Cheap department store bicycles have been a thorn in the side of bike shop owners and mechanics for decades. First the shops lose out on sales, and potential customers don't understand why their bikes are "so expensive" when Wal-Mart has bikes that cost a third as much. When the cheap bikes inevitably break, the purchasers get mad at bike shop mechanics who can't fix them (of course, department stores don't do any repairs).
Unfortunately, many buyers of cheap bikes like those sold at Wal-Mart just get frustrated and stop riding altogether. And although I have no statistics to prove it, I would guess that a good number of cyclists are injured when their cheap bikes choose to break at the most inopportune moments.
Mike McGettigan, owner of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia, calls Wal-Mart bikes "bike-shaped objects." He explains, "One of the biggest threats I see in everyday biking is BSOs... They're not fun to ride, and they break a lot. They turn any bicyclist into an unskilled bicyclist."
McGettigan hosted one of thousands of nationwide screenings of Robert Greenwald's new film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price earlier this month (which I reviewed here). Though the film doesn't mention bicycles or even say much about product quality in general, it does provide plenty of other reasons not to shop at Wal-Mart. Indeed, it was the way the company treats its employees that led McGettigan to host a screening.