There are more than 29,000 independent tire dealerships in the U.S., and I like to think they all care about satisfying the customer. But every once in a while I hear about a store manager taking advantage of a customer.

That makes me mad. Think about how hard you work to make your customers feel welcome and comfortable in your store. Just because buying tires is more often than not a necessary purchase doesn't mean it has to be a bad experience.

Tell that to my friend, who recently asked me to recommend tires for his wife's car. I've had this happen many times over the years, and I always start by saying there are a lot of reliable tire brands out there.

Then I ask questions that tell me what he or she is looking for. In this case, my friend told me his wife was scared about driving in the snow on her worn tires, especially with another nor'easter coming their way. I suggested winter tires and explained how they work in cold temperatures.

They did not want to spend the money on two sets of tires, however (sound familiar?), so I suggested all-season or all-weather tires. Off the top of my head, I thought of two new lines that emphasize a little more of the winter season/weather part of the equation, the Toyo Celsius and the Goodyear WeatherReady.

His wife went to a local independent tire dealership (I suggested that, too), which didn't have the Celsius in stock. "They told her the WeatherReady was a cheap Walmart tire, which was odd because they had a WeatherReady display in their showroom," my friend told me. "They then said it had production problems and wasn't available."

Instead the salesman -- my friend said his wife described him as having a "used car salesman" manner about him -- steered her toward an all-season line exclusive to the dealership, "a better value," he said.

Was it a better value? Maybe. It was to the salesman. It did have a 75,000-mile limited tread wear warranty versus a 60,000 for the WeatherReady for $150 a tire. But its winter capabilities were not as good. It simply wasn't what she wanted, and she left the store unhappy.

"Did we get played?" asked my friend, who was upset. I told him the tire was a good tire, and although not as good in the snow as the WeatherReady was supposed to be, was better than her current tires. In addition, what she may have given up in winter traction was somewhat balanced by the greater tread wear warranty, which, given they only wanted to buy one set of tires, was at least some compensation.

But they weren't what she wanted. She left the store disgruntled. You would have to ask her why she bought the tires anyway.

I also told my friend he should check to see if there was any sort of 30-day purchase guarantee on the tires. He decided not to make any changes.

As our conversation was ending, he told me his father needed new tires for his car. "I'm not going to take his car to the same dealer," he said.

That spoke volumes about the dealer's performance. The dealership may have made the sale, but will lose out in the long run.

Author

Bob Ulrich
Bob Ulrich

Editor, Retired

Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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