Monday, July 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Tire Purchases

It's been a while since I've written anything here and for good reason. I've been busy. But, I've had a couple of experiences with tire purchases within the last couple of weeks that I thought might be educational. Everyone who drives a car needs tires eventually. So, one would think that there would be some healthy competition for those tire buying dollars. Allow me to share a couple of data points for your consideration.

First up, my experience with and my local Walmart Tire & Lube Center. My wife drives a 2007 Lincoln Navigator (we bought it used for a price substantially lower than they go for, don't get any ideas about our wealth or lack thereof) that sports 20" rims. Stupid me didn't price tires for 20" rims before buying the vehicle and had the equivalent of a minor heart attack and stroke when I set about pricing replacements for the skins that were already about half gone before we put 40,000 miles on them. had a decent price for a set of four Kumho Ecsta's in the right size that was about $4.00 to $10.00 per tire cheaper than any other store. I placed my order for shipping to the nearest store which happens to be in a decent sized suburb of a suburb of Dallas. What follows is my email to the store manager (suitably redacted to protect the guilty from alleging that I libeled or slandered them):

Dear Mr. Store Manager,

Please accept this in follow up to our telephone conversation a moment ago. I am writing to you to express my dissatisfaction with the service I received at your store yesterday. 

On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, I purchased four tires for my vehicle through the Walmart website. I received an email from yesterday at 12:54 PM confirming that the tires had arrived at the [Suburb of a Dallas Suburb] store and providing instructions for pickup. So far, so good. At approximately 3:00 PM, I called the auto service center at the [Suburb of a Dallas Suburb] store to confirm their hours of operation as I know they do not stay open all day as the store does. I spoke with a gentlemen whose name I did not get and explained that I received the above mentioned email and that I needed to come have the tires installed. I was informed that the auto service center was open until 7:00 PM, and I was not informed of any limitations upon when I should arrive in order to have the tires that I ordered installed. 

I arrived at your store at 6:00 PM which was the earliest I could arrive due to traffic and went to the auto service counter as instructed by the email received from I presented the email to the woman working behind the counter and explained that I needed to have the tires installed and get an oil change for my vehicle. The woman, whose name I did not get, informed me that I needed to the site to store area of the store to pick up the tires. This is in direct contradiction to the instructions on the email received from (see below), but not a huge concern. I again asked if there would be any problem getting the oil change and tire installation completed, and I was assured it would not be a problem and told to "...just talk to the guys."

This is where the service provided by your employees began to go off the rails. The site to store area of the store promptly located and brought my tires out from the back of the store. However, the tires were brought out to me on a flat bed cart with a "here you go" and not some much as a thank you or an offer to assist me further. I asked if I needed to take them to the service department or if they needed to do that, and I was told to take them myself. I'm not opposed to pushing a cart of tires; however, I am opposed to it being assumed by a customer service employee that I am okay with that or that my business with that employee is concluded. 

Upon returning to the auto service department, the same lady who had helped me earlier advised me to leave the tires at the counter and bring the vehicle up to see the service writer outside. I pulled my vehicle up to one of the two lube bays and waited. There was an employee working on another vehicle (later identified as [J]) who barely looked in my direction. Another employee (later identified as [L]) walked up staring at me like I was an alien and greeted me with "It's 100 degrees. Whatchu want?" 

Let me tell you, if the service was heading off the rails earlier, that greeting sent them hurtling off the cliff. 

When I explained my needs to [L], he responded that it was after 6:00 and they closed at 7:00. I explained that I was assured that the work could be completed by the staff inside. [L] proceeded to call [J] over at which point they engaged in a conversation in front of me complaining about the situation. I interrupted them and explained that I was the customer and that they needed to sort this out with the staff inside. 

[J] eventually instructed [L] to write up my service requests at which time we embarked on a 30 minute adventure in cluelessness. At first, [L] could not pull up the tires I had ordered on the hand held service writing tool. He asked me what size and brand they were which I told him. He showed me the hand held and said "Do you see any Kumho tires on here?" I pointed to the tires in the bay that had just been brought out from the service counter and told him those were the tires. After being repeatedly asked the tire size and reiterating that the tires were right there in the service bay [L] finally succeeded in getting the order written up with assistance from [C]. This, however, was not before I was briefly told that they could not install the tires which I had ordered because they were 20 inch tires. 

At 6:45, my vehicle was finally brought into the service bay for work after [L] made what appeared to be a last chance effort to discourage me from having the work done last night by saying that it would take a couple of hours to complete. I assured him that I was there until it was done at which point it appears that [L], [C] and [J] as well as an assistant manager whose name I never saw broke a world speed record for an oil change and installing four tires completing both tasks in just under an hour. 

One last thing, I was not offered the road hazard warranty which I would gladly have paid for in light of an upcoming road trip. I would still very much like to purchase that coverage if it is not still too late and you can tell me how to accomplish that without a repeat of yesterday's poor customer service. 

