The Chainlink

ill start by saying that i love REI. i am a member, i take advantage of the scratch and dent section, i have always had awesome customer service getting help with gear for some of the best trips of my life including backpacking the adirondacks and the grand canyon.  but yesterday, on wednesday, i had my first negative but impactful experience.  i say impactful because it still lingers with me to this moment and i feel the need to share it. it still angers me. 

im going away this weekend on a fun trip. but i had to get some basics - freeze dried food, a new fuel canister, a new pair of swim trunks that didnt "dig-in in unfortunate ways". while running in, i figured i could take care of a minor issue on bike while i shop around for a bit. you see, i hate brakes.  not because of their function, but because i always seem to have a difficult time with their maintenance.  when i purchased "the joker" from my girlfriend in late winter/early spring, the bike was ridden for the first time in about 10 years, maybe more. the brake pads were completely dry rotted. so i replaced them. yeah, its an easy fix. heck, ive built entire bikes, i built my own wheels with the guidance of west town bikes, ive maintained my year round ridden bikes for 6 years. but them brakes, GAH! i couldnt get them to stop squeaking.  yes, ive adjusted them, yes, i sanded them, yes, i rode on them, yes, ive cleaned the rims.  i'll just let REI deal with them while i shop.

back to the situation.  i walk up to the bike service counter.  a nice lady approaches me. "do you need any help?" yes, i do my brakes SQUEAK. they work fine otherwise, they just squeak. she asked me to recreate the situation. i asked if i can ride it there in the aisle to demonstrate. "sure".  the brakes need the velocity to show it.  the brakes stop the wheel fine if you hold the bike up, spin the tire, pull the brake. i rode and she quickly acknowledged the squeak and accepted the bike for service.  we wrote up a ticket after a few more questions, and she determined the service was "brake adjustment". i clarified the brakes were fine as function, just the squeak. but "squeak" is not an option in the book, so sure, brake adjustment it is.  i leave the joker with the service team and go shopping.

i spend the next 20 minutes or so shopping for camp food, picked up the fuel canister, found a slightly too big but ok pair of swim trunks, and found a really cool button down on sale. i checked the returned gear section for a possible foam sleep pad (my inflatable big agnes has a leak, and they had one last time i looked) but no dice.  back to the bike service desk.

i find my bike leaning against the counter. but no employees, no maintenance techs, nothing. i think, ok, someone can grab the bike and leave with it.  i stand around a minute and decide to check the work on the bike. i get on it to ride it 10 feet or so to get that velocity, pull the brakes and SQUEEK. god damnit!

i put the bike back against the counter and wait for someone to come by. no one. i walk to the walkways to hope to be spotted by an employee. a guy towards the front of the store sees me and slowly walks towards me. "can i help you?" in a tone that came off as if he was annoyed he had to help. not sure if i just read it wrong, but whatever. i explained my front brake still squeaked and now the rear brake, tho it didnt squeak anymore, it barely gripped. and then he went a bit defensive on me. he said, well, you know your wheel is a bit out of true and the brakes arent rubbing. my brakes were never rubbing, my brakes worked fine other than the noise. then he said i need to clean them and my rim. i had to explain i came here to fix the squeak. i still have a squeak and a less functioning rear brake now.

i went to demonstrate as he continued to dismiss my repair needs and expectations, got on the bike to show him the severity of the squeak. the pitch does hurt eardrums now. he said "uh, you need to get off that bike, you cant ride in here, a customer might come out of the isle and you might hit them". i clarified i just tried to show him that i still have a problem, showing him the same way i showed the other employee.

he said "hold on, ill call the tech", still in his fussy attitude and tone. calls him, and says - still fussy - "the customer is complaining about the work you did, the front squeaks and the rear squeaks worse. can you come back here. he is still complaining". i corrected him about the rear brake, he rolled his eyes at me and remitted the correction to the tech.

the tech comes and adjust the brakes without talking to me.  now, speaking with him for the first time explained why my bike is in the shop. not for rubbing brakes, but for the damn squeak. i thanked him on the rear rim, but explained it wasnt gripping properly. he adjusted both brakes. he said "here, go try it now".

