Yeah, for real finally, we got to replacing Rockstar's blue battered BMX... So we venture back to the original bike store we happened to walk into by fluke first time round, and it's the only one open and bustling late morning last Sunday in Wan Chai.
There's a blonde Caucasian family already deep in decision-making when we reach, and at least two local families stop by to try out bikes while we're waiting to be served. It's quite cute, the little local kids will unobtrusively try out the bikes while chattering in Cantonese, then their dads put them nicely back and say "Ok, have breakfast then come back again," and they carry on down the street. Then another old uncle in the street smiles when notice him - turns out he's helping Bike Shop Guy mind the rest of the store while his friend is busily taking apart bicycles for customers on the pavement.
Rockstar initially picks a bike bearing some Shanghai company stamp that has lots of Phoenixes on it because it's the only red one in his size and now that he is "in red group in school" (whatever that means), the color rocks. As in, "I'm in red group now. So it's quite a nice color" <serious convincing nodding>. This time last year, he would have nothing to do with the color, because "Red group (last year was) full of girls" <yucked-out face>. Dinner could not be served on red plates.
This card is up here because we felt a bit sorry for Bike Shop Guy who turns out to give real good service (to us, anyway). Very local Canto-speaking old timer whom we hadn't realized spoke any English until now as we watched him serving the Caucasian family (whose only voice we hear is the mum's, though there are 2 boys and the dad there too). He speaks shaky but functional English, and is surprisingly polite and patient, for such a "local shop old guy" (<sheepish> from previous encounters I kinda expect them to be grouchy or impatient or loud or all of the above by default) - to the point Kings remarks, "(Blonde mum's) really rude. I'm surprised he is so nice to them."
Throughout the time it takes us to park (right in front - hurray for quiet Sundays haha), run around the corner for a bun (well Kings ran, I sat in the car, Rockstar goggled the bikes) because just after early service we're hungry, Rockstar making a beeline for Phoenix Bike, then deciding on Black BMX when he realizes flashing red tail lights look better on it, we watch the blonde mum have this old guy take out numerous bikes to compare the width of the handlebars, then take apart the bikes to switch the handlebars around for them to try again, then roll out other bikes..... after which she then walks off down the street to see if any other bike shops are open.
To be honest, we did that too, early on (Phoenix bike!! Horrors!! I'm gonna be Mum With Kid On Phoenix Bike in our neighborhood <cringe>. I mean it's a nice bird, but can't they do like, fake swooshes or something?)
But then... we kinda figured Ok, let's just try and buy something - the black BMX - from him. It's a Sunday morning, most other shops are closed, we've been talking about replacing the bike for ages, and here's this old guy with everything but the kitchen sink excavated out onto the pavement of his shop and still being ordered.
No, this does not make us good people:
It wasn't blonde mum's many requests that raised our hackles - not even the lack of any "please" or "thank you" that we could make out - though interestingly the declaration "If we are spending <emphasis> five thousand dollars, I want to make sure we're spending right," is impossible not to hear wherever you were standing in the shop - it was her tone throughout, when she was asking him to do umpteen things. You can ask for a lot of things, you can expect service - nicely.
(We were quietly going "Erm, so obviously you think "<emphasis> five thousand" is a lot of money then....." Y-eah sorry - I'm snarky because I have no respect for people who do that. I always think it's the ones that lack substance that feel the most need to show off (which of course makes me judgmental and imperfect myself - Hi, have we met?)
But while I'm married to Neanderthal Man <grunt, snort> Indiscriminate Buyer of Laptops And iPads, Insensitive While Absorbed In Berry, Weirdly Passionate About Ridding World Of Doghairballs - it's never I Am Spending Money. Look At Me, Kow Tow, Worm. One of the things I love most about Kings is regardless how much he spends, he expects the same level of service.
Anyway. No idea if there's much in the shop that really costs that much (from the pic does it look like a pro-biking shop where they carry state of the art stuff?) I don't like cycling. I don't know bikes. They have handlebars. They have wheels. Who cares. Us class-less bike buyers. What I would care about is the helmet/ any other safety equipment. That's the price you set on your head (sorry, unfortunate pun). Rockstar's helmet is from Bumps to Babes, we don't buy pirated in kucing kurap store. He gets serious and faster on that thing when he's older, I'll go looking in the pro bike stores - for the helmet, anyway. And maybe the brakes.
Rockstar's BMX (which we expect to last a year+; he trashes bikes with all the falling down but how else is he going to learn) was HKD 1,000. We added some battery operated lights for HKD 300. Done. That's your early birthday present, Rockstar, because we don't want that thing in the apartment under the tree.
With blonde mum round the corner looking for other shops, bike shop guy deftly fixes all the extra lights watched avidly by Rockstar, then advises us against removing the training wheels altogether, instead pulling them up maybe 1-2 inches higher so they're still there when Rockstar needs em. Then he hands Kings his card, "I'm always here if you need any adjustments. Or, call me."
As we leave, blonde mum returns, and resumes asking for adjustments on their bike... Absolutely no idea if they bought anything. Almost want to ask Kings if we can swing by next weekend to ask Bike Shop Guy, then we can all take bets.
Ps: Blonde mum got my attention because living here you usually expect China customers or the very local shops to be rude if you only speak in English and they have problems understanding you. When I first got here, I got told off in a little Causeway Bay boutique when I asked if a pair of jeans was on sale in my dodgy Canton + mostly English and they mistook that for haggling, "This is not China ok." (They were sorry for the misunderstanding after Kings explained).
Shopping in the high end stores in Beijing on the other hand, my girlfriend recently remarked to me the service in HK is way better. Salespeople in the stores in Beijing are just There's the goods. Take it or leave it. And it's not high street they're selling, it's Chanel, LV, Dior...