014 ride and I'll convince you that yesterday was the first time I ever bought anything from her. We chatted, and she quipped about her trollish reputation. She even asked me to search for the other co-joining shop, Champion Hobby and read for myself how horrible her reputation was. She did opened up to me when I asked her about her reluctance to show customers items they request to look at. She explained in a very polite manner that her items are already displayed inside a glass cabinet, if the person asked for an item which cannot fit the type of bike they stated, she will not take it out as she already knew that the item will not fit and the person would probably not buy it eventually. (Her same old pragmatic logic of business dealing). And especially in times where there are a lot of customers, taking items out wouldn't be a good way to operate her business. She would have to pay attention to the item taken out instead.
I guess I've written enough to justify the amount of discount which I was given yesterday, if by now Flame-throwers are still minded to think that I am just a paid writer. Probably I should say how much discount I was given in an indirect way - it was the same value of the item the gentleman in Incident 3 came to exchange for, and not enough for a bowl of bah kut teh.
Once again, Happy New Year to all my readers.