Taken for a ride…almost

Dodgy bros

Carbon Addiction received a pretty disturbing email yesterday from regular follower Luigi about an Australian bike shop (name supplied) which apparently tried to pass off a resprayed demo frame to him as a new – and at $8,000+ very expensive – road bike recently. Rather ironically the cyclist they tried to take for a ride works in the auto industry himself, which of course isn’t always renowned for having the highest of ethics. Just goes to show there are shonky folks in every walk of life and we always need to be very aware, even when we’re paying top dollar for a top quality brand name and expect far better. You can also be pretty sure at a time when Australia’s local bike shops – the vast majority of whom provide fantastic service and commitment to their customers – need all the help and support they can get, there will be plenty of LBS owners furious about scammers like these charlatans sullying their reputations.

It almost defies belief, but here’s what happened, as told by Luigi himself:

“Hi guys, I wanted to share an experience I had purchasing a supposedly new bike from a bike shop earlier this year and hopefully protect others from being ripped off in the same way. We rarely hear the bad stories about bike shops, but sadly it does happen and it’s time someone wrote about the dangers of dealing with people you don’t know.

Back in February I was super excited about getting a new bike and after plenty of looking around I placed an order for a new 2014 (bike name withheld other than to say it’s an expensive and reasonably rare Italian brand with top notch everything). But what was supplied to me, after waiting over eight weeks from the day I put down a significant deposit for it, was nothing but an old used demo frame re-sprayed to look like a new 2014 one.

Luckily for me, working in the auto game I caught on to the scam pretty much straight away. When I took the bike home I immediately attempted to register the frame on the manufacturer’s website to initiate the warranty that comes standard with their products.The website kept crashing so I couldn’t finalise the frame registration. I rang the distributor’s contact number and they were very helpful. When asked to supply the frame ID, we found that the black and yellow frame I’d been given was actually purchased by the bike shop as a “demo” frame and was originally painted black, white and red. The frame had been re-sprayed to look like the 2014 model I wanted.

Upon closer inspection of the frame, you could spot a lot of differences. The frame should have been a black matt finish, not gloss black. The 2014 frame comes standard with BB386 bottom bracket but mine had the BB30 which was standard on 2011-13 models. The logo graphics were slightly different on either side of the top tube, while the logo on the seat tube and front forks was the wrong colour. The “Made in Italy” and Italian flag stickers were also missing on one side of the lower chain stay.

After discovering what had happened, I chose to correspond with the bike store concerned via emails only and copied all correspondence to the Australian distributor. At first the store tried to deny any wrongdoing and claimed that I knew I was getting a “custom” painted frame. Once they realised they weren’t dealing with a fool, they reluctantly agreed to order and pay for another frame to replace the re-sprayed one. All of the components, except the cranks, were then transferred from one bike to the other. In total I had to wait another ten weeks to finally get what I originally ordered in good faith.”

We suggested to Luigi that he should notify the police or at the very least his local Fair Trading body. It is fraud after all and, in all seriousness, if he tried to pull a stunt like that in his automotive business surely he’d be in serious trouble?

“That’s exactly what I told them at the time,” he said. “If I did this to a customer, it would be all over the news and I could potentially lose my franchise/dealer licence. That said I didn’t contact the Department of Fair Trading, opting to allow them to come good with the proper frame – even if it took almost five months waiting from initial placement of deposit to ownership of the proper frame.”

The good news for Luigi is that despite all the drama, he loves his new bike. But while he managed to dodge a bullet, he’s concerned about what will become of the fake. “I feel sorry for the poor person who will end up buying that frame,” he says. “It will most probably be marketed as a ‘custom paint job’…but it was never supposed to be, and it sure isn’t new.”

NOTE: Full details of the store, bike and importer were provided as part of this article, but have been withheld.

4 thoughts on “Taken for a ride…almost

  1. Why did Luigi not get a refund? He should have taken his business elsewhere and voted with his wallet. Now they are just going to sell the frame to someone else who isn’t skilled enough to notice it is dodgy.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. Perhaps there were other circumstances which is why Luigi choose to continue the purchase however with the infomation available it wouldn’t feel right to continue with this shop who has committed fraud.

    What about other customers who are less experienced? While Luigi is a victim and appears to have been able to come out on top – it would be in the general interest that other customers are aware and that this is reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

  3. I have published a story on Bicycles Network Australia which references this customer experience:

    My Bike Shop Sucks! How to find a better bike store

    While it wouldn’t have been easy to predict this particular problem, what can help is to freely recommend the good shops. It tends to be easy to accept great service, and shifting this to share genuine praise of the good stores will help build up the reputation of the good shops and give them a better chance over the black sheep.

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