The whole world is smack-bang in the middle of a crisis. Each and every one of us is confined to our homes, with highly restrictive measures being implemented that have significantly immobilized us. We’re all sick and tired of watching the same T.V programs over and over again, and I’m pretty sure that those of us who have Netflix have already exhausted the application’s massive playlist of media. At least once a day, we would all like to take a stroll outside, or go for a short sprint or even a bicycle ride and feel the cool air clash against the pores of our warm skin, reminding us of the unbolted freedom of our former lives.
Amidst this virus, my Facebook news-feed has been thronged with unfortunate posts alluding to deaths of loved ones and I was of the belief that this would teach us, as humans, to value the lives of one another and assist each other even more in everyday life. Alas, this is not the case with everyone.
Even worse is how despite the fact that a large majority of the entire globe has joined hands in trying to aid and assist one another in tackling this worldwide pandemic in a positive way, some other individuals have still refused to part ways with their manipulative, conning cut-throat tactics. In fact, the pandemic is nothing more than another business boomer for them. Upon recent examination, I feel that this is the case for certain cycle salesman, especially independent traders who are not associated with any outlets or formal establishments.
A couple of days ago, I was looking to buy a bike and so naturally, I went to the central hub of bicycles in Lahore – Neela Gumbat. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge in cycle sales has led to an increased demand, and the market was overflowing with buyers. Having evaluated the situation, I was unable to find my preferred hybrid cycle, and thus I settled for a mountain bike.
A few days prior to that, an acquaintance of mine had advertised for a selection of bikes that he was selling, and upon recalling his Snapchat story, I messaged him to see if he could help me out.
The mountain bike that I’d originally purchased from Neela Gumbat was a Catani uni-body (non-welded) mountain bike with a 22” frame that I’d purchased for 25,000/ on the 4th of June. It was a brand new piece that was unpacked and assembled in front of my very eyes; the owner claimed that it had arrived from England (which it may not have), but nonetheless he provided an extravagant 10-year warranty on all service and repairs. The deal was fantastic, however, a mountain bike wasn’t truly suited to my taste and afterwards, I decided to try and see if I could find something more appropriate.
Anyhow, I spoke to that acquaintance (who was a friend of a very good friend) who represented that he was selling, and I quote: an “American Hybrid Road Cycle” that was of the Delta brand. I originally thought that he was selling these himself, but it was only after agreeing to meet that he told me to meet him at a different location, and it was only then that I learned that he was only acting as an agent, or a middle-man for his family member, who was the actual seller. Nonetheless, I went over to meet him in his grand home in Model Town and he introduced himself in a very gentleman-like manner, with a grin extending from one side of his face to the other, as he welcomed us to his garden.
After a fair bit of absolutely irrelevant conversation, where he established some metal to his reputation by outlining all the various cycle clubs he runs and that we’d done A-Levels from the same place, he showed me the bike that we’d talked about, and I gave it a short test. Before taking it for a ride, he asked me not to change the gears, and I obliged. On the first run, the axle of the front tyre was slightly off, and I told him about it, which prompted him to realign it with his hands.
After a second short test run, it seemed alright, so I said it’s okay. He also mentioned that he’d accidentally misinformed me about the gears, and it should actually be shifted up a gear into 2nd, and I kept that in mind. The deal was quite simple: I offered an exchange for my mountain bike for his Delta, and he asked that I pay 15,000/- on top of that. He said that he wanted to keep the mountain bike for himself, and I also opted not to haggle seeing as how I was buying from someone who I knew, right? “What’s the worst that could happen?”, I thought to myself. Moving on, the bike was delivered to me within an hour and upon receiving it, I also remarked that the axle was slightly off again, upon which he fixed it once more.
The next day, my father asked me to take it for a ride and even though I was busy preparing for my exams, I reluctantly took it downstairs and switched on my Strava app. I began to build up some momentum and at around 200m into the journey, I recalled his words about needing to shift gears, and as I pressed on the shifter, the chain gave off a very deep rattling before it become undone, and my peddling efforts ceased to be of any effect. The cycle came to a sudden stop. I tried replacing the chain back into its original position, but it was to no avail. Subsequently, I had no other choice except to wheel it back all the way home in the scorching sun.
