Splendid Cycles Big Sale

Shop owner responds to allegations of selling stolen bikes, parts

Posted by on March 3rd, 2010 at 10:57 am

The Recyclery is moving-22

Robby Fenstermaker, owner of
The Recyclery.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A flyer that has been posted far and wide on the streets of Portland contains allegations that the owner of local used bike shop chain, The Recyclery, “knowingly purchases” and then sells stolen goods.

The flyer contains serious accusations and names The Recyclery’s owner Robby Fenstermaker as being responsible for the alleged “fencing operation.” Fenstermaker says he’s aware of the flyers and maintains the allegations are likely the result of sour grapes due to the success of his business.

So far, the flyer has been seen in Southeast, Northeast, and North Portland. Here’s a photo of it spotted at NE 30th and Multnomah Ave. (sent in by a reader):

(Photo: M. Bratty)

Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t support The Recyclery!… James ‘Robby’ Fenstermaker knowingly purchases obviously stolen bikes from sketchy people, strips them down, and sells them. He doesn’t always check serial numbers because he knows some are stolen… He is a plague on Portland’s bicycle community… We can’t prevent all bicycle theft, but we can stop a bicycle fencing operation that exists in our town.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard allegations like this about The Recyclery, so I called Fenstermaker yesterday and asked him to respond.

“When someone comes in, we get the serial number, all their personal contact info, run it through the City and then wait two weeks before we pay them anything… No bike thief would do that.”
— Robby Fenstermaker

Fenstermaker, 36, says that he has no idea who is posting the flyers, but he acknowledges that he did “have a lot of problems with employees last year,” — insinuating that the author of this flyer could be a disgrunted, ex-employee.

The City has very specific rules for shops that deal in used goods of any kind, and bike shops fall under the same regulations. “We run everything through city like we’re supposed to,” says Fenstermaker, “When someone comes in, we get the serial number, all their personal contact info, run it through the City and then wait two weeks before we pay them anything. You can’t sell us a bike the same day you bring it in.”

According to Fenstermaker, no bike thief would be willing to wait two weeks for payment. Regulations aside, Fenstermaker adds, “Not to mention, I don’t like tweakers, so if anyone shady comes in, I won’t deal with them.”

The challenge for Fenstermaker though, is that he’s not the only one managing interactions with sellers. He admitted that he’s had his share of problems finding trustworthy employees and he’s had to let some of them go due to unscrupulous dealings around used goods purchases:

“We’ve gone through so many employees. Finding someone that you can trust that knows how to do the job and knows what stuff is worth… There’s not many people in town that can do the job.”

The Recyclery has grown to four locations in recent years, and Fenstermaker says that kind of success wouldn’t be possible if he was selling stolen bikes — and success, he maintains, also comes with its envy-fueled detractors:

“I’ve grown this business from a basement to what it is and there’s no way you can do that in this town selling stolen bikes. I think it’s just Portland. If you’re good at anything, there will be people who… I think a lot of it is just bitter people. They just sit around and talk about stuff. I really don’t get it.”

If anyone knows who posted these flyers, I’d love to talk with them.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a follow-up story following a conversation with Sergeant Troy King of the Portland Police Bureau: Police: No complaints lodged against The Recyclery

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Quentin TarantinoJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)David ZundelJackattakcyclist Recent comment authors
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Justa
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Justa

Well, I for one am looking forward to the ensuing commentary. Anybody?

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

I have heard this about the Recyclery too, from some very trusted sources. I would be interested to hear a response from someone who has firsthand knowledge of the situation (besides Fenstermacher, who obviously has an incentive to say that he is on the level).

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

“I think it’s just Portland. If you’re good at anything, there will be people who… I think a lot of it is just bitter people.”

Ouch!

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

I have heard the same rumors off and on for at least a year. The problem is, I can’t find a single police report or complaint filed with the Portland police. If there is any credibility to the allegations, the person should make a formal complaint. As it stands, anonymous allegations are best viewed as a smear attack.

