12 September, 2006

Letting Off Steam


Our front racks have been delayed. The shop that had been making our racks and decaleurs is inundated with work so we made a deal with a well known bike builder to make our front rack instead. We had hoped to have them within a few weeks, but when I called a few days ago I was told they hadn't started yet and might not for weeks.

Having been in the boat building businesses in the past, I could not imagine that happening. It just seemed that everyone stuck to their word. I would buy containers of mahogany or hundreds of gallons of epoxy on a handshake, and they were delivered on time. If we had an order due on a certain date, the guys in the shop would work until midnight if need be. I would too, running a saw or a sander or just mixing adhesive. We'd order a dozen pizzas turn up the stereo and go to work. Then we'd sit around and drink beer until all hours and feel damn proud of ourselves.

But since starting Velo Orange it seems that most of our suppliers can't get stuff to us on time. Shipments are delayed for weeks without even an apology. Incorrect parts are sent and the only excuse we get is "that's all we had". The fact that it does not work is not even considered. The price we were promised is suddenly meaningless.

I don't get it. We pay our bills on time. I'm easy to get along with. We order in fairly large quantities. Why does nothing arrive on time? What is it with the bike business?

As for things folks have been waiting for:

Ostrich bags: These are on the way and will arrive any day now.

Front racks: Two shops are interested in making them. I hope to have a sample in a week or two and production racks soon after.

TA pedals: UPDATE: Just heard that the reason for the delay is a broken mold used to make the pedal bodies. A new one is being fabricated.

Custom Honjo Fenders: In 2-3 months.

Velo Orange Handlebar Packs: I won't even try to predict.

1-inch Decaleurs: They are in production now, so about 2 weeks.

14 comments:

Neil B. said...

I'm sorry for your frustration. Maybe you were a bigger fish in a smaller pond in the wooden boat trade? Of course that still is no justification for anyone, anyone, not honoring their word.

C said...

Welcome to the bike business!! I remember a guy who worked for a parts distributor talking about ordering frames from a well known Italian builder. He ordered a batch in red and a batch in blue. When the crate arrived the bikes were all one color. He called and asked "What gives?" and the response from the Italians was "It was the end of the day and changing out the paint guns takes a lot of time. Red...blue...what does it matter??" They just didn't get it.

Anonymous said...

Keep the faith Chris. You're stuff is worth waiting for. I do agree the bike business is a stange industry. I ordered a bike part from my local REI store, gave them all the details, part number, name, description, ..... They just couldn't get it right. I finally accepted a substitute just to get on with life. Best regards, Alan

Anonymous said...

I suspect that is a low-wage business across the board that with the exception of owner-builders who see their names going out on the product really don't have a lot invested in the process. No pride begets un-professionalism, sad to say. In a small-lot sale, there probably isn't much competition for your timely payments, and little fear of loss to a rival or deserved disrepute. Who could blame a small-lot buyer for going abroad for supplies?

A.B. said...

Chris, It's just plain bad business. I'm sorry you're getting the runaround from these guys. As much as I would like a custom this or specially-ordered that; perhaps you should stop doing business with these suppliers. They're not going to change their ways if late deliveries and poor service don't stop you from ordering. If they lose you as a customer, maybe they'll get it together and do what it takes to get your business back. To me, V.O. is about service and attention to detail and attention to it's customers. Do business with those who share the same vision.

Or, if you really just needed to let off steam... damn, that sucks. What a pain. Hang in there. We got your back.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is time for you to get a torch and tooling and "roll your own" can't be that hard.

Anonymous said...

From what I can tell from doing a couple catalogs for waterloo's finest, I can honestly say your frustration seems to be echoed by brand managers at all levels, even the very top.

C said...

Oh yeah, hands down the hardest of part of being a product manager is dealing with vendors. I know we've dumped vendors because they were unable to fill orders when needed.

Building your own is a crazy idea. Anyone who suggests this clearly knows little about the bike business. The absolute best framebuilders in this country all earn VERY modest livings. Being a framebuilder is a lot like being a chef - no money and you should have your head checked for even thinking about going into the profession.

On the upside, you offer products nobody else offers at reasonable prices. Can't wait for my Ostrich bag.

Anonymous said...

Chris, Sorry and after around a dozen years in the biz I can say i feel your pain. My current job isn't easier, just less frustrating. Keep the faith, you are one of the good ones. I placed an order last Friday afternoon and received it the following Tuesday. Thats fast service even considerihg the weekend. Maybe service such as yours will begin to make a small dent in the rest of the industry. Cheers and Thanks, Scott Henry

Olyfixie said...

This is a big part of why Shimano grew from an industry laughing stock to having a market share that Microsoft would envy; companies with products that guys like us loved, like TA, Simplex, Huret, Zeus, etc., etc., couldn't be bothered. They were small European, family-run businesses that treated with contempt any customers who didn't come from within a ten-kilometer radius. Shimano acts like a business--a ruthless one, at that--and darn near drove even Campagnolo out of the bueiness of equipping new bikes.

Anonymous said...

Of course, it didn't hurt that Shimano made good parts at good prices. I like Campagnolo and do build-up with their parts, but their availability in the Americas leaves a lot to be desired. In some ways, they act no better than those defunct French parts makers.

david_nj said...

Shimano's a pretty interesting company. I have been cycling for a loooooooong time and have never owned a bike with one single Shimano thing on it. But think their new DA stuff is amazing. I had a chance to ride on a new race bike and the drivetrain was as precise as a Rolex. Plus, I think the new DA gear would look spectacular on a modern-style randonneur, especially the cranks. It's a bit Buck Rogers-ish in a cool way.

Neil B. said...

David,
I've probably ridden even longer and I have never had Shimano parts either. I know it's foolishness, but I have even gone so far as to remove perfectly functioning DA components and replace them with clumsier Italian parts. I think it's because when I was a kid, one would only use Japanese parts if they couldn't afford "real" European components. I suspect it's my loss.

david_nj said...

Neil I actually misstated that. I just last month built up a city bike with a Nexus 8-speed hub. I must concede that it works very well. (The sickeningly cool setup would involve a Rohloff, but that's about 7x as costly.) Anyhow, I guess I've sold out. Partially. ;-)