Discount stores in Williamsport probably won't even see it coming.
Hoping to have his own successful event built around National Tire Safety Week, Kerry Gross, owner of Gross Tire Center Inc., plans to raid all area stores for tire gauges to pass out to potential customers. The gauges will be just one part of an event complete with tire inspection lanes, a live radio broadcast and a set of tires to be given away.
He's taking the lead from Tim Reece, owner of R&W Tire & Turf in Boone, Iowa. Mr. Reece last year set up inspection lanes as part of tire safety week.
His company inspected about 125 cars in five hours. Mr. Reece said he was inspired by a Tire Business editorial suggesting tire dealers get involved in the event, and Mr. Gross said he also was inspired by a TB article that discussed the efforts by Mr. Reece and other tire dealers.
Mr. Gross said he was upset after reading the article, wondering: ``Why didn't I think of that?'' Back during the Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) tire recalls of 2000 and 2001 he said he got a number of Sigma-his main tire line-tire gauges that he started distributing to his tire-buying customers along with various safety brochures.
``I realize that most we hand out get thrown in a glove box and never get seen again,'' he said. But evidence points to the gauges having an effect on some customers. One woman in particular, he said, used to drop by every six to eight weeks for an air fill up. After he gave her a tire gauge, she still came back once in awhile, but it was to use the air hose.
This year, he'll host his own inspection lane event at his store, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 1.
Technicians in the lanes will inspect the tires only for proper air pressure, even wear and possible problems. They will not check engine or mechanical work, which the single-outlet dealership does not do.
Everyone who comes through the lane will get a package that includes a tire gauge, brochures from the RMA and BFS, air pressure reminder stickers, coupons for Gross Tire and any other trinkets- like key chains or hats-that Mr. Gross can round up.
``The more stuff we have to give out the better,'' he said.
Advertising also will be intense in the week leading up to the event. Mr. Gross said he will run two ads in the local paper, one in the mailed shopping circular and one in a special spring car care edition of a neighboring town's newspaper. The neighboring paper also is planning an article about his effort in that issue.
He also bought an advertising package with the local radio station to do a live broadcast, which includes about 60 spots leading up to the event. The radio station will give away a certificate for a free set of tires to a motorist.
While he has received tons of materials and information from the RMA and is scrounging among his suppliers for knick-knacks, Mr. Gross is handling the rest himself-hence the planned pillage of dollar stores for tire gauges. He expects to spend about $2,000 on the event, he told Tire Business.
Mr. Gross said he's following Mr. Reece's precedent, so he expects about the same turnout, though he's preparing enough handout bags for 250. ``It's always better to have more than run out,'' he said.
He decided to do the event to help build loyalty and show he cares about his customers. ``We're not an evil corporate giant who doesn't (care) about the average guy in the street,'' Mr. Gross said.
For his part, Mr. Reece also is continuing his inspection lane event April 24. He originally was going to experiment with the event and pare down advertising to see if they would still have the same success. But he jokingly admitted last year he got carried away-and that fault took over once again this time around.
BFS and the Boone County Landfill, both of which helped sponsor last year's event, have committed to paying for most of the advertising, which includes print and radio ads. With that expense largely off his mind, Mr. Reece printed about 400 tire safety inserts for the local chamber of commerce's newsletter and another 100 fliers to be mailed to last year's participants.
``We got carried away even more so,'' he admitted.
He also will have a live radio remote and give away tire gauges, coupons and brochures. Instead of giving away a set of tires, R&W Tire will award a summer car care package, complete with certificates for an alignment, tire balance and rotation, oil change, a cooling system inspection and other services. Like Gross Tire, R&W Tire will only inspect tires during the event. Mr. Reece said a few cars last year had tires dangerously low on air pressure, so the drivers immediately pulled into his shop to remedy the situation. A technician noticed a nail in one tire.
Mr. Reece said this year he will not give away coloring books and balloons for kids. Last year the items were put in everyone's bags, but few people brought children. In fact, he said many participants were older adults.