New Year’s Alter_ations

To say that the end of the year and start  of the new one has been ________ is to start this post with a cliché, but in this case, I’ve got to cliché away. It was dreadful a week ago today (Thursday Dec.29), with what I’ve already described as (another cliché) a perfect storm of invoices due the same next (this) week. A Waterford bill, a Nitto bill, a Betty Foy bill, totallying $75,000.

How and why are kind of the same: Different orderers ordering different things, and a certain amount of unpredictability—and truly, uncontrollability—at least, no pinpointing—about when the bills will be due. and that’s on top of the usual bills and expenses of operating a business.

When I say there was  nothing we could do about it—-of course that’s not entirely true, but when a way of ordering without nailing and noting on a calendar the due date of the bill, and without working with the vendor to make sure that no matter what, the bill cannot be due on week X—when we don’t do all of that and the bills naturally fall staggeredly, then the same non-planning becomes the norm, and that’s what happened. I feel I’m about to lose you. I know this isn’t fascinating.

We (but not me) talked amongst ourselves about how and why and what to do about it, feeling as we often do, like a bunch of bike riders trying to run a business, and, when the S-word came up (ending in e, not t), and they presented the idea of a sale to me, knowing how against sales I am, it was then only a matter of how much of a discount and what to get rid of. I and we like all of our stuff, and the margins don’t allow discounting, and our costs have increased more in 2011 than in any year before by far (super strong yen, at 76 to the dollar…compared to 109 to the dollar five years ago, and 85 or so to the dollar in 2010). Yadda, but we had to raise money and wanted to prevent this from happening again, and so we put on sale—close-out, even, some stuff that was dear enough to us to evolve and make the cut in the first place.

Your response, if you bought anything, was terrific. All of those bills will be paid. Christmassy comparisons to “It’s a Wonderful Life” were in the air, and we all are feeling both kinds of lucky (“dodged a tomahawk” lucky—another cliché; and “lucky to have so many good people so willing to help us” lucky, also maybe a cliché, but sometimes the alphabet has limitations on expressing emotions.)

We don’t want to rely on luck, though, so as part of a plan to not have to, we also reshuffled our rebate program. Rebates…were never intended as anything other than a thank you for shopping here, and here’s a gift, perhaps a thinly disguised incentive, to do it again. Five percent of what you (as a paid-up member) spent in one calendar year…to start off the next calendar year with, in credit.

It has worked OK, but not fantastically. We thought, right or wrong, that we could improve it to the benefit of all, but seriously, honestly, want it to help us, too. It’s not purely how can we make life better for you? The thinking behind this thinking is that if we stay here and healthy, we’ll be able to stay  here, period, and in doing that, we’re helping those of you who want us to be here, too.

But we always look at these things from your perspective, to whatever degree that’s possible. So here’s what we did: No more member dues of $20 a year. You buy, you get a credit rebate. No more waiting a whole year to get it. This has obvious benefits to you (it’s available a day or so after your puchase). The one area where we cut back, was the expiration date. Now it’s five months (150 days) instead of the calendar year. In the old system, it kicked in Jan 2, and you had till Dec 31 to spend it. But you also had to wait to the end of the calendar year to get it. So….plus and minus, tit and tat, whatever. The immediacy of the new way and the five month limit will help us with our cash flow all year ‘round, and we don’t want to be the good fun bike company that meant well but faded out, and so we have to look at that.Finally, it will end the up-to-now perennial bottleneck of problems reconciling credits and confusion. It’s never Keystone Cops, but it’s always a bigger hassle than it needs to be, with everybody coming live at once, and this way, the credits get spread evenly, and they’re way easier for you to access.

I’ve gotten one angry letter already. A really angry one, accusing us of hiring an outside consultant (apologies to “outside consultants” everywhere) to come up with this evil plan. Some of the discussions were conducted outside, but that’s as close to “outside consultant” as we got. Change is not always good, not always bad, but almost always looked at with suspicion, and the fellow in question saw, and maybe still sees this, as a changing of our fundamental approach to customer service and business and people in general, and I’m telling you, it is not. Even before he wrote, we had agreed to have a generous grace period, so if you don’t make the 150-cut off, you aren’t totally up a creek. IN the old way, the rebates were auto-deleted at the end of the year, poofed on New Year’s Day. The new way, hey, you have some time. To say how much would be to undermine the whole 150-day plan, and would come off as a guarantee, and I don’t want to do that. But strictly as a percentage of the original 150 days, it is….significant.

New bike news: It’s the Special bike that’s still un-named, but the same we have here and have shown HERE has “Bosco Rubbe” decals on it, so its working name can be BR. I have always liked Indians of the Native American variety (and you too, Amit, Krishna, Sumehra…). I’ve wanted to do a bike with a glorious warrior chief on the headbadge. My favorite coin of all time is the Indian head nickel, with the Indian head penny a distant second. I’d take an Indian head nickel over a Pocahontas dollar anyday, so it’s not the Indian-ness, but the image that I like so much. I’ve got my arrowheads. One of my favorite books is The Song of Hiawatha, and that is why we sell it.

