When I dropped the KickPed off at NYCeWheels on Thursday, everything was straightforward as if they hadn’t tried to welch on their lifetime warranty on Tuesday. The counter guy, previously dubbed “Brown,” was coincidentally named David Browne, which I learned not because he introduced himself, but because it was printed on the work order receipt that I insisted he give me. He asked if “Alex” said it was ok for me to leave it, I said yeah, he said then it might be ready today. I looked at the sign on the wall, which estimated a 9-day turnaround on service. David said it was something fast that they could probably do after closing the doors, so obviously they were full of malarkey the first time. I left my number.
Sure enough, Alex called at 1930, a half hour after they close, and said it was ready. Turns out they had read my post, but it seemed none of us were going to acknowledge that—though his “Thanks, buddy” was to be our most cordial exchange throughout.
Fair enough. I went in the next day to pick it up, and David and “Blond” were at the desk again. (He wasn’t blond at all, but the distinction had served. I could as easily have used Vladimir and Estragon, Rocky and Bullwinkle, or A and B.) “Aah, the blond guy!” said Blond with exaggerated cheer when he put my scooter down on the counter. I didn’t hear him because I was staring at some flange they had put on the bolt securing the rear wheel. I asked what that was, thinking it was a spacer, and he said “I don’t know, it’s not supposed to be there…You know what it is, it’s the guts of the old bearing.” He proceeded to unscrew the bolt, remove the race, and tighten the nut back down. There was a long silence while he did that, then he said, “So am I blondie, or brown?”
“You don’t have blond hair,” I observed.
“Neither does he,” he said with what must have been smugness.
“I thought you were, I didn’t really look directly at you.”
“Thanks!” he said. Was he offended by a perceived failure to acknowledge his humanity?
“So why were you such dicks the other day?”
“I dunno. We were busy.”
“You weren’t busy, I was the only one in the store.”
He gestured to a screen behind him, “We had a lot of internet stuff going on,” then without missing a beat, “you want an extra bearing?”
“Sure.” With that, it was done. It was clear that an extra bearing was the limit of his civil capabilities, and probably his way of suggesting “And stay out!” A lack of confidence in the materials, a dismissal, or both.
Maybe their service team (probably one frayed guy) is in over its head. Maybe the margins in their business are poor, and the staff don’t care about a career in alternative transportation sales. Repairs must be their biggest man-hour loss on paper. Introducing a simple, indestructible product like the KickPed would change that, though the novice buyer won’t choose a KickPed over a the dominant Xootr unless it has a gimmick like a lifetime warranty. And New York City leads the kick scooter market, which is growing: 45% of Xootr’s 2011 sales were here, up from 36% in 2010. But a warranty without service risks the store’s reputation, and most people who live here have neither a workshop nor the time to replace a defective bearing, even if it does take only a half hour.
The KickPed may be sturdier than the Xootr. You’d better hope yours is.