Visiting an Amish Bike Shop

Amish America reader Pete Ventura shares the following, about a visit to an Amish bicycle business:

Recently I returned home from Holmes County. While I was up there I stopped in at a local bicycle shop located about a half mile north east of Charm, out in the middle of nowhere.

I bought 97 dollars worth of equipment. When I went to pay, the owner said he didn’t take credit cards. I explained to him that I would only be able to purchase one item because I only had 100 dollars on me and I would probably need some of that money to spend on my way home.

He asked me if I had a check and I explained to him that my checkbook was back in Centerville, Ohio.He said that was not a problem and I could just mail the money to him. I was stunned and asked “You mean to tell me you would trust me?”  He said “Well, why shouldn’t I?”

When I told my Amish friend about this she said “surely your bicycle man back home would have done the same thing.” I said “Mary, four years ago I bought a $1500 bike for myself, and also a $500 bike. My oldest son went down with me on a return trip and bought a $900 bike, my youngest a $1700 bike, his friend a $1700 bike, and his girlfriend a $1700 dollar bike.

“The owner is now very, very friendly but I can guarantee you that there would be no way I would walk out of his store without paying 97 dollars.”

Very interesting anecdote.  The owner seemed quite willing to trust an outsider– which understandably seems to have surprised Pete.  Pete adds that “the last time I ever remember something like that happening was back in the 50’s when my dad shook hands with a man and said he would be back in the morning with the money.”

I don’t know that you’d see all Amish willing to do the same as the bike shop owner did, or even most–though I would think it fair to say the likelihood would be greater with an Amish firm.

You’d also see similar behavior to be more likely among Amish themselves and within the local community, for the obvious reasons.  At the same time you do happen upon “In God We Trust–All Others Pay Cash”-type signs inside Amish businesses as well.  Amish have been burned too.

I also wonder, is a “tendency to trust” a strength or weakness?

Does an instinctive trust tend to set one up for better relationships and overall better results, or rather leave one exposed to being taken advantage of?

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    19 Comments

    1. OldKat

      In 1984 I bought a set of buggy harness form an Amish harness maker in Mercer County, PA. I think the community was near Fredonia, but I’ve slept since then so maybe not. I had priced a set at home at $800.0 for the harness and $125.0 for the collar at home. The Amish maker, a Mr. Byler, priced it to me at $400.0 for the harness, $70.0 for the collar. Then he added; “of course, I’ll have to make it to fit your horse and then ship it to you”. I was ready for that. I wasn’t ready for him to say that he didn’t need a down payment; he was going to ship it a thousand miles or so, to someone he had only met once and THEN bill me for it. That was so foreign to me that I insisted that he take 1/2 down and I’d pay the balance on receipt. He went along with that, but afterward I wondered if I hadn’t insulted him by insisting that he take some of the money up front.

      A couple of years ago an Amish guy in South Texas trained two work horses for me; same deal … he would train the horses for me and I would pay him when they were trained. Unheard of in that business. Everyone else would have asked for a monthly payment, in advance of the training even starting. He did ask for enough money up front to pay for their feed, but nothing else. Extremely trusting, and very good with my horses.

      Oh, by the way, the harness I bought in Mercer County was twice as heavy and a whole lot nicer that what I had seen locally. I still have it today.

    2. OldKat

      Make that “from” and not “form” an Amish harness maker.

      I think the tendenancy to trust is a strength. That is one reason I like to do business with them; I trust them, because they have trusted me. Also, I am certain they are going to be very honest and deliver whatever it is that I am buying as advertised.

      I do wonder however how many “English” people will take unfair advantage of the Amish that do business this way ?

    3. I am a very trusting person and I am sometimes disappointed but for the most part people are honest. What if I was always assuming people were not trustworthy, would I even notice the ones that were trustworthy or would I just see those that proved me right?

    4. We just visiting Lancaster County Pa, (second time) and had a very similar experience. $144 in goods and they didn’t accept credit cards. We had a cheque, but since we’re from Canada, the manager of the store said the bank fees would be very high. He suggested that we just do our shopping and mail him a money order when we got back home! Wow! So wonderful to see trust in a fellow man still out there! We didn’t feel right about it though, and so my husband took a quick trip to the nearest bank and withdrew the needed cash, while I continued shopping.

