LOUISVILLE, Colo. (BRAIN) — Because it deals exclusively with pre-owned bikes, e-commerce seller The Pro's Closet remains up to date on the latest bike theft trends. But even it was taken aback by the uncovering of a Mexican Facebook Marketplace seller's stolen bike enterprise.
"It's a gut punch, a slap in the face," said TPC Chief Revenue Officer Travis Erwin. "This is truly happening and people are building a business on theft in our industry. It's always discouraging when you hear about this. We want to ensure we are doing everything in our power to put these thieves behind bars."
TPC is a client of Bike Index, the registration and recovery group that did the deep dive into the Mexican stolen bike market in December. TPC and Bike Index are aligned in promoting an industry-wide effort to fight bike theft.
"Not only with Bike Index, but local and national authorities, and the manufacturers at large to make sure we can have a collective effort," Erwin said. "It can't be just one entity trying to take down these sophisticated rings."
The Pro's Closet was founded on a mission of building a trustworthy and safe marketplace for resale. It was a natural fit to use Bike Index to register inventory and use its stolen bike database. It also uses the national database LeadsOnline and submits seller information and serial numbers through both before making an offer and registering with Bike Index.
"If anything comes across from Bike Index or LeadsOnline, we obviously relay that information to the local authorities," Erwin said. "We turn at that point to let them track down any sort of issue."
Sometimes, even the database checks aren't enough. He said TPC has an algorithm that looks at anybody regularly submitting bikes, the types of bikes, and the rate.
"Are they a 6-foot tall male on their driver's license? Do they have an extra-small Bianchi?" Erwin said. "These are the types of things we might not have the rock hard data that it's stolen because it's not located on LeadsOnline or hasn't been registered at Bike Index. Then we have to use a bit of profiling and reach out to these customers to create some friction before there's any sort of purchase. That's the due diligence we're doing on our end."
Erwin, like Bike Index co-founder Bryan Hance and Executive Director Craig Dalton, urges manufacturers to become involved in the registration process. "If we could have the support from the manufacturers and push more people to register bikes — and what Bike Index is doing in getting dealers to register their bikes — all of the forces would be going in the right direction," Erwin said.
He favors a government mandated VIN-like code for bikes. "It's in many ways the fingerprint of the bike. If we can have a standard here, and have all the manufactures come together, then it's a lot easier than managing it through each IBD and how Bike Index has been doing it."