Memo to tire dealers: March was designated by somebody or other as ``National Pothole Month.'' Remember, the lowly pothole is your ticket to higher tire sales. Do you treat it with respect? The cure
Profits got you down, bunky? Just can't seem to sell enough tires and service to attain the profit margin that'll keep you in the lap of luxury?
Why not turn to that old capitalistic, money-grubbing profit generator for a lesson. No, we're not referring to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. We're talking N-F-L, as in National Football League.
As team owners play musical chairs, changing cities in search of the best deal, the NFL seems to have stumbled upon a new profit maker, ubiquitously referred to as P-S-L. That's ``Personal Seat License.''
If it works for the pigskin crowd, why not tire dealers? People have to buy tires, right? Don't they need them more urgently than they need the right to buy a license to buy a ticket to a football game?
Maybe the tire industry should institute P-T-Ls-``Personal Tire Licenses''-not to be confused with PTL, ex-evangelist Jim Bakker's former ``Praise The Lord'' TV network. Though once those profit margins start ascending, dealers may be shouting ``Praise the Lord'' and pass the PTL.
The way it would work is every motorist would have to pay a tire dealer a certain fee-a PTL-for the right to purchase a set of tires. In any business, add-ons obviously equal increased profits.
Duel to the Death?
It sounded like one of those tabloid headlines of the ``man bites dog'' variety.
Michelin North America sent out a news release blaring: ``Forklift attacks Michelin MXV4 ZP-Tire wins.''
It described how a Las Vegas cab driver dropped a customer off at a warehouse, walked away from the cab for a moment, then returned to find it had been struck by a forklift. The result: a gaping gash in one of the doors, and a matching 3.5X2.5-inch hole in one of the tires.
Lucky for him, it was one of Michelin's new MXV4 ZP (for Zero-Pressure) tires, being tested on the cab fleet. The company said the tire is designed to provide temporary mobility for up to 50 miles, even when totally deflated, so the cabby simply drove ``several trouble-free miles'' to the garage to have it replaced.
Calling itself the first tire maker to supply a self-supporting tire for a standard family vehicle, Michelin said the run-flat will be available as optional equipment on 1996 Lincoln Continentals fitted with Ford Motor Co.'s ``Securitire/Low Pressure Alert System.''
Can you imagine how Louie DiPalma, the irascible dispatcher on the old TV show ``Taxi,'' would have reacted when that driver brought the hack back?
The 1-800 blues
Are you annoyed by those cutesy 800 phone numbers that spell things, like 1-800-TIRES-R-US-NOT-U?
They may look clever in an ad, but it's frustrating having to figure out the phone keypad numerical equivalents before dialing. We've got more important things to spend our time on, like Championship Mud Wrestling.
But it appears the populace will get even more frustrated. A Cleveland Plain Dealer story said some private companies that operate pay phones are beginning to install keypads without letters so their phones don't get tied up by customers who aren't paying. Most pay phones are owned by regional Baby Bells, but guys like AT&T and MCI get their money when you use your calling card or dial (800) COLLECT or (800) CALL-ATT.
However, some of the pay phone owners only make money when you put a quarter in, or make a long-distance call through operators. They use alternate operator services that pay a commission to the pay phone company for each call it gets.
Better start memorizing that keypad.
He tries harder
At Big O Tires Inc.'s annual dealer meeting, held recently in Las Vegas, President Steve Cloward poked a little fun at John B. Adams, the company's CFO.
``Now, John's a man who enjoys a challenge,'' Mr. Cloward explained.
``And the last time he was here he got involved in a high stakes poker game. Unfortunately, the cards weren't on his side that day, and he wound up actually gambling away his car.''
Then with his best poker face, Mr. Cloward added: ``Frankly, I wouldn't blame the folks at Hertz if they never rent to him again.''
Ah, beautiful Las Vegas, ``where you can arrive in a $35,000 Cadillac''-noted Tom Staker, Big O's senior vice president of operations-``and go home in a $350,000 Greyhound.'' (At least they do the driving.)
Michelin run-flat, with ``teeth marks.''