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This was only a sampling of what was wrong with the bicycles. The handlebars were being moved by my thumb and index fingers, while I tried to hold the wheel with my knees.

Backstory – https://wvcycling.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/more-wal-mart-woes/

Yesterday evening while out on a ride, I received two phone calls from unknown phone numbers. Googling didn’t help, neither did white pages reverse lookup, or PIPL.com. Seeing how they were local numbers, I decided to call them back. It was Wal-Mart; their unlisted office numbers.

I spoke to a woman named Linda who was calm, friendly, and seemed concerned in a way that the business would want her to be; you know what I mean. Right off the bat, she knew who I was, and what I was calling about. I went over my findings, and clarified to her that this was not the first time that more than half of their fleet of bicycles (In her terms, Toys and Accessories) would fail a safety check due to one reason or another. Linda stated that the bicycles have been flying off the shelf since Easter, which is the usual kick-start to the bike-selling season. I am not sure if she told me this to assure me that this instance was due to being busy, or that it was an isolated incident, but I could tell where this was going.

She stated that all they do to a bicycle once they receive it is install handlebars. I told her that this is potentially the first problem, and that the whole bike should be looked over once it is in their hands due to the fact that I have seen frayed cables, loose pedals, housing installed in bass-ackward ways, and other things that could cause the bicycles to abruptly fail. Linda assured me that these issues were due to bicycles being returned to the store, and being put back on the shelves. “You can tell, see? The tires will have mud on them and stuff. It’s easy to know.” She could not confirm whether bicycles were reconditioned or just placed back on the shelf after being returned, but that they were sold AS-IS.

Seeing what I will now call the 6/10 handlebar problem was something under their control according to Linda’s own words, I decided to push with that, telling her again that these bicycles which I checked THIS WEEK could potentially cause harm to someone who is unknowing about bicycle safety. Linda stated that she will forward this concern to the department manager for the section that bikes are in, and that she will also address this issue to the associate who builds the bicycles.

She then thanked me for my concern, and said she could understand that a “cyclist would be concerned with things like this”.

At the end of the call, I do not feel any more reassured that problems like this will change. I took the time to try to reach a human being, but I still have that sinking feeling in my gut that people are at risk if they don’t know anything about bikes. I guess all that can be done now is to pray that people don’t get hurt…

Buckhannon Wal-Mart

Store #2809

304.472.5726

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Once again, getting a late night necessary item or two at Wal-Mart had me checking the bicycle department like an after hours security guard wanders around a mall looking for hoodlums.

I act like things should change every time I walk into this little area, but they do not. All of the accessories look like a supply truck took a number two, expelling product all over the place in no particular order. The bicycles are a little more conservative, I didn’t see as many bastardized bikes that were made with monster coil springs and junky frame designs reminding you of old Giant Warps circa the late 90’s.

Versus what was actually in the racks:

This Schwinn was $190-something; it would be what I would choose, if I had to ride something from Wal-Mart.

What was the worst part about this trip you ask? Stems. Yes, Stems. I tried lightly turning the handlebars of ten bicycles while they were in those awkward racks, and SIX of the bikes’ handlebars moved while the wheel stayed still. This to me says that someone is not properly doing their job, and needs to to understand that there are lives potentially at risk.

Just like every time I am in the bike department, I took out my trusty pen and scribbled on whatever paperwork was on the bike. I clearly wrote

HANDLEBAR STEM IS LOOSE. DANGER.

I know this is a bit overkill for something that may only need a few twists of an allen wrench to fix, but not everyone knows that it would need to be done in the first place. Look at how many old and young drivers forget to change their motor oil and filter, and end up doing 15,000 miles with it until excessive wear causes something to not function optimally. This happens a lot more than you think…

I really wish there is more I could do. Something like write a manifesto of discontent to the store operator to show that they are possibly contributing to the 100+ reported cases a year of Mass Merchant Bike related injuries. Should I even go as far as telling them I could do a better job?

I’ll keep you posted~

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