WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2000) — With one glaring exception, Y2K was the bug that didn´t bite for tire dealers and manufacturers.
That exception was a certain software program designed specifically for tire dealers, which apparently turned into a horde of marauding Army ants for at least some dealers who used it.
Phyllis Krupp, of Modoc Tire Co. in Medford, Ore., said she paid $5,000 for this program in 1993. In mid-1998, she discovered the program would expire Dec. 31, 1999.
"I called the vendors every two or three months to ask them when the updated software would be available," Ms. Krupp said. "Every time I called, they told me, `We´re working on it.´ "
Meanwhile, the vendors never gave the name of the software´s manufacturer and had no Web site to consult, she said.
Only in October 1999 did the vendors tell her an updated version of Auto Exec was available for $1,800.
"I faxed back some questions about the updated program, since I didn´t want to spend the money unless I was sure it was what I wanted," she said. "It took them four weeks to respond, and with the answers came an invoice for the new program—for $2,200."
Stung by the price hike and the lack of courtesy, Ms. Krupp decided not to buy the updated program. "I bought QuickBooks for $60, and I use that for my accounts receivable," she said. "I dated my computer back to 1980, and because of that I am still using Auto Exec for point of sale. Jan. 3 was a little iffy for us, but we´re surviving."
Ms. Krupp said a neighboring tire dealership went ahead and bought the updated Auto Exec program for $2,200. "Even after the upgrade, he couldn´t get into his accounts receivable," she said. That dealer could not be reached for comment at press time.
With the exception of Auto Exec, Y2K was a non-event, Ms. Krupp said. "Customers didn´t stock up on tires like they did on water or food," she laughed. "Here in Medford, sales in December depend on the weather. In this case, people had other things on their minds. It wasn´t a bad season—just not an outstanding one."
Brian Kelly of Pro Tire Service in Columbus, Ohio, said he had no Y2K-related problems in his business, but there had been some delays in tire shipments, particularly from Goodyear.
"The usual end-of-the-month shipments, I just got," Mr. Kelly said Jan. 12. "The salesman I dealt with told me I couldn´t expect them until Friday (Jan. 14). Goodyear is going to a new system, but I don´t know whether the delay came from Goodyear itself or just the guy I talked to."
As for computer glitches, "I have a couple of customers who said their payroll files went down," he said. "But my computers were up and running—no problems."
Bill Stiver Sr., of Stiver´s Tire & Auto in Englewood, Fla., also reported no problems, except for "the aggravation of remembering to put `00´ instead of `99.´
"When we wanted to update our computer system—which is not new—we just called the software people, and they told us to run certain routine programs," Mr. Stiver said. "It was `once-every-hundred-years´ stuff, and it didn´t involve a lot of expense or time."
Mr. Stiver said he didn´t even know of anyone in the business having a non-Y2K-related computer problem—the sort of routine problem everybody has—since the first of the year, which made him think that "either everybody´s got their computers tuned up, or something.
"I read a story in Reader´s Digest," he said. "It said that the only real danger from Y2K would come in early January, when the roads would be inundated with Y2K experts looking for jobs!"
Bob Katz, of Nu-Tread Tire & Auto Service Center in East Boston, Mass., said it was "most expensive" to upgrade his computer software, not only to solve any looming Y2K problems but also "to bring the whole system up to snuff." In any case, Mr. Katz said, the dealership has had no Y2K snafus of any sort.
"I went skiing with my family this past weekend, and I took the Camcorder with us," he said. "I hadn´t used it since before New Year´s, and I wanted to get my son on film on his skis. The date came up perfectly—Jan. 8, 2000.
"I thought, `I paid $600 for this Camcorder in 1992, and it keeps the date perfectly. Why couldn´t the computer company have thought of this in 1994, when I bought my computer system?´ " Mr. Katz said. "Of course the Camcorder is a simpler machine—there are no accounts receivable in it—but still."
Jerry White of White´s Tire Supply, Beaumont, Texas, said he avoided Y2K problems "because we have a Macintosh—Nyah! Nyah!" What his dealership had instead was what he called a "Y1K problem"—the Jan. 3 demise of the 1951 National Cash Register machine his father had bought.
"We have one person who could repair that machine—we took life insurance out on him, believe me!" Mr. White said. "He looked at it and said, `Mr. White, I could tear it apart, but it´s all jammed up, and they don´t make parts for it anymore.´ So we just have to find something else. Of course, cash transactions are becoming a thing of the past—not one customer in 10 pays in cash these days."
Among tire manufacturers, only Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. reported problems, with its Mexico City offices running on generator power Jan. 3 and a few computer terminals at retail outlets suffering glitches. A spokeswoman said the company hadn´t ascertained whether the Mexico City problems were even Y2K-related.
BFS spent two years and "considerable sums" to prepare for Y2K, and kept all production sites running on schedule, the spokeswoman said. "We had a non-event, and we´re very, very grateful for that," she said.
Goodyear, which spent $370 million on Y2K, used the money and opportunity "to refresh some of our systems, make some major upgrades and add competitive advantage," a spokesman said. "Did we spend too much? Absolutely not. The results show it was well worth it."
Crain News Serviceers contributed to this story.