Treading Lightly…No Such Thing

3 October 2014

Ah, the tricks of the trade, or loosely translated…how can we shave time off what we do or how can we add questionable services to build the bill. It is the latter to look out for, on a trip to the car tire emporium, where the employees take on the mien of surgeons, breaking bad news about the dire status of the patient and recounting how much work is required to return your ‘baby’ to deep-treaded health.

Well Mr. Scher, (I’ve been there before, so my phone number brings up my name and tire history on their computer), how can we help you today? I need a couple of front tires. Ok, let me verify the size (which is on-screen) but…wanting to make a show of his professionalism…he went out to verify. Ok, then, for that size, we’ve got a 70,000-mile tire for just $99 each. I, too, have been through this drill, and letting a cloud of agony crease my face, I told him I was hoping for a good price on their best 30,000-mile tire. He tittered discreetly and, retreating slightly said, we have a 60,000-mile tire in your size for $89 each. I was grimacing still, like there was a nearby open sewer, so he did reveal that they had a 50,000-mile model at $79 each…the bottom of the line. Wow, he seemed to imply, how could you do that to your ‘baby’.

So, I asked, how much two of the 50,000-mile beauties would be with all of the fees, taxes, etc. The computer coughed up a scant $211.00. And we’ll still do an alignment check…free. With a nagging sense that there was a 30,000-mile tire he wasn’t telling me about, I agreed. I wasn’t going to dicker like he was a rug merchant in a bazaar halfway across the world. The car was finally pulled into the cavernous Great Hall where the tire changing occurs…cars in various stages of organ replacement, wheels off, brakes exposed, some airborne on lifts, others hooked up to computer screens, blinking vital signs.

Now, minutes into the process, having taken the tires off, is usually the time, when the tire man tells me that the tie rods are worn, the struts are iffy, the sway bars, the brakes…well, why should I depress you more?. (We just happened to be in the neighborhood, he’d explain, so that’s why we looked in on all the other stuff down there.) But he knew I wouldn’t be pleased by the recitation, so he kept quiet. There was one penultimate promotional gasp…the alignment test, a computer printout, showing how the front tires were pulling to the left and the rear tires to the right and tire wear-out would speed up. Let me understand, I said, you’re putting 50,000-mile tires on…more than 16 trips across the country. And you’re telling me I might only get 14 trips. Well I’ll just have to live with that.

Their last try at a brass ring was tire insurance at $8 a tire for road hazard damage. I was getting well-practiced at saying ‘no’. When the car was finished, I expected to hear strains of Verdi’s Requiem, as they slow-walked me to the car, serious as undertakers, telling me so much had yet to be done…try to stay safe, sir. They couldn’t believe I let common sense slip through my hands. Meanwhile on the way back home, I ran my own alignment test…hands off the wheel. It ran 100 yards as straight as a squirrel to an acorn, not wavering an inch. I’m sure I’ll get those 16 trips across country.