Thursday, September 7, 2017


Sadly, no longer in the Triumph fold…

I am a huge supporter of small businesses and because many motorcycle dealerships are small businesses, I like to develop a relationship with my dealer and do most of my maintenance and merchandise trade with him or her.  I want them to be successful for two reasons.  Selfishly, I feel if I care for the small business, the small businessperson will care for me, and I believe that small businesses are the economic backbone of many communities both large and small.

Earlier this year, my Triumph dealership gave up or lost the Triumph franchise.  Too bad.  They are a good group of people to whom I happily took my BMW for service and my Moto Guzzi for consignment.  Slipping out of my motorcycle comfort zone or biases, I purchased a 2015 Triumph Thunderbird.  The huge cruiser came with compromises, but will always rank as the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever owned.  Long distances melted beneath her white-walled wheels and passers-by’s eyes popped whenever I pulled into a rest stop or a 7-11.

My new “local” dealer – who I will not identify here – was nearly fifty freeway miles distant but windy alternative routes made that distance a gift rather than a burden.

Two months ago, I scheduled a tire change delivering the T-Bird at the appointed 10:00 hour and was told by the service writer that they’d “get right on it; shouldn’t be more than and hour-and-a-half.” 
I had brought along a book and after perusing the inventory of new machines sat down for a few minutes of literacy.  By noon, the beast was not yet on the rack. 
“Next in line,” I was told. 
Ultimately, the keys were handed back to me at 4:30.  Arriving home, I discovered the Avon on the rear was a full 10 p.s.i. underinflated. 
Probably just an oversight. 
I’ll give ‘em a heads up next time I’m in.

Three weeks ago, on a Wednesday, “Big Blue” went in for her 12,000-mile service including a valve inspection. 
“Plan on leaving her overnight.” 
“No problem.  I’ll be back next Tuesday.” 
“She’ll be ready.”  I ticked off three items needing attention beyond the normal service: Belt adjustment, check engine light, and “Oh, and could you pop a new bulb in the right side running light?”

The following Wednesday, I boarded the newly operating commuter train with helmet in hand to pick up the ‘Bird. 
“Ummm.  She’s just going up on the rack right now,” says the advisor.  “Probably be six hours or so.  Are you waiting?” 
The train ride back was pleasant.  I helped a little fifth-grade girl with her math homework. 
Shame on me for not calling the dealership prior to heading down there.

Thursday at noon, the call came, “Your bike is ready.  Are you going to pick it up today?” 
“Probably tomorrow.  What did you find out about the check engine light?” 
“Oh (pause) It’s on the lift right now.  We’re checking it out and will get back to you.”

Unseasonable heat – like 106 degrees – prompted me to postpone picking up “Big Blue” until after the temperatures broke.  That’d turned out to be the following Tuesday. I called to make sure it’d be okay for them to hold on to it.  Graciously, they said yes.  In the mean time they spotted a coolant leak for which I authorized repair, suggesting it might be a warranty issue.

The bike was, indeed ready on Tuesday.  I hiked over from the depot to be presented with a bill for all repairs including $4.78 for the running light bulb and $139.00 to “diagnose the problem.” 
Wouldn’t one stick a new light bulb in there and if it didn’t pop immediately, there’s nothing to diagnose?
Also was told that the check engine light was due to improper routing of wires to the sensor in the exhaust system. “We rerouted them and reprogrammed.” 
“Good.  Would that be covered under warranty?” 
“I asked around and no, I have to charge you for that because the part wasn’t bad.” 
.75 hour shop time. 
The coolant leak turned out to be a clamp that failed: not covered.  Another $139.00.

Ultimately, the bill came to nearly $1500.00 for a 12,000-mile service.  “But I have a bit of good news.  It seems when Triumph sent us the 12,000-mile kit, they included the wrong air filter.  You can bring it back down and we’ll install it, or I can credit your bill.” 
Doesn’t make Triumph USA, Ltd sound very good to me, the customer.
“Credit please.”  Then I mentioned: “When I picked the bike up a few weeks ago after you put new tires on, I got home and the rear was at 34 when it should be 44.  Can you double check pressures for me?”  
“Sure, no problem.  I’ll meet you out back.”

