Fat Tire Farm and the Demise of Customer Loyalty
Why I hate Fat Tire Farm.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 21 June 2001

A few days before my trip to Moab, I realized that I didn't know where my wrenches were. On account of moving, most of my possessions were boxed up and scattered sporadically around my new condo. While picking up my bike from my girlfriend's apartment, it dawned on me that one of the advantages of inner-city neighborhood living is that local merchants are mere moments away. Enter Fat Tire Farm, the yuppie mountain bike store located at 27th and Thurman in Northwest.

I gleefully spun my way over to Fat Tire Farm and told the guy at the desk that I wanted to buy a pedal wrench. He pointed me to a $35 wrench in a catalog, at which point I balked and explained that I was expected something around $10. I also asked if they had one of the complete kits that has all of the special tools you need for using a bike. He said that they normally did have one, but that they were all sold out.

I then asked if I could borrow one of their pedal wrenches right now and then come back later to buy the complete kit when they had it. He said, with a deadpan face, "sure, but it's a $5 fee." I countered with, "You're joking, right?" "Nope."

I immediately left and ended up finding a wrench that worked at my place. On the ride back to my condo, I recalled how the Poison Spider bike store in Moab handles a similar situation. They provide a free tools area behind their store that cyclists are free to use for self repairs. If you need to buy anything (spare parts, tube, lube, etc.), they are right inside ready to sell you what you need. Or, if the repair is too much for you to handle, you can pay them to take over. Poison Spider has even donated a bike repair stand and tools to one of the local hotels so that out-of-town guests staying there can do on-site repairs more easily.

I wonder if the owners of Fat Tire Farm have ready any books on modern business practices and the costs of obtaining and keeping customers. One such study I remember learning at Motorola is that winning a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping a current one. Another statistic went along the lines of a 3% gain in customer retention yields a huge gain in revenue (40% springs to mind, although I can't recall offhand the exact figure).

Fat Tire Farm is lucky that they have a choice location in one of the trendiest areas in town, because their customer loyalty principles are bankrupt. You won't catch me shopping there anymore. I even supported these guys in the past with business by telling my girlfriend to buy her mountain bike there; I wish I could go back and tell her to go to REI or some other bike store that doesn't try to nickel and dime their customers.

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