I just got an email from a fellow Slowtwitcher. “I just sold another bike to The Pro's Closet,” she wrote. “I’m getting a mountain bike.”
At the very moment I downloaded that email from her I also got an email from PayPal. “You’ve got money waiting for you.” Inside the message was, “Accept your $2,072.05 USD from The Pro's Closet.”
I got paid because I went into my workshop a couple of weeks ago to see what I had to sell. And it was, “Oh, yeah, forgot I had that bike," and it ended with me sending 5 bikes off to TPC. I am in bike divestiture mode as it turns out, but I have a Classifieds Forum, so why not just sell them there? I wanted to see what transacting with TPC is like.
Why am I scaling back? Because bikes these days are multi-use. I just wrote about two such bikes within the past week, the OBED Boundary and the Cervelo Caledonia. I’m preparing to write about a couple more, and what this means for me, for my current lifestyle: 1 bike + 2 wheelsets = 2 bikes. But I digress..
I’m writing about my The Pro’s Closet (TPC) experience today. I’m going to walk you thru the steps, because I had to backtrack a little and redo some things, and I hope this article will save you a little bit of time.
Setting Up an Account
Pretty straightforward. You don’t have to type in any bank info. TPC can send your money to your PayPal account, which I obviously had them do in my case.
You go here, to TPC's home page, there are icons on the upper right, which includes the shopping cart icon, and there's an icon that looks like a person. Click that and set up an account. Then, click on the the SELL // TRADE tab and you're ready to transact.
After you select what it is you're selling (Bike or Wheels), you'll note in the screenshots below that there are 4 panes: Details; Photo Upload; Condition; Submit. Those are the 4 steps to getting an offer.
The Pics You Take
You’re going to be asked to take pics of the bike or wheels you're selling. Two are in profile, from the “drive” side and the other side. Nothing fancy. Pics from your phone's camera are fine. You’ll want to also take pics of everything that is wrong with the bike, just as if you were selling it on eBay or on our Classifieds Forum. You click on the rectangle on the TPC site that wants the drive side pic, migrate to the pic on your computer, click and upload.
In my opinion, you should take one more pic: of the bike’s serial number. I would upload this as one of your bike pics. Show this to them. I recommend this for 2 reasons: If there is a question about the serial number you type in (there was an issue for one of my submissions; and my submission got kicked back until I cured it), you have this pic uploaded, and if you need to talk this over with the TPC folks they can walk you through the issue. In my case it was a vertical line that I misconstrued as a “1”.
TPC is going to ask you for the serial number and I thought, oh great, how many of my bikes are missing this? In fact, none. They all had serial numbers, and all were underneath the bottom bracket. The other reason to snap a pic is that you’re going to be asked to type the serial number into your bike submission form, and some of these are the length of a credit card number. One or two of my bikes had numbers almost as long as my car’s VIN number. Easier to type it in if you’re looking at a pic of the numbers as you’re typing.
You’re going to be asked to provide your own serial number too. As in, a driver’s license number, a passport number, something that identifies you. And, you’ll need to take a pic of it. Since you’ve got your camera out anyway, snap a pic of your driver’s license.
TPC is going to take a day to make sure you’re not a bicycle thief. This works in your favor on the buy side. If you buy a bike that’s stolen, and the police come to retrieve it, you aren’t given a refund. You’re out the money you paid, unless you can retrieve it from the thief. TPC prefers not to traffic in stolen property.
They make you an offer. You decide whether it’s worth it to you. I found the offer very fair. Before you squeeze the nickel too hard, keep a few things in mind. They pay freight. They aren’t going to fail to pay; or dispute a credit card charge. They aren’t going to take the bike out of the box, ride it, crash it, and then claim it got damaged in shipping. None of that horsepucky. Once you sell it; you wipe your hands. Done. You don’t have a buyer coming back at you 6 months later. You don’t have to worry about a damaged friendship because of a bike or wheel that subsequently developed a problem.
If you do this through your LBS, it’s easy. They’ll pack and ship it for you. I shipped mine off myself. TPC’s Spencer Powlison made some nice shipping videos. Mind, I’ve shipped a lot of bikes, me having been a bikemaker myself. However, I still found the video helpful, because of stuff I just forgot. It’s below.
