Thanks to widespread media coverage and quick vendor response, bicycle catalogers averted what could have been a crisis: a suspension fork recall.
In May, two vendors – Valencia, CA-based Answer Products and Taiwan-based By Us International – recalled about 31,000 defective forks which can break apart from bicycles, causing riders to lose control.
“In mail order, a recall can be a nightmare,” says Alan Goldsmith, CEO of Santa Monica, CA-based bike cataloger Supergo. Typically, if the customer can’t fix the part himself then he sends it to the cataloger, who has to cover the replacement costs and wait for reimbursement from the manufacturer.
But this recall “was not a big deal for the direct mail team because it involved a small replacement part that consumers could plug in themselves,” Goldmmith says. Supergo used the serial number to locate customers who had purchased the recalled items and send them upgrade kits.
“We even had people come in who didn’t buy the fork from us, but had heard about the recall through the press or word of mouth,” says Goldsmith. “The recall ended up being a good way of getting new business.”
“This recall was was very simple,” agrees Greg Webber, senior product manager of Northvale, NJ-based distributor/cataloger Jamis Bikes. “The defective forks could easily be reinforced by inserting a small aluminum sleeve into the fork.” Another plus: manufacturer Answer Products promptly sent replacement pieces for all of the frames that were still in inventory. “We’ve had other cases that were much more labor intensive, and we had to suspend sales,” says Webber.
Indeed, swift vendor response eased the recall process, says Kelly Burr, director of product development for Rafael, CA-based bicycle mailer Marin Mountain Bikes. “Answer Products notified us in advance, then we generated computer lists of consumers who had purchased bikes with the faulty part, and Answer contacted them for us.”
Roger Caldwell, manager of Colorado Springs, CO-based catalog Colorado Cyclist, simply went through its database and called the half-dozen or so affected customers, giving them the option of fixing it themselves with the upgrade piece and instructions sent by the catalog, or sending it to the catalog or the manufacturer to be fixed. Says Caldwell, “As product recalls go, this was relatively easy.”