DecoBike Keeps Rolling, Despite Vandalism & Customer Confusion

Categories: Bike Blog
DecoBikeRow.jpg
Michael E. Miller
Well, that didn't take long.

It's only been a few weeks since DecoBike installed its eco-friendly beach cruisers all over South Beach, yet someone has already hacked one in half with a saw.

But despite the vandalism -- and some customer confusion over when to return the silver bicycles -- DecoBike seems to be going strong, with over 20,000 rides so far.

Last weekend, DecoBike officials found the mutilated bicycle at a station at the corner of Alton Road and Fifth Street. The thief -- perhaps a clown or juggler looking for a new unicycle -- made off with the rear portion of the beach cruiser, leaving the front half still locked into the station.

"Why someone would want to do that, I have no idea," says Karen Gordon, a marketing assistant for DecoBike. Since the bikes cost roughly $700 apiece, vandalizing or stealing them is a felony, she adds.

DecoBike has also experienced another hiccup since the March 15 roll-out: membership holders -- locals and tourists, Americans and foreigners -- failing to understand that they have to return their bikes within 30-minutes to avoid extra fees.

The company offers one-day, three-day, and month-long passes. So, naturally, a handful of people have taken out bikes for an entire day, even overnight.

But membership passes only allow members to take bikes out for 30 minutes at a time before returning them to any station. DecoBike charges $4 for each additional half an hour.

The confusion has led to some monster bills. But Gordon says that so far, DecoBike has been lenient on those who have complained.

Despite the misunderstandings and mangled bicycle, DecoBike is flourishing. In fact, on weekends, as many as five different people often use the same bike, Gordon says.

Traditional bike stores are already feeling the pinch.

Thumbnail image for DecoBikeFrancescaFrigo3.jpg
Michael E. Miller
Playboy playmate Francesca Frigo takes an inaugural ride on a DecoBike last month
"We've definitely noticed a drop in our business," says Alex Ruiz, a sales manager at the Miami Beach Bicycle Center on Fifth Street. But he says he expects his bike rentals to climb back up once people realize that DecoBike rentals come with strings attached.

In the meantime, however, DecoBike is taking his customers.

Every day, people stop by and ask how much his bikes cost to rent. When Ruiz tells them $24 for a whole day, they're put off because DecoBike only charges $14.

"They don't realize that you only get 30-minute segments for free" (on DecoBike), Ruiz says, whereas his bike rentals come with a flat rate and bike locks allowing customers to park anywhere.

Only a few days ago, Ruiz says he rented bicycles to a couple stung by DecoBike. They had wound up with a $200 bill from the eco-friendly company after holding onto their bikes for nearly 24 hours without returning them.

"I don't think (DecoBike) is trying to deceive anyone," Ruiz says. "But who's going to take time to read the fine print? That's not really how American society works. Most people don't bother."

Riptide finally had a chance to test out the bikes earlier this week. Although their single speed and non-aerodynamic basket makes them a little slow, they are smooth and enjoyable to ride. The seat is comfortable and easily adjustable (while theft-proof), and the self-powered light on the front is a nice touch.

That said, our bike made a strange squeaking sound as if a mongoose were caught in the spokes (it wasn't). The noise only got louder and faster as we accelerated, like our seat was about to explode.

Thankfully, it didn't. And although we stand by our initial reservations about DecoBike, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ride. Particularly for residents commuting to work, it might make sense.

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23 comments
jack_milli
jack_milli

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helena.richardson37
helena.richardson37

Ted Connolly is a lawyer in the Boston office of a large, international law firm, where he concentrates his legal practice in bankruptcy and finance law. illionis bankruptcy

emrickenoch
emrickenoch

With a bright and energetic color scheme, the Dreamcycle is fun cruiser that really makes a statementCalifornia Bikes.  bike

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

I had a strong feeling this was going to happen. Another thing decobike renters may not realize is that in the fine print, if the bike is stolen, not recovered or whatever, the renter is on the hook for that $ 700 bike. If it's recovered, I would hope that a refund is automatically refunded ? But you never know, the renter/consumer may have to follow up on that even ? Decobike only employs so many people and they can only do their end of due dilligence in any given situation, regardless of intentions. And you know what, I've seen quite a few unlocked decobikes in pictures and from firsthand observation when renters go into restaurants and other stores. This implies and decobike even states it on their website in the fine print, that the renter is on the hook for providing their own lock and safety equipment (helmet). To an extent decobike may resemble renting a bike from the LBS in some aspects, but I'm not certain any of these rentals offer insurance for theft or liability (like a car rental). Not sure the credit card offers consumer protection or even the renters homeowner insurance policy applies to a decobike or otherwise in the event of theft. These are issues any consumer needs to weigh before entering any rental agreement vs buying from Wal-Mart.

An advantage of the decobike is that it is readily identifiable as a decobike. That deters some theft in and of itself, but if a thief only wants to ride a few blocks, that theft is not any more discernible than a legitimate rental. And if someone is after parts, well it's a $ 700 bike, so hacksawing the bike in half gets the thieves a bottom bracket, complete rear wheel, crank arms and gear(s) & pedals, a new chain and whatever other components comprise that 1/2 of the bike. Theft is a very real issue in transient communities, South Beach is no exception.

