Honest Pricing and What You Pay For


by Aaron Goss                LABOR RATES

      As a bike shop owner I have a unique perspective on retail pricing. Obviously, I try to price products and services as high as the market will bear 1. However, I do not gouge people on price. Our prices are honest and fair. Fair Trade, if you will. They are based on what it costs to run a shop plus a little profit for myself and my family. When you spend money in my store you are supporting local families. Most of my staff lives in West Seattle. We try to shop locally to keep the money in the community. We don't shop at big mega-marts like Wal-Mart. We try to shop local whenever possible. Now if someone would just open an office supply store2 in West Seattle. We have even been known to trade for services once in a while. A six-pack of micro-brew beer is always welcome, and will get you a nice discount on your repair.

      Why is it that most consumers in America seem to only value the lowest price when shopping for a product? Don't things like where it is made, who made it, what conditions they worked or what they were paid matter? Big super stores and mail order chains all have disposable workers. With few exceptions, they do not pay benefits unless required by law. They get around it by hiring a lot of part-timers. I pay my full-time employees a living wage and full medical benefits AND contribute to their retirement. A friend of mine once said, 'When you get something on sale, someone wasn't paid fairly for their work'. Most larger retail businesses have taken it to the extreme. How often do you hear about a sale for some large retailer? They survive on volume, but it cannot last. Take the recent bankruptcy of K-Mart3. Even at high volume, a certain amount of profit must be made to keep the business afloat. Now how about all those unemployed K-mart workers? If you shopped there then you directly helped put them out of work. It is a black and white as that! Running a business is strictly numbers.
Devil's Advocate: Yeah, but I got my Nikes on sale for 20 bucks!

      In talking with people in my community, I get the sense that most people, if given the choice, would rather support a local business than some large chain with headquarters thousands of miles away. Why is it then that these same people continue to shop at places like Costco or any of various online retailers? The answer is one word: PRICE. So if that is all that matters to you, carry on. But if you value service, honesty, a hand shake, a smile, nice atmosphere then come into my shop and see what we offer.

      What about service? There is no way that a mail order or online retailer or mass merchant can offer you the same level of service that an independent or small retailer can. We care about your cycling experience and will ask pointed questions to help us determine what you need. Also, we will show you how to use specific products. We will even program your cycle computer for free! Don't support mail order or online retailers. If you add in shipping, my prices are often close. When you consider the unfair (social, environmental and economic) tactics of these big retailers, paying a little extra might just seem like a bargain!
Devil's Advocate: Yeah, but mail order doesn't pay sales tax!
You still are required to pay USE TAX (basicaly the same as sales tax) on all non-food items purchased for use in Washington. Here is the form.

      A recent customer just got some tires from a mail-order giant. That unnamed (Pricepoint.com) had them for just over my wholesale. WHAT A GREAT DEAL! What that customer didn't realize is that they were not the best tires for the conditions in the Northwest. We actually ride here and use the products we sell. We could have sold him tires that work better in Seattle Mud for a lower price! Now he has to wear out expensive less effective tires! And you can't go on a shop ride from a mail order or online retailer!

      What can be done about this dilemma? You can take action. If you see a bike item for really cheap (online for instance) let me know. Most suppliers do not like their products devalued in such a way and will stop selling to such retailers. You could also write a letter to the manufacturer asking them why there is such a huge price difference. Contact me [aaron@rideyourbike.com or (206)938-9795] and I will give you their specific address and 800 number.

      Aaron's Bicycle Repair, Inc. is striving to make a positive impact on the planet and the economy by operating our business in a sustainable way. We have positive but controlled growth, we advocate for the rights of cyclists and to improve places to ride. Aaron has served on the board of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and he helped start Bike Works, a non-profit bike shop for kids. We do trail maintenance. We ride our bikes or take the bus to work. We will even encourage you to repair something first rather than buy new. For instance: Just today a guy came in looking for a new bike pump because he said his did not pump well any more. We told him to clean and lube his old one first. Many people do not know that a bike pump needs lube once in a while. We may have lost a sale, but we gained a loyal customer and more importantly, prevented one more item from being thrown away. This is our motto : The earth comes first, people second and profit third!
Devil's Advocate: No way man, I need my plutonium!

      To that end, we recycle 80 to 90% of our waste stream. We use environmentally friendly products where possible. We have a soap and water based parts cleaning tank serviced by Safety-Kleen.


1. I base my retail prices on what is known as margin. I use a formula to arrive at a retail price then ask myself, 'Is the product worth that much?'. Sometimes I can charge more, sometimes less, but always within reason. That is known as 'What the market will bear'. Here is our margin chart.

2. Staples is now in Westwood Village, but I don't like their corporate ways. It bugs the heck out of me that they have a person waiting at the exit to check your reciept against what is in your bag. Liberty Bell Printing, Quid'nunc and Sudden Printing have some office supplies.

3. Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 22, 2002 has said it would close 283 of its 2,114 stores in its bid to reorganize under voluntary Chapter 11 protection.