What would Yvon do?

It's never been a secret that Patagonia is one of the brands we most admire, and whose principles and actions we try to emulate. Through many eras of fashion, their aesthetic has always been instantly recognizable, sometimes influenced by the zeitgeist (did everyone read this week's newsletter?) but never bullied by it. It's a rare Patagonia item that looks out of place 5, 10, or 20 years after it's new. 

One area in which we split from Patagonia is in pricing. Their well-earned and quite popular nickname is Patagucci. So ubiquitous, in fact, that spell check didn't even blink when I typed it. They staked out their ground when their market was one hell of a lot less crowded than it is now, and have performed well enough to be able to charge what they do all along. While we are very much in lock-step with their philosophy on price integrity and stability, our margins are much much lower than theirs (Mike and I both happen to have unique insight into this, Mike through a personal connection and me through my brother's former company having tried like mad to convince them to go public, which they quite correctly refused to do). Much lower. 

While we strive to give great service (and there are currently three cycling companies I'm waiting for return calls from, one of which has gotten three calls from me going back three weeks with nary a word, so we know the crap service that is all too common in this market), we haven't priced in a "whatever happens, we'll just spend money to make it right" insurance policy for ourselves. If we charged $1200 for an alloy build inferior to ours, we'd probably fly to your house to set your wheels up or if you ever thought something was amiss. As it is, we've been asked to foot costs of return shipping to "fix" wheels that were built more or less as well as can be done. We've lost every cent of our margin paying for return shipping on a new build that was definitely way out of dish, only to find out that the dropouts in the fork it was being used in were at fault. And we've been tasked with truing a wheel that had been used in dozens and dozens of crits, including one in which it was crashed profoundly enough that the rider broke several bones (the wheel was trashed beyond any hope of repair, although it had been ridden to several race wins in the state in which it was given to us).

A guy who helps out in the shop and I were discussing this situation yesterday, and he said "talk about sending your children out into the world..." Totally spot on. When we put a wheel into a box, it literally is like sending a child off to live on its own. We've "raised" that child as well as we can, imparting all of our experience and expertise, absolutely and genuinely with the wheel's owner's interests firmly in mind. Like, to an absolute fault. We want nothing more than every wheel to give its owner total satisfaction. But like I wrote in a post this spring, our pricing structure doesn't support a waitress serving canapes and espresso while you're waiting for your oil change. We have a great warranty, with very clear terms. If there is a material error with one of our wheels, we will fix it. We reserve the right to go beyond those terms, and have, but maintaining our price levels (which are, any way you slice it, tremendous), we have to exercise discretion. 

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Thanks, all. This is a difficult topic to articulate. No one, nothing, is perfect, certainly not us, and no one's more aware of that than us. We've perhaps high-horsed it about a few things before, but this is decidedly not one of them, and man every time there's any trouble with any of our stuff, my guts go immediately into the blender. At the end of it all, the point is that if something's happening that shouldn't, or if something's not happening that should, and it's because of the way we did our jobs, we're going to fix it effectively. Horrible cliche alert, but we're not happy if you're not, but we've set up a good warranty and that's what dictates how things get solved. Our efficiency in this is important to all of our customers, since our pricing structure includes warranty accommodation, and if that accommodation gets forced out of line, then the price has to change. Definitely not going public. I worked for a company that went public, and it was a terrible experience. "Make the quarter no matter what" is a miserable way to run a business.


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