There are two bear traps waiting to snap shut on your leg when buying a bike online. The first, of course, is buying the bike itself. If you’re going by an ad and pictures – and placing trust in your fellow man – you’re buying a pig in a poke. God only knows what’s gonna show up on the truck a few weeks down the line.
If the truck ever shows, that is.
Which is my problem right now and Exhibit A that even an experienced wrangler of vehicles of all types can find himself in a position not unlike that of Ned Beatty in Deliverance – you know, the Hillbilly Scene. “Aintree? You aint never gonna get down to Aintree… ”
Or get your bike – city boy.
Here’s what happened:
In late November, I bought a new (to me) 1983 Honda GL650 Silverwing Interstate. I had been looking off and on for a decent example of this rare (because one-year-only) middleweight touring bike for about a year when I found a low mileage (just 12k) apparently well-preserved example about 100 miles northwest of Chicago. After some back and forth with the seller (who happened to be a dealer) I bought the bike. Now I had to figure out how to get the bike.
I live in SW Virginia, not too far from Roanoke – but very far from the Chicago area. Driving 10-plus hours (one way) to pick the bike up seemed like a hassle, so, after discussing it with the dealer, I decided to have the bike shipped to me instead. Without thinking about it much – and, much worse – without doing any research first, I agreed to use the company he recommended, Haul Bikes, Inc.
This was Wrong Move Number One. I should have checked the company out before signing up. Instead, I paid $600 to Haul Bikes to ship the bike to me within an estimated “2-3″ weeks from pick-up. Later on, I read the caveats and clauses in the contract that talked a lot about delays. I should have read those clauses before parting with my money.
This was Mistake Number Two.
Well, the bike gets picked up by Haul Bikes the following week – the first week of December, 2010. So far, so good. The Haul Bikes web site goes on at great length about how the bikes are placed on secure pallets for the trip, all tied down snug and safe. I am feeling good.
I let two weeks by – which is Mistake Number Three. I figured, after about two weeks, the bike will be either on its way to me or about to be sent on its journey. I should certainly have it in my garage before another week or maybe two at the outside. So I call the shipping company to check in and see whether they can give me a ballpark ETA, so I can be sure to be available to receive the bike.
The lady at Haul Bikes informs me on Friday the 17th that “… nothing is going out before the end of the month.” Speechless pause follows as I digest this. Haul Bikes has already had my bike in its possession for two weeks. Now I am told that it will be at least another two weeks before it is “assigned” to a delivery driver. Maybe. No guarantee.
It gets better.
Even if it is assigned, the lady (who is personally very nice; I do not have any hate in my heart for her) tells me further that the actual delivery date could be the first week of January. Or the second. Maybe the third. She doesn’t know. Can’t say. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
So it could go on for weeks to come – possibly, months. To ship a bike 800 miles, for which I paid $600. I could walk 800 miles in the time my bike has just been collecting dust in the Haul Bikes warehouse.
If only I had done 5 minutes of due diligence Googling I would have found that glacial delivery times are a common complaint leveled against Haul Bikes, Inc.
But this I did not do – which is why I find myself looking and feeling jus’ like a hog. They have my money; they have my bike. And there is very little I can do about it except sit back, close my eyes and try to enjoy it.
Lesson: If you buy a vehicle online and need to get it shipped to you, take at least as much time checking out the shipping company as you did the vehicle itself. In particular, do they give a written guarantee that your vehicle will be delivered by such and such a date, excepting war or natural catastrophe? If not, think twice – unless you don’t mind your new baby spending time – potentially, a great deal of time – with someone else, long before it ever gets to you.
Postscript: I am getting ready to do what I should have done back in November – drive the 800 miles to pick up the bike and drive home with it in the bed of my pick-up.
I always have to learn the hard way.
C’mon boy, squeal! Louder! eeeeeee! eeeeee!