Out back: 
Me: “What did you find out about the belt alignment.”
Service advisor: “I’ll check with the mechanic. (Leaves momentarily.) He adjusted it.”
Me: “Good.  It wasn’t listed on the bill.”
Me: “What was the source of the check engine light?”
[See above.]
Me:  “And thanks for double checking the tire pressure.”
SA:  “Sure.  The rear was a bit low.  I got it up to 40.  That should be good enough.”
I bit my tongue.

Firing her up three things became obvious.  Tiniest one first:

·      One: It takes thirty seconds to reset the clock after a battery disconnect.  When I, the customer, have to reset the clock it sends a message about the degree of customer care I just paid a large-and-a-half for.
·      Two: After a battery disconnect, the gauges reset – this I discovered – and the fuel gauge read “full” when I know I was planning on filling ‘er up after I left the dealership.  I decided to physically check the gas tank only to find…
·      Three: the filler cap was loose, not snapped into place; now, back to…
·      Two: As the machine idled, the gauge reset itself indicating:
a)    I did, indeed, need to fill ‘er up – no problem – and
b)   Since the battery had been reconnected, the bike had not turned on or ridden as most service departments will do after completing a job or the gauge would have already rest itself and ‘found home.’  Perhaps.

Businesses fail for any of a number of reasons.  Here are some:

1)   Evolution:  What you make may no longer be needed:  Buggy whips.  Coal.
2)   Lousy Product:  Edsel Ford.  Yugo.  Pet Rocks.
3)   Economic Downturns:  Recessions hit and products deemed not essential (for some, this means motorcycles) are not purchased at a sustainable level.
4)    Competition:  Somebody does what you do, only better or cheaper: Let’s see how Tesla’s Model C stacks up against Chevy’s Bolt.
5)   Poor Customer Service:  Something that is under the direct control of the business owner. 

A successful owner will likely set standards for his employees relative to their interactions with customers and the quality of service the customer receives.  Employees are counseled and coached to ensure that their work matches a standard that will invite the confidence of the customer.  Screw-ups – things that naturally happen as apart of the human condition – are seen as teaching moments; opportunities to invest in the employee and thereby grow the business. 

At the outset of this post, I stated that I am a supporter of small business – and I am with this small business, even though I feel as if my recent experiences ranked well below satisfactory.  I’m sure others have fared much better with this shop.  A copy of this diatribe is being sent to the shop in the hopes that they’ll do better for the next guy.

I am disappointed in Triumph USA Ltd.  I am disappointed with my new local Triumph shop.  This storied brand deserves better. 

It has been three days since “Big Blue” returned from her 12,000-mile service.  She ran like a top coming home and also ran delightfully well to the local Yamaha dealer where she was traded yesterday.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press


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  2. Wow, what crappy service/excuses. I too am all for supporting small businesses, but only to a point.

    We are friends with the owner of the former Triumph dealer in Eugene and the way the treated him and other dealers when the big push came to 'update or lose the line' came down the pipe it was ridiculous. He told them where to go and gave up the line and just sold his personal Triumph for an Africa Twin.

    Congrats on the new Tenere. More dealers means more accessibility.

  3. How sad to go from that beautiful machine to what you have traded it for. I'd feel sick to my stomach to walk into my garage and see that instead of the Triumph.

    I get the disappointment in the loss of the dealership and I'm in exactly the same boat as to what to do about it but your choice seems so drastic.

    1. I did a pretty good amount of research before settling on a replacement steed. I think the Yamaha will serve as a nice alternative, given what I've read about reliability and what I've heard from a couple of folks who have one. Heading up the Oregon coast later this week and will report back...