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Published on July 16, 2007

Letters: Legal, big box blues

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Opinion

Who's responsible?


The front-page story in the May 21 issue of Tire Business reported that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. decided not to appeal a $4 million judgment in a tire-related lawsuit.


An Alabama state court awarded that amount to a woman who was paralyzed in a 2004 auto accident that was blamed on a faulty tire. She claimed Wal-Mart was responsible because it failed to uncover problems with one of her tires during a routine maintenance check of her sport-utility vehicle.


Since when does the burden of checking on recalled tires fall on the person/company that changes your oil or rotates your tires, as it did in the Wal-Mart case? Wal-Mart does not even sell the General Grabber AW M+SS P275/60R17 110