I bought a bike today. I paid a good price for it, but it ended up not being a bike that I could use, which means I effectively threw away my money. I learned some valuable lessons from the experience, which I want to share with you in the hopes that you can learn something from them too.
I’ve wanted a bike ever since my last bike was stolen, almost three years ago. I’ve especially wanted a bike since we moved to Colorado. Bike riding is one of my favorite past-times, and what better place to do it in that a state that has 300 days of sunshine a year. Even when it rains, it doesn’t rain for very long, and it’s often sunny while doing it.
So, I got some money for my birthday ($250), and decided that I was going to buy a bike. I decided that I wanted a used bike, since buying used often means that you can get more for your money, if you’re careful, patient, and know what you’re looking for.
My cousin told me that a friend of hers knew of a pawn shop that often had pretty good bikes for sale, and that this friend would be willing to go with me to take a look. I was excited, because I don’t know as much about the technical side of bikes, so having someone to go along with me who did made me feel better.
There were three bikes in the shop that were from good to decent manufacturers and in pretty good shape. The one I liked the look of the best was a Giant Sedona ($59.00), which is a good, but not a great bike. Another was a Canondale ($200.00), which is a very good bike, and the third was some brand I can’t remember. It had the smallest frame of the three, so I stopped paying attention to it pretty quickly. I knew that I was going to have to take which ever bike I decided to buy (if any) to a bike shop for a tune-up, which usually costs $65 or $70, depending on where you take it, and what needs to be done.
The guy I was with said that the Canondale was the only one he would consider buying so we didn’t even look at the Giant. I thought the Canondale looked a bit small, but he stood me next to it and told me that the height was good. I was more worried about the length from seat to handle bars, because I have a long torso (I’m 5’11”).
He suggested I ride it and see how it functioned and how it fit me. When I did it seemed to fit pretty well (I was unsure, but he said I looked okay riding it), and it definitely worked well, so I decided maybe I would buy it.
I was able to talk to pawn shop down from $200 to $175, which is good, but part of the compromise was my decision not to get the “protection plan” where, for $20, I could return the bike any time in the next 6 months if there was something wrong with it. I was still a little hesitant about buying the bike. I didn’t necessarily want to walk away and come back later, because there was no guarantee that the bike would still be there if I did, but I felt like I was being rushed into a decision I wasn’t ready to make. I had intended to shop around, and see what size bike I needed, and what my options were. And here I was, at the first place I had stopped, thinking seriously about buying a bike.
Before I paid the woman, I went outside and checked out the bike again. The frame was labeled “small” which confirmed my hunch that the bike was probably too small for me. But I had already talked the pawn shop down $25, and it was a Canondale, which I could sell on eBay or craigslist if it was really the wrong size… I walked back into the shop and decided to get it.
On my way home, I called a local bike shop to ask if they could check it over and give it a tune-up. I also asked them if they thought a small Canondale frame was going to be too small for my 5’11” body. The guy I talked to said that Canondales run small (Yay!), but even so he’d probably put me on a Medium frame (Damn). Then I asked if it would be a good size for my husband, who’s 5’8″, and he said, “Yes, mostly likely.” Feeling relieved, I brought the bike in to him, and he told me that it was in very good shape, and should fit my husband fine.
Lesson 1: I felt rushed into the decision at the pawn shop, so I should have walked away. Whenever you feel like you’re being rushed into a decision about something, especially when it’s a larger purchase, that is a sure-fire sign that you should walk away and give the decision some more thought.
The only problem is that momentum’s a bitch. Once I was at the pawn shop, and they had bikes in decent condition, and the one I tried seemed to fit okay, and the guy who was helping me was in a hurry because he had to leave to pick up his daughter, but he wanted to help me because he’s a nice guy, and the woman was willing to lower the price to $175 which meant I could get a tune-up and still be within my $250 budget, and, and, and…
Lesson 2: I should have shopped around more, which means I should have walked away from the pawn shop. If nothing else, I should have tried out the Giant Sedona. Not only did it look like it had a bigger frame, but it was $150 cheaper. It might not be as good a bike as the Canondale, but I’ll never know, now. I was prejudiced by the ideas of the person with me, who said that the only to bikes he would consider were the Canondale and the smaller one.
But even before that, I should have gone to a honest-to-goodness bike store and figured out what size bike I needed. I did some research online, but I should have test-rode some bikes to make sure I knew what a good fit felt like. I should have done all of this before going to the pawn shop or any place like it to see what they had available.
Yes, it’s true that if I had walked away the Canondale might not have been there later. But, in the end, that would have been okay because it wasn’t a good bike for me, and I was, after all, shopping for me when I headed out that day.
Lesson 3: I should have bargained for $175 price tag including the protection plan, and if they wouldn’t do it, I should have walked away.
For the most part, protection plans (and extended warranties) are a waste of money. They’re a way for companies to make more money on your purchase than you were going to spend, and something that most people never take advantage of. I usually don’t buy them, but in this case I should have made an exception. When I got to the bike shop and found out that bike only might fit my husband, I knew that I should have bargained for the protection plan to be included, so that I could have returned it if it’s too small for him.
The Moral of the Story
Don’t be afraid to walk away. Everyone says that, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds, especially in the heat of the moment.
Look for the warning signs within yourself that you’re being pressured into something you’re unsure of. If you sense them, walk away.
Shop around before you go anywhere to buy something so you have a good idea of what you’re looking for. If something doesn’t fit what you need or are looking for, even if it’s a “good bargain,” walk away.
Don’t pay more than you wanted to in the first place, and if they won’t bargain with you, walk away. There’s a better offer out there.
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