Gregg Alan

Gregg AlanOccupation:
Used motorcycle car dealer
Time in Japan:
10 years

Motorbikes have been in my family for as long as I can remember, so I think of my job as a hobby first and a means of making money second. I love what I do, that is the most important thing as far as I am concerned. I would much rather be poor and enjoying myself than rich and unhappy.

When I first came to Tokyo, I got a job working in the biggest motorbike company in the area. I stayed there for five years-- five years without a vacation. I eventually decided it was time to get out and live a little, so I embarked on a three-month holiday right here in Tokyo. At that time, I honestly didn' know what I was going to do for money, but after a friend gave me a scooter which I repaired and re-sold for Y20,000, I realized that it was possible for me to do something that I enjoyed and make a bit of cash, too. I knew there was a demand for cheap bikes in Tokyo, so I started going around collecting discarded scooters from bike dealers that I knew and repairing them in front of my house. Things snowballed from there, really. I had no intention of starting a business, it just happened. Still, a couple of visits from a police force curious as to why the neighborhood was suddenly littered with motorbikes, convinced me that I had better get legitimate real quick.

When I first started out, 99% of my customers were foreigners, but now they only account for two to three percent of my business. This is partly due to the sluggish economy-- Japanese people are now looking around for better deals on things like cars and bikes-- and partly to the decrease in the number of foreigners living here. Also, now that I run a "proper business", everything has to be done by the book and I have to think about my overhead. I can no longer have the favors-for-friends attitude and I guess that has put a few people off.

A typical day starts at around 7:30am and I am usually at the shop by 11:00am. I often work until very late, but I don't really think of it as working. Over the years I have built up some very good relationships with my customers, and a large part of my day is spent talking with them and generally taking it easy. I go to bike auctions twice a week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and car auctions every Friday. I don't keep any stock in my shop, so if a customer wants me to get them a car or motorcycle, I take them along to an auction and they can pick out one that they like. Doing things this way means that I can offer a highly personalized service at a reasonable price.

I always try to make my customers as happy as possible. If someone comes into the shop and says, "I want such-and-such a bike," I will talk to them and try to find out if that is what they really need. If it isn't, I will advise them against the purchase and offer a more practical alternative. I would never sell anything that I wouldn't buy myself, and I always treat people with the respect they deserve. These days, most of my business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, so I guess I must be doing something right.

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