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View Full Version : Negative Experience with "Mechanics".


shinypurple
06-01-2007, 09:41 AM
My girlfriend recently purchased a bicycle that we found on Craigslist. The "mechanics" who sold it to her assured us of its quality, using words like "overhauled" and "awesome" when we asked them reasonably specific questions regarding things like the wheels and bottom bracket. We took it to several shops to have it looked at and determined that the frame and wheels were unsafe. After the guarantee that we could return it if we weren't satisfied was reneged and their repeated hang-ups when we attempt to telephone them, a friend suggested we look to the bike community for support. We feel that to represent oneself as an expert and represent a product as safe when perhaps neither is the case is intentionally misleading and the community deserves to know about these "mechanics", one of whom works at a shop here in town. The story, in painstaking detail, follows.

As stated above, my girlfriend purchased a bike. It was a green 5-speed Peugeot mixte style from maybe the 1970s. The price was $200. She sent an excited email to the seller and received a phone call within the hour. She scheduled a time to look at it later that evening at the man's shop at 22nd and SE Hawthorne. We met Willy in the Hot Lips parking lot, which I indicated to my girlfriend was shady. I asked if he had any frames for sale, and he took us around the corner to a small garage filled with bikes in various states of repair. There was a woman who identified herself as Mary in the garage. They were friendly, and the operation seemed legit. They referred to themselves as "Mechanics". I looked at some frames and decided not to get one at that moment. He said everything was a bit disorganized because they were moving to a shop on MLK behind a "black man's barbershop". (His words, not mine. I presumed he meant Reggie's.) Meanwhile, my girlfriend was riding the bike around and had some questions for Willy. Her first question regarded the brakes, which made a loud noise when applied. Willy said it was because they were new pads. While she was riding around, I asked him about what sort of work they'd done on the bike, specifically regarding things like the bottom bracket, the headset, and wheels. He said they'd done what they could with all three, including overhauling the BB and headset and scouring the wheels of rust. I got on the bike and rode it around, immediately noticing the shaky front wheel. So I asked if the wheels had been trued, to which he responded that they'd again done everything they could. Never was the phrase "as is" used that evening. He then said that if we weren't satisfied with the bike we could return it within one week. Also he said we should contact him about the wheels because he knew a guy who could get some interesting wheels, but he might have to charge us more if they were really unique. He said he was going to his friend with the wheels' shop the next day. She decided to purchase the bike. Willy and Mary gave us their business card, which simply says "Building Bikes" and has their phone number, and told us we could call any time we needed work done on the bike.

The next day we took it down to the City Bikes Annex to have it looked at. Her first response was that the headset was "shot". Regarding the wheels, she said they were "crap" and may as well be placed "in the free bin outside". She pointed out two broken spokes and that trueing would be impossible without a respoking. She told us we'd "paid too much" and that if returning the bike was an option we should take it as the bike was "unsafe" to ride. My girlfriend decided to keep the bike and pursue replacing the wheels. When she initially called them, Willy said he'd be going to look at his friend's wheels soon and to call back the next day. When she called back as requested, Willy said he had the wheels and that they were "awesome" and he would come by and put them on soon. He said they were moving so it had to be done that night at 7:30, at which point he'd call and arrange a meeting. When 8 rolled by, we called and got no response. When 10 rolled around, I called from my phone and received no response. We called a couple more times, thinking that perhaps they didn't hear the ringing or feel the vibrating of their mobile phone. When my girlfriend called the next day, Willy answered, told her he wasn't sure if he'd be able to find the wheels, said something about another call and hung up. She called him back an hour later, to which he responded by telling her to "fuck off", "stop harassing" him, and hanging up. I called him the next day and said that perhaps my girlfriend's excitement to get the bike on the road was mistaken for impatience. He said they were busy because of the move. I said I understood this and he abruptly said bye and hung up. I suggested to my girlfriend that we give them a day to get everything together because it sounded like they felt we were putting unfair pressure on them. So we did. She called the day after next and Willy said to call back the next day. When she did this, he said she should call him after we'd eaten dinner--it was my girlfriend's birthday, so we went out--and perhaps we could arrange something. When I called after dinner, he told me to leave him alone and hung up, saying he'd told her to call him the following day. We discussed it for a moment, and I decided to send a text message. I said "You told her to call you after dinner. The bike is unsafe. Let's resolve this or I'm involving an attorney I work with." (I work at a law firm.) About ten minutes later, Mary called me. She said we were harassing her and that we should leave them alone. I said that all we wanted were the replacement wheels they'd promised as part of the return-it-in-one-week-if-you're-not-satisfied promise. She said they'd never made either of those promises. I said they had. She said all we needed to do was get the wheels respoked because the rims were "awesome" and the hubs were "classic". I told her what the woman at City Bikes said, to which she responded that City Bikes doesn't know what they're talking about and that she'd had the wheels looked at by someone at Weir's who said they were great. I told her I'd gladly get a second opinion on the wheels if that's what it would take. I said it seemed like everyone was just trying to feel like they were being treated fairly, with which she agreed. We settled that we'd have the wheels looked at by someone else and then figure it out from there.

