I’m not Stating the Obvious
Everyone knows that Halfords is a big corporate entity, expensive and holding a large piece of the pie of the British bike market. They sell cheap bikes and generic tools and prices in the their bike stores are heavily marked up, which is common knowledge. I know a lot of serious cyclists would never shop there, much preferring to shop at their local bike store, which would most often be more specialised and highly skilled. Staff at Halfords seem to come and go on a quarterly basis, and the brand itself had tried to reinvent itself with stand alone shops surreptitiously named “Bike Hut” and the hipster-sounding “Cycle Republic”. So then, why was I choosing to shop there..?
The Box Issue
When it comes to selling a bike, whether you are a professional seller or just old Mrs Tinkler down the road, you may need a bike box to ship it. This is especially true when selling through Ebay, where you can reach a much larger market, targeting collectors and connoisseurs in the field. However, to sell nationally you need a box to ship the bike. To get a box to ship the bike, you need help from your local bike shop, which often have them lying around. The biggest bike shop in Britain is Halfords, and my local store would kindly, and supportingly, offer their empty bike boxes to anyone who needed one or two. Until today.
The Mean Policy
My local Halfords does a lot of business and often have a dozen empty bike boxes lying around, ready for flattening. So yes, they would provide me a free bike box a few times a month, no big deal, of no significance to them in the scheme of things. But when I went in today, I was duly told by the bike shop manager, in a very apologetic way, that they no longer offer free bike boxes. “All boxes will be now flattened and shipped to a recycling centre”, he said. I was taken aback. “What? Even that one?” I replied, pointing at a ripped and saggy looking box just opened. “Yes”, he said, “even that one”. Well, bloody hell, I thought.
Support is a Two Way Thing
I’ve bought stuff at Halfords very regularly because of their previous helpfulness regarding empty bike boxes. I was willing to pay their inflated prices in view of giving back some support for them by their show of support for me. This is why the policy of saying “no” to customers is stupid and thriftless: a company will lose more money by pushing their customers away, not building relationships with them nor courting any loyalty. If you treat your customer’s needs as irrelevant, they won’t come back, and I now I won’t return again. For the meanness of retaining one box out of the thirty or forty they unpack in the week, they’ve lost about £100 a year I was spending there.
I called the head office at Halfords and they confirmed that this policy is now in place across all stores, that no empty bike boxes should be given to customers. That’s garbage, in my opinion, and a reflection of modern life, indeed, modern retail life, counting every penny as more important than customer support, than providing a service and offering the range technical skills and services that customers depend on. Hopefully, local bike shops will continue to offer their help for anyone looking for that very necessary and simple article for shipping a bike – an empty box. Its too much to ask at Halfords.