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.
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…