some enthusiasts on sportbike.net and several other forums have been going absolutely nuts about this for a while now.
my opinions-- worth what they cost you.
1. arai probably has a concern about liability in death/injuries where an 'expert' decides that a poorly fitted helmet could have saved Johnny Squidly (or prevented vegetative brain damage) when he was doing 80 in a 35 and broadsided a UPS truck. this could be viewed as a serious attempt to make sure that fitment is proper, in the court's eyes.
2. arai's comments about this not being about money are not telling the whole story. true, they make money at the distributor level. BUT it costs money to offer the helmets in the way they are asking it to be done. it certainly costs more to have stock on hand and a salesperson measure you and suggest whether your noggin is oval, round or in between. by eliminating internet / mail-order sales, they eliminate competitors that could avoid those costs. in short, they ENCOURAGE sales through the direct market by allowing the dealers to compete with prices that can cover their costs. you can't offer that kind of service and cover a reasonable inventory when helmetshop.com has the product for $10 over wholesale.
instead of doing what they are, they could just enforce a minimum MSRP as Simpson does. but that's not as effective at achieving goal #1, a proper fit for liability purposes. now I haven't queried Lexis/Nexus to see what sort of cases are out there, but I know that blood-sucking lawyers go after the money and Arai has more of it than most resellers or distributors.
So, are you saying that I will not be able to walk into a dealer and purchase whatever size helmet I want? If I can and then become a potato after slamming into a wall, I can turn around and file a lawsuit against the Dealer and Arai's lawyers will defend the dealer that sold the helmet. If everything is going to go fall back on the attorney's at Arai, you would think their lawyers are available for all issues the dealers have revolving problems with improper fit. Not to mention you'd expect some type of certification system for being able to recommend the proper size helmet for an individual as well as some type of waiver/checklist saying that a person was sold the proper size helmet or declined to be fitted by the staff at the dealership.
I believe that it actually puts more responsibilty on the dealers and less on Arai, as long as the helmet itself isn't defective in its construction.
On the other hand, it does protect local dealers from ultra-low pricing. Most shops don't have large warehouses to buy in enough bulk to keep prices down.
As a consumer, though, I will miss paying the online prices for their products. Whenever my signet GT needs replacement, I would like to get another one, but if the prices are as high as they are currently in the dealerships, then I will have to look at another brand.
For this to work for everyone (except online distributors) the distributors need to aggressively seek out local dealerships to increase the number shops that carry the product. Unfortunately, if Arai thinks that customers will be happy with with their current dealer base, they are sorely mistaken. Most dealers that I have visited limit their lines to HJC, Nolan, and Fulmer (i.e. the cheapest helmets that actually are safe). Only a few high end dealerships (with highend prices) within 300 miles of me carry Arai.
If enough dealerships carry Arai, then maybe the price will come down.
The big savings on internet purchases are helments on the high end or the more expensive helmets. I'm sure most new riders purchase their first helmets from a dealer. Arai needs the dealers to get folks started on their helments other wise they wouldn't be inclined to start. Dealers need to turn over their stock and if they can't compete with online orders on a specific model or helmet line why would they stock them.
I think they are hoping more dealers will carry Arai now they don't have to compete with online sales. They must be leave that most of those that already purchase their helmets won't switch brands. I'm price sensitive and Arai never was in my price budget anyways. I found other brands that fit me as good for less.
As a blood-sucking lawyer, I might be able to shed light on your comments. Yes, Arai could potentially be sued for someone wearing a helmet that doesn't fit. However, being sued and being sued an losing are different. In my humble (though legally trained) opinion, such a suit would most likely be unsuccessful if Arai fought it. Such suits against "deep pockets" are often nuiscance (I can't spell that damn word) suits that are only filed to get a quick and easy settlement. They can be fought, and should be in my opinion.