They’ll send you a shipping label as an email attachment. If you’ve ever used Bikeflights, it’s just like that. Print it out; it’s made to print on a normal (letter sized) 8 ½” x 11” sheet of printer paper. Fold it in half, tape it onto the box.
Of course if you ship it yourself you may still need to go beg for a bike box from your LBS. You’ll take off the front wheel. What you’ll also need is a pair of those plastic caps that they use on the front wheels of new bikes, that go onto the ends of the axles. Otherwise, just cut some cardboard squares to use. You’ll need zip ties. You don’t want things to move around, so, you’ll zip tie wheels to the frame, handlebars to the frame, and so on. you’ll need foam that goes around the frame tubes. If you go to Home Depot, they sell insulation for outdoor plumping pipes prone to freezing. Buy one of those foam tubes that go around 1” pipe, that’ll be enough for the whole bike.
You’ll drop this off at a Fedex dropoff. No need to stand in line. My closest one is inside a Walmart. Fred runs it. “Hey Fred, it’s already labeled.” “Okay, just put it here.” No need for a receipt. Done.
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
It’s not that hard. I just wanted to use that line from a Tom Petty song. When they get your bike they’ll let you know via email.
If there’s an issue they’ll let you know in this email. In my case, one one bike, “the ID number you entered does not match the number on your drivers license.” I guess I put my DL# in the wrong box. I resubmitted, and it all worked out. Otherwise, I got paid within a day of getting this email.
TPC is a Slowtwitch partner. I went out and lobbied for this partnership, because I feel so strongly about the need for a safe secondary market for buyers and sellers. That said, when I transact in the marketplace, I try to do this sort of stuff incognito. While ROKA is a Slowtwitch Partner, I don’t think anyone at ROKA beyond my particular customer service person knows that I get prescription eyewear from them (and he doesn’t know me as anything but a regular customer). Nobody in management at Worldwide Cyclery, My Bike Shop, Competitive Cyclist, Cambria Bikes or HOKA know when I buy from them. I try to fly in under the radar because I want to experience what you all experience, so that I not only know what I’m talking about; I know what you’re talking about when you relate a customer service experience.
I wondered whether TPC would treat me straight-up once they had my bikes in hand, so, I just sent the bikes in and let the chips fall where they might. In my case I got exactly the offer they initially made me for each of the 5 bikes I shipped. Of course I represented the bikes with precision, to the best of my ability. You’re asked to rate your submissions, as excellent, very good, good, fair, and so forth. I don’t know how often TPC might kick a bike back once they have it, but they had no issue with any of the 5 bikes I submitted.
LATE ADD: Post-publication, TPC's Spencer Powlison wrote me to let me know of a video in TPC's library on how to find your serial number. I thought it worth inserting here, as this will be an "evergreen" article to which we refer, in particular when answering questions about buying/selling used on our Reader Forum (where we have a curated thread on the subject). I was really worried when I got to the part in the intake process where the serial number was asked for. But it's right there, on all bikes, and this video walks you thru it.
Remember that email I got from a Slowtwitcher? She followed up with, “I should have about 60% enough of a credit at my LBS for the mountain bike.” I asked what she was getting, and it’s a Santa Cruz Chameleon, which is not an inexpensive bike. Some bike shops see the used market as competition, and have felt so since eBay came on the scene. But as we see, TPC is the lubricant for the new bike sale in her case. A safe secondary market allows for more price points, more pro bikes available at entry level prices, an easier entre into the market.
I started racing bicycles in 1976. I raced the 1981 Hawaiian Ironman on my second bike, which was a used Colnago frame that I bought, and I swapped the parts over. (My first race bike, a Raleigh International – which I also bought used – was also raced by another competitor at the 1981 Hawaiian Ironman.) The first time I ever purchased a new bike, with new parts, was the year I started Quintana Roo, a full decade after entering the sport of cycling.
Absent the secondary market I'm not writing to you today, because I never started Slowtwitch, because I never started Quintana Roo, because I never raced the Hawaiian Ironman, because I never had a chance to be a cyclist. In 1976 I was still in college, washing dishes in the school cafeteria, and no way could I afford a new bike. Perhaps my own experience colors my view of the importance of a safe, robust secondary market.