I thought it was wimpy when Stanford changed its mascot from the Indians to the cardinal. Not even cardinals—-birds—like the baseball team. Cardinal, the color. Oh my. Nice. Everybody happy now? Is the uproar calmed?  The Washington Redskins…wouldn’t happen today, and I’m not looking to name a model the “Redskin” or the “Injun Joe.” I wouldn’t go as far as the Cleveland Indians do with their laughing Indian mascot guy.

From Allen’s collection.

I remember fondly that in the late ‘80s, Keith Bontrager was never seen in photograph without his Cleveland cap on. Indianishness is going the way of Mr. Pibb.

You’ll notice the first sentence: : Pibb Xtra is a reformulation of Mr. Pibb that was released in summer 2002.

You’ll see that’s a misplaced modifier, or something. I never learned formal grammar in school, but I think that’s it. It makes it sound like Mr. Pibb was released in summer 2002. It should read something like:

Pibb Xtra is a reformulation of Mr. Pibb, and was released in summer 2002. Or:

Pibb Xtra, released in summer 2002, is a reformulation of Mr. Pibb.

Which way you pick depends on what you want to emphasize. If it’s the date, then the first way works. It should be the date, in this case, because there’s already the strong suggestion of ties to the original Mr. Pibb…so Mr. Pibb makes a lousy…crescendo.

Anyway, the “Mr.” is gone now. It’s hipped up. Whenever I think of Mr.Pibb, I think of Sidney Portier’s line in In the Heat of the Night.  “They call me Mister Tibbs!” That movie and Mr. Pibb were around at the same time, and I could never remember the Tibbs part. I bet I’ve said (to myself), “They call me Mr. Pibb!” a hundred times. We all have those things going around in our heads now for thirty, forty, fifty years or more. That’s one of mine.

For even more on Mr.Pibb: It’s long. Not worth a read unless you’re really into it. Skip.

My own personal demons include a weakness for diet A&W root beer, diet Dr.Pepper, and diet Sunkist Orange. They don’t fit into my normal food & drink menu, but hey, sometimes nothing beats ‘em.

I don’t want to get in trouble with an Indian name. These days, it’s dicey to even say, “Indian.” It’s not like there are lots of reasonable Indian names that would make decent bike names, anyway. I love “Hiawatha,” but there’s already a bike shop named that (one of five Rivendell dealers, even).

 It can get away with it, because it’s in Minnesota, and if you don’t know the connection, you don’t know nothin’ ‘bout Hiawatha. I have one question for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and it’s been nagging at me for decades, to tell the truth: Hiawatha has lots of Indian names translated to white man names, and one of them is Minnehaha—which is all around the Mpls area—street names, parks, schools?—whatever, it’s out there. Minnehahah this, Minnehaha that. Now, mine means water. Minnesota means “sky-tinted water” according to that link there. And according to Longfellow, Minnehaha means…laughing water. Was that his joke on us? Could haha mean laughing in the local Indian language?

And which Indian language? In Hiawatha, it’s all about the Ojibway Indians. I’m fuzzy on my Indian facts, but at one time I thought Chippewas were another name for the Ojibways. But that Minnesota link attributes the name to the Dakota Sioux.

The Song of Hiawatha is a dream book for anybody who likes Indians, poety, and sounds and rhythm. It makes you feel like being an Indian. Our edition is the best—-illustrated by Frederick Remington. I love this stuff so much, I can’t stand it. Good book.

We’re in California. “Ishi” is ours, but it’s too short for a bike name. I think everybody who grew up in California knows about Ishi, but you outsiders probably don’t.

Now you can. Anyway, we’re still looking for Indian names. “Captain Jack” has been nominated, but…doesn’t have that palomino-on-the-plains sound about it.

Crayolas crayons are still made in the United States, but there’s no longer an Indian Red. Here’s a look at the old classic, along with another, and for better or worse, they’re both gone. Photo compliments of former Rivendell employee Allen, who collects Indian motif things, such as Calumet baking powder cans, pop bottles, and so on. They’re fading fast.

We are still hoping for a good Indian name. There are no prizes.

Photo courtesy of the Allen E. collection.

In 1999, Crayola changed Indian Red to chestnut (as in “visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are making me see stars”). The link below tells why they changed it and what the original reference was. I doubt it.

The BR bike is coming along OK. It’s going to have really long chainstays, and that means getting special chainstays made, since the longest we can muster with stock lengths is about 46mm, and some of the sizes require longer than that.

On a related note, the new handlebar (also unnamed so far, but we’re calling it the “new bar” for now) is being refined and tested at Nitto, and four are on bikes around here.

Thank you all for buying stuff from us, keeping us here, allowing us this business. We’re for you as much as we’ve ever been—the new rebate program should support that claim—and more grateful than we’ve ever been. Nothing’s bad.

If you have any problems with your rebate or logging in, please read this.

Somebody just sent me this pro-bell video:

That’s all. Sorry, long post.