We all have our little secrets.
If you’re anything like me, the computer systems at your local bike shop hold a store of personal information about you that, in the wrong hands, could bring you down.
Their habit of logging and recording every little (and not so little) transaction you’ve ever made would, if made known to your long suffering wife or partner, provide a damning evidence trail showing the true cost of your harmless little passion for the simple bicycle.
If revealed, the whole facade could tumble down quicker than an investment bank with a portfolio full of sub-prime mortgages in a difficult economic climate (if you’ll forgive the clumsy, if appropriate, metaphor).
As the old joke goes:
‘When I die, I hope my wife sells my bike collection for what it’s actually worth, rather than how much I told her it cost.’
Occasionally, the lad who works behind the counter at the shop will ask if you want to see the details of your account; a harmless and well-meaning piece of customer service which would reveal, in cold, hard numbers, just how much you’ve spent over the years. He’s testing you, of course.
The answer to this question is, ‘Nooooooo! Never!’
In your mind, that mythical figure is high, of course, but nowhere near as high as reality. Shedding unnecessary light on this information is not going to help anyone.
It’s not so much the large items – the new jersey once a year, a pair of warm winter tights every other November, and a new helmet every 4 or 5 years – as the accumulated drip-drip that you haemorrhage on the month to month basics that you can’t do without; inner tubes, bike bottles, chain lube, energy gels and tricky repair jobs.
Basically, the stuff that feeds your habit.
Your partner, if my experience is anything to go by, is certainly no fool and understands that you have a close financial relationship with your bike shop, but has surely mentally under-estimated the frightening amount of money that you fritter away on this stuff.
A new jersey every now again can be tolerated – it’s a chunk of money that shows up on the bank statement and can be nicely accounted for – but these other bits and pieces are just a trickle which goes under the radar. Add together a fiver here, a tenner there, maybe twenty quid if you’ve got a few bits to get (all essentials, of course!) and it all adds up.
From the outside looking in it can appear that this relationship is not so much between customer and bike shop, as between addict and dealer; always there when you need them, with a knowing smile, ready to feed the habit.
You find yourself looking furtively over each shoulder before you enter the shop, just to check you’re not being too conspicuous (in the process making yourself look extremely conspicuous). Occasionally someone you know will spot you leaving the shop and your mouth goes dry, you stutter and fumble for words, and your body language betrays the dealings of a guilty man.
So where did this dysfunctional relationship begin, you might ask?
With a 10% discount, that’s where. Just a little sample, enough to bring their prices down to compete with the online retailers, and they’ve got you. They give you the discount conspiratorially, as if it’s a shared secret between trusted allies, and once you feel part of the gang you’ll go back for more.
You start buying all your essentials there, just to get the 10%, and before you know it they’re offering you interest free credit on bikes with paint jobs to die for and price tags to make your eyes water. In your mind, you already have a space in the shed for just such a dream machine.
You try and resist, and make the point that whatever the payment method, a three grand bike is a three grand bike.
‘Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it’, they say. ‘Alternatively, you could see it as 36 monthly payments of just over eighty quid, which is, I’m sure, very affordable for a man like you.’
You’re seriously tempted by the sudden affordability of this Italian designed work of art, and this guy knows he’s preaching to the converted, but that would take some serious explaining.