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 think you would have to wait for the ultimate outcome to know if it accomplished anything. I did follow up through proper channels on my own negative experience and got a lot of "saying the right things" but never felt like the person on the other end actually was interested in the details of my experience.

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

To be fair, igz, I think you might have done a better job of communicating your issue to the actual person working on your bike.  I know you had a lot going on--which is not their fault--but you might have had a better outcome if you had demonstrated the issue OUTDOORS to the tech who was going to do the work.  And then have the tech do the same and replicate the issue.

I know you're venting and not happy.  But I don't think it's fair to put this all on REI.  I've been a member/customer for 20 years and never had an issue with them.  Their return policy is beyond generous, devotion to conservancy admirable and, for the most part, customer service is friendly and helpful.  There are exceptions, of course, but one bad experience (which was not entirely their fault) does not warrant such acrimony, IMHO.

Regarding this point, a quick shout out to my LBS, Glenview Cycle. The past few time I've brought in bikes for tuneups/repairs, they always delivered ahead of schedule, and great work to boot! Thanks Alan!!!

Tom Dworzanski said:

The key to customer satisfaction is to under-promise and over-deliver. Not the other way around.

Joe, thanks for the feedback, but i did not get an opportunity to speak with him upfront as he was working on something else, but i then later did speak with him and he did ride the bike.  all to no avail.  and the needs were clearly stated to the person assigned to take my bike. unfortunately, the word "squeak" never made it to the service ticket. regardless, it was eventually clarified and refused to be fixed and i got stuck with the bill.

Same for me with Lakeshore Bike (this one, unfortunately, closes for winter), Roscoe Village and Cozy's South Loop shops. Consistently excellent.

Andy J said:

Regarding this point, a quick shout out to my LBS, Glenview Cycle. The past few time I've brought in bikes for tuneups/repairs, they always delivered ahead of schedule, and great work to boot! Thanks Alan!!!

Tom Dworzanski said:

The key to customer satisfaction is to under-promise and over-deliver. Not the other way around.

Igz - What kind of brakes & brake pads do you have?

Gotcha'  Glad you took my post in the spirit it was intended--not trying to add insult to injury, just perspective.  There's no question you had a bad experience and hopefully some good will come from this post.  Enjoy your weekend!
 
igz said:

Joe, thanks for the feedback, but i did not get an opportunity to speak with him upfront as he was working on something else, but i then later did speak with him and he did ride the bike.  all to no avail.  and the needs were clearly stated to the person assigned to take my bike. unfortunately, the word "squeak" never made it to the service ticket. regardless, it was eventually clarified and refused to be fixed and i got stuck with the bill.

Kool-Stop pads. they have this lip at the back to scrape off debris before fully gripping on the rim.  the calipers are some shimano, not sure of the model.

Kelvin Mulcky said:

Igz - What kind of brakes & brake pads do you have?

Wait... you can drop off a bike and have it done by the time you are done shopping? It sounds like you wanted a rush order and failed to communicate that? 

Still, kinda sad that there is no fire under their ass for a simple brake check. Most likely the pads just need a toe in. It would take, maybe, 5 minutes to sand paper the pad surface, clean the rim with alcohol, and reinstall the pads correctly. IF that didn't eliminate the noise... then new pads. 

i just took this video to show you dont need to "really pull hard" to make it squeak. aint that a great sound?  i do joke that its an "early warning system" as i approach an intersection. oh, and dont judge me for riding in flip flops... 

Drew, it wasnt a rush order. i asked beforehand, and was clear that if it wasnt possible, i wouldnt put my bike up. there was no confusion there.

pads did get toe'd in, rims did get cleaned. the only thing at the shop that wasnt done was the sandpaper - that i know of anyway. but i did that a few months ago.

i agree that new pads are probably the answer, but they are only 4-5 months old. thye have under 2000 miles on them. its why i figured the I was the one doing something wrong.


Drewbacca said:

Wait... you can drop off a bike and have it done by the time you are done shopping? It sounds like you wanted a rush order and failed to communicate that? 

Still, kinda sad that there is no fire under their ass for a simple brake check. Most likely the pads just need a toe in. It would take, maybe, 5 minutes to sand paper the pad surface, clean the rim with alcohol, and reinstall the pads correctly. IF that didn't eliminate the noise... then new pads. 

I agree.

However, on the whole, REI Lincoln Park store is really great and the employees are always very helpful, except the ones working by the bike area on the back right corner of the store.

h' 1.0 said:

I think you would have to wait for the ultimate outcome to know if it accomplished anything. I did follow up through proper channels on my own negative experience and got a lot of "saying the right things" but never felt like the person on the other end actually was interested in the details of my experience.

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