COUNTERPOINT: I really think the selling techniques you (Bob Barnes) describe (in the article at left)-and apparently encourage-serve the interests of the supplier and the end-user.
What about the dealer who sells and services the product? Is he just a vehicle to help out the above?
I know of no other product that is utilized more severely than a rubber tire on the road!
Our industry is riddled with retailers who overstate quality to make a sale, give away legitimate service and work on strained profit margins.
Yes, grocery stores and the like promote low prices on popular items such as bread, milk etc.
But these products are sold daily, along with other goods, and require no service on the part of the retailer.
Not only does the tire retailer have to install and ``live'' with the tire, but he only gets one shot at the buyer-perhaps once every 18 months-not daily!
What happens later when the tire fails or wears out early? Today, even flat tires are fixed free!
The big boys, as you call them, usually have high personnel turnover and usually follow the ads as management dictates. There rarely is any sell-up, at least not on the advertised tire.
Mostly, their profit is in the ``pits,'' selling unneeded repair work, often at inflated prices.
Tires are usually the ``draw,'' as your article implies.
Most retail chains maintain a 70/30 ratio of service to tires. Many times, service is even higher than 70 percent.
We have Sears, Roebuck and Co. touting their private brands as ``made by'' Michelin, Pirelli etc. These manufacturers even put their name on the Sears brand tires!
You can be sure customers feel and think they are buying these manufacturers' tires!
Sears has always been a major retailer.
But recently that company has become very ``slick'' at retail display and promotion of major brands-and at whose expense?
Why are the ``experts'' not going after these practices? Does General put its name on the Reynolds brand?
Our industry is rife with experts telling us how to compete with the clubs, which buy from our suppliers who give them more support, ``under the table,'' than any co-op we dealers can muster. Also, our suppliers often sell direct to end-users.
This is done not only by the manufacturers through their national account programs, but also by local wholesale distributors, as well.
Often, they quote the customer a price ``a few points'' higher than our cost rather than refer him to us.
Granted, these problems, in one form or another, always have been part of the tire sales scene.
But selling tires at or near cost-just to get the buyer in-usually creates an atmosphere or opportunity to oversell, thereby contributing to consumer confusion and distrust.
We hardly need more of that!
In the end, the (small dealership's best) answer is good, professional service and competitive prices on like products-backed by hard work!
The Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights (which I feel is entirely out of order and born out of frustration) only points at the problem rather than addressing its root cause. I know this may offend some people. But good, sound business practice never is out of date!
Hopefully, those in authority and in key management positions will take the time to think (or rethink) their business strategies. This applies to manufacturers, wholesale distributors and-yes-the retailer, as well.
Our national trade association has become similar to Congress-dependent on advertisers or lobbyists rather than the people who pay their salaries.
In closing, I don't want to appear to be a cry baby or doomsday prophet. This was not intended to be a complaint or an attempt to find fault-but rather a call to businessmen at all levels to lead rather than be led.
Mr. Gelbman is president of The Tire Outlet Inc., an independent tire dealership located in Bland, Va.