Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Over the weekend I bought an exercise bike. Or rather, I bought two exercise bikes.

I bought the first one on Friday evening. I went into the fitness equipment store and asked for an exercise bike with vanes in the wheel, so that the cycling load is generated by air resistance, not by a tension belt (which wears out). When I got it home and started to assemble it, trying to translate the instructions from Chinese English to actual English as I went, I realised that my supposed air resistance bike had a tension belt. I'd been gypped.

I was not happy, but as a person who hates conflict, I merely thought, "Oh well, caveat emptor and all that".

Then I discovered that the tension adjuster didn't work. Well, maybe I can fix it, I thought.

Then I discovered that the cheap plastic grille on the side of the wheel was deformed, causing it to rub against the spokes of the wheel. Well, I can cut that part of the grille away and it should work fine, I thought. I actually went to the kitchen and came back with my heavy-duty shears before I snapped. Fear of conflict be damned! I am taking this piece of broken, misrepresented junk back! And I'm not disassembling it and putting it back in its original packaging, and I'm demanding a refund! Furthermore I will be rude and angry! Grrrrrr!

When I snap, I snap hard. After a night of maybe three hours of sleep, interspersed with episodes of teeth-grinding and mutterings of ire and resentment, I loaded the bike and its boxes into the back of my car and drove it all down to the store. After dumping it in the middle of the showroom, I informed the man behind the counter that I was returning it and that I wanted a refund. He told me that they didn't do refunds. I told him that they did now. He contradicted me, as if I was being a little slow on the uptake, then wisely changed the subject.

After I'd explained my numerous problems both to him and my original salesman, all the while quivering with impotent consumer rage, they eventually agreed to give me my refund. Nothing unsettles salesmen like an unhinged customer. Plus I think they were worried that I might blow an artery and spray bright red blood all over the display stands.

I stomped out of there, got in my car, and drove a couple of blocks homeward before stopping at the sporting goods warehouse store. There I examined the exercise bikes with a more jaundiced eye, and demanded unreasonable levels of detail from the salespeople. But I eventually bought one I liked.

It was a significantly more expensive model, which I bargained down to only slightly more expensive. Unlike the first bike, which was badly-designed and cheaply made, this new one feels heavy and solid, and fits together properly. It doesn't have air resistance vanes (which apparently only come on very expensive professional machines), but it uses electromagnets to increase and decrease the cycling load. It has a computer that tells you your speed, the distance you've covered, the number of calories you've burned, your pulse rate, the time, the date, the ambient temperature... if it could be plugged into the internet it could probably take over the world.

So I'm including a half hour of cycling every evening before I go to bed, to help me lose weight, burn off any excess energy I have, work out any stress, and release a few calming endorphins so that I can sleep like a normal human being. I could accompany this exercise with high-energy workout music, but I prefer to listen to old Goon Show recordings, which a) are exactly half an hour long and b) make me laugh. After the excruciating experience of actually purchasing the exercise bike, I need all the laughs I can get.


Blogger phaedrus said...

I experienced a similar sort of buyer's rage at the gym when I went to go ask if I could "freeze" or "suspend" my membership. This was back after the whole "kidney" incident, and I'd fallen out of the habit. I knew I'd want to go back during the winter, though.

Mon dieu, the naiviete!

The girl at the desk was baffled: I wanted to do what? Not good. She directed me to the buff guy at the desk in the corner. He could see trouble.

He gruffly explained they'd be happy to do that if I could show proof of military service or provide them with a letter from my employer showing that I would be out of town on business for an extended period.

Not happy at the idea of shelling out $40 a month for the privilege of toting around an access card, I had to quit on the spot.

I guess it's better to charge $40 a month for chumps who don't show up than to have satisfied but non-paying database entries.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

It's at time like these that we want to just shout "To hell with you corporate weasels!" and go live in a cave.

But eventually we'd miss the Internet and come crawling back. Sigh.

8:56 AM  

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