10 Country: Dave -- Deputy Elf - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Dave -- Deputy Elf

December 9, 2008

Tifton - Bicycles make-up as much of Christmas as colorful, lighted trees. But, sometimes Santa Claus needs help making sure all the good boys and girls get the toys they want.

"Santa Claus was in here the other day and gave me a list of the boys and the girls that wanted bicycles. So, I know how many I have to put together before Christmas," says Dave Crossett who assemblies them at Walmart in Tifton.

However, we've thought for ages that Santa and the Elves make all the toys at the North Pole. So, why does the jolly gift-giver need Dave's help?

"Some of the bikes are bigger than the elves and it's hard to put together when you're working on something bigger than you," says Dave.

In essence, Santa made Dave a Deputy Elf, and he's been working day and night to fill Santa's Christmas bicycle list.

"I've put together somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 in the past five weeks," says Dave.

Dave assembled as many as 58 in a day, but more like between 24 and 36 on average.  The smaller ones take more time to put together because of training wheels.

Each bicycle comes in its own cardboard box. When Dave pulls out the pieces, the bike looks dead, but give him literally a few minutes and the bike quickly comes to life.

"I put the front tire on, the pedals, handlebar, seat, and training wheels, if needed. I make sure the tires are pumped up, everything is adjusted and the brakes work good," says Dave.

He never looks at the instructions, going about assembling the bicycle as if on auto-pilot, the wrenches always turning.  The lays down one, and immediately picks ups another, all perfectly timed, like dancers in the Nut Cracker ballet.

"I haven't looked at instructions since about 1989 or '90," says Dave. "I've done bicycles for 20 years."

Robby Davis tried his hand assembling bikes on Christmas Eve to help Santa out of a jam, but no more.

"Aggravation and throwing wrenches" happened too many times for Robby.

"He's (Dave) the man with all the tools to do it with, knows how to do it. It would take me twice as much time as it did him. So, I shopped while he put it together," says Robby. "When it comes to free assembly, I take the easy way out."

Robby didn't shop long. Dave put the bicycle together in about four minutes, from the time he pulled it from the box to the time he rolled it to Robby.

Customers appreciate Dave's extra-ordinary service. Dave tells them to bring it back if they have the slightest problem.  He told one buyer to come back for adjustment because the cables would naturally stretch, and he'd re-tighten them at no additional charge. No many places offer such excellent customer service.

"I get a lot of satisfaction helping people," says Dave who often goes into the Wal Mart store to see what's selling, and helps customers decide which one best fits their needs.

Seven year-old Cory Frazier, with his mom, Holly, in tow, walked past dozens of bicycles to one in particular and he climbed on it.

"It's awesome because of the colors," says Cory with his feet on the pedals and hands on the grips as Dave steadies it so he could get the real feel of it. Dave gently points out the breaking system and safety features of the blue and yellow bicycle to Cory's mom.

"We'll have to tell Santa," says Holly. "You've been good, so far."

 Customers appreciate Dave's deep knowledge. Plus, he makes sure to keep every model in stock, adjusting what he assemblies by what sells. He visits the bicycle section several times a day and notes what model needs more inventory.

Have bicycles changed appreciably over the past few decades?

"Materials used in bikes are a lot better than they were before. Brakes are better, peddles are better. There's been a real enhancement in bicycles," says Dave.

Long ago, all of them were made from steel. Now, a customer can choose from all- aluminum construction or titanium or carbon fiber.

While most people would see hundreds of bikes lined up in the garden section of the Tifton Walmart store, Dave sees something else.

"It's art," says Dave and he makes a good point when he explains it.

"Look at all the colors," says Dave.

Vivid blues and reds and golds. One color doesn't appeal to all riders, but all bicycles appeal to Dave.

"I couldn't have a better job. I love it. I'm like a kid who loves Christmas. I just a bicycle-crazy fool," says Dave.

Santa and hundreds of parents appreciate Dave's positive, enthusiastic attitude and talents, finding just the right person who does more than tighten bolts.