I am sorry to report that my first experience with the BCAA Bike Assist Program was deeply disappointing. Imagine if you paid your BCAA fees dutifully for years, seldom or never using it. Then one rainy morning your beautiful, expensive car got a flat. Then when the BCAA technician arrived to fix it, he smiled ruefully and said, “Gee, I haven’t touched a car since I was this high” – holding out his hand to indicate a six-year-old. Then he said, “I haven’t actually got any tools for cars, and I’ve never been trained to fix the things, but I’ll take a crack at it. Maybe I can figure it out.” Then, after an hour or so of head scratching, he put the wrong size wheel on the car, causing you to break down again 4 km down the road.
In this situation, I guess you’d conclude that you’d been horribly deceived by a company falsely claiming to be an automobile emergency service. But of course, nothing like this could possibly happen, could it?
Well actually, this is pretty much exactly what happened to me this morning, when I tried to use BCAA’s much-vaunted Bike Assist Program for the first time. I kept my BCAA membership when I gave up my car, precisely because of the promises of this Program. So when I sprang a flat on my way to work, and found that I had neither tools nor spare tube with me, I was unperturbed. Finally, my investment in the BCAA was going to pay off! Yeah, right.
My first clue should have been when I placed the roadside assistance call. I repeatedly told the polite woman on the other side that I needed help with my bike. She repeatedly asked me for the year and make of my vehicle. It was like she was simply unable to process the word “bike.” I thought of telling her my “vehicle” is a 2009 Devinci Sydney hybrid commuter, but I was pretty sure this would make as much sense to her as if I had suddenly recited the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. So eventually I just said, as politely as possible through gritted teeth:
“I’m going to spell something for you, OK? B-I-C-Y-C-L-E. What does that spell?
“Bicycle? Bicycle! OH, you’re phoning about a bicycle!”
After that auspicious start, things just got worse. The technician who was sent out to help me had no training whatsoever. He did not know even know that he should look on the tire to find the tube size! Then he could not decide whether it was safe to use a different sized tube, and phoned his supervisor, who apparently told him it would be just fine. Yeah, right.
But wait – not only did the technician have no training, but he also had no tools. No pump suitable for bicycles. Precisely three tubes, all of which were suitable for road bikes, not for commuting hybrids. A couple of plastic tire levers, one of which broke in half almost immediately. And here’s the kicker – he didn’t have a bike rack on his van, so not only could he not fix my bike, but he also could not transport me and my bike to a bike shop. I find this odd, seeing as BCAA states on its website:
“If you live in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna or Kamloops, our trained technicians will respond to Bike Assist calls. Our fleet of trucks are also outfitted with racks for bike transport”
OK, so not trained, and no racks in sight. The poor guy tried – I have no beef with him. I do have a serious beef with the company that has been taking my money while promising a service it cannot deliver. After breaking one tube and one valve, the technician managed to get a tube and valve onto the rim in one piece. Then he discovered he had no pump with a Schrader fitting, and in any case was afraid that his car tube pump would explode the tube. He borrowed my tiny Blackburn, but made little progress. Then I pointed out to him that the tiny brass thing in his sad, sad little package of bike spare parts was a valve adaptor. He clearly didn’t believe me, but indulged me by trying it out. To his surprise and delight, it was in fact a valve adaptor, and so he was able to carefully blow up my tube with a few tentative squeezes from his hydraulic pump.
At this point I asked him if he had ever had any training on fixing bikes, given that BCAA is actively promoting the Bike Assist Program.
He laughed as if this was a novel idea, and told me that none of the technicians has had any training, but that this does not matter, as they don’t get many calls for Bike Assist anyway. He also told me that he thought Bike Assist didn’t start until the summer … which is most certainly not what BCAA says in its advertising or on its website. Imagine offering a roadside assistance service and then adding “But if you break down in the wrong month, you’re SOL!” I told him I doubted this was true, as I was under the impression that I was paying my annual fee for the entire year, not just for a random part of it.
I really love this next part: the technician then charged me $15 for selling me the wrong tube, and went on his merry way. I tried to get to work, but within 4 km the tube was flat again. I had to push the bike the remaining 4 km.
I took the bike to Jubilee Cycles, who did a great job, of course. They advised that the tube sold to me by BCAA had collapsed within minutes because it was far too skinny to be used in a bike like mine.
I phoned BCAA to complain, and spoke to a very nice woman who clearly had been trained to do her job. She sympathized and sounded horrified, and promised that a supervisor would call me back. I tried very hard to explain to her that my beef is with the company that did not train or equip its worker to live up to the promises in its advertising, not with the hapless technician. I think she got it.
UPDATE: BCAA did get back to me about this post – you can read their response here.
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