“Dear Manufacturer: Some of my little friends say there are no more bikes made in America. Are they wrong?”
“Virginia, you’re little friends are wrong.”
My apologies to Francis Pharcellus Church, who penned the famous New York Sun editorial in response to little Virginia O’Hanlon’s query, “is there really a Santa Claus?” Mr. Church went on to write perhaps the most famous editorial ever to appear in print. His brilliant response addressed realities that exist in the spiritual world as opposed to those which merely exist in physical manifestations.
But today I will confine my remarks to those which exist in our physical world. In particular, bicycles. More specifically, American made bicycles. While Church pointed out the failings of those who only accept as real that which they can see, touch and feel, I take issue with those who can see, touch and feel and yet deny reality. In short, those folks that know there are bicycles being manufactured in the United States but spread the untruth that there are not.
Some background. We were recently contacted by a manager from a mid-western city who asked us whether our bikes are manufactured in the United States. We replied “yes.” Then she asked, “are you sure?” It was an odd follow-up which made us chuckle.” “Yes we are sure, we are sitting in the factory. You can come visit and see for yourself,” we assured her. Upon further discussion, she told us that a high-profile company in the bikeshare “space” had told her, in response to her question whether there are bikes built in the U.S., that there “were none.”
Now, I am the type that tends to give people the benefit of the doubt. We are not a large company that spends a lot on advertising. Most people do not, in fact, know us or the fact we still manufacture bikes in the U.S. But the fellow that told this manager that “no bike manufacturers exist in the U.S.” knows us – and knows us well. We have worked together. Perhaps he just forgot. Yeah right.
This is not the first time I have run into this. Several years ago at a college sustainability conference where we were displaying our products, a company in an allied industry took to telling people that our bikes were manufactured overseas and were merely assembled in the U.S. The problem was that we knew each other and had even discussed doing joint projects together because, in his words “it would be great for two American manufacturers to team up.” Sadly, this was not the last time. It happens again and again.
We are grown-ups here. We are all seeking a competitive edge over our competitors. We are all locked in the eternal battle for each sale. Sometimes that means things get rough. But as in any competitive arena, there is a line over which we should not cross. For me, that line is lying. Plain and simple. Perhaps I am old-school, but I was taught, and believe, that you should never “trash” the competition. It’s just a poor way to sell. While I have no problem pointing the differences between our products and our competitor’s, I confine my remarks to demonstrable facts. And yes, I even give praise when due. But engaging in flat out falsehoods, or spreading erroneous information, will come back to bite you. That mid-western city is reconsidering their order with the vendor who gave them blatantly false information.
Why does this bother me so much? The cynic will tell me that “it’s only business, it’s not personal.” I flatly reject that I always will. It is personal. Because people work here. People who build bikes to support their families. I know each one by name. The guys who bend tubes and those who weld them. The fellows who paint and assemble and pack and ship. And the group of women who lace each wheel. Not personal? Tell them that.
So let me return to paraphrasing the immortal F.P. Church : Yes Virginia, there are bicycles Made in America. They exist as certainly as hard work and devotion and commitment exist, and you know that they abound and bring to your life a joyful and safe ride.