In a recent editorial I wrote about how the public doesn't give tires the respect they deserve. I believe a lot of that is tied to the fact that most of the time when the public has to buy a tire, the purchase is made out of necessity.
And when this happens, expertise and customer service go a long way into how the customer perceives the tire industry in general, and the place of purchase in particular. I recently got an up-close view of how such perceptions are made when my son-in-law, Jon, had to buy four new tires for his Ford Focus.
Jon was dropping off our two grandsons at our house to spend the night. He had a flat tire and was putting on the mini-spare that came with his Focus. The tire had a cut in the sidewall, but it was clear from the treadwear that a new set of tires was needed.
His budget for this unexpected expense was limited, so he was a “price point” customer. He made an appointment with a national chain to buy a set of its cheapest tires for his fitment—a low-cost import with a spotty safety record.
I was on vacation that week and offered to make some calls for him the next morning. I found what seemed like a good deal on a tire maker's associate brand with a better track record. It was roughly $50 more for the set, but from a national muffler chain that also pushes tire sales.
Jon decided the added investment was worth it, and I had no idea anything had gone wrong until my phone rang at 6:45 a.m. the following morning. He had just gotten onto the expressway—his new tires were shaking, and one had lost pressure.
He put the spare back on, and I met him at the muffler shop. What I found out was quite disturbing. The manager said the technician the night before—not his normal “tire guy”—hadn't been able to properly seat the bead on three of the tires, and told my son-in-law that once the car was lowered to the ground, its weight would take care of the problem.
With that, they sent him on his way. The shop is lucky that nothing worse happened, and I am horrified to think of what could have happened had my grandsons been in the car.
After more than three hours that next morning, the shop's “tire guy” got the problem resolved, and the tires have performed well since.
But the damage to the business' reputation was done. While the manager did his best to make amends—offering in writing roughly $120 off future service work—Jon posted on social media about his experience. A number of his friends already said they'll never go there. I know I'll never patronize this business or steer anyone there again.
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.