Monday, January 12, 2009

Shop Review: Landry's Boston--Expect to Pay MSRP for Professional, Fast Service

I have been avoiding this review. But Landry's won my reader's poll, so I am obliged to share my opinion. I personally like all of their employees (I am friends with a few). I find Landry's to be most useful for lightening fast emergency repairs. While I have been happy with most of my experiences at the shop, the shop doesn't fill all of the roles that I need a bike shop to fill. They have some gaps that they need to fill before they can realize their goal of displacing International and Wheelworks as the "go to" shop in Boston.

Landry's gets things done on time, every time. Recently, I damaged my IF in a roof rack accident and needed it fixed in 48 hours for my most important race of the season, a stage race. I needed the bike gone over for safety and a new fork installed. Excuses were not going to get me to the starting line, so I brought it to Landry's, confident that they were the best shop in the city to rush a bike in and out. While I was floored by the bill (more about this later), I was happy that they turned the bike around so quickly.

Landry's charges MSRP for most items. They have occasional sales, where good deals are offered, but day to day, expect to pay MSRP. When I had my fork replaced, I was charged MSRP for the fork, overnight shipping charges and a premium for installation.

For items that are seldom offered at discount, such as Craft base layers, paying MSRP doesn't hurt, but for items that are deeply discounted elsewhere, it becomes hard to justify paying that much money (especially if your cycling budget is limited).

Thier labor charges are definitely some of the highest in Boston, if not the pinnacle. But they are reliable and quick. Again, if you need your bike tomorrow without excuses and the money doesn't matter, Landry's is your shop.

Recently, I had a minor complaint about a repair that had been rushed though Landry's shop. I was upset because I felt that I was charged top dollar for a less than perfect repair. Landry's management was very good about affirming my position, refunding my money and following up quickly. I was thoroughly satisfied with the way that they handled the issue and would not hesitate to use them again if I was in a similar rush situation. This experience really drove home how seriously they take their customer service.

I have found that Landry's does not have basic items in stock. Personally, if I actually walk into a bike shop and ask for something, like a cassette, it is because I am in a pinch and need it today. If I was willing to wait for it, I would order it myself online, for 50% less than MSRP and wait for it to be delivered to my front door. If I order it from a shop, not only do I have to pay MSRP and perhaps postage, I also have to make another trip to the shop to pick it up when it arrives.

Repeatedly, when I go into Landry's and ask for a cassette or anything made by Campagnolo, I am told that they can order it. Every time, I walk out and buy the item at International. In fact, when I am forced to buy staple items at retail, I don't even bother with Landry's anymore, as I have been given the "I can order it..." line so often. International and Wheelworks has this stuff in stock, you don't even have to call ahead, they just have it.

Landry's carries brands that appeal to the competitive cyclist. While they don't have a cassette in stock, they are a great store to go look at bikes and components in. They carry BMC, Specialized, Zipp, Mavic, Cyfac, Cervelo and more. While other shops have more drool factor, Landry's is no slouch.

Landry's is a sales based shop. They are in the business of selling bicycles and they don't forget it, even for a minute. When you go in there to browse, one of the sales people will more than likely draw your attention to a new model line or a new frame design.

While this information is sometimes welcome, it often feels pushy, especially if the pitch is poorly targeted. There have been occasions when I have been in there for a very specific item and in a bit of a rush to get in and out and then found myself expectantly being shown something like the new "Boston" Langster by an overzealous salesperson. Obviously, I am not buying a Langster. If you came across a vintage Benotto track bike, by all means, bring it out to show me, but a mass produced, track-bike-resembling cruiser, don't insult me. This does not happen on every visit and it is becoming less frequent as the employees get to know me better.

Along with the last two thoughts, Landry's does not keep used, small parts in stock. Lock nuts, quick release springs, small derailleur parts, shifter innards. I have some vintage bicycles and I also race cyclocross. I constantly need small parts to keep my bicycles running. After a tumble, I don't need a new rear derailleur, I need a single cable retaining bolt or a set adjust screw. While WheelWorks, International, Cambridge, Quad and especially Bikes Not Bombs and Broadway Bicycle School retain these kinds of parts in drawers and bins for such occasions, Landry's throws them away.

The few times I have wandered into Landry's looking for a small part, I have been stared at like I just threw up on the counter or been told that a new one could be ordered. While I realize that no shop is going to make a killing on these parts, its an appreciated service to the cycling community to keep these things in circulation. Furthermore, I am somewhat of an environmentalist and an avid recycler and reuser. What makes more sense, saving and eventually reusing a still useful part, or throwing it away so that your customer will be forced to buy a new one when theirs breaks?

With the few noted exceptions, Landry's provides top notch service. They won the poll that I recently conducted. It wasn't a resounding win, but 23% of my readers said that Landry's was the best shop in the city. While Landry's is not my daily "go to" shop, they fill a real need that I have. When I need no excuses, lightening fast service, I don't hesitate to go straight there. I don't call anyone else. When I need parts or components or help keeping an Campy 8 speed bike running, I go elsewhere. When you go in, you will always be acknowledged and helped quickly. Every employee is unfailingly polite and knowledgeable. Expect to pay a premium for this level of professionalism.

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