This is the third in a series of a collection of true stories and incidents that, when they occurred, set me to laughing. These tales are planned for a book with the above title. Motorcycle (M/C) business persons or other confirmed "MOTORCYCLE ADDICTS" call such stories, "Bench Racing". Most took place during the 1950's & 60's, on "Motorcycle Row".
Copyright by Robert H. Baucom
I don't know if D&L Suzuki, on Lamar St. in Austin, is still in business. Back in '68 they were on Burnett and handled Triumph & later added Suzuki. Jim King & Raymond Francine were the owners. That shop had the best morale of any dealership I was ever in. Also, the unwritten rules & relations of that partnership, was head & shoulders, the best I've ever encountered. Raymond & Jim were the ex-Retail & Wholesale Sales Managers for Foremost Dairies in Dallas. Having started out as delivery men, both had worked their way up the ladder. Both, Triumph M/C enthusiasts, were totally bored with the milk business. They decided to start a M/C shop. Austin. TX - November' 67 - in in a little shop on Burnett, they got a Triumph franchise. A fellow from (I forget the name) Financial Institution came by about a floor plan. He looked things over and said. "I hate to tell you guys this, but you're not going to make it."
I went to work for Triumph in the last of July, 1968. The previous District Manager (DM) had loaded them up with some, left over '67 TR6's. A good motorcycle (w/single carb, my personal favorite). That model year, it and the TR6C were "Turkey's". Only because of their paint job. A bone, ivory or off-white ... with a moss Green, Tank Top & Stripes down the fenders. The financial guy left and Raymond & Jim looked over their small showroom, crammed full of '67 TR6R's & TR6C's. About 20 bikes with handle bars lapping over. Raymond later told me, "Pissed me off, that butt-wipe saying, 'We weren't going to make it'. All those
moss green tanks crowded together - Looked like a Putting Green. We decided we'd better get off our ass and get to selling Motorcycles".
They were rank novice M/C dealers. Neither had even worked in a M/C shop. Got all their business basics in a crash course from Pete Dalio & Jack Wilson. Nobody had told them, "You can't sell motorcycles in the winter time"... So, they sold them. Dear Hearts, from November '67 to July of '68 , they sold more Triumphs than had been sold in Austin ...in the last five years.
Raymond & Jim are sharp. These two were masterful users of basic psychology. One Example: After secretly eating a BIG steak dinner (that's another story), I would come by at 5:00. They'd tell their mechanics, "Call your wife and tell her, You'll be late. Baucom is here". We'd send someone out for a couple of cases of beer. Raymond, Jim & I would take care of company business. Then at 6:00 quitting time, shut the doors and all would retire to the service dept., for happy hour (some times including a favorite customer). It immediately became a, "We Are All Equal - As Motorcycle Obsessive's", situation. No boss to employee etc. ... All equals, bench racing and talking our favorite subject. (You know it's a neurosis, when sex is second to M/C's ).
This would go on for a couple of beers and then Raymond would say to one of the employees, "What was the problem back here with (a customer's name) yesterday"? Said employee, would state his case, with all listening intently. Raymond would then turn to me and ask, " What would you have done in that situation"?. I would outline what I thought was the best way to handle things, that was fair to both the customer and the shop. Raymond would then say ' Let's try that next time." The first time that happened, I was impressed! He had used me as the so called "visiting expert", to correct a situation with an employee, without Raymond being the bad guy, or the employee losing face
I would tell the employees, "Most people that ride motorcycles ...don't know 'Dick' about motorcycles. One of the main functions of a parts man or service writer is to educate the customer. He knows little to nothing about chains, battery care or spark plug heat ranges. He wants to talk Soup-Up, when basic maintenance is over his head. BUT, for God's sake don't talk down to him! If there's anything that 'sets me off', is listening to some 17 year old, punk kid talking down to a 38 to 58 year old customer ... because he isn't knowledgeable about some simple thing like spark plug heat ranges. That customer happens to be a CPA. ... He makes more money than everyone in this shop put together. Get in his field of knowledge and, in a 'Hot Minute', you'll be the 'Dumb-Ass'."
"In the M/C business, the customer is nearly always wrong. You just don't let him know it. We're selling toys .... Fun ... Grins. Don't be serious or scold a customer because he broke something and the cables & chain are bone dry and rusty. The chain is drooping down & has tight links. Just grab a work order, smile 'Real Big' and say, 'You've really been having fun with this thing. Was any one hurt? or Who got the Ticket? (in the wreck) ... This is only going to cost a million dollars. ( Big Smile)' ... Serious is for the Funeral Home. People buy toys for the Jollies."
My tour that included Austin was purposely scheduled, the next week after leaving northern (above Tulsa) Oklahoma (The most negative dealers in my whole territory). I was so unenthusiastic after all that doom and gloom, a D&L visit was akin to a 'Motivational Speaker' at a 'Sales Meeting'.
When I was Sales Mgr. for Terry's Kawasaki in Ft. Worth. The ex-mayor of FtW. (Baird Freidman) rode a '78 KZ1000. A car hit him and broke his leg. His wife said, "Baird won't be riding a M/C anymore." He told her, "I'm 67 years old and there's not much left in my life, that's fun anymore. Motorcycles are fun! I'm damn sure, not going to quit riding them. Not until, I'm too old to hold one up!" Same thing, excluding the age, I told my wife ... when an (expletive deleted) car driver, turned (left) in front of me, on my GB500 Honda.
Copyright © 2000 NTNOA All rights reserved.
Revised: January 29, 2008 .