A lot of things have changed over the last two months due to the current pandemic. One of the changes has been the rapid growth of internet sales. According to one source, online sales in the United States increased by 49% during the month of April. This increase is no doubt due to people being in quarantine at home.
While I am a strong supporter of my local bike shop, I buy a fair amount of bike parts, gear, and accessories from online businesses. I’ve had great experiences with online purchases for the most part. However, I ran into some problems with a recent transaction. This poor experience made me realize there are three things every rider should know before purchasing mountain bike products online.
The type of business you are dealing with
Before you purchase a bike product online, you need to know that online stores don’t function in the same way as brick and mortar. What you see on a website might not be what you can get. In my case, I saw an exceptionally good deal on a new fork. The company offering it, however, did not have the fork in stock. Instead, they placed the order for the fork after I placed my order online. The company could not get the fork I ordered, so they offered to give me an even better fork for the same price. That was a great deal, so I agreed to it. But, one month later, I have yet to receive it. Obviously, the pandemic played a role in the delay due to supply chain issues. However, if I had ordered the fork from a business that has parts in stock that they advertise online, then I would have been enjoying the fork by now.
Before settling on the business with the lowest price for the gear you want, you should make sure the business has the products they advertise in stock. If you need the product quickly, it’ll be worth the extra money to purchase it from a business that has stock ready to ship. I didn’t need the fork right away, so the delay was only a minor inconvenience for me.
The experiences other customers have had with the business
Every company will have a handful of negative reviews from disgruntled customers, so don’t be swayed by one bad review. Instead, read over all the customer reviews for the business you want to order from before placing your order. You can look at reviews on different sites, such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Try to spot trends in the reviews, such as poor customer service, long delays in receiving products, or difficulties with returning or exchanging products. If there are several reviews highlighting the same issue, then it’s likely there’s a problem with the business. You can also consider the timeframe of the negative reviews. If they were all submitted a few years ago, and there are no recent ones addressing the same issue, then it’s likely the business corrected the problem.
Bad reviews do not always mean the business is bad, but you should proceed with caution if you decide to purchase products from such a business. Your experience might be different, or you might have the same issue as others. In my case, the reviews were correct in regard to the issues I experienced.
The business’s return policies
Everyone makes mistakes. You ordered a part for your bike, but it doesn’t fit or it’s not the right color. If you didn’t scope out the return policy before making your purchase, then you might be in for a shock. You could have to pay to ship the product back, or you might be stuck with it entirely. Every online business will have a link to their return policies on their home page. No one likes to read boring legal language, but it’s in your best interest to take the time to read the policy before buying, especially if you are considering making a substantial purchase.
Online shopping can save you money, but only if you do it wisely
You can definitely save money by buying gear online. However, you need to be careful when doing so. Buy products from reputable businesses. Understand the nature of the business you’re ordering from, and how its structure will dictate the timeline for when you will receive the product you order. Also, don’t forget to show some love to your local bike shop. Have them install the new parts you purchased online. They’ll appreciate the business.
Do you have a tip for ordering mountain bike products online? Please feel free to share it in the comments section below.