Refund policy experience with a recent bike purchase.

I thought my experience with a recent bicycle purchase might benefit someone who might not have considered their rights on a request for a refund. I don't think it is necessarily beneficial to name the store involved, and my main point is that if a bicycle store does not have a Returns Policy section on their website, it might be worth requesting one prior to making a purchase.

I spoke with the manager of a bicycle store in Sydney over a bicycle which was being promoted as a Track Bike. I've wanted a fast track bike for the road for some time, the idea of being in total contact with the road appeals to me, and after finding a good price on the Jamis Sonik, I spoke with the manager and was informed that it is a perfectly suitable bicycle for the road.

It's a lovely bike and I do not want to part with it, however there is no way that I can possibly ride this bicycle on the road -- clearly it's not designed for it, it's just far too stiff and the aluminium frame sends every shock up through the frame and into the rider. With an 80kg rider on the pedals, it is one pothole away from a catastrophic frame failure, IMHO. I realized this in short time and I was back at the store within 15 hours requesting a refund, even suggesting a reasonable restocking fee of 5%, since I was willing to accept some responsibility in not realizing the problem in my test ride over the smooth car park surface out the back of the store prior to the purchase.

I was informed that I could only get back 70% of the purchase price as 30% would have to be put towards tyres! Whoa!? $150 for each tyre!? When that question didn't work, or didn't sit comfortably, the manager quickly jumped on some other excuse about him losing money on the bike, even though the bike hadn't been ridden and still had the rubber mould nodules on the tyres.

So, a word of warning to others, if the bike shop's website doesn't have a RETURN POLICY section it's because they have a policy which will make you feel cheated if you want to make a return. This has sadly been my experience. If they don't have one, they certainly don't have a fair one, so request this information in advance. No one wants to return a bike, but we all make mistakes and it is just unfair to be improperly informed so the manager can rack up a sale.

Most reputable stores have this information on their site, and it is a lesson I have now learned at significant hassle through researching their policies in reflection over the absence of one in this instance, and travelling out to the store which is not local.

I fully expect to get my refund through NCAT, since I was sold a bicycle which is not reasonably fit for the purpose I bought it for. It is a true track bike, light and stiff and fast, and riding it on the road is not only unsafe for the rider but other road users.

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Mmm sounds like a case of caveat emptor.  

Sure you can use a track bike on the road, people do. It's a choice albeit a daft one in my view. Others may differ.

The tyres story does sound like twaddle, but hey.

Most modern track bikes are not designed to soak up bumps, their ain't any on the velodrome.  I tested out my track bike and it was a horrible ride.

A purpose built fixie is the way to go

and I think the Jamis Sputnik is just this, have heard peoples say these bikes are good but that would have been around the 2009/ 2010 model. Doubt they would change the frame much but the bits could be different.

Any retailers lack of or stated returns policy, does not preclude your rights under Australian Consumer Law:

"Businesses that sell goods guarantee that those goods:

  • are fit for any purpose that the consumer made known to the business before buying (either expressly or by implication), or the purpose for which the business said it would be fit for..."

It would be up to you to prove you both 

a) said you wanted a track bike suitable for riding on the road, and

b) the product you were sold was not fit for your stated purpose.

I think the trick you're going to find is that there is a natural contradiction in asking for a bike that is designed for riding on a track for the purpose of riding on the road. In reality, the retailer should have advised no such thing exists (especially given a standard brakeless track bike is not legal for use on the road - assuming it was sold to you wihout brakes), but this is balanced by the fact they did indeed sell you a product that wasn't fit for purpose. To me, it would probably come down to a "he said, she said" kind of argument".

It sounds like you are close to resolution - I would suggest you offer to pay the normal retail price for the new tyres (and  get to keep the old tyres), and you both walk away happy? Failing that, assert your consumer rights.

Hey guys,

Didn't expect such helpful responses and considered opinions. Lodged the application for a refund at NCAT today.

The bike didn't come with brakes, although it can take brakes since the holes are there on the fork and back bridge. It's the 2014 model and has some really nice parts, but of course I admit that I should've asked more questions.

I honestly didn't think the manager was going to make an issue of the return, but from what I understood they had that bike in the store for a long while since it's a 61cm (XL) size, and perhaps that's why the manager was willing to sell the benefits of the bike for the road to me with such deceit.

I've fired off an email to Jamis Bikes about the integrity of the frame and the safety of an 80kg rider flogging the Sonik on hard, potholed roads - so will be interesting to discover their response and whether they think this is an appropriate use of their product? Will post the reply, or an extract, if one is forthcoming?

