|Ten Years of Professional Bicycle Repair: Letter to Customers|
I wrote this article at the end of summer 2016 when I was suffering from burn-out. It felt great to write a piece which turns the usual idea of public relations on its head and speaks honestly from the heart. While I admit that the tone is not pleasant, I am not removing it. Every one of us is a customer somewhere almost every day. We should all realise that paying money for goods and services does not give us the right to be rude to sales staff, all of whom are human beings.
I've been repairing bicycles full-time for ten years now and it continues to be a hell of a ride. I've tried all kinds of new ideas to make the best bike shop I can. I've sold used/rebuilt bikes, I've run repair courses and co-op nights, I've hired newbies, I've hired experienced mechanics, I've worked six days a week for a whole season, I've worked eighty hours a week. Now I'm just focusing on repairs because there are other entities offering courses, co-ops, and bikes for sale. Bicycle repair is my specialty and the best thing I can offer you.
I still believe strongly in the beautiful utility of the bicycle, and I am better than I ever have been at fixing them (even the complicated biological part between the seat and handlebars!). Perhaps some of you are wondering a bit about me, since this year I've been working a funny variable schedule and I've been racking up a surprising number of bad reviews on the net. Maybe I even told you where to go.
Some things have changed inside me. While I'm still sensitive, I can no longer be a people-pleaser. Working retail for over ten years has filled me with the frustrations of hundreds of unreasonable customers. I've become like a full trash can where no matter how you squish or stack it, add a piece of garbage and it rolls right off immediately. I have also recently concluded that hard work is not a virtue. Work is important and to work moderately is virtuous, but life is full of so much more and we in this society are always living to work, not working to live. My soul is thrashing about violently to break free from whatever is restricting me from getting what I need.
I cannot expand my business to make repairs any faster or opening hours longer. I'm not getting rich at this and excessive work is going to ruin my hands before middle age. I am therefore slowing down to protect my health, physical and psychological. Cutting my workload permanently to 30 hours/4 days per week will allow me to heal myself and not bite anyone's head off who doesn't deserve it. I want to offer a sincere apology to all those nice people. And to those who did deserve it, I'm not sorry.
I am open to building relationships with other mechanics, but there are so many different approaches to bicycle repair that I don't think I could maintain a standard to which everyone could adhere. I am curious about some kind of autonomous collaboration. Implementing any plan may be complicated and time-consuming -- we'll have to take it one step at a time. Innovation is required, and that's a hard thing to admit for an old-school-grouch like me.
For the moment, I will continue to run with a limited schedule which allows me to live a proper life. My schedule is always posted at solocycle.ca and you all have computers and smart phones -- I don't want to hear any more complaints that "I came and you weren't there." I consider myself to be as good as any bicycle mechanic in this city, and if you want me fixing your bike, it's going to be on my terms. And repaired within about a week, which is fucking fast okay?! If I'm not using my best thirty hours a week to fix your bike, I'll fix someone else's. Furthermore, if you tell me you "support me," you are being condescending. I'm self-employed: I support myself, that's how that works. I'm happy to do business with you as long as you're respectful.
So welcome to the new Graham: I'm a full-grown man, and don't you forget it, ever. The approval and admiration of others is appreciated, but not required. Let's be really honest with each other, even if we share the "bad" emotions with the good.
Attache ta casque!