i grab the bike and head outside, but i quickly get stopped by fussy attitude guy saying "uh, you need to pay for that!". i explained to him im merely going outside to test the repair and the rest of my purchase is right behind him, ill be right back.

i go test the bike.  SQUEAK!

back in. maintenance tech asks if he can take for a test. by all means, please do.

he comes back saying "i wasnt really able to recreate it unless i really pulled hard on the brake. i dont know, it is what it is. just give yourself more room to stop. and so you know a brake adjustment doesnt cover squeak."

i underline to simply remind the reader that i HAD A DAMN SQUEAK, the whole reason i handed them my bike.

by that time, i was rather irritated. i spent way more time than i had there trying to resolve the problem, my girlfriend was awaiting my help to move boxes, and i just needed to get back home. i paid $130 and change for the camp gear, some clothes, and the damn "brake adjustment". oh, and i cashed in my $17 dividend. 

the more i thought about it today, the more irritated i got about the situation. i didnt like the unnecessary attitude, i didnt appreciate being talked to like an idiot, i didnt appreciate the "not covered" part. i would have been fine if they told me they were just going to replace the pads. but instead, they said i could do that if i wanted to install it myself. i actually entertained that thought for a moment but quickly remembered thats what brought me here in the first place. i asked the employee ringing me up to set aside that pad set from my pile. i wasnt buying it. 

i should have gone to comrades like i planned in the first place.

so...anyone have a good experience there?

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I actually beat myself up about this a bit. I should have stood my ground and been more insistent. But I also think the situation was getting a bit hostile with their attitude. truth is I don't take too kindly to such attitudes and my response would have started to make things deteriorate further. leaving and figuring how to deal with it later was the right thing for me to do at the moment, before it turned out to be that I was in the wrong.

But yes, time was critical at this point as well. I spent close to an hour there after my bike was originally stated to have been repaired.

h' 1.0 said:

Not sure what you're getting at here, Joe-- seems like you must have read this too:

he comes back saying "i wasnt really able to recreate it unless i really pulled hard on the brake. i dont know, it is what it is. just give yourself more room to stop. and so you know a brake adjustment doesnt cover squeak."

You're saying Iggy should have become insistent after such a statement that they fix his squeak?

to be clear, I never said 'i have to go, time's up'

Joe M said:

That's true, Tom, but I don't believe I've presented anything new which wasn't revealed in igz's original post:

by that time, i was rather irritated. i spent way more time than i had there trying to resolve the problem, my girlfriend was awaiting my help to move boxes, and i just needed to get back home. 

If igz didn't need to get back home, he might've been able to give REI additional time to fix the problem rather than leave and pay for sub-par service.  More time wasn't necessary to explain the issue, it was necessary to resolve it.
 
Tom Dworzanski said:

Joe,

You've stated twice in this thread that igz is somehow at fault (or at least unfortunate) for being time constrained. I don't understand how having more time would have made any difference. It seems to me that igz spent ample time explaining the issue, even demonstrating it to the intake person. I don't see how time is a factor or how this situation would have been any different if igz had spent any more time explaining the issue.

UPDATE:

i received a call from the store manager. we spoke today for a while recapping the situation and he offered to make it right.  i will be bringing the bike back for the repair/replacement as needed.

Long time REI member, long time as a satisfied customer.  They have never worked on any of my bikes.

UPDATE:

REI took care of it.  i dropped off my bike with them.  they offered to take it right in and turn it around in a few minutes.  i let them know that it wasnt necessary, that they could fit me in whenever.  i picked up my other bike from another shop where i was having my bottom bracket replaced and ghost-rode it there so i could get back home.

they called me the next day. bike was ready for pick up.  they comped me new pads.  apparently, the pads i installed where not compatible with my rims.  who woulda thunk?  they also tried refunding me the original service charge.  but i refused that refund.  they ultimately fixed everything, took care of the service i originally paid for, and i believed that $20 was theirs.  i was willing to pay for the pads as well, but they refused that.  

upon leaving, i stopped at the cash registers and asked for the manager.  he came down and i thanked him for everything. they took care of the issue.