The next day I took the wheels to Northwest Cycles, where the mechanic pointed out cracks in the rear rim and rusted out spokes. He said respoking would cost about 80 bucks with parts and labor and would definitely not be worth doing to these specific wheels, as they were "shot". They asked where we'd purchased them, and we said Craigslist from some people identifying themselves as mechanics. He asked their names, and when we told him, he and the other mechanic indicated that Willy had an outstanding debt at the shop and they'd been trying to locate him for a while. We told them what we knew about Willy and Mary, about their new shop possibly being on MLK behind Reggie's and their phone number. They said if we wanted to talk to Mary, she worked at Weir's on Mondays. The next day we took the whole bike to the Bike Gallery to get looked at, where the mechanic pointed out the cracked rims, rusted spokes, and bent rear triangle. She also described the headset as "shot" and the bottom bracket as "loose", saying that no mechanic had recently worked on this particular bike. She recommended reversing the sale, if possible. We called Willy and Mary and left a message with what the Bike Gallery mechanic told us. We received no response. The several times we've called them since then have gone as follows:

Willy: Hello?
Me: Hi, can I speak with Mary?
Willy: Can I tell her who's calling?
Me: This is Shaw, Celeste's boyfriend.
[the sound of someone hanging up]

We've heard nothing from them since then. We've come to terms with the fact that we are down 200 bucks and stuck with an "unsafe" bike, but it pains us to think that it could happen to someone else. So we're bringing it to the community for support. Any suggestions on what to do?

wsbob
06-01-2007, 10:57 AM
It sounds as though you learned a lot. Tough about the $200, but now you know a place where it might have been wiser to shop for a used bike in the first place; City Bikes. There's also the Commnity Cycling Center on Alberta.

Almost on principle, I'd be leary of buying any bicycle or bicycle parts from a backyard operation such as you described, because it could easily be an outlet for stolen goods. If they have a good, solid reputation, then o.k., but otherwise, forget it.

There's lots of people out there that know the basics of a sound bicycle, even if they lack the wherewhithall to fix them. Ask questions before buying. You can come to realize, once you have some familiarity with them, that the amount of what you didn't know about something as seemingly mechanically simple as a bicycle, can be amazing. At the least, a basic familiarity with fundmental bicycle mechanicals is essential to getting a reliable used ride.

shinypurple
06-01-2007, 01:02 PM
I couldn't agree more about the valuable lessons learned about where to buy used bikes. It's tough because you want to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to honesty and accurate representation of themselves and their wares. It scares me a bit to know that someone who's trusted at a bike shop like Weir's would be doing this kind of shady business on the side. I hope that our mistakes as consumers can help someone else out in the future.

nishiki
06-01-2007, 02:26 PM
Here is your real problem:
You just thought that repairing and replacing parts of that bike at a bike shop would be cheap.
You learned that it was not.

Did you get a warranty or return agreement in writing?

If not, then leave Willy and Mary alone. Ethically they are wrong, but they made a perfectly legal transaction with you.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
06-01-2007, 02:59 PM
Here is your real problem:
You just thought that repairing and replacing parts of that bike at a bike shop would be cheap.
You learned that it was not.

Did you get a warranty or return agreement in writing?

If not, then leave Willy and Mary alone. Ethically they are wrong, but they made a perfectly legal transaction with you.

That's complete BS, nishiki. There's an implied warranty of ordinary fitness unless it's expressly disclaimed -- no writing necessary! And from the facts it sounds like there was an express warranty as well. Please understand that the law does not tolerate the conduct shinypurple describes.

Take these people to small claims court and get your $200 back. Then report them to the Better Business Bureau and Oregon Attorney General for consumer fraud.

shinypurple
06-01-2007, 03:24 PM
An attorney I work with said that we could sue them in small claims court and do so for double damages on the basis of fraud. It would not only be financially good for us but also it would demonstrate to them that they can't go around doing this to people. A big problem with the small claims route is we don't have their address and thus nowhere to serve papers to them. I guess there's probably no way around that.

How do we go about reporting them to the BBB and Oregon AG's office?

Also, in our own defense, the bike was misrepresented as being safe and road-ready. So no, we didn't expect that it would be cheap to get the parts replaced. We expected that she could get on the bike and ride around town on it.

peejay
06-01-2007, 08:46 PM
He's got a rep in this town. My friend bought a couple of bikes from him back when he had a real shop, and then consigned one back to Willy. Well, he sold the bike, but never gave the money back to my friend. He's out over a grand, and Willy's still in this town, doing business. He owes money to every bike shop in town. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM THIS JERK!

SyntaxPolice
06-02-2007, 02:07 PM
Maybe it would be helpful to report it to craigslist as well. Not sure what they can do,
but maybe they can make it slightly harder for them to sell on that site.

I bought a bike from craigslist a few months ago and could't be happier, by the way :)

pax.

