all 10...still not proofread...TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED IN THE SCOOTER RENTAL BUSINESS 
Monday, April 22, 2019, 12:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
In addition to lawyering, I rented motor scooters (like Vespas---not those crappy little battery things that are scattered around big cities, these days) and bicycles in downtown West Palm Beach from around March of 2011. Two or three years ago, the WPB "Downtown Development Authority" promoted a bike-share business which set up a rack of rental bicycles within 30 feet of our front door. This effectively put us out of the bike rental business but we continued on, for a time, renting motor scooters:

10. The phrase "We'll just agree to disagree." can be an awfully stupid thing to say:

The head of the DDA, when I told him that his bike-share had put us out of the bicycle rental business told me that I was wrong and that bike-share was "a totally different market". I told him that there wasn't much of a difference between renting bicycles to people downtown to ride around and, maybe, ride on the Palm Beach Bike trail and to the beach (what we had been doing) and renting bicycles to people downtown to ride around and, maybe, ride on the Palm Beach Bike trail and to the beach (what the bike-share was doing. His response? "We'll just agree to disagree."

See my point?

Note: It makes sense, sometimes, to "agree to disagree" about politics, religion, whether paintball is fun, etc........but, on the other hand, "agree(ing) to disagree" about--for instance-- global warming could wipe out life as we know it.

9)People lie about all kinds of things if they want something:

Me: "Does your girlfriend know how to ride a motor scooter?" Renter: "Yes." But, when I asked the girlfriend: "No. but I've ridden on the back of my boyfriend's motorcycle."

It was shocking that people would lie about their abilities and experience so that they could get behind the handlebars and ride this little two wheeler through traffic at 40 miles per hour, and, maybe, crash and die. But, it happened all the time (the riding....NOT the dying).

I would get the contracts signed and the payment made and give the introduction-to-the-scooter speech and, as soon as the renter took the scooter, it would be painfully obvious that he/she was clueless. Then, I'd say: "I'm not going to rent to you." And, I'd have to rip up the contract and undo the payment and wait for the explanation/apology for the lie and that never, ever, never came.

Note: Nobody died or was seriously injured.

8) People lie about the obvious if they want to avoid paying:

I rode each of the scooters just about every day and I knew where the scratches were and the broken plastic. So, when a renter came back with a bent brake lever (they break when you try to un-bend them) and a smashed rear view mirror, I knew he/she had dropped the scooter.

"It was that way when I rented it." "No." I would say, I rode it this morning and it was fine. When you left, you would have said something about a smashed mirror and you didn't. So, I won't rip you off for what it is going to cost to fix it, but I am going to charge you because you did the damage."

Most common way to try to avoid paying for damage: Wait to drop off the scooter until I am with a lot of people. Then, ride up, tell me that you had a great time and you'll definitely be back but you're in a hurry. Then, walk down the street. Note: I will catch up with you before you reach the corner.

7) People can be unappreciative....not all of them...but, too many:

The business (as so many businesses, these days) lived and died on (google,TripAdviser, Yelp(?)) reviews. For the first few years we were in business, I would teach people how to ride....spend 45 minutes with them....guide them out of town. They'd return the scooter and tell me they'd had a great time and I'd say, more or less "This business lives and dies on reviews, so it would be really great if you would write one on google, or TripAdvisor or even Yelp." "Of course I will.", the renter would say.

But, they wouldn't. (Some of the more intelligent, more skilled, nicer renters...the ones with the great Karmic aura and almost everyone who had a motorcycle endorsement and rented a larger scooter, did write reviews and we thank them VERY MUCH!)

6)Some things are easy for some people:

The renters I worried most about were males in their mid-twenties who had no experience and who told me, more or less "No problem, it's easy." They usually messed up.

One day, two women from Philadelphia came in to rent. They said they were in the Air Force Reserve and were A-10 (Warthog) mechanics (close battlefield support jets that fly low and slow and strafe and fire rockets into tanks). This was in the days when I regularly taught people how to ride. I refused to teach them (I was nice about it but I sensed they didn't need a lesson...they just needed to push some switches and move some levers and they'd be fine). I gave them the keys and told them to figure it out.

I figured that if they fixed jets, the controls on a scooter should be easy and if they taxied jets (I assumed they did....but, either way) they should be able to ride a scooter down the street.
In general, I believed they knew more than me about this kind of stuff. They were on their way in about two minutes.

Big rig truck drivers never had a problem. Renters who commuted on their bicycles (as opposed to less frequent riders)? Same thing. Heavy equipment operators and airplane crews? Yup. Teachers, IT people, accountants, lawyers, salespeople, house-husbands? Not so much.

Yes, I believe I could figure out how to drive your bulldozer.....so, if you and the bulldozer are ever in town.......

5) The customer is NOT always right:

One day, I rented two scooters to (I think it was) the promoter of the local marathon to patrol the course. The next day I got a call "One of the scooters won't start."

The scooter was delivered back to me, on its side, in the back of a pickup truck. I had never had a problem with the scooter before and, after it was unceremoniously bounced onto the ground by the pickup driver and a helper, I, in a moment of insight, opened the gas tank. EMPTY.

Apparently, the night before the patrolling began, everyone and their brother rode the scooter and nobody thought to check the gas. I politely expressed my sentiments about their treatment of my scooter...tossing it into the back of their truck and the failure of intelligence involved in not considering that scooters don't run forever on one tank of gas. and this is what the pickup driver yelled at me: "The customer is always right."

I responded appropriately.

Later in the day, I received a call that the other scooter wouldn't start. I walked to its location, downtown. (I believe the end of this story is obvious.