Ironically, Arai is perhaps risking a different kind of court case through it's current policy. There have been successful anti-trust lawsuits against manufacturers who try to limit the manner in which their goods are sold at the retail level. (See, for example, the 1911 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Dr. Miles Co. v. John D. Park & Sons Co. .) This is in fact why we have MSRP's. It stands for Manufacturer's (read: "Arai's") SUGGESTED Retail Price. In prior anti-trust lawsuits courts have held that manufacturers cannot set and legally enforce a retail price for their products; the retailers themselves must be allowed to set the final retail price to the customer. Thus the manufacturer's price is merely "suggested." Can manufacturers informally make it "uncomfortable" for retailers to sell below (or above) MSRP? Yes, and they most likely do. But by openly coming out and establishing a "no online sales" policy, Arai risks anti-trust trouble. The reason for this is simple, and has been discussed in this forum already. Consumers should have a choice of whatever they want: high-end service (good fittings at a full-service dealer) or cheapies at $10 over wholesale via the internet. I think this is a poor (and possibly illegal) policy on the part of Arai. If you're stupid enough not to get a helmet that fits well and meets specs and are injured beause of it, it's your fault.
P.S. It says I'm anon. squid, but really I'm KYPD.
Arai helmets sold online are generally very much cheaper than the ones in the shops (frequently approaching $200 for the more expensive ones) Arai wants their helmets to remain a premium item with a percieved value so that the profit margin for the dealers remains high. They do this as dealers only generally stock one or at most two premium helmet lines and they want their brand to be one the dealers want.
If I had to guess the real reason why they are doing this, I guess it was pressure from the distributiion channel. They simply don't want to compete with the HelmentShops and HelmetHarbors of the world, and they've pressured Arai into cutting them off.
As to the liability aspect, in my (yes, legal) opinion they are voluntarily assuming a higher duty by assuring consumers that they will be fitted by an expert. As a result, Arai will now have the responsibility to assure that every helmet-selling employee at each of its retailers are properly trained in helmet-fitting.
[You want to know who pays the big $ in med-mal cases? It's not the incompetent doctor, it's the pile-of-money, high limit hospital that should have known better before hiring or granting privileges to the quack. The quack's lower malpractice limit usually just stokes the war chest.]
Before this move, Arai customers pretty well assumed their own risk of choosing their own helmet. After this change, consumers can now rely on the expert salesperson to get them an optimal fit, and Arai and the retailer will be responsible for any negligence therein.
Personally, I live in a good-sized town (Phoenix, population 3.25 million) and I know of 2 CycleGear stores that have a decent helmet inventory, that will likely have an XXL Quantum to fit my oversized noggin. Not in the color I want, mind you, but at least in the size. The 15 or so motorcycle shops that stock a few lids? No way they're going to have my size and shape, nor will they get it just so I can try one on.
One way Arai could make this right is to require all of these expertly trained retailers to stock every size in every shape, and have an example of every color in stock, and then be able to ship any combination to the dealer, or directly to the customer's home or office, within a few days. And then, really do train the guys behind the counter.
Oh yeah, and make the shields easier to put back in.
Where are these super-knowledgeable helmet fitters that will assist a guy buying a helmet and measure his head to ensure it fits as Arai intended? I've bought Arai helmets in Japan and the US and I've never encountered a helmet guru, just a board chick at a cash register to take my money after I try on a few and I pick what I like. How is that safer than buying on-line?
Dealers don't want to inventory 500 dollar helmets on the sales floor, and have to compete against a warehouse selling products online for a lower margin. I'm sure the dealers complained to Arai. What they ought to do instead is just stop selling the Arai product line. Simple mathmatics, if the product line is not profitable, don't sell it. If folks would rather not pay to have the product on the shelf in front of them, then DON'T have the product on the shelves.
Likewise. Here is a copy of a letter I sent to Arai regarding this glaring oversite in their new policy:
Dear Mr. Weston,
I read with interest your account of fitting several passersby at a motorcycle show. I am certain that you and Arai are correct in your belief that expert fitting by a professional will result in people getting a better fitting helmet. Making such fitting services available might even justify the 25% to 40% higher prices dealers typically have charged for your products over what has been available through online distributors.
However, experience leads me to believe there is a problem with this approach: the stock and expert fitting services you describe that would be needed to achieve your stated goals of giving every customer the best available helmet simply do not exist in the real world.
The last time I looked for a helmet (about two years ago) I visited several dealers in the Chicago area, including two BMW dealers, two large multi-brand dealers and two specialty speed shops. Of these six dealers, all of whom nominally carried Arai products, not one had a full-face Arai helmet in stock in my size and head shape. (The only XL helmet I could find in dealer stock was a Quantum, and it definitely did not fit my apparently long-oval head. I don't think the intermediate shape was available then.)
