Stop the moto-snobbery

Publish Date: 
Apr 17, 2013
By Mary Green Slepicka

WHAT DOES A motorcycle rider look like? Or an ATV enthusiast? Do they wear their hair a certain way? Do all men have mustaches? Do all women wear lots of dangling jewelry? Do they all walk into your store in full gear?

Of course they don’t. Riders come from all walks of life.

They’re 18, 45 and 68 years old. They are thin, medium and heavy. They wear everything from jeans to business suits. They’re of all races and heritages. Some of them look like outlaws, some look like pin-ups, some look like dentists and some look like moms.

In one dealership I recall a salesperson walking by me twice before turning and saying, "Oh, do you need help?"

Some of them ride all the time and in all weather conditions. Some of them ride just on sunny weekends. Some of them ride once a month, and some of them just ride along. And maybe some don’t ride, but might want to learn and would like to get some information from you.

But they’ve all walked in your store for a reason.

I was doing a market visit earlier this spring, visiting about a dozen dealerships over four days. In all but three cases, I entered the store and walked around the showroom for between (I timed it) five to 12 minutes, touching product, picking stuff up, looking for sizes, throwing a leg over a vehicle before anyone came up and said “Hello.” And in several cases, there were no other customers.

In one dealership I recall a salesperson walking by me twice before turning and saying, “Oh, do you need help?” The parts guys hid behind the counter, prepared to put as much interference as possible between them and their paying customer (if one had walked in).

In another case, the GM stayed behind the counter watching a couple look at helmets. He wasn’t going to help them, he said, because ‘they probably are going to just look and then buy off the Internet.’ And he wasn’t ready to expend any energy to try and change their mind, if indeed that’s what they were doing.

I spent a half hour in an apparel area at another store trying in vain to find a certain size of $300 jacket while the three accessory department ladies gabbed at the jewelry counter 10 feet away.

When I’m walking into a dealership and it’s not for work, I’m there for a personal reason — to spend money, or to get information and enough attention so that I’m prompted to come back and spend money. I’m looking for a friendly face, a knowledgeable resource, an acknowledgment that I exist. It’s the reason I do business with the dealership 30 miles up the road rather than the one 17 blocks from my house.

Now, I don’t look like the stereotypical biker. (I recall riding into Sturgis in 1990 not in leathers but in a snazzy Eddie Bauer red rain jacket and full-face helmet…what can I say…) But my point is, who does? I’m sorry, but some of the dealer principals I see look like they’d be more at home on a golf cart than a full dresser.

Regardless of whether your visitors ride every day or once a month, they’re still paying customers and they deserve your respect.

It’s time to stop the moto-snobbery. Do you want the sale, or don’t you?


This column originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Dealernews.