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Gear Prudence: I was in Adams Morgan having a smoke and a guy asked if I could watch his unlocked bike “for a minute” while he went inside to grab something to eat. Fifteen minutes went by. I don’t mind doing someone a favor for a minute, but I was not planning on waiting this long. After another 5 minutes, no guy, so I left. I don’t think I did anything wrong, but my girlfriend says that I should have waited for him no matter how long it took. Who’s right? —When Asked To Care, Helper Eventually Relents
Dear WATCHER: Everybody’s wrong. The guy who asked for the favor should have brought his own lock. Asking strangers to watch your stuff isn’t a great way to go through life, especially when there are obvious solutions. You’re being over-literal about his “minute” and unless you had a real emergency, you should have stuck around until he came back. If you didn’t want to watch his bike to completion, you should have simply said no. Once you committed to the awesome and taxing responsibility of remaining vaguely aware of an immobile object, it’s an abdication of duty to walk away. And your girlfriend is wrong for dating you because you seem like kind of a dick. Let’s hope everyone learns their lesson. —Gear Prudence
Gear Prudence: Do bike shops ever negotiate on price? I don’t mind haggling (I love flea markets) and it seems like there’s a lot of price variability across different shops. Is it offensive if I ask for a better deal, especially if I know that I can get the same thing online? —Humbly Asking Good Gesture: Lowered Expenses
Dear HAGGLE: You’re asking two very different questions. Do bike shops ever negotiate on price? Sure, and for lots of reasons. Whether it’s to move inventory, maintain a recurring customer, or close on a sale that might not otherwise happen, our wonderful capitalist system allows for a certain degree of flexibility in price-setting. Is it offensive to pull up your phone and ask the store to meet an impossibly low price from an online retailer? Yeah, kind of. Like everyone else in our wonderful capitalist system, bike shops are trying to get by and every bit of savings you rangle from them eats into their margins, which aren’t exactly bountiful to begin with. Don’t be surprised if your attempt to haggle is rebuffed and maybe even scorned. Online retailers can get away with charging less since they lack the same overhead. Moreover, decide whether it’s worth it to even try. A few bucks here and there isn’t worth damaging the relationship with your local shop, which can be vital to your bicycle’s well-being, especially if your bike is your primary means of conveyance. If you value your bike shop’s continued existence (and you should), pay them. —GP