My father wasn’t pleased at all upon seeing this, and didn’t hesitate to let me know about his thoughts. Furthermore, when we took the cycle upstairs, we found that there were an additional number of issues with it as well. Firstly, the right side of the horizontal frame was scratched, along with some scratches on the top of the frame as well. In addition to that, closer inspection even showed us that the various pillars forming the frame itself were welded together, indicating that the cycle wasn’t “American” at all – it was a Chinese copy of a bike with some body work done in order to brand it as the American company “Delta”. The tyres, too, I’m quite sure were used much more than initially expected, but I didn’t really mention this because the drive wasn’t too much of an issue when I tested it at first.
I felt completely outraged. The only reason I had contacted this person in the first place and chose to pay so much more was in order to get a ride more suitable to my height than that which I’d initially purchased. Obviously, I then tried contacting the person and attempted to convey my dissatisfaction with the whole situation and politely asked that the deal be rescinded, as it had only been 1 day since we’d concluded the deal. Much to my surprise as well, I found out that the bike that I’d given in exchange to them was also up for sale on their social media stories. I purchased it from Neela Gumbat one day before at the rate of 25k and in the honest spirit of friendship, I told them the exact same price that I’d purchased it at, and they’d placed it on their story at a significantly exaggerated price.
I told them repeatedly that I did not deal with them as a customer: I could’ve easily gone to Neela Gumbat again, but I chose to try and help out a fellow acquaintance’s business. I did not haggle with them and paid a grossly exaggerated price at the request of my acquaintance, who wished to keep a larger “margin”. Upon searching on OLX, I found out that the exact same Delta bike that I purchased was literally going for a price of precisely 25k – the price I’d paid for my mountain bike! I said that it had only been only 1 day since we had made the transaction and it would be of benefit to both parties to simply rescind and move on – especially since in the absence of a warranty, they’d provided me with personal assurance of the cycle.
Even items such as mobile phones when purchased 2nd hand are given a 1-week trial period wherein if any issues are to be found, then they can be refunded completely. Usually, one week is enough to uncover any possible faults, especially since mobile devices are used by individuals 24×7. Here, however, we were dealing with a bike which normally people don’t use for more than 1 hour a day – and this one broke after merely 2 minutes!
The original seller of the cycles was from an incredibly affluent family, and I’m sure that it wouldn’t have made a difference to him at all in rescinding the offer after misrepresenting the product, but he nonetheless refused. Their main premise was “you chose the thing. You saw the thing. You tested it, and you gave the go ahead. It’s on you”.
To this, I once again tried to explain that I did not treat this as some sort of a hostile, cut-throat business transaction, as one would on OLX. I thought I was dealing with a friend, but I was clearly mistaken.
All in all, I tried my best, but they absolutely refused to listen. They refused to return my other bike, and refused to refund the transaction. They offered to send me a mechanic to repair the thing – but what use was that after they’d completely defrauded me on the original transaction and sold me something faulty in the first place? I had no faith in their product anymore – if it broke on the first day, then I’m pretty sure that the product itself was faulty to begin with. My mistake was that I did not initially choose to nitpick in this deal, I figured that since I had gone through a fairly strong reference, there would be a reasonable level of trust. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. Against the wish of my parents I chose to uphold the honor and dignity of a “friend”, and for my faith, I was repaid with what was tantamount to a virtual slap in the face, and perhaps even a knife wound in the back.
The sellers were deafened by the sounds of the profits in their pocket, and had absolutely no care whatsoever for who they were dealing with, especially since I’d gone completely unarmed into the conversation. I walked in as a friend looking for a better deal, but in reality, I only ended up in a much worse position than I was initially in.
All in all, as opposed to sitting down and sulking in my seat, I learned a couple of lessons from this that I think we be of use to all of you as well:
1): Avoid independent cycle salesman.
2): If you’re dealing with a private seller, make sure to inspect the goods thoroughly as there aren’t really any laws governing private sellers, especially with regard to second hand goods
3): Try to deal with authorized resellers, or directly from a shop. They’re usually responsible and can be held liable for breach
4): Try to avoid goods (especially 2nd hand ones) if there is no warranty provided with the product
5): When purchasing something, make sure that you are dealing with a strict business mindset, irrespective of who you’re dealing with
6): It’s best to avoid buying things from people who you know well. If there’s a problem in the product, then it could cause a problem in your relationship with that person as well.