      One of the highlights of our mini vacation was that experience.
      Niki

    5. Oldkat, Niki, nice to see you’ve both had similar experiences.
      Niki that would leave an impression on me too. I imagine you were psychologically even “further away” in a sense, being from a different country.

      Oldkat sounds like you got a pretty nice deal too!

    6. Elin also a good question. Assuming people were not trustworthy would probably color the way you see people, true.

      And on balance it’s probably a more mentally positive way to operate. As long as you can handle the inevitable though hopefully occasional disappointments.

    7. I had a very similar experience when buying tack for one of our horses at a shop in Intercourse. This particular animal required the halter made up to her measurements, and the shop owner made the pieces and sent them to me, not wanting any payment until I was sure they fit properly. The quality was excellent, of course!

      Marta Perry

    8. I used to let people have yarn on their word – and got burned once – by members of my congregation! And once at a garage sale I let someone take about $80 in furniture, and she never paid. But I’m still as trusting. These people who didn’t pay may have forgotten, or something came up, and they didn’t have the money and were embarrassed to tell me. Who knows, I may have done the same thing by mistake myself at some time! When we trust in the Lord first, to provide for us, we can be more trusting towards others – and we ask Him to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive the debts of others!”

    9. Do Amish businesses ever get ripped off?

      And Oldkat your question is a good one, I did run into it a few times while doing interviews for the book, though it was usually much larger business transactions, meaning losses in the thousands of dollars, say with a furniture buyer forfeiting on payment. I think that if it were that frequent Amish would sensibly stop (and some who have gotten burned may have done so), though in the cases I encountered there was already an established business relationship there. So the Amish involved were surprised when it happened. Not a good feeling or good for the bottom line of course. Though that is a bit different dynamic than a smaller retail transaction.

    10. Angelle

      I think the impulse to trust is a strength. Years ago I was on a road trip and stopped at a restaurant only to discover their no credit policy at the end of my excellent breakfast. They trusted me to mail a check.

      Since then, I never go even vaguely in that direction without stopping for a meal. If it’s not time to eat, I buy a whole pie to go and bring it to my meeting. Always welcome.

      More than that, I agree with Magdelena and others that a trusting attitude rubs off on everyone you meet. I’ve been burned once or twice, but something positive came out of even those experiences.

    11. Heather H :) :) :)

      I look at trusting people as a strength, not a weakness. There’s nothing wrong with trusting somone. It’s the other person’s problem to deal with, if they misuse that trust.

      Your story was great. My father makes leather Bible covers…and there have been a few times where the people have ask if they could “mail you the money when you send back the Bible” My dad says yes. I don’ t know that I would have done the same…to be truthful..not him..because as he explains it, he’s not doing it for the money, but for God..and because he loves what he does 🙂 🙂 🙂

    12. Wonderful stories all. Thanks for sharing so many positive examples.

    13. Ann Whitaker

      Had a similiar experience in Indiana a few years back with the purchase of a quilt.:) Warms the heart to read so many “good” stories!
      Blessings to all!

    14. Allnewtoday

      I recently went to visit Amish in NY, I live in Rochester, and it was refreshing to know that a clock maker trusted me to send him a check for the balance, because I didn’t have enough money on me to buy what I wanted. I am very tempted to send him a letter, letting him know how he changed a bit of the “English” world with his Amish trust because I was humbled by that exp.

    15. I am really enjoying all these stories.

    16. Pingback: Richard Stevick on the Pinecraft Pauper, a Florida Amish newspaper « Pinecraft Sarasota
    17. Jerry A

      My wife and I went to Lancaster County last month (May). We statyed at a B&B. They had Amish friends and asked us if we wished to have dinner with an Amish family. I was very delighted to do so. They arranged a date and time for us. It was one of the most memorable days in our lives. Two of their grand-daughters sang for us in German and English. They had iutstanding voices. God bless them!

    18. Karen Scearce

      I purchased a tricycle for my grandson at Fisher’s Harness in Ronks, Pa (I think it is Ronks,or nearby) and about a week later I received $10 in the mail with a note apologizing for overcharging me-they were having a sale and the young man that helped us was normally not a salesperson but a harness maker. My grandson is much bigger now and ready for a scooter-guess where I will be this spring!

    19. Mike Reppucci

      Question

      Do you sell hard case bike saddle bags?