Have you ever coveted something so much that you salivated every time you thought about getting your hands on it? Well that’s precisely how I feel about the red Electra Amsterdam Sport ($550). Now I finally understand how Pee Wee felt. With warm weather around the corner and all those cupcakes to work off, I started shopping for a new bike to take to work and to the beach. The new Amsterdam, which hit stores four months ago, seemed like the perfect commuter bike. I wanted to order it online but Electra doesn’t allow that, no matter which retailer you’re trying to purchase from. I checked REI and they didn’t seem to carry it online or in store. So I thought I’d give Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica a shot.
As soon as I walked in, a salesman greeted me, not in a pushy car salesman way but in a friendly, casual way. I made my way to the bike room and saw a Red Amsterdam sitting by the door with a “Sold” tag on it. It was the steel Classic model anyway, which comes with a rack and a light. Pretty cool but the Sport model is made out of aluminum and is obviously faster. Another salesman came up to me, so I asked him if they had the bike I was looking for. He said that they just sold the one I wanted the day before but that he could call around to his other stores to see if they had it. So nice.
While he did that I asked him if the Amsterdam would be the perfect bike for my needs which is just city riding, maybe some hilly beach cruising but nothing hard-core. He then gushed how it’s the perfect bike for all that and that he was in fact getting one himself because he liked it so much. This didn’t surprised me as Bicycling.com and BikePortland.org gave it rave reviews as well. I got even more excited about this bike. Unfortunately none of the five stores had a red one for me so “Jim” said he’d call Electra tomorrow on his day off to find out if they could send one over. Now, that’s service. So I gave him my info and thanked him.
But since I wasn’t ready to give up just yet and I was frothing at the mouth, I drove down to Wheel World in Culver City since they had it online. But because the store closes at 7pm and I got there at 6:30, there wasn’t much time to dillydally. Even though the guy at the front register was talking to someone, I judged by his casual manner that he was just chatting with a friend so I interupted them (tunnel vision), “‘Scuse me, do you carry the Electra Amsterdam?” “Yeah, go through that door that’s marked ‘Service’ and there are a bunch of Amsterdams there. I’ll come help you in a second.”
Making my way back there I passed a number of salesmen, each already busy with other customers. In the back room, there were only black men’s-style Amsterdams and buttercream women’s. So I stood there and waited for the salesman to come back and help me. After 10 minutes and still no salesman, I just asked one of the service guys for help. He told me they weren’t planning to get any red Amsterdams in or any more for that matter.
Apparently Wheel World had thought they’d sell out when they first got them in, but since they hadn’t moved since then they didn’t see any point in carrying them anymore. “Actually we’ve had a decline in beach cruiser sales, too.” “So they probably just released it at the wrong time?” I asked. “Yeah, but you can special order the bike. You just have to put down a 25 percent deposit and it’ll take about 7 to 10 days.” “Um, no thanks,” I replied, glad that I had Helen’s Cycles in my back pocket.
Suffice it to say that I was just amazed by the totally different customer service experiences I had in both stores. Is it a location thing? People by the beach are happier? The people in SaMo’s Helen’s seemed happy and helpful, while Wheel World salespeople seemed blah. Anyhoo, fingers crossed for my red bike!
Santa Monica, California 90404
4051 Sepulveda Boulevard
Culver City, California 90230