Way off the road OK, so you've almost survived the winter doldrums, Y2K, and you're waiting for the sequel: Y3K. Bet you're computer system's not as snazzy as Al Chicago's.
During the recent Tire Association of North America Off-the-Road Conference in Tucson, Ariz., the event's chairman showed off the "laptop" computer he shares with Bob Purcell, owner of Purcell Tire and Rubber. It has, Al boasted, 32 windows (sheets of paper); a color printer (depending on the color of the ink pen he uses); and it's Y2K compatible. Of course, it also can do overheads—as you can see from the picture of Al, shown at left.
We were wondering, though, where Al plugs it in.
Going my way?
"Outstanding service" tends to get a lot of lip service.
While some companies seem to talk a good game, Andy Forck, manager of a Big O Tires Inc. outlet in Jefferson City, Mo., also knows how to "walk the walk."
Recently, while on a Sunday afternoon drive back from Lake of the Ozarks, a family's vehicle died near Jefferson City. Christine Ellinger's toddler son was strapped in his car seat as the outside temp soared to more than 102 degrees.
By the time Mr. Forck came along in the opposite direction, several folks were pushing the Ellinger's car. Recognizing the family as regular customers, the Big O Good Samaritan turned around and stopped, then got the Ellinger's son into his van to cool him off. Mr. Forck got the car started with his jumper cables, followed Mrs. Ellinger's husband as he drove to the tire store, then took the family home.
The problem turned out to be a bad battery. Though the Ellingers were customers, Mr. Forck told Tire Business: "I would have done the same thing for anybody."
Mrs. Ellinger, who happens to be a board member of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Central Missouri, recently applauded Mr. Forck's selfless efforts in a letter she sent to Big O's Treadmore Tribune newsletter. Andy, she wrote, "is dedicated to providing the best service on or off business hours."
Andy, as they used to say on "Hee Haw": "Sa-lute!"
This 'n that
Where'd you say you lived?—The Market Data Book in the last issue of Tire Business included a list of tire plant codes worldwide—and some pretty interesting names of places where tires are made.
Such as: Michelin has a plant in Bad-Kreuznach, Germany (not to be confused with Bad-Karma, Calif.). Then there's the Goodyear plant in Medicine Hat, Alberta. And all you "Bogie" fans visiting Morocco will definitely want to visit the General Tire and Rubber Co. of Morocco and Goodyear factories in Casablanca. (Ask Sam to "play it again" and watch the strange looks you get.)
In Australia, make sure you visit South Pacific Tyre's plant in West Footscray (right next door to East Amscray.)
As loud as they want to be—You might call it another tire-related first. Well, sort of. In June 1993, the group "Severe Tire Damage" became the first band to broadcast live video and audio worldwide on the Internet.
These guys have had a front-page photo in the San Jose Mercury newspaper; TV appearances; and a spot in a five-hour series for Korean TV. Their Web site, which brags they're the "house band of the Internet," is a bit cheeky, as well, saying the band demonstrates in its weekly broadcasts that Webcast technology "can be both loud and annoying."
Though Tire Business will never, ever condone using only plugs to repair damaged tires, in this case, you may want to try 'em—in your ears.
Trivia—What Hollywood star's late dad, Sal, ran a tire dealership? Hint: The actor played "Vinnie Barbarino," the dim-bulb leader of the "Sweathogs" on TV's Welcome Back, Kotter.
Hop on the bus, Gus
Paul Simon sang that there must be at least "50 ways to leave your lover." But as far as we can tell, one of the most popular remains, shall we say, a deflating experience.
The Feb. 25 issue of USA Today noted that, "for tireless revenge, there's only one way to leave your lover flat," and some people usually "get it in the Goodyears."
It quoted John Hughes, manager of a Performance Tires store in Arlington, Va., who said that several times a year a guy will come in carrying four rims, saying someone—fill in the blank here with: girlfriend; ex-girlfriend; or ex-wife—cut his tires. The favorite weapon? An ice pick. (He has never seen a woman customer suffering from the same predicament, so what does that say about guys?)
State Farm Insurance has no stats covering cases of lovelorn severe tire damage (not the band.) And Michelin North America Inc. spokeswoman Lisa McAllister, who handles PR for the BFGoodrich brand, said "lover's quarrel" is not listed on tire warranty claims. (But "road hazard" is? Wouldn't that be considered a "relationship pothole"?)
While one might presume a victim would want to keep the matter hush hush, apparently not.
The manager of a National Tire and Battery outlet in Fort Washington, Md., told USA Today that every other month or so a tow truck pulls in a vehicle with flattened tires while a ticked-off guy rants and raves, "always wanting to tell you the whole story."
How about other dealers? Got any interesting tire-slashing tales of woe? E-mail us with your story and Marketplace may actually run some. (Any victim's/perpetrator's names and bad language will be extricated—especially if it's about your girlfriend, ex-girlfriend or ex-wife.)
...And the trivia answer is: The Barbarino reference should have been a dead giveaway that our star son-of-a-tire dealer (no that's not a disparaging description) is none other than John Travolta, whose dad, Sal, operated Travolta Tire Exchange in New Jersey. Since it was a tire shop, perhaps we should have used John's role in "Grease" as a clue.