As for expert fitting services, the responses I got from sales persons at these shops ran along the lines of "I don't know much about helmets, just try some on until you find one that fits" and "We don't carry many helmets, what we have are over there" and "There's really not much difference between the brands. Get the cheapest one that fits." Needless to say, this kind of advice was less than helpful.
I found I had to resort to an Internet seller to even find an Arai helmet that might fit. I ended up buying an XL Signet GT over the Internet and replacing the stock cheek pads with the thinnest available. The helmet fits snuggly with no play around the top of my head and is very comfortable for long trips, though even with the thinner cheek pads it is still a little tight around my jaws.
I bought over the Internet not because it was my preference but because it was my only alternative. If you persist in selling only through retailers, I believe it is in the interests of both Arai and your customers to ensure that:
1. You expand your dealer network so that your products are universally accessible.
2, You require dealers to maintain a stock adequate to fit every style of helmet you offer.
3. You provide training so that salespersons can provide the kind of service you describe, and oversight to ensure they continue to do so.
4. You maintain a list of where these expert helmet shops can be found on your Web site.
If you fail to do this you will have succeeded not in improving access to your company's excellent products, but in eliminating it altogether for many of your customers -- even, apparently, for many who live in large metropolitan areas. Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.
I personally would like to meet you or some other expert fitter the next time I shop for a helmet. Perhaps you can tell me where I can find such a person in the Chicago area or let me know when you yourself will be in the area. Will you be at the bike show in Rosemont in February? Let me know.
I had always been a Shoei helmet user until I encountered an Arai helmet rep at the Dealers show in Indy. He told me about their two different helmet "fits" and proceeded to remove the entire cheek pieces to fit the crown of my head first. The Quantum F fit much better than the Signet series. With the standard size cheek pieces installed, I couldnt even fit the proper sized helmet on my head. Once I installed a smaller gauge cheek piece, Voila!!! The new Arai fit better than any helmet I had worn. My old Shoei Wayne Rainey Replica is now in my new Arai box.
Now that I had been converted, I believed that I could repeat that process in the dealership where I had the position of GSM. After conversing with the dealer, we decided to place an order with 12 Arai helmets including a few K.R.jr. Replicas (we were a Suzuki dealership). Even with the approved Arai sales pitch and custom fitting, most of our customers bought HJCs and Shoeis between $150.00 - $300.00. The Shoei RF series was then and continues to be the best seller.
So in retrospect, its hard to convert someone to the quality and superiority of the Arai product even with a great presentation. I think it might be impossible to do it without one. My feeling is I only have one head, and I enjoy it the way it is (in one piece). If spending a little bit more money could prevent greater trauma in an accident, Im going to be the guy with the best helmet money can buy. It used to be that if you bought a "cheap" helmet, you got a plastic lid that weighed 12 pounds and would bounce your head around like a bowling ball (and probably break your neck). To the credit of HJC and KBC, they both have helmets at about $150.00 that are light and made from acceptable materials.
Whats the point you ask? I believe Arai helmet customers are motorcyclists who have been through a few bikes and helmets. They are people who have money set aside for the enjoyment of riding. They want the best quality bikes and accessories to further enhance the total experience of motorcycling. If Arai is going to grow their market share, they have to have qualified sales reps at dealerships to educate the buyers. Even then its a difficult task, as many potential buyers just want a lid. The other side of the coin is of course that once a motorcyclist is converted to the Arai product, he/she just wants to pick up the phone or access a website and get the chosen product coming.
So what is the solution? Hell I dont know. It seems like a classic Catch 22. Ill be ready for a new lid in 2004 and will want another Arai, but would much prefer getting it directly from a discounter. By the way, have you tried the Vanson Leather Jacket, available only through select dealerships? Yah, they are expensive, but I wont ever ride again without one of my Vansons on.
I love parts411. I got my tyres there for SOOOO much cheaper than the local stealership sells them for. I buy all my stuff online now. I hate getting raped by a dealership. If it's my money I'm spending, you can be damn sure I'm going to get the most for my buck, and I'll NEVER get that at a local dealership, and I almost always get it at parts411.com
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