Finally, at no time was there an apology or a thank you for your business or a have a nice day. To be fair, I was no longer a pleasant person to deal with by this point, and I just wanted to leave. However, I challenge you to remain calm and polite after the preceding experience. 

In closing, I would strongly urge you to address the customer service provided by your employees. I know my business means exactly nothing to Walmart as a corporation; however, I would hope it means something to a store manager who has goals and objectives to meet.
I will sum up this sad tale by relating that an assistant manager with the store did get back with me and arranged to meet me at the store to take care of the road hazard warranty purchase. That was another exercise in frustration for both me and the assistant manager lasting about an hour. In the interest of full disclosure, the assistant manager paid for the cost of the warranty ($40) and charged it back to the store as a good will gesture despite my protests that I wanted to pay for the warranty myself and only wanted the poor service addressed so that others would not have the same experience. I acquiesced in the end and accepted the peace offering in the spirit in which it was intended.

Now, moving forward to today's experience. A few weeks ago, I had noticed a wobble developing in the front end of my aging Nissan Maxima. It's a 2000 year model with over 335,000 miles on it (I like to get my money's worth...what can I say). The original struts were still on this thing and had long since ceased being useful for much of anything; and, so, I inquired of my cousin the mechanic as to the possible source. He suggested tie rods or ball joints as the possible culprit. We had been planning on him coming by to address the front struts already. So, I just treated the car gingerly and waited for the parts to arrive so we can delve into the subject a little deeper. Yesterday, everything was in place and cousin B came by to do the work.

Lo and behold upon removing the front tires, we discovered this:

That wasn't there in April when I did the brake job.

So, I jumped on the iPad and began the search for a set of new shoes for the Maxima. Within about 10 minutes, I had located a set of Yokohama YK580s on the Discount Tire website for a reasonable price. The website indicated that my local store had 8 tires in stock, ready to go. I was able to select the tires and schedule an appointment for this morning at 8:15 AM in short order, and I went back to kibitzing with the cousin while he wrenched on the front struts.

When I arrived at the store this morning at a little after 8:00 AM this morning, the three counter guys were helping other customers. I only had to wait a few minutes until one freed up. He immediately addressed me by name before I had even approached the counter or as much as said "hello" (there is something to be said for 1) being expected, and 2) a customer service rep being observant). He had my car pulled into the service bay in less than five minutes, and I was told that it would be ready in about 15 minutes. It would have been done in that time too but for the fact that the passenger rear tire had a frozen wheel stud that refused to let go (and I had already broken off one of the studs in April). They can't let it go with only three studs and don't have the parts to fix it on the spot (both understandable points on their part).

So, I have a little work to do this evening, and I will get the last tire installed tomorrow. Even with that, I was out the door and on my way to work by 8:30 AM. Everyone at the Discount Tire store was courteous and professional. They knew what they were doing, and they did it efficiently without fuss. I was so impressed after my dismal experience at Walmart that I sent a customer feedback email from the Discount Tire website praising them.

So, in closing, Discount Tire is covered in awesome sauce. Walmart is not so much. Your mileage may vary.


  1. I used Walmart one time for tires, never again. The moron working there put 50 lbs or air in 35 lb tires, BFG All Terrains. You are correct, Discount Tire is awesome, My 08 F-250 had Continential Contra-Trac tires that were recalled for seperating, which I actually had one starting. Discount tire too care of me, I had to do no paperwork and was on my way with 5 BFG All-Terrains with lifetime rotation and balancing, road hazard for only $135, Contential payed the rest. I will leave with a famous quote from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. Walmart has never been the same since he passed.

    "There is only one boss, the customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else"

    1. Senior, I'm glad I'm not the only one. Too bad Sam is no longer around to kick some butt.

  2. Anyone that lives near a Discount Tire Co, and doesn't buy from them, just isn't bright.

    I love DTC. Super service - they've always cheerfully assisted me, even when I have a blown horse trailer tire (loaded with two horses in the blazing summer heat).


    1. Jennifer, I guess I'm not a bright man then. Hopefully, I will remember this lesson.

  3. {Blundering from blog to blog on a rainy morning, I encountered this old posting, but better late than never}

    My wife-to-be introduced me to Discount Tire some years ago. (They're big where she came from and where we live now, but only a minor player where I had previously been.) I'd done business with some other tire franchises and big-box stores over the years with decidedly mixed results in both customer experience and competence.

    Since then I've probably gone to Discount or taken a family member there for about a dozen sets of tires. They've been uniformly courteous and competent, and when service was required, acted as though they'd rather have my future business and recommendation than skin me out of a nickel on whatever thing is on the table at the moment. My business is theirs to lose.

    None of these things are exactly secrets of the universe, but some businesses get it, whereas at others, "stuff" rolls downhill and the only thing lower than a customer contact employee is a customer. It's well worth a few extra dollars to reward the former with my repeat business and good word when I'm lucky enough to find them.

    1. Ad Absurdum, too many people put dollars ahead of service. I absolutely agree that it should be the other way around.


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