Following on from my Open Letter to Rapha I was invited down to their rather swish new offices for a nosy about with the Country Manager Laura Bower to have chat about things. We had a walk about a building which crammed to the rafters with lockers, bikes, desks and parts of the Rapha cycling range.
I really did try to be reasonable but even in my own head I sounded like a moany hole and the more I’ve thought about the more I’ve decided I’m right and Rapha have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to deny that I’ve already bought into the brand, I love the imagery, I love the aspiration of doing more on a bike and seeing the world from two wheels and I do so love that stripe on my left arm. Call me a brand whore all you like, I am and I don’t care.
I’m the kind of consumer retailers should love, I’m brand loyal and just as evangelistic about good stuff I come across as I am horrid about lackadaisical half jobs dressed in wonderful clothing.
My problem with Rapha isn’t the brand, it isn’t the way they brought it to fruition but the manner in which with service the market place. The up shut of the conversation is that Rapha will not recognise tall thin women and they have no plans to change that which kind of meens that instead of leading the market they’re just part of it along with many others in a small market place of cyclists. Is it any wonder that more women run than cycle when you consider how we are seen?
Then there’s the postage system, when your clothes don’t fit you can use the self-return sticker, pop it on the bag and send the items back, that sticker is second class. I’ve just tried to spend money and you give me a second class return sticker? I know that this is mostly an accounting exercise because if the money is in your bank it’s still working for you and considers corporate policy.
Corporate policy isn’t the same as customer service and generally stands in direct conflict with it. Company policy is there for the benefit of the company.
On top of the second class return sticker there’s then the seemingly disinterest in issuing refunds in any timely fashion, why don’t large businesses sign up to the faster payment scheme? If I pay someone through my back account it hits the recipients account in fifteen minutes taking week for a refund I think is quite laughable.
We spoke a while about why women might not come to Rapha and my answer was that women are just being bolted onto a very successful male marketing model that really doesn’t take into account social pressures women face, firstly women earn less, couple that with the fact that women also do most of the homecare, childcare and chores we are also not as time rich.
More women run than ride and that’s a fact, if I was a runner I could have bought some trainers and stuff for less than the price of my wonderful Specialized Sub-6 riding shoes and I’d be set and around £7000 in pocket this year. It’s easy to pop out and do a quick 5k for me to have a good ride it can take between one and two hours.
Rapha are making improvements to the men’s kit and changes to the women’s but really if you’re 170cm tall prepare to be disappointed across the board.
The upside to this is that I’ve been given a refund on my RCC membership.