Perry
Guest
Perry

I think that if the man hasn’t been charged with a crime, then the rest is just hurtful bullsh**. Posting unsigned fliers full of accusations is cowardly.

Got beef? Call the cops. Can’t be bothered to back up your accusations? Then sit down and shut up.

BikerinNE
Guest
BikerinNE

In response to comment number 2; name your sources, if they’re so trusted.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I just heard a radio ad and was happy for them. this doesnt seem fair.

a.O
Guest
a.O

It would be unwise for the anonymous accuser to come forward now, as if he cannot prove his allegations Fenstermaker will be able to hold him liable for libel/slander for damage to his business reputation.

Ethan
Guest

Bike parts don’t have serial numbers, is he sometimes buying just parts from people?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Ethan,

That’s part of the problem. According to Fenstermaker, the City’s regulations only capture the sale of frames (hence the serial number) and not parts.

Marcus,

I have contacted the Police Bureau but have not heard back from them. I will update the story and/or post a separate follow-up when I hear back.

beth h
Guest

As my mother (z”l) always told me:

“If you’re going to make an accusation about anything, you’d better have solid documentation to back it up. And if you don’t, then keep your mouth shut.”

Mom clearly could’ve been a lawyer.

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

This is not the first I’ve heard of this allegation about the Recyclery, and similar to Jessica’s comment, it has come from reputable sources. To be honest, this only one of several negative comments I have heard about this establishment in recent years. I have made it a point to warn people away from this business because of their clearly unscrupulous sales practices in regards to used bikes. On many occasions I have had to inform someone that the bike they purchased from the Recyclery was worth only a fraction of what they paid and was not safe to ride without serious and costly repair. I consider this bike shop a dark stain on Portland’s otherwise respectable community of bicycle dealers and resellers.

While I have reservations about the methods and goals of those responsible for the flyers that were posted, it certainly has served the purpose of bringing this business and its owner into the spotlight. Thank you, Jonathan, for posting this story and providing a venue for the community to weigh in on this situation.

BURR
Guest
BURR

The resources the PPB puts towards monitoring second hand dealers of all types in Portland is miniscule, it is entirely plausible that the cops don’t know or couldn’t care less about a large scale stolen bike fencing operation right under their noses. And once a bike is stripped down, how the heck are they supposed to identify it after the fact?

Honuman
Guest
Honuman

This guy claims to have had problems with employees and that all this stems from people disliking success? That’s on par with a Rapist saying people are just mad he’s so good in bed, and that’s pretty disgusting. I personally overheard a guy who’s been working on bikes in this town for over 10 years respond to the statement ‘You could always work @ The Recyclery’ by saying he’d rather live on the streets than help out someone he’s personally known for years to be crooked as hell.

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

Jonathan: A follow-up seems useful after a deeper check.

IF there is truth to the allegations than there is a concern for the bike community.

IF there is NO truth to the allegations than a person is being defamed wrongfully.

Right now it seems people can only state have heard rumors and not had first hand knowledge.

Justa
Guest
Justa

What if someone who’s engaging in this kind of activity is good at covering their tracks (and therefore maintaining a dearth of solid evidence against themselves)? Is that really a good reason to keep to yourself information that is vital to the well-being of your community?

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

His former employees are not disgruntled, they have moved onto better things.

q'Ztal
Guest
q'Ztal

So this blog post is not informational yet but was meant to “shake thre tree” for actual facts; please hold off on the Oregonian like invective until we have FACTS.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

q’Ztal,

“this blog post is not informational”

I disagree. There have been persistent rumors for years about the Recyclery and this story shared a response to those from the man who owns the shop at the center of those rumors. This story also shares information about the flyer’s existence… and yes, like many stories, it might result in more information coming to light.

so far, I haven’t read any “oregonian like invective” in the comments.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

I’m not going to “name sources,” thanks – this was said to me in confidence. And I’m glad that this discussion is happening, because while I haven’t warned anybody off them because it was secondhand info, what I’ve been told has certainly colored my impression of this business and made me unlikely to give them a try. Hopefully this thread will give us all clarity on the matter.

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

Sounds like a witch hunt.

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

My comment:
Zero data.
Not one verified case.
Stupid article.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

Does Robbie have any objections to a Police detective running the numbers on all the frames in all of his locations?

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

This is the first I’ve heard of anything, but then I’m not really in the “bike scene” and don’t hang with too many “bikey” people. I just like old bikes for getting around.

I will continue to support The Recyclery unless someone has some concrete evidence. They have been nothing but nice to me and my wife and we’ve been going there for a while, now.

Keep up the great work, Robby!

natallica
Guest
natallica

i’m glad to see bikeportland doing a story on this.

i, too, have heard many rumors, and am eager to see evidence come forward.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

And I absolutely love how those who are espousing negative comments are doing so with mere secondhand rumors.

If you can’t back up your claims with truth, STFU. People make me sick sometimes.

Quentin
Guest
Quentin

To quote Hitchens, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” If the bikes are “obviously stolen” then it should be easy for the anonymous person to substantiate his or her accusation.

scotth
Guest
scotth

If you’re not willing to disclose your own name, then the information you’re spreading probably isn’t vital to the well-being of your community.

lothar
Guest
lothar

Disgruntled employees are about reliable as a prison snitch who gets leniency for his testimony as far as information about a former employer goes. Not to say that they don’t have a legitimate bitch, but by the time the story makes its way downstream it’s nothing more than hearsay.
If I was to question Robbie’s statement it would be are all the bikes he resells bought on-sight or does he have “buying agents” that scan the area for deals that don’t require a getting someones info or receipts? I find it hard to believe that all his stock comes from people coming into his shop to sell it.
But I have been known to be wrong.

matt picio
Guest

There are 2 guys on SE Salmon near 15th who sell bikes on Craigslist from out of their garages. Rumor has swirled around them about stolen bikes for years as well, yet in the two years I lived on the block, I never saw the cops come by. Ditto for pawn shops. People like them and stores like the Recyclery can only check items that are serialized. Unless we want to impose a mandatory background check on all sellers, there’s not a lot that can be done. What do people expect a business to do when there is no method or system to track stuff like this? All you can do is refuse to deal with people who seem “shady” – and that definition is going to vary depending on the employee.

Good story, Jonathan – getting the owner’s response to public accusations on poles all over town is great use of a popular blog/news site to provide context. Naysayers can feel free to comment or set up their own blog.

I don’t shop at the Recyclery often, but to be honest, I have a more favorable opinion of that establishment than of Hike -n- Bike.

WOBG
Guest
WOBG

Nice courage there, anonymous #11–and nice logic, too.

The issue at hand is not whether the shop is deficient at building and tuning (and pricing); it’s just whether they buy and sell stolen stuff.

Guilt in one does not mean guilt in the others.

MIndfulCyclist
Guest
MIndfulCyclist

I have heard a few things about this, but always thought it was in reference that it wanted too much for some parts. I honestly have found much better deals at the CCC and CityBikes for comparable items.

If he has had problems with former employees doing “unscrupulous” deals, that is too bad. However, it does fall on him as the business owner since he was the one that was responsible for hiring them.

But, it still sounds like nothing but hearsay at this point.

bhance
Guest

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that *anyone* – including bike shops – can use http://mobile.stolenbicycleregistry.com/ to search a bike’s serial number via their cellphone and see if it has been listed stolen with the SBR.

This doesn’t tie into any police databases yet, but it *does* tie into Jonathan’s stolen bike listings here on BikePortland.org.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

It’s telling that all of the negative comments about this place are all second-hand complaints. Nobody here has actually had a bad experience with the place, let alone any evidence that the place is dealing in stolen goods.

I don’t necessarily buy his explanation that the rumors are all due to haters, but I’m inclined to believe him until presented with some actual evidence that the shop is actually dealing with stolen stuff.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

–Start Satirical Hyperbole—

Do you know the guy who keeps posting the bike fencing flyers buys and sells child porn? Ask around local porn shops and the same rumors keep surfacing. Chances are, a child molester in your neighborhood bought child porn from the flyer poster.

John “going to post flyers till I die” Doe buys porno video from sketchy people and doesn’t always check the videos out because he knows some of them are child porn. Think about it when YOUR child is molested and Flyer Posting Freak profits off your child’s suffering.

Flyer posting Freak is a plague in our neighborhoods. We can’t stop all child molesters, but we can stop a child porn video dealership that exists in our town.

—End Satirical Hyperbole—

Your move Flyer Poster Freak. My name is above and my mailing address is: PO Box 1221, Vancouver WA, 98666.

Cowards that hide behind anonymous attacks are some of the worst scum of the earth.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Bold move, Marcus. I like it. Wish I had a P.O. Box, I’d join you. 🙂

Tess
Guest
Tess

I had my Co-Motion Nor’wester (black, S+S couplers) stolen from my basement a few years ago. A couple weeks after, I got a call from the Recyclery saying that they’d seen my stolen bike ad on Craigslist and that they thought they had my bike in their shop. Lo and behold, I went in the next day and there was my bike in a gently wrecked condition. I had the foresight to call the cops before I went in, and when the owner tried to sell my own, reported stolen, bike back to me, the officer was there to inform him that that was illegal. Long story short, I was more than willing to pay a finder’s fee, but less than interested in paying what the owner told me was what he paid for my bike. The owner had a hand-written receipt, with only the name of the person from whom he had purchased my bike. Needless to say, it felt a wee bit sketchy and I never went back. I also suspect I’m not the only one out there. First person witness: here I am.

JasonC
Guest
JasonC

Comment #32 above has summed up the situation and comments here best… has someone out there actually been cheated or told to engage in unlawful business dealings as an employee of this guy?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Robby only started registering his serial numbers with the Portland Police Department AFTER he tried to sell back a stolen bike to the ORIGINAL OWNER, and the cops said “What!?” and started treating this guy like any pawnshop should be treated.

This is no second hand rumor. I guarantee it!!

I might also add that there are no serial requirements on bicycle components like wheels, and saddles which are often ripped off of bikes.

This guy hasn’t had trouble with malicious, criminal “Employees”, it is the top down influence of a hustler trying to make some money. Which to a certain extent I can respect, until it means breaking the law.

I had to chuckle a bit to think that anyone takes Robby at his word.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Ha, I was referencing your story Tess. Thanks for sharing.

Noah Genda
Guest
Noah Genda

Tess, did Robby try to sell you the bike back? Or the “owner” as in a person who was trying to sell to the Recyclery. If he actually paid someone for said bike and then tried to sell it to your then hell yeah thats shady.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Since so few people document their bikes– and the police have little time to deal with theft– there’s a lot of room for abuse. But a gray area exists as well.

If a stranger approaches you trying to sell an obviously-stolen bike, do you buy it? It might be the one-and-only chance for the owner to get the bike back.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Marcus’ parody illustrates the problem with the flyers. Anyone can say anything about anyone but it doesn’t mean its true. Marcus was smart to put the “satirical hyperbole’ disclaimer, it should protect him from libel charges.

The bike community should not have knee jerk reactions to allegations of a bike shop dealing in stolen goods. Have the allegations checked out and if they proven true, than we can tar and feather the guy.

It might be worth while to do a follow up article on the steps local bike shops take to minimize dealing in stolen goods and what they do when they find out they have a stolen bike.

Case
Guest
Case

Maxadders, would I buy a bike off the street if it were obviously stolen and some crackhead wanted $20 for it? Yeah, I would, it’s the only chance for the real owner to get it back.

BikeChicksRule
Guest
BikeChicksRule

I agree with most of your comments about legality and proof. The bottom line is, Tess, if Robby called to let you know he had your stolen bike and wanted to give it back to you, after paying for it instead of selling it to someone else, I think that says something.

The City of Portland has at least two dedicated detectives that monitor used bike shops to verify whether or not the bikes have been registered through their system. Employees who buy or sell used bikes must register with the City. If YOU don’t register your bike and it gets stolen, how is one supposed to know it’s stolen?

The issue here is not whether this particular business person is true to his word. What it comes downs to is intent and integrity. If you don’t agree with the way this individual runs his business, don’t give him yours. Simple enough. I, on the other hand, have had my bike rebuilt twice at the downtown location and received exceptional service at a fair price.

Ten years in business with four locations says something in this small, lovely, bicycle friendly city of ours. Until Mr. Fenstermaker is charged with possession of stolen goods, I will continue to frequent The Recyclery.

Happy riding!

trail user
Guest
trail user

You’d be buying stolen property. What is not unheard of is posting on craigslist about a recovered stolen bike and the responder calls the cops on you after getting your personal info. Technically, you can’t ask for any money at all, I’d imagine. What I would do is not give my personal location to the owner, but give him the combo and location where the bike is locked. The finder’s fee money(or money that was used to buy the stolen bike from the thief) can be placed under a rock at an agreed upon location, at which point you tell him where the handlebar and rear tire is locked up. Keep in mind I don’t know the law regarding trying to recover the finder’s fee of stolen property, but having the cops called on a Good Samaritan does not sound right.

Morgan
Guest
Morgan

Washington may be a bit different, but it can’t be TOO diferent as far as the laws applying to the resale of used goods.

Bicycles puchased by the business must be accompanied with an original proof of purchase and a photo ID. At that point the shop may turn the bike and sell it the next day. All sellers must be over 18.

Bicycles sold WITHOUT a proof of purchase must be accompanied with 2 forms of ID (one photo id and a CC or something with their name) and a signature from the seller. They must be kept for 30 days (untouched) before resale. The records of sale (including description, seller’s signature, price of sale and SN) must be kept until the police dept has a chance to run all ofthe SN against a record of stolen bikes.

In the case of a “hit” on a stolen bike, the shop loses any money paid for the bike and the police return it to the owner. They also request the information of the party who sold the bike.
God help the shop who does not have this paperwork.
You get 1 chance to screw up and not have your paperwork in order. The second time, you lose your licence to sell used products.
I would assume that a shop as large as the Recyclery (4 locations) would have a rather organized system in place as this could screw ALL the locations.

Justa
Guest
Justa

I’m glad to see that there is a healthy degree of skepticism surrounding this issue, because admittedly as of yet little to no concrete evidence has been brought to light in this conversation.

That said, I am yet another one of those individuals who has heard detailed firsthand accounts from many trusted sources–way too many for comfort. I’m not going to repeat those stories verbatim here, because it’d just be a lot more secondhand testimony.

I’ve had my own negative experiences with this guy, but since they’re not directly related to his reputation with bikes, I don’t need to detail them here. I’d just like to state that the backlash he’s starting to feel is anything but knee-jerk; it’s been gaining momentum for years.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Is there anyway to get a cheap lojack anti-theft device for a bike?

Case
Guest
Case

Trail User, getting a bike back to the owner would be worth the $20, it’s not that much to me. However, if I were prosecuted for paying to recover a bike I would be pretty disappointed. So point taken.

Anon Y. Mouse
Guest
Anon Y. Mouse

trailuser:

If you think you have a bike that’s not yours, I think the best thing to do would be to take it to the PPD Property and Evidence Division and get a receipt.

http://www.portlandonline.com/Police/index.cfm?c=41011

Then attempt to contact the owner so they can recover it from the authorities. This keeps everything above the board and legit, entitles you to potentially claim a finder’s fee, and you’d be much less likely to be accused by the victim of the theft.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

So what if a tweaker walks in to a used bike shop (like the one in question) and has a $2000 bicycle. The clerk is fairly certain it’s stolen, but the thief’s fairly certain it’s worth something– and demands $200.

Should the clerk buy it, just to help out the real owner? The owner could always balk at the $200, show up with cops and paint the clerk as a crook on the internet.

I’m not trying to imply anything here–just playing devil’s advocate. It’s a sticky situation that can easily become very accusatory if one party decides the other can’t be trusted.