Sir Ubu, you raise some interesting points, some of which I've already considered, however we're not at all close to a resolution, although your suggestion was the appropriate way of proceeding, and as I said, I was willing to take some responsibility and offered a restocking fee which would have matched the price of two tyres and labour on a wipe down of the frame if required, but the manager was obviously more interested in making a good deal for himself, and as Jellybean says, it's nothing but twaddle and the reason I pressed him on it.

I think, in relation to the "he said, she said" kind of argument, it comes down to trust and who the Tribunal Chair will trust? The consumer who came back 15 hours later for a refund request and offered a restocking fee, or the manager who requested $150 for each tyre on a bicycle with no brakes and second-hand pedals?

The bored and lazy application clerk at NCAT didn't know, when I asked him about being permitted to bring the bike into the hearing room, but should I be permitted, it would be good to demonstrate the fragile-feel of the bike to him/her. It's like it's been cut out of a jumbo-sized tuna can! Tink-tink! Lol.

As I said, I really love the look of this bike, I've never owned a bike so pretty, but since I can't ride it on the road and am not into track cycling, it's an expensive bike to have around the house gathering dust, even if I could absorb the outlay.

I think that although a fixed-gear bike can be quite generic in appearance, such a bike is the best option for getting the feeling of the pure bike ride feeling I am looking for. And as mikesbytes says, a purpose built one would be ideal, but we're talking some serious cash there, so perhaps I need to save for much longer? I'll certainly be doing more research next time, starting with the Returns Policy section on their website. Don't forget, if there isn't one it's because they don't have one.

In relation to 'Buyer beware' (jellybean offers) that's fair, especially if you approach the store without asking the seller any questions, however I specifically answered the manager's question of the purpose of my intentions with the bike, and was told it's a good and comfortable and therefore appropriate bike for the road. As a consumer, am I expected to doubt the expert knowledge of the seller with at least 12 years experience selling bikes? I think not! Even having done some research, in an environment where all reputable stores offer basic "change-of-mind" returns, I cannot be expected to have known that the ride was going to be as stiff as hell and unforgiving as Daniel states.

Hopefully, the Tribunal Chair will agree - I will notify the forum of the outcome, for future reference, should someone else face a similar experience. I think I'm on solid ground here, though.

Thanks for taking the time to offer your views and opinions guys - much appreciated!

It might also be worthwhile sending your story to the ABC tv's consumer information program "The Checkout".  They are supposedly appearing again this year and are on the look out for issues like this where consumers are deliberately misinformed and screwed by suppliers who are not obeying the law.  The program is a much more serious side of "The Chaser" crew and extremely well done.

I know the program you make reference to, and I like it, however my main intention for raising this thread is to make people aware of checking the Returns Policy of a bike shop where someone is going to buy a bike. Like I said, no one wants to return a bike they bought, nevertheless even small bike shops have a basic "change of mind" returns policy, and clearly this is the basic standard in Australia, so hopefully this thread might prevent someone from having to experience the hassle I'm going through with having to go through NCAT to get my refund.

Naming the store and making trouble for them is not really my intention.

"my main intention for raising this thread is to make people aware of checking the Returns Policy of a bike shop"

I understand your motives, however, it needs to be understood that any business returns policy is over ridden by the need for the business to comply with their legal requirements in dealing with goods which a customer wishes to return for whatever reason.

I understand this mate and I hope now other people who haven't considered such an issue might now also understand it, since you have made the point - just wish the bike store would understand it as clearly also... their responsibilities.

Dama I guess you were sucked in by the look and were pretty naive about what a track bike actually is. But I really respect that you have not identified anyone and are just making the Returns Policy point.

This type of occurrence is not new. It is kind of assumed that people know about the brakeless track bike. But actually they don't. The retailer would know that. And they should have sensed you had no idea what you were getting into. They should accept the return.

I thought I was quite a savvy internet shopper, and that's why I think it is important to keep returning to the point of the Returns Policy section of a physical bike store's virtual site. If it doesn't have one, then why not?

People must request this information in advance because most reputable stores have their policies on their sites. In some cases a simple "change of mind" return request is not enough in the eyes of the law, so people should know where they stand.

I have a legitimate argument and that is why I will prevail, I believe, but if I hadn't asked any questions and wasn't assured by the manager that this is a suitable bike for the road, then I would be on weaker ground because the manager might successfully argue that by not asking any questions I knew what I was buying - and by not requesting their Returns Policy in advance, which on a "change of mind" return is at their discretion in the eyes of the law - I have very little impact in stating my case.

Look for a Returns Policy, if there isn't one request one.

There is no benefit to anyone by naming the store.

Its a dispute, for which you've only heard one side of the story.

I'd suggest that when someone specifically goes to a store after a track bike to ride on the road, and gets what they want, and then they change their mind, that its going to be something of a struggle to make beat-up television out of it.

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