In The Bike Shop: The “Bro” Deal

Hi. Thanks for coming into my shop and taking part of the consumer experience. Your disposable income is the sole source of our meager profit margins that support the shop’s overhead and indirectly my income.

What’s that? You’d like to ask me a bunch of questions? Why sure, I’d love to take time away from the other tasks that would have had priority over your whimsical visit, after all, I am a living reference free of charge.

No, no, no, you cannot combine that esoteric and ridiculous component with your current bike without making substantially difficult to explain modifications to the entire system. I am going to explain this to you, so please interrupt me repeatedly.

Pardon me? You know a guy whose friend is a hunchbacked transvestite who used to work on bikes in Walmart…and he/she said it would work? My goodness, then I must be wrong! What qualifications could I possibly have…other than a decade of bike shop employment…to refute such gospel?

Yes, I can get the proper part for this amount of money. Why does it cost so much? I am so glad you asked! Let me take a sip of Pepsi before I explain economic theory, supply/demand, the relationship of production volume and unit cost, the….oh,oh, I see now, that was a rhetorical question! A verbal exercise to inspire an epiphany within me! How thoughtful of you….and here I thought I was the one enlightening you.

Oh, I see where the confusion lies… you were looking at the price in the distributors’s catalog I provided so that you could see a picture of the product. Ah yes, that price is what we in the retail industry call “wholesale”. It’s what we pay, and then we make you pay what is called “retail price”, which is Latin for “it’s how a f$%^%ing store can afford to exist.”

Okay, so for today you will take just these Sidi shoes and a set of Speedplay pedals, and instead will order the part I spent the last 30 minutes explaining from mail order. Splendid!

What’s that? Can you have a “bro deal”? Why yes, since you ask for it like that I would be more than happy to violate the trust of my employer and offer these items to you at a fee that entirely denies my employer of any benefit of the wages they pay me for the time I spent answering your tedious questions. After all, if I get no benefit from this transaction, neither should they. I mean, what are brothers for? I am sure I could go to your dental office next week and ask for a “bro deal” on that root canal and crown…or maybe you work in city development and you could…like develop a…um, road for me…or something.

You know, “Brother”, I don’t really know what it is that you do…but chances are it’s nothing that I can cash in on. But never mind about that. I will offer you it for this price.

Excuse me? Such-and-such-a-company is offering it online for less than my bro deal? Alright, asswipe, I’m gonna call your bluff right now. I know for a fact that you are wrong. You think I don’t know how to use the internet? You think you’re gonna school me on the bicycle industry? Those companies have internet sales agreements, you cannot beat the offer I set in front of you. And when I offer you a bro deal, you may accept or decline, but you better keep your mouth shut unless it is to say “thank you.” One more word, and the price goes back up 10%…..yeah, keep whining…okay, now it’s “full retail” again.

You’re welcome…..”Bro”


Perhaps it’s time you got a new job ?

Reminds me of The Goat’s tag line: “Putting our bro-deal on the line to bring you the honest gear truth.”


Bitter?  Yes.  Right?  Yes.

Everyone loves to use the LBS as a location to actually touch and feel the products that they are planning on purchasing on-line because they feel that it is always cheaper on the Internet.  Just like Home Depot is always cheaper than the local store.  What a freakin’ joke.

My other favorite thing is people expecting to get cut a deal.  Sure, it can happen.  If you bought your bike at the LBS, if you buy parts from the LBS, and if everyone knows you are a local rider.

We’re chatting about this over at <a href=“,” rel=“nofollow”>,</a> and had a couple of good comments, I think:

>>And also this thought: You should NEVER ASK for the bro deal. That is UNBRO conduct, in my opinion, and automatically disqualifies you.

>>Trust your bikeshop dudes to recognize and reward bro status and behavior. Buy them beer. Pay full price, lots of times in a row. Compliment them on good work. Don’t ask a lot of stupid noobie questions, the answers to which you can find on the internet. NEVER tell them you can get something cheaper online, unless its something they don’t carry and will never carry—you’re jst making chit chat. (Although refer back to the rule about asking a lot of stupid questions.)

Anonymous said…

RIGHT-o. Because you’re putting bikeshop dude in the uncomfortable position of having to say yes or no to the bro deal. Don’t do that to him or her, unless s/he’s REALLY a bro. Like you ride with ‘em regularly.  and had a couple of good comments, I think:

>>And also this thought: You should NEVER ASK for the bro deal. That is UNBRO conduct, in my opinion, and automatically disqualifies you.