4) I can be very, very stupid:

Back in the days when we rented bicycles, among those bicycles were two tandem bikes and, one day, I rented the larger, red tandem to two young men who said they were from the local college. I rented two other bikes to their friends and they went riding down the Lake Trail in Palm Beach.

An hour or so later, I got a phone call. The tandem had two flat tires and, they were at the North end of Palm Beach Island and, not on the trail, but on a residential street. I put a couple of correctly sized tubes in my tool bag and rode over the bridge and then North.

A smarter man would have immediately realized the cause of the flats, sent the renters home on foot (though, how would I have retrieved the bike?) and hit up their credit card for $60. But, I was not that man. And, in fact, it took me many months and several beers to figure out how that bike had two flats: they were hopping curbs. (Note: "Hopping curbs" involved, for them, riding this tandem, which was about 8 feet long and, with the two of them aboard, had a total weight of around 350lbs and riding up and over---or over and down---the curb, smashing the wheels and tires into the pavement. When the bike hit, the tires would compress against the wheel rim and the tube would be pinched between the tire and the rim---instant flat tire---a "pinch flat").

Who was dumber......the renters for riding like this or me for not realizing what they had done? Me.

3) My father always told me not to work in retail. He was right:

Let me note that he also told me "Mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them." and "If it says not to do something in the bible, it is a sin if you get caught." (at least, that's how I remember what he said).

He bought boy's clothes for a "department store" called Orbach's beginning when he got back from the war (WWII and department store is in quotes because it had no toy department and, as a kid, I never understood how a store could be a department store if it didn't have a toy department). He didn't get home until after 7 most nights (probably more due to the commute from Long Island to Manhattan then to working in retail (Newark on Wednesdays), worked Saturdays, and, finally had a heart attack from it all.

The scooter business was an all-the-time business. 5:30AM call because someone rented for a week, left the scooter out on a sand dune by the beach, it rained, the scooter wouldn't start and he had to be at his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 3:00PM racing down I95 to meet someone for a rental...who didn't show up. 6:00PM and a WPB cop hasn't come back with his rental that was due at 5:00 (turned out he illegally parked his car in a lot across the street and the boot guy, Carlton, booted his car---the cop thought I had asked Carlton to boot the car---I didn't but wish I had).

It was not a time-consuming business---plenty of time for lawyering-----but, I always had to think what renter had what scooter and worry that a late night call would come because someone wasn't bright enough to make sure the "kill switch" was in the "on" position (Me on the phone: "Are you sure the kill switch is in the run position." Renter: "Positive". Me: "Well, move it to the other position and try again." Followed, almost always, by the sound of a scooter motor running and the renter: "Oh,it started."


Blog readers: Advice from my father---STAY OUT OF RETAIL.

2) You go where you look:

About 25 years ago (my daughter is 23...my wife made me sell my motorcycle before she was born so...25?), I was riding South on Military Trail on my Moto Guzzi G1000---a ratty though wonderful Italian motorcycle with a giant 2 cylinder V engine---sort of a BMW flat twin with the cylinders twisted up at a 45% angle or a Harley with the engine turned 90 degrees into the wind. I made a left turn onto East bound Belevedere Rd........or, to be more accurate, I made a left turn from Military onto the grass median between the East and West bound lanes of Belvedere. As I came to a stop, I thought to myself: a) How'd that happen? and b) Sure glad there was nothing in the median to hit.

Years later, I was reading a motorcycle magazine (to set the scene, I was reading that magazine in that place where men read magazines) and I saw a short piece by someone from a women's motorcycle association the theme of which was: YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK.

I knew at that moment that, in the middle of my turn from Military, I had fixated on the median and kept on looking at it until I ran right over it.

As part of my rental spiel, I asked everyone this question (which was designed to be obnoxious in the hope that the concept would be remembered): "YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. WHERE DO YOU GO?" Every single licensed motorcycle rider immediately and without hesitation responded with the correct answer: "You go where you look." Every renter whose first language was English who did not know the answer got a lecture and a prayer that they would not screw this one up.

I witnessed:
-Woman who was supposed to make a right turn and follow me, go straight, over a median, and fall at the foot of an AMR ambulance that she was fixating on. (She broke a tooth.)
-The aforementioned kid who rode into the back of the Mercedes.
-Several people run up a curb and fall into bushes.
-Man who ran up to a curb then turned enough so that he tram-lined the curb for 50'.
-Woman run right into the scooter her husband was riding.
And, I saw the aftermath of a few renters who, when making a right turn, didn't look at the middle of the lane they were going to turn into but, instead, fixated on the car in the other lane, heading in the other direction, stopped at a light---and, ran into the left fender of that car.

Studies have shown that when people begin to panic they lose their peripheral vision and, with their vision now tunnel-vision, they can't see any option other than the option directly in front of them. So, instead of using the brakes to stop, they use the thing in front of them to stop....by hitting it.

A few years ago, I was teaching three Microsoft people how to ride. They had rented a small airplane in Seattle and had flown it (very frequent stops) to Florida. Two of the Microsoft people had no problem. The third kept heading in odd directions and claimed to have no idea what I meant by "You go where you look." But, after a little while, he had an ephiphany: "Oh," he said "it's like my car racing instructor says: "If you aren't going where you want to go, move your head."

They pay well at Microsoft.

1) Now, I know how to: change scooter drive belts; figure out why scooters won't start; lever old scooter tires off the rim and new ones one; where to go to get a new cylinder for a 2 stroke honed; the effect of ethanol gas on scooter fuel lines; how to change a drive belt/speedometer cable/fuel pump/stator/rectifier.

Will any of this be a benefit to me now that I have sold my last remaining scooter? Absolutely.
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