When to trust an Internet retailer

Flatbike Guarantee

May 2nd 2017

Today, I had two interactions with potential buyers. They could not have been more different on the trust scale.

One was in e-mail, carefully investigating the right size frame of CHANGE 609 folding mountain bike for someone 5’6″. What about stand-over height? Suppose I upgrade the wheels later from 26″ to 27.5″–does that affect frame size? All good questions before investing in a good bike, and the discussion was good for both sides.

Thoughtful questions before a big purchase are a good thing.

The other person phoned and was carefree about spending money. “Awesome bikes. I’ll get two. Can you ship them here by tomorrow?” Hmm. Flatbike offers FREE shipping, but not overnight! When I told him the Fedex charges he’d incur for not waiting a mere seven days, he shifted smoothly into why money is unimportant to him and a list of the other, more expensive bikes he owns–three Bromptons, two Ferrari autoshift bikes…

HINT: When a stranger starts itemizing his bling to dazzle you, it’s rarely the start of a trustworthy relationship.

Needless to say, I was not surprised when this was a “bill one place, ship another” scenario. There are often good reasons for dual addresses, but I’ve yet to see an authentic customer at any income level who doesn’t care about getting the right bike and a value from the purchase. The transaction was automatically declined, thanks to good transaction systems design that catches when a buyer is trying to spend someone else’s money.

All of which got me thinking… All of us have experienced shady retailers too. How do you make sure Flatbike is a company you can trust on the Internet?

The #1 indicator for most people is the padlock during the checkout process. But hints about trustworthiness are visible far earlier in the process.

Five valuable indicators of trust

1. Certifications. A certification from a third-party is the gold standard of a company’s or product’s trustworthiness. SGS is the world’s largest testing & certification company, certifying bikes for fatigue and impact resistance against the European standards for mountain bikes (EN14766) and road bikes (EN14781). The CHANGE bikes we carry are the only folding bikes in the world to achieve this standard.

Flatbike Money Back Guarantee

And no restocking fees or “ship it back at your own expense.” First-class service demands better.

2. Guarantees. To put it bluntly, you’re ordering off the Internet. There better be some commitment in writing to help you out if something goes wrong. Here are Flatbike’s commitments:

  • 30-day money-back guarantee. Maybe it’s the wrong size. Or doesn’t feel right. Or you changed your mind. For whatever reason, you’ve got 30 days from when you get the bike to decide if this is your bike, with no restocking fee.
  • Lifetime frame warranty. This is a unique folding frame with Shimano componentry. The manufacturer offers a 3-year warranty on the frame, which Flatbike extends to a lifetime warranty.
  • Privacy policy. We don’t store personal data on your site, so it’s impossible to hack your personal data. Beyond that, we don’t share your personal data with anyone else ever. It’s yours. (We do use your e-mail for a monthly Flatbike mailing list about updates and discounts, but even that can be stopped with a single click.)

Is the company hiding behind a website, or using it as the jumping-off point for discussions by e-mail, telephone, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

3. Communication. How many ways can you reach a real person at the company? Here’s how you can reach someone at Flatbike:

4. Physical presence. A physical presence doesn’t have to be a store anymore, as more operations are shifting online. But it does need to show that the company is serious about getting in front of customers in the real world. Our manufacturer, Changebike, has been demoing CHANGE bikes at the Taiwan International Bike Show since 2009, as well as other well-known shows through the years: Ausbike (Australia), Eurobike (Europe), and Interbike (US). We are now flying out for Bike Expo New York.

See us this weekend at Booth 617.

Flatbike, which launched in January 2016, started participating in bike shows only in 2017, but has already had demo days in Kirkland WA, Medford OR, Mill Valley CA, Coral Gables FL, as well as the Seattle Bike Show and the Pedal Power Bike Show (Olympia). And we’re attending Bike Expo NY.

What other shows should we exhibit at–Interbike? We’ve heard numerous comments that various boat shows should be on our radar…

5. Reviews & Ratings. It’s always good to hear what others have to say. And to be honest, the visible feedback loop is an area where we haven’t invested enough effort yet. Other than some user comments on flatbike.com/change and whatever feedback shows up on social media, we don’t yet have a reviews & ratings presence. That’s next. So this is a great time for you do steer this effort…

There are a lot of different rating, ranking, and feedback systems out there. Which ones do you trust most?


Bob Forgrave's Signature

Bob Forgrave
President, Flatbike.com


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