I don't know what the LBS terms of rental are, haven't read their fine print either. But an extra $ 10 is steep for a daily rental that includes a lock when compared to decobikes rental return and rerent system. But the rerent system might have quite a few inconveniences and hassles, $ 24 vs $ 14, that's $ 10 and on the surface $ 10 pretty much buys/pays for the lock, cable or u-lock at Wal-Mart. Also understand that every time you rent the security deposit on your credit card may have cycled on and off your credit card so that might be an issue/glitch too when it hasn't. There are 2 computer systems that are separate and not synchronized here, decobikes and the credit card company.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

I recently vacationed in South Beach and used the Decobike- for what I thought was a 14 dollar a day rental x 2 days. It ended up being a $100 dollar rental because of the hidden fee for not returning the bike in the 30 min. Most of the time I rode the bike it was just to get from one place to the next but I took my time getting there. I called to ask about this fee and the customer service guy assured me that it was posted on the rental kiosk. I am back home and unfortunately unable to verify this. They did not return my money. I loved riding the bikes and think it's a great idea, but the hidden fee is irritating.

emrickenoch
emrickenoch

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Busterbuck5
Busterbuck5

Deco Bikes got their marketing material and method of operations from such experts of deception like our Banks, MasterCard, Visa, Big Tobacco, and others who use minus three point font for the larceny details that no one can read. Here's the number for them: 1-900-WESCREWU ($5 per minute, fifty minute minimum, no refunds, credits or pro-rationed phone time...not transferable or...)" Welcome to Miami Beach, the Magic Tourist Trap.

Karen Gordon
Karen Gordon

"Only a few days ago, Ruiz says he rented bicycles to a couple stung by DecoBike. They had wound up with a $200 bill from the eco-friendly company after holding onto their bikes for nearly 24 hours without returning them."

As the person who handles all of these customer calls and refunds, I can safely state that NO ONE has been charged $200.

cruisinUSA
cruisinUSA

Hey Ruiz, when you sign a contract do you ever read the fine print? DUH!What are you some type of oxy-moron covering up for your loss???

3054444444
3054444444

Why would you want to keep it while you're at work? There's no logic to it. If you're riding through Miami Beach, return it to the station and pick up another one on your way home.

Whofarted
Whofarted

"Particularly for residents commuting to work, it might make sense" -- Maybe if you have a longterm membership or something right? How can you return it to avoid extra fees if you are at work?

PaloViejoVerde
PaloViejoVerde

One of the largest problems affecting ALL bike sharing programs anywhere in the U.S. is understanding the basic charges... whether it's Minneapolis, Denver, DC... wherever... just understanding the basic charges and the whole plan has been a start-up issue for everyone of them! Search it and you'll see... rip off? NO... moronic, poorly educated, poorly prepared individuals YES... christ! do you even understand what the purpose of reading is all about? I understand your "grief"... I don't understand your ineptitude!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

I was charged and extra $42.44. I was expecting a $56 charge (2 bikes x 2 days). Your 30 min rule is not easy to see, and I thought I read the entire information trying to figure out how it was supposed to work (I was only there for 2 days). I did have a great experience and told many people who stopped me to ask about the bike how awesome it was. When I called today I wasn't refunded. I chalked it up to "lesson learned". Then I did a little research and its interesting that I wasn't the only one who experienced this problem.

Busterbuck5
Busterbuck5

oh, gee, sorry karen, it was only $189 you crooked gold digger.

Busterbuck5
Busterbuck5

Not reading the fine print does NOT excuse fucking people in the ass when they bend over to tie their shoe moron.

Rich Urban
Rich Urban

I will agree with you on this point. Keeping it locked up while at work would remove bikes from the rotation & in turn make the system more costly / require more bicycles.

Michael Miller
Michael Miller

The company has stations around South Beach and is adding more in Middle and North Beach. The idea is to check a bike out at one station (near your home, for example) and then ride it to work, where you return it to another station. All in less than 30 minutes. That's the theory, at least.

Karen
Karen

You seem to be angry and bitter. Anonymous people usually are.

Guest
Guest

That theory and pricing scheme is flawed (or maybe it's perfectly designed to extract as much revenue as possible.) There should be other options, like a flat fee/all day rental. $4 for each additional 30 minutes (on top of membership fee) is a ripoff.

Rich Urban
Rich Urban

3054444444 --- LOL...but that means that you have to keep checking your watch & then jumping around every 30 minutes. Personally, I like to bike ride for at least an hour...that's a bit of a hassle if you ask me.

When traveling in Europe, I used their bike program that had full day rentals with none of this 30minute return crap. It works fine there..why did decobike make it so difficult?

3054444444
3054444444

They do have day fees. If you're a deco bike member then you should know the terms & conditions you agreed upon membership. Return that baby b4 the 30 minutes are up and get another one when you need it.

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