Uneasy Rider: #NotAllDealers

I’ve become a bit disillusioned with my bike lately. Yes, it’s a very good bike, and you might be right to accuse me of finding fault where there’s none, or at least nothing serious. But it happens. Maybe it’s happened to you, that nagging feeling that you need a new, or different, motorcycle, despite your current motorcycle being perfectly serviceable, even enjoyable.

In my case, I’d started to experience occasional, unquantifiable, nagging undercurrents that my R1200GS project “build” is just a little too much for my day-to-day, that the bike was no longer right for me. Anti-Telelever activist Fish seized this opportunity to go hard in the paint trying to convince me to buy a Buell Ulysses—admittedly, a seed already planted, as I’ve long found older Buells, from Tubers to later X-models, interesting enough that I spend a few minutes now and then checking Craigslist for adoption candidates.

On paper, a Ulysses makes a lot of sense: probably 75-100 pounds lighter than my GS as currently set up, with a wheelbase that’s 5.2” shorter. Five inches shorter! And that motor… yes, please.

Fish swore, “Riding a Uly will make you a believer,” but it didn’t, not immediately, anyway. I love the engine and the inherent contrarianism of riding a Buell; and the squishiness of typical stock suspension is easily rectified; but the brakes (both ends!) give me pause because of the way they sorta feel like they’re not going to give me as much pause as I’d like.

Definitely a very cool bike with some historical significance and whatever other terminology I can stack in the “pro” column to justify such a purchase, but my mount for a ride out of the nonsensical doldrums I’m in? TBD.

I somehow seized on the notion that I might be well-suited to a Versys 1000, in part because there are leftover 2016s and 2017s going for exceptional prices this time of year, but mostly because the Big V we rode a couple years back (“Versatility In Motion: Kawasaki’s Brilliant Versys 1000 LT” – October 2015) was, straight out of the warehouse, a bike I could imagine riding pretty much as-is for great distances at great speed as well as ‘round the block for coffee and a loaf of olive bread.

Yes, Big Daddy Versys weighs more than my GS did before we started bolting shit to it as we chased the notion of a perfect tall-rounder for our “Triple Black Beauty” series. But I’d already abandoned all logic when I started considering a fucking Buell as a potential GS replacement, and motorcycles don’t make sense anyway, so let’s not dwell on the minutia, ok?

My subsequent cruising of Craigslist for too-cheap-to-ignore leftover Versyses led to CycleTrader, under the premise that these bikes might be even cheaper in parts of the country where there’s already snow on the ground, mostly out of curiosity. I didn’t see much at first, but then noticed a 2017 listed for $8,499 in—get this—Southern California. Just down the way, really.

The MSRP for a Versys 1000 is $12,999, and $4,500 off that is enough to make me seriously consider forsaking local dealers for a plane ticket and a quick ride up I-5 on a new Versys with four grand left over for tomfoolery and crack cocaine. Or sensible savings, I guess.

I called the dealer, Del Amo Motorsports in Redondo Beach.

Now, certainly a number of you are saying, “And guess what… the price was bullshit.”

After asking for assurances that the bike was new, and still in new condition, I told the salesperson I was talking to—we’ll call her Britney—that I’d like to purchase the motorcycle at that price. Britney asked if I’d like to make a deposit to get things started, and while that struck me as odd since I was going to be buying the bike way or another, I agreed. It was near the end of the business day and I wanted to lock in this very favorably-priced deal in case the purchase process bled over into the following morning, me being remote and all. Britney assured me that Del Amo wouldn’t run my card until we agreed on a deal, and I handed over my card number for a deposit of $500.

The deal was passed to the closer—we’ll call her Miley. She was pleasant, but sounded to be about twelve years old, and told me I’d have to handle registration and sales tax with my local DMV because I was buying the bike from outside of California.

“But I live in Oakland.”

“Yeah, up there in Oakland. You’ll have to handle registration yourself since you’re out of state.”

After a quick geography lesson, Miley decided that the dealership could handle registration, and started giving me numbers that sounded a lot like the out-the-door price I’d expect to pay if the bike wasn’t discounted very much at all.

Surprise, surprise: Del Amo was upping the fees to make up for the discount, dangling a “leftover Black Friday price” on the internet and then charging $1,345 for freight and another $1,345 for setup. $2,700 for fees that normally come to $500 to $800 at a reputable dealership.

Sure, this probably doesn’t violate the letter of the law (California Vehicle Code 11713.1, specifically), but it still qualifies as what business experts call shady as fuck.

I told Miley that the outrageously elevated fees wouldn’t fly and asked her to run it by her manager. I let her know that if they didn’t bring the fees down to a reasonable number, the deal was off. A few minutes later, I was done with Del Amo—they wouldn’t budge, claiming that $1,345 each for freight and setup were “normal fees.”

Disgusted, I did something I rarely have time for: I reviewed Del Amo Motorsports on Yelp, to shine some light on what felt an awful lot like dishonest motherfuckery (another biz term).

Someone from Del Amo—we’ll call him Chumplestiltskin—did exactly what the Yelp playbook for businesses recommends: he posted a public apology, saying, “I will be contacting with a direct message including my phone number and email address so that I can understand what happened and do everything I can to make it right.”

That last bit is a direct quote, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Chumplestiltskin wouldn’t bring the fees down into the realm of reasonable. He did knock off a bit, but kept singing the same shitty song about normal fees, a half-ass attempt to cast his actions as doing me a favor to earn my business, instead of owning up to the shop’s technically-legal-but-total-bullshit advertising tactics.

If I end up buying a new 1000, I’ll get one locally, unless someone from Kawasaki reads this and decides that my relentless positivity and thoughtful analysis is worthy of a position as real-talk brand ambassador and an accompanying free Versys. Since that’s unlikely, I’ve already started talking to SF Moto, really what I should have done in the first place.

But here’s why this is important: prior to the recent IMS Long Beach, I joined the Give A Shift roundtable for a discussion of the issues facing our industry—more about this here. One of the topics discussed was the “dealership problem,” that no matter what the OEMs and other organizations do to create more interest in motorcycling, a lot of people will have a dealership experience that turns them off, often badly.

Adding fees that increase the advertised price of a motorcycle by thirty-two percent certainly qualifies as a shitty experience, as does adding those same fees to MSRP for a still-substantial twenty-one percent increase. No one can defend that kind of behavior as normal or honest with a straight face, and that’s just the beginning of the list of problems with the experience in many shops.

#NotAllDealers, of course—but even here in the oh-so-woke Bay Area, where we’re blessed with a wealth of world-class motorcycle shops that set the standard for the industry, there are dealerships that engage in similarly shitty practices; that treat women riders and potential riders with a range of indifference to outright disrespect; that, faced with the economic brutalities of Bay Area economics and the motorcycle industry at large, opt for ill-gotten short-term gains at the expense of acquiring returning customers and the long-term health of motorcycling.

A potential motorcyclist, upon encountering an exploitative purchase experience like my ordeal with Del Amo Motorsports, may just go to another dealer, or they may say, “Fuck this noise, I’ll stick to skiing.” Or surfing, or cycling, or hiking, skydiving, camping, windsurfing, kayaking, mountain biking or fucking video games—or any of the other activities on the endless list of ways to have a good time that don’t include being treated like a sucker or a second-class human to buy in.

This story originally appeared in our January 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.