Thanks You, REI!

no squeak! 

I'm a long-time REI member and was horrified with the bike 'service' department at the Halstead store. 

Never again. I'd rather go to Sportif on Lawrence,  even THEY are better than that corner of the REI Halstead store.  The rest of the REI store is great.  I don't know what their issue is, and I don't care.   I won't even go into that corner of the building when I'm shopping there, which isn't very often these days.  I prefer Moosejaw or Erehwon right up the street these days anyhow -mostly just because of the way they let the bike department be run.  It poisoned my whole opinion of REI.   it only takes one worm to make the whole apple unappealing.  

I'm glad that it's taken care of, however ridiculous that it required an internet complaint.



igz said:

UPDATE:

REI took care of it.  i dropped off my bike with them.  they offered to take it right in and turn it around in a few minutes.  i let them know that it wasnt necessary, that they could fit me in whenever.  i picked up my other bike from another shop where i was having my bottom bracket replaced and ghost-rode it there so i could get back home.

they called me the next day. bike was ready for pick up.  they comped me new pads.  apparently, the pads i installed where not compatible with my rims.  who woulda thunk?  they also tried refunding me the original service charge.  but i refused that refund.  they ultimately fixed everything, took care of the service i originally paid for, and i believed that $20 was theirs.  i was willing to pay for the pads as well, but they refused that.  

upon leaving, i stopped at the cash registers and asked for the manager.  he came down and i thanked him for everything. they took care of the issue.

Thanks You, REI!

no squeak! 

it probably only needed a direct discussion with the manager, honestly.  this was more of a sharing of my experience.  it was sharing this that formulated my letter to the company.  

J.A.W. said:

I'm glad that it's taken care of, however ridiculous that it required an internet complaint.

I stopped shopping REI when they denied a return. I had some camping equipment from 2005 that did not live up to my expectations. They claimed it was too worn out for their lifetime return/exchange policy. I don't care much for that REI in Lincoln Park. The prices are so high its insane.

A trick that sometimes works is to squirt a little water on the brake pads/rim and let your brakes rub against the rim.  A lot of times dirty brake pads/rims can cause squeeking.  Also, an out of true wheel can cause problems as well.  So if your wheel is out of true, adjusting it can help so your brake is always rubbing the rim equally through the entire wheel rotation.

iggy - really sucks. we all have been there and feel for you. I have an outstanding gripe with Budget rent-a-car that will cost them a lot of $$$ when I am done with them.

 

Adam - careful now : don't push it dude.... ;-)

Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) said:

Wait, you mean complaining on the internet actually accomplished something?! My whole existence has meaning!

Elliot Bennett said:

Hey IGZ,

I am very sorry to hear about your negative experience at our Lincoln Park Store. I would like to get you in touch with the store managers so you can share your feedback about the shop service directly with them. Do you mind direct messaging me your email or phone number so I can connect you with them?

Respectfully,

Elliot Bennett

REI Market Outdoor Programs and Outreach Coordinator

elbenne@rei.com

I, too, love REI and have been a member for about 10 years. There's so many great bike shops near me I would never bring my bikes in though. One day I got a flat nearby and took it in. I warned them that it had an internal hub and if they weren't comfortable with that to let me know (thinking they don't see tons in there).

Well, the flat repair takes an hour—not sure why as I didn't see them working on any other bikes. I pay and get about half a mile before the tire completely deflates. As I turn around the skies open up and it begins to pour. I walk back to REI, completely soaked, and tell them they must have missed some glass or something because the tire only lasted 1/2 mile. 

The mechanic is surprised and agrees to fix it. I ask if it's going to take an hour again and he tells me I should go across the street for a beer while I wait and they'll call. At this point I should have just taken it on the bus home but I figured I'd let them fix it. In the end I got a bike I could ride home but I've never had a flat take so long to fix and, to be honest, it doesn't hold the air right ever since then. I love REI but I wouldn't use the bike service at the Halsted store again unless I really had to. So Iggy, it's not just you.

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