In my most recent journal entry I laid into Harley-Davidson for having an inaccurate description and photos of product offerings in both their on-line and print catalogs. I included a copy of the Email I sent to the Mothership expressing my displeasure.
After shooting off the Email I decided to do an intervention by offering up a product review to their on-line catalog to ensure anyone who was considering the purchase of add-on footboards and who decided to check the reviews as part of their due-diligence would not have the same post-purchase discovery that I did.
Again, to H-D’s credit — or at least to the credit of the employee who has to screen all of the product reviews before authorizing their reply — they were somewhat responsive to my observations. My review and their reply are posted below:
There was a bit of a “you just weren’t the buyer we had in mind” flavor to the response which IS interesting and does offer some insight into the product management thought processes at Harley.
In this case, it would appear that Harley’s product managers believe the chrome footboard support is something that would be purchased as an upgrade to a touring bike that came with the base-grade black powder-coated footboard supports, pans, etc., and they’d be able to use the installation hardware from their existing supports with the new chrome support. For customers like me who have a non-Ultra touring bike that did not come with footboards, there is apparently an assumption that we would buy the base-grade black powder-coated components which DO come with the mounting hardware.
The latter highlights to me just how razor-focused the mothership is on making sure they squeeze margin out of every opportunity. If I was the VP of product management at the MoCo, I’d be thrilled to see this kind of detailed product kitting analysis for inclusion in my ‘continuous improvement / affordability initiatives’ briefing package as it would certainly bode well for my annual incentive compensation assessment. As to dealing with the handful of customers who feel like me when presented with a premium-priced accessory or replacement kit, that probably falls on the customer satisfaction team’s VP to deal with: send them a nice letter and a gift card which is pennies on the dollar in terms of the bottom line and all will be good again. Or, at least that’s how my head wraps around this type of stuff.
The product management / kitting philosophy of less is more was reaffirmed yesterday when I had to buy a new jiffy stand for Blue II after the spring flange broke. The latter was likely something I did when loading the bike on the trailer to bring it home from Florida back on November 6th.
As noted at the end of another blog entry back in August, if you mis-judge the ramp angle when loading a touring bike on a trailer the lowest-positioned part on the underside of the bike will get slammed into the back edge of the trailer floor. That part is the jiffy stand spring and usually — I say this having done it twice now — the only damage is a stretched-out spring that takes about 30 seconds to replace. Well, I’m guessing that I must have hit the trailer hard enough to also break the spring attachment bracket on the jiffy stand. It wasn’t broken off but definitely broken as the spring fell off the bike when I pulled into the garage and put the jiffy stand down on Thursday night. A quick inspection yielded the broken bracket: good thing I have a wheel chock!
So, on Friday I head to my local dealer to get a replacement. Even the parts manager, Eddie, was surprised to hear that I’d broken that bracket: it was a first that he’d ever heard of. And, when he looked up the part it confirmed that it was one of those parts that priced like gold, i.e., not needed all that often but when it is.. you can charge whatever you want because the customer has to have that part! It’s not like you can lean a Harley up against a fence when the jiffy stand breaks.
However, the real surprise came when I opened up the box and found that my $136.00 jiffy stand leg was just that: only the leg. It didn’t include the little rubber bumper that rests against the frame when the stand is in the up position, or the index key, bolt and washers that are needed to connect the stand to the stand bracket. Nope, even at a premium price — aftermarket versions sell for a more reasonable $45 — the replacement jiffy stand leg (50075-07A) needs to be made ready for installation by cannibalizing the other parts from an existing jiffy stand.
Again, from a business manager’s perspective, that’s some brilliant product management right there: maximizing margins is good for the bottom line. But, from an owner satisfaction standpoint I really feel like the MoCo has found yet another way to squeeze a few more bucks out of my fat wallet, knowing full-well that I’ll fork over the greenbacks since my other options aren’t timely, i.e., ordering off eBay or from an aftermarket etailer.
As I said in my rant, the allure of the Harley is fast wearing off on me. I used to snicker at the insane money Harley owners dumped into their bikes before buying our first one in 2011. Now, every time there’s anything wrong with one of our two Harley’s I’m wishing I still had a Honda: they were reliable and when they weren’t, they didn’t cost a fortune to fix. Moreover, I’m at a point where if Polaris ever offers a non-retro Indian touring bike or a non-George Jetson / Ness-designed Victory touring bike, I’d make that jump in a heart beat. The only bike that’s worse than a Harley from a cost-of-ownership disappointment standpoint is my BMW. Thank goodness I never brought home a Ducati.