Haven_kd7yct
06-04-2007, 08:24 AM
Shinypurple, you do have a way of getting his address.

You went to his garage, where he sold you the bike. Presumably, that's his place of business, and you should be able to serve him the papers there.

Drive back over there, write down the house number and street, get the zip from usps.com, and viola, you're in business.

Hope you get your money back, at the very least!

shinypurple
06-04-2007, 02:36 PM
They said they were moving, and maybe they lied, but I've driven by their Hawthorne garage a couple times and saw no signs of life.

I'll check it out again. Maybe I'll talk to Weir's to get Mary's whereabouts and see if Northwest Cycles has had any luck collecting on their debt. If anyone has any ideas, though, that would be super helpful. Thanks!

nm973
06-04-2007, 02:45 PM
I would think you could use their garage as the last known good address. If it was sent by registered mail through USPS they will know the forwarding address and they will deliver it to the right place. Also, with a subpeona (can you do that with small claims?) you could find out the registered address of the cell phone you called.

Haven_kd7yct
06-05-2007, 09:04 AM
nm973, that reminds me!

I got an email from a friend this morning about how you can google your phone number and come up with an address, etc... I tried it, and it didn't exactly work the way the email says, but it came up with a lot of websites that, for a fee, will give you all the info you could ever want about the owner a particular phone number, including cell numbers.

Yeah, go for it!! :) I hope you get 'em!

K

nm973
06-05-2007, 01:19 PM
Good point. Sometimes you can get the info free on zabbasearch.com.

ericthehalfab
06-13-2007, 09:43 PM
Is the 200 bucks you sabe worth the 200 bucks you save. I'm not sure what to think of this post. There are many area for you to turn the corner and wal away, In fact if you did get an XTR bike for $200 in a back alley then you did take abike from one of us.



"We met Willy in the Hot Lips parking lot, which I indicated to my girlfriend was shady."


They referred to themselves as "Mechanics" Did you check? No!



"immediately noticing the shaky front wheel." F$#% dood if it is shaky is it not true.


She decided to purchase the bike.



"We've heard nothing from them since then. We've come to terms with the fact that we are down 200 bucks and stuck with an "unsafe" bike, but it pains us to think that it could happen to someone else. So we're bringing it to the community for support. Any suggestions on what to do?

You can barely get an oil change and tune up for $200. You want to spend $200 for the entire bike...not smart

While no one deserves this, you were looking for this...suck it up, research a local bike shop and buy your transportation there.

Don't get me wrong, these folks are scums bags but come on... give your head a shake, wake up!

shinypurple
06-19-2007, 08:37 AM
Hey Eric, thanks for the input!

shinypurple
07-10-2007, 09:34 AM
The other day, my friend asked me the names of the "mechanics" with whom I had the above-mentioned experience. As it turns out, she had an offer for a bike from Willy and Mary through craigslist and didn't end up purchasing it. The meeting place was around 61st and Foster.

Just figured I'd pass that bit on, in the event that someone else encounters bike salespeople around 61st and Foster named Willy and Mary.

vseven
07-10-2007, 05:49 PM
If you send post to the address he was last at and include "address service requested" you will get the new address IF he filed a forward request. Hope this helps.

tatt2ed
07-13-2007, 05:49 AM
We had a few of these types in the early '90's selling lame PC's and PC parts. Back then the Internet wasn't what it is today so it was easy for people to scam for a while. They would just move and start up shop somewhere else. I really hate people like this. I hope someone catches them and can do something to stop or deter them.

-patrick
11-10-2007, 10:05 AM
The used bike market in Portland is ridiculous. Most stuff is WAY overpriced junk.

No one really has any business buying used bikes and parts unless they know what they are doing.

Sorry for your $200 lesson, but you could have bought a nice new entry level bike for $350.

I am not a bike shop owner; I am just tired of seeing people ripped off.

Even the *reputable* used shops are questionable in my opinion.

Last year I donated a bike to one of the most highly regarded recycle-a-bike operations in town. The bike had had it's day. There were a few good parts on it, but it was a cheap bike to begin with and it had served as a commuter through three Portland winters. It was USED up.

It showed up on Craigslist a while later. Someone paid $250 for it (I only paid $300 when it was essentially new!) and was now trying to unload it for $125. Looked like all the same parts on it I had donated it with. So the best thing the buyer got out of the deal was an almost new 7 speed freewheel. Not a bargain for $250... ... oh, the chain was fairly new as well... (rolls eyes)

If I had been inclined to sell the bike, I would have sold it for $35.

BUY NEW, SAVE MONEY.

When you really learn your stuff, you will be able to spot the very rare good used deal...

Cruizer
11-10-2007, 11:45 AM
patrick,
That's very timely advice for me, because I was just today weighing the wisdom of looking for used (from a real bike shop) versus buying new. Unfortunately, the bike I want -- an 8-speed Bianchi Milano -- cost $620 for the 2007's (and the dealer seems to be out of those) and $725 for the 2008's. And that's with no difference between the two model years. What a price climb!