Bike thieves trying to sell stolen bikes to bike shops
Have you, or anyone in your shop been offered the chance to purchase a stolen bike?
We asked London bike shops if they had ever experienced a suspected bike thief entering their shop to try and sell them a bike. Their stories show the true nerve of bike thieves, but also how vigilant bike shops are and the precautions they take.
We occasionally get people coming in, having constructed far-fetched stories about a bicycle they’ve had stored in their loft for 15 years because their sister moved to Australia so never rode it and it’s a shame to see it rusting up there yada yada yada, even though it’s a bike from Halfords 2015 range.
We have a lot of people wandering in off the streets trying to punt bike which have quite obviously come from dubious sources. Our general position is ‘No. Sorry. We don’t buy bikes’. On occasion we’ve said ‘Yeah, sure. Can we take a photo of your ID for our records please?’ as this is what we do for trade ins’. It generally results in the person leaving to get their ID and never returning.
We used to be approached lot more when we first opened, and to be honest sometimes it can be a little tempting! You might have someone roll up on a lovely £2000 road bike and want to sell it quickly for as little as £50! But that’s something that is not good for business not to mention it’s pretty bad karma! Imagine you had a stolen bike for sale in your shop and someone came in to buy a bike and saw their bike sitting there! It wouldn’t look very good on the shop and you’d feel pretty embarrassed!
We sometimes have people come into the shop and try to sell us bikes. It’s quite frustrating because we can tell the bike is blatantly stolen, the person knows nothing about what they have but we don’t know anything about the bikes history or who it used to belong to. Sometimes people send us photos of their stolen bikes and ask us to buy them back if we see them. This is something that’s frustrating for the customer as well, because I always have to say no. We can’t affiliate ourselves like this to the world of bike theft.
We are registered safe sellers so if we do buy bikes from people then there is a whole process that we need to go through. We ask for photo id, proof of address and also phone and email contacts. If the seller is legit then they should have no problems in giving us this information.
We occasionally get offers on bikes that appear stolen as well as customers asking for security devices to be removed from bikes. In this instance we refuse removing the device and try to take a record of the serial number of the bike then run it through our systems. We have on some occasions reunited bikes with their original owner after confirming it was stolen.
If people ask if we buy bikes we just say no. There are so many second hand bikes and stolen bikes it’s very hard to know which is which. We just sell new bikes and try to stay away from it.
We haven’t been approached but I think we are unlike most places as we are more of a workshop – we sell custom frames and hand built wheels from the same premises as our shopfront, which is largely a repair and maintenance shop, alongside the obligatory coffee and Belgian chocolate milk – and don’t sell the standard bike shop bikes or sell our vintage frames as cheap commuters. I have worked in places where that would happen regularly, but again I feel we are in a different area of London, with a different kind of bike theft issue. There are less bikes stolen off the street locally, or at least I hear of it much less here than I have done in other areas of London. It is a pretty close community here in Leytonstone so any local theft like that would be passed on pretty quickly to us. It hasn’t happened yet anyway.
Yes. And someone we knew was friends with the owner so we did a setup, and I will never do it again. I don’t want to go into it as it was a bit traumatising, but the person got their bike back in the end.
We often get asked if we buy bikes – we just say no. It is likely that many of the sellers are legitimate – but we simply will not pay out cash for bikes. (We occasionally take trade ins – but need to know the customer and the bike).
Yes, but we changed are policy on second hand bikes. We do not buy bikes for cash and only take bikes as a PX, if we have an original purchase receipt.