There are times when the claim “investigative reporting” is an oxymoron. One of those times was March 14, 2011, when KDKA, a CBS television affiliate out of Pittsburgh, Pa., aired an educational news story titled, “5 Ways to Save Money on Tires.”
It might have been educational, if any of the people involved in putting the piece together had done any investigating.
Any so-called reporter that plays up warehouse clubs as the go-to places for tires hasn’t done his or her homework. When shopping for tires, “those warehouse club memberships can pay off on more than peanut butter,” said the article.
On the surface, that statement is at least partially correct. A four-pound jar of peanut butter at Costco Wholesale is pretty economical. (My wife and I have two jars of peanut butter in the pantry, totaling not quite three pounds. We bought them at the grocery store. If we were club members, we could have saved a bundle.)
But the reason KDKA preferred the clubs was that the local Costco knocked $70 off the price of a set of Bridgestone tires, and Sam’s Club did the same thing to a set of Michelin tires.
I guess companies that sell major brand tires don’t offer special promotions to independent tire dealers, do they?
The report even admitted that the selection was limited! And the deals did not apply to all makes and models. But tires from the clubs were still deemed the better buy.
Ron Brutt could not let the report go. As president of the Tire Dealers Association of Western Pennsylvania, he shot off a letter to the general manager.
“The way the piece was presented was a direct slap in the face to the many hard-working independent tire dealers who overwhelmingly make up the vast distribution network of retail tires,” he wrote.
“Not once did your piece mention the superior service and professional knowledge that our members can offer in the complex decision-making process of what tire is best to buy.
“You simply treated the purchase of a tire as if it was a commodity item, rather than the very important part it plays in the overall safety and performance of the vehicle.”
One month later, Brutt still hadn’t heard from anyone at KDKA.
“No, not a word,” he told me. “I’m not surprised, to be honest with you, that I haven’t. Those people just write what they want, and that’s the way it is.”
Still, he couldn’t let that go without at least trying to make a point for association members and his own business, Brutt Tire & Auto Center Inc. in McKees Rocks, Pa.
“When you start saying big box places are the place to go without doing any research, that isn’t right.”
At the very least, his fellow dealers were thrilled with his response.
“We’ve heard a lot from our members about taking a stand with it. They were happy to hear the association was on top of it.”
Why is it that tire dealers seem to get little, if any, respect from local and national media outlets? They are experts in their field, just like news organizations are supposed to be, and should be treated as such.
Does CBS News like it when viewers learn about the day’s events from bloggers, or shows that lampoon the news like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report”? I think not.
The other four ways the article said consumers could save money on tires were based somewhat on common sense.
The piece suggested pricing them online, buying used tires, keeping them properly inflated and buying low-rolling resistance tires. Not one tire dealer was quoted in the article, although the Tire Rack was listed as an online shopping option.
“There are many online sites doing just what they do,” wrote Brutt. “Many independent tire dealers have online sites, also.”
The event that spurred the story was Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s second price increase of the year. The increase was treated as an isolated event — one more example of poor research on the part of the television station.
There were three comments to the story, which is posted on the TV station’s Web site.
“Nathan” didn’t see anything “ground breaking” in the article. “In fact, I feel dumber for having read it,” he wrote. I like Nathan.
“Richard” said the Cooper brand is the only tire manufactured in the United States! That is about as accurate, and educational, as the story.