>>Trust your bikeshop dudes to recognize and reward bro status and behavior. Buy them beer. Pay full price, lots of times in a row. Compliment them on good work. Don’t ask a lot of stupid noobie questions, the answers to which you can find on the internet. NEVER tell them you can get something cheaper online, unless its something they don’t carry and will never carry—you’re jst making chit chat. (Although refer back to the rule about asking a lot of stupid questions.)

Anonymous said…

RIGHT-o. Because you’re putting bikeshop dude in the uncomfortable position of having to say yes or no to the bro deal. Don’t do that to him or her, unless s/he’s REALLY a bro. Like you ride with ‘em regularly. <

That’s like the Fight Club rules. A bro must be a bro and know a bro, but not just expect to “bro”

The first rule of bro-deal is you don’t talk about bro-deal. The second rule of bro-deal is you don’t talk about bro-deal.

this makes me think I’m not getting the full bro-deal: are there levels of bro? like, grudgingly bro for Mr. performance catalog shopper, then sorta-bro, and full bro

i think the graf that suggests shopkeep doesn’t know what potential Bro does for a living is kinda key.

Bros know how to leverage *each others* jobs or competencies for their gain, and it’s a two way street. You help me, I help you. We enjoy each others’ company, and we do what we can. The essence of bro-dom

I have, in the past, made myself a Bro by publicizing great shops and shopkeeps, since I’m a writer/editor. I’m otherwise useless to my LBS pals, but I do what I can. They do what THEY can.

Most important, we tear up the singletrack together about once a week.

Wow, it must be hard to be such an elite bicycle shop employee and have to deal with the commoners.

Conversely, I think we all know how it is to go into a shop to buy one thing and listen to closing arguments on why the thing you want isn’t what you want and you should get this other thing.

Right on.  The last time I actually worked in a shop the web didn’t even exist, but the catalogs were already making the same dents in our sales, and the practice of sponging info from the LBS and then buying the stuff from Excel or whoever was well established.  And when people don’t see anything wrong with that, it pisses me off.  You’ll always have the bargain hunters, but the people who simply don’t understand or respect the value of the collective knowledge of the shop workers, just suck.

what’s up w/ the attitude? it’s a completely legitimate question to ask for a bro-deal, and likewise, it’s completely legitimate to say no. However, think about it this way - bike shops SHOULD be competitive w/ the internet! You provide services - for which you charge - great, but what’s the value add of paying 30% higher for a part @ a bike shop vs. the internet, if you guys don’t even install it for free? Doesn’t sound like you’re providing any value to me other than the part that I just received for a 30% markup. Supply and Demand you say? You’re lucky most people DON’T know how to research for deals on the web. I would CERTAINLY buy competitively-priced products at my bike shop to support a local business, but a wildly marked up product without installation just for answering my questions? Dream on!

install for free? i love this question.  you think you can go to a garage and have them install a new camshaft in your car for for free?  well, maybe they would if they didn’t have to pay service personnel whether you showed up or not, did not have to buy and maintain tools and equipment, and did not exist in a high rent location for your convenient access. bicycle mail order companies sell you a part, take their cut, and they are done with you, but people show up at bike shops and expect shop owners and employees to go home sleepless at night because their seat post keeps slipping. but they don’t want to pay for it. i mean, we were already here with the tools and the know-how, aren’t you just helping us fulfill our lives?

i know you do not work in retail, or at least at a level within a company that would allow you to get close to understand overhead vs net profits.  i’m not saying that mail order shouldn’t exist…but to accuse bike shops of price gouging only shows that you have no idea of the costs involved in maintaining a retail/service business and can only understand things from the consumer point of view.  if you’ve got your own tools and know how to solve every problem, then mail order is for you. i cannot fault you for that.  but you still only understand demand and not supply. 

it’s business, and we got into it because we like bikes.  but at the end of the day, we have rent, need to eat, put our kids through school, or plan for retirement…no one is providing those things for free. those things come from the profits we make by selling you things and working on your bike.  and we cannot do that with margins of 25 cents per inner tube, $25 bucks on a Dura Ace crank, or installing either of those things for free. 

a bro deal means that we are taking you out of that equation, at some level or another denying ourselves of gain.  clearly, we’re not going to do that for everyone, and if you are so chosen, be courteous and grateful, especially if you have nothing to offer us in return. and please, sending other people to us asking for bro deals isn’t the kind of thing that helps us. do something that helps the business profit or helps me personally.

Fuck off with your “value-add” term. Does YOUR industry offer free labor? Bike shops have overhead expenses that the internet clobbers often do not. And if you’ve ever worked in a bike shop, let alone retail, then you’d know of the type of customer(s) the original poster is alluding to. If you’re a regular, repeat customer, then sure, it may be legitimate to ask for a *bro-deal.* But what if you’re just some wheeler-dealer first-time customer off the street? Is it “legitimate” to then ask for a bro-deal from a shop you’ve never supported? Do you walk into a liquor store and ask for a bro-deal on your Coor’s Light? And by the way, how much did your golf clubs cost? Be sure to suggest some “process improvements” to your LBS next time you drop by…

I suggest process improvements daily, but that’s the type of business I AM in. And CERTAINLY every business has a freebies - it’s just knowing who to give them TO is the question. Learn the term “value-added” my friend, for it makes or breaks a business. In a city like mine, there are a dozen bike shops within a 5 mile radius. It’s the one that adds value to my purchases I will go to. I am not talking about a monopolistic situation, like a small town, I am talking about bringing your business to one of NUMEROUS shops - just which one? Compete over me - don’t give me any of that bullshit about feeding your kids. We’ve all kids to feed and groceries to buy. Since not ALL bike shops have gone out of business, it seems like the ones that add the most value to the purchases are the ones that survive. That’s called supply :)

you’re right, it is just a question of knowing whom to give freebies.  i’ve got long term customers who drop good money down on us, never haggle over prices or try to leverage “the other shops in town”. i give them a good deal and i don’t rest until there bike is running perfect. they know that i’m interested in them enjoying cycling, that i respect the demands of their schedule, and that i am not out to gouge them.

compete over you? why?  i have MANY customers, why should i give the bro deal to the ones with no loyalty?  why should i redirect my workers from the loyal customers to you?  what do such price-point customers bring me or my shop? 

mail order will never completely replace the LBS, but an LBS can never totally overcome the mail order advantage.  the ones who do cut margins that low don’t last.  just because one could attract more business doesn’t mean that it will yield more profit.

yes, there are other shops in town, and no i won’t get every customer.  value-add?  maybe the value we add is not a value that you need…maybe your business isn’t the most profitable use for our value.

there are no freebies, for you or me.

“Everyone loves to use the LBS as a location to actually touch and feel the products that they are planning on purchasing on-line because they feel that it is always cheaper on the Internet.”

‘Everyone’ my ass. I’ve never once done this. If I see the thing I want at the LBS, I buy it from there. The only parts I’ve ever ordered off the web are items which weren’t stocked or the LBS didn’t know anything about.

Mark touched an industry meme here and I’ve let the opinions come in, vent away, but please remember to keep it positive here. Healthy debate, great, but let’s not degrade into a flame fest.

What percentage of a LBS’ revenue comes from selling components?

Anatoly makes some good comments on value-add. I work in a business where competition is cut-throat. Everyday is about finding ways to differentiate from our competitors and serve our customers. Cold hard fact.

How about letting folks “qualify” for a bro-deal? Keep track of purchases on an Excel spreadsheet or Access database? Just trying to brainstorm here.

And as for dealing with lots of questions, isn’t that what a bike shop is all about??? Case in point: I went into Aaron’s Bicycle Shop in West Seattle looking to buy an Xtracycle. They immediately asked me LOTS of questions (while working on bikes, go figure): what kind of bike did I have?, what kind of riding?, what was my purpose?, did I have a suspension fork with lockout?, DO YOU NEED HELP INSTALLING IT? It’s for those reasons alone that I may abandon my trips to local shops here in Ballard.

And heaven forbid the last resort: just say no to bro, then convince that customer to buy with you with value-add. I’m way more likely to spend top dollar with someone who’s passionate about bikes, rather than a whiner who complains about the presence of online retailers or the oh-so-small margins on X, Y, or Z product.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to iTunes so I can buy that Goldfrapp album for $7 less than my local music store. ;)

Today I visited a bike shop for maybe the fifth time in two years. Mostly I shop down the street.

There was a sign of recognition when the owner said,“Hi, can I help you?”

“Maybe. I’m looking for a tire like one I bought here about a year ago.”

I perused the rack and sure enough he still had some.

I asked for one. He brought some down from the hook. That’s when I asked the price.

He said, “Eighteen dollars but I’ll give it to you for. . . “

I cut him off by saying, “I’ll take two.”  It wasn’t planned but I’d just noticed the price tag and it was less than I remembered paying for the first one.

He’s quick witted so said nothing else and began to ring in the purchase.

I’m no slouch either so asked, “What were you going to give them to me for?”

“Well, if you’re taking two; fifteen dollars apiece.”

I don’t know that the ~16% discount is considered a “bro-deal”.

Did I get robbed?

No, not at all. Prices change and a 16% discount is a “friendly price.” If more cyclists knew Bike Shop margins, I think they’d ask for or expect the bro-deal less. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a “deal,” but the bro-deal often does more harm than good.

my bet is that he was gonna give them to ya for $15 per whether you bought one or two. he probably had an idea of what he wanted to discount them if he liked you and it wasn’t going to matter how many you bought.  so yeah, it was a nice gesture, not the deal of the century.

Thank you both for your reassurance. I too feel his interrupted first offer would have been the same. It was a facetious question.

The transaction I made later at my regular shop was more like the “bro-deal”.

I needed some cable housing end ferrules so asked my bro* for some. He handed some to me out of the bin. When I asked the price he said, “You can have them”. I explained that I wanted to buy a dozen or two so he handed me some more and charged me a quarter.

I handed him two dollars and put the change in their coffee fund.

*“bro” as defined by other comments in that we’ve ridden, drank and schemed together. He’s more the age of a grandson than a brother though.

Another “bro” owns two bike shops. If he’s in the store, he feels compelled to give me some sort of discount. I’ve never asked for one nor do I mention it when dealing with his employees.

On thing I do is tip for the quick fixes and help. I’m not mechanically gifted and rely on the mechanics. And a big shout out goes to those mechanics that stay in bike shops presumably cause they love the sport and industry. It’s not a good sign when I’ve got more bike wrenching talent than the seasonal new hire at a shop.

wow…an interesting thing happened.  My girlfriend broke a tooth, and a dentist who is a long time customer of my bike shop fixed it for free.  Now let me tell you, that is a HUGE “bro deal”. 

Of course, I should say that the shop owner asked his long time friend who happens to be both cyclist and a dentist.  And my girlfriend is a LOT cuter than me, even poorer than me, and has a little bit of a foreign accent.  But it’s all the same to me, since I would have been paying her bill if it had not been gratis.  She’s flat broke.

So instead of me buying her dental work for her birthday, I’ll be getting her bike re-painted.

Right on! Well said!

To get the Bro-Deal, you should be doing something for the cycle shop or spending a LOT of money there.

I advocate for cycling locally and put a lot of time in working on trails.  One shop that I send a lot of guys to gives me a fixed percentage over wholesale.  I just take the QBP catalog out and write down the part #s I want.  The other place gives me a 10% discount.  On retail.

I help these shops with my advocacy work.  Also in winter, I help the one guy by helping him make minimum $$$ orders from QBP, J&B, SBS, etc… 

The bro-deal is a quid-pro quo.  Ultimately, the LBS has to pay the bills.  That means you better be helping their business somehow.

Anyone familiar with the old ‘California Bicyclist’ magazine was then of course acquainted with the formidable ‘Mr. Surly Wrench’. Even the old wrench himself couldnt have spewed such venom so poetically.
Well played sir. Well played.

After reading Anatoly’s comments, I get a negative feeling and would possibly consider it one of those situations where you can’t be everybody’s bike shop.

The real deal for me is; I don’t do well when the shop/customer relationship turns adversarial. It works out as a win/win often enough without having to go too far into the world of you vs. me.

There are lots of good customers out there who want everybody to come out ahead, that means them and the shop. That’s how it works if you let it.


Many years ago I worked in a great shop.  I now live almost 3 hrs away and will still travel 4-5 times a year to make my big purchases there.  Much of the time I do get a discount that varies depending on what the product is.  I also have been in many a polite argument with the owner when trying to refuse a discount on something I know has very little mark-up.  This is the relationship we have.  I, in no way, go there to get any discount.  I just love the shop and want my business to go there.  I still have not found a shop in my area like it.

In general, BRO stands for “Bend Right Over”

I average about $3K annually on bike gear. This whiner’s shop would get none of that. If it were my shop he’d be fired.

This is one of my favourite posts ever. My feeling is that people who want their bike shop experience to be like their Future Shop/Best Buy/Wal-Mart experience get all hot and bothered by this… but people who actually like to ride, have basic social skills, and have a rudimentary understanding of how retail works understand this well.

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