Virtual unreality During Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s recent intro of its new National Tire and Battery (NTB) format, the company took press conference participants on a ``virtual reality'' computerized tour of what NTB stores will look like.
As the computer panned out the front window to a view of a shiny red sports car, Paul Baffico, Sears Automotive Group president, quipped: ``Now, we don't anticipate that there'll be a Porsche Carrera in every NTB parking lot. But who knows!''
A man of... one word? When Mr. Baffico was asked why the name ``NTB'' was chosen, he retorted: ``Because.''
After doing three separate sets of consumer research, Sears ascertained ``a name is not as important as the identity of the concept,'' he explained.
Remember that the next time you forget someone's, uh, name at a social function.
Whether or not NTB lives up to its slogan, ``Everything you want—nothing like you'd expect from a tire store,'' remains to be seen.
But several radio commercials played for Sears' employees and tire suppliers were low key and definitely different from typical tire ads. ``There's an invisible barrier,'' said one radio spot, ``between you and the guy at the service desk who just wants to know if you need a...'' (insert a jumble of tire sizes here).
It called NTB a ``low-pressure zone for buying tires,'' and assured consumers: ``We treat you like people—not road kill.''
One hip commercial boasted of stores so clean they have ``floors your grandmother could kiss.'' And Starbucks coffee lovers take heed—most spots also mentioned:
``... and we serve a great cup of `jo,' too.''
Yet another pondered, ``Why is there air? It's there to fill tires,'' and noted at NTB: ``Only the tires are inflated—not the prices.''
This 'n that
It looks like a macho ad for a he-man competition, but Action Mfg. Inc.'s blurb ballyhooing ``Balls of Steel'' is actually about its Roto-Eze universal towing accessory. (Don't ya just love ad writers!)
Criminals always tend to come back to the scene of the crime, don't they? A guy in Bozeman, Mont., seems to have what was described in the previous item.
He did the crime, and paid the time: a three-year stint for robbing a bowling alley. But a story on National Public Radio said that when he got out of prison, he went back to the alley—not to knock a few down or to knock it off. The ex-con was looking for his wallet.
When the cops originally busted him, he had been hiding in the ceiling of the place. So he figured that's probably where he lost his wallet. He asked the proprietors if they'd mind if he looked around up there. They asked him if he'd mind leaving.
Anyone with kids is familiar with the expression, ``mom's taxi.'' We spotted a variation of that on an Akron-area license plate: ``CMOMGO.''
Another ``vanity'' plate on a little green sportscar said ``XNTRIC.'' Wonder why.
Looking for sickos: An advertisement we saw inside a Chicago Transit Authority (not the pop group) train beckoned, ``Feeling feverish? Dollars for your flu!'' The Chicago Center for Clinical Research will pay up to $175 to participants who try out some kind of experimental medication. The catch? ``You must be experiencing a fever at the time of your first visit,'' the placard said.
Tip: First, try sitting in a sauna to elevate your temp to feverish levels; or just ride on a stuffy, airless CTA train.
They blew up real good
We were intrigued by an item from The Economist Intelligence Unit which stated: ``Airbags to protect pedestrians.''
Seems airbag usage is proliferating, it said, and will continue ``as other bags are introduced for different purposes, including the protection of pedestrians struck by a car.'' (Come again?)
What will they wear—inflatable vests? Trousers? Picture people walking around resembling Eddie Murphy's ballooned-up character in ``The Nutty Professor.'' Watch out Martha, I think he's going to blow!
An eagle-eyed TIRE BUSINESS reader caught our drawer's tread pattern in a twist, so to speak.
Richard Thompson, owner of Thompson Tire Service in Saint Paris, Ohio, wrote in about a tractor that our staff graphic artist used to illustrate TB's Feb. 3 special report on farm tires. ``It looks like the tire on your picture of the tractor (see below) was mounted backwards,'' he pointed out with furrowed brow.
So that's why the traction was so poor!
A Metro 25 Tire ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer crowed about an ``affordable 80,000-mile tire,'' the Ameri.G4S from Continental General Tire. Ad copy said the tire was ``designed to evaluate water to reduce the risk of hydroplaning.''
We've heard of ``smart tires'' before, but this one's truly amazing if it can do that before it actually evacuates the water.
Can you guess what round black ones are outfitted on the presidential limo? Sorry, the size is confidential. But we'll let you in on some non-confidential info: TIRE BUSINESS—the World Wide Web site—is online and ready for your perusal.
You'll find the answer to the limo question and three others in a Tire Trivia quiz on our ``home page.'' Make yourself at home by surfing on over to our Web address—http://www.tirebusiness.com.
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk
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