First published on Brand Republic 16 May 2011
It had been agreed that the wife needed a new bicycle. As the old one had expired, ceased to be and gone to meet its maker this was indeed a ‘need’ and not a ‘want’.
I had just sat down in my comfy armchair with a lovely Saturday morning cuppa and was about to read the newspaper, a pleasure that some people of my generation still enjoy, and in she walked.
“I’m off to Halfords to buy a new bicycle”.
“What, just like that?” I said.
“Well we agreed I need one”, she replied.
“Yes, I know darling. But you don’t wander off to a shop and buy one. Not anymore. You look around online. You check for second-hand bargains, see what’s on offer. You compare prices. It’s a whole different meerkat these days”. She’s used to my witty repartee.
So we set off on the campaign trail. She’s tall and needs a 21” frame. That’s the brief.
She hits the PC upstairs. I browse the phone downstairs, happy in my armchair. First, because I’m that kinda guy, I check the second-hand options (Manchester and Leicester – not convenient for Battersea). Then I search for local bicycle shops. They might be cheaper. I call a couple. Nothing doing.
Finally, the inevitable happens. I hit the Halfords website and – lo and behold! – there is just the bike she needs. The 21” frame Apollo Highway Trekking Hybrid Bike. And, what’s more, reduced from £359.99 to 179.99. We’re off to the races!
The wife agrees this looks a perfect choice and, with her slightest ‘I told you so’ sigh, announces she is heading off to Halfords as she was going to do over an hour earlier.
Feeling humbled, I offer to come with her. If the bike is right, she can ride it back and I’ll drive the car home. Halfords is only a mile away, their website tells me. In fact, their website says ‘we go the extra mile’ but, in our case, they did not need to.
Into Halfords we saunter, happy Saturday shoppers. Oh look – there’s a tent! That might be useful for our daughter. And a lilo (aka ‘airbed mattress’)! Could be good for the summer holiday. And some other bits and pieces that may come in useful.
Then we go upstairs to the bicycle department. And there, all resplendent, is the Apollo Highway Trekking Hybrid Bike – but only the 18” frame model.
“Don’t worry” says the very useful and friendly assistant “we’ve got six 21” frames out the back. I am sure that’ll fit you just grand. It’ll be ready tomorrow”.
At this stage, I feel I have to intervene: “It says here the price is £219.99. I’m sure the website said £179.99. Are you sure this is the same bike?”.
“Oh yes, sir, that’s the ‘online’ price. This is the ‘in store’ price”.
“So if I go back home and order the same bike online, it’ll be £40 less?”
“The do you deliver it or do we come back to pick it up?”
“You can come back and pick it up, sir. Like I say, it’ll be ready tomorrow.”
“But I’ve got my phone on me. Can I go online here and order it now for £40 less than the price it says on this tag on the bicycle in front of me?”
“Of course, sir. The order will come up on my till in a couple of minutes.”
So that is what we did. The next day, we picked it up (for £179.99).
The moral of the story is that if you want to buy a new bicycle from Halfords, don’t go to their rather large store (for which they must pay a rather large rent), don’t be surprised that their range of products is wider than you had thought and certainly don’t be tempted into buying anything else. It’s not worth it.
Just find what you want on their website, see if it is in stock (the website will tell you this), cruise down to the shop to check the bike fits ok and then go home and buy it. Or do what I did and take your phone and pay the cheaper ‘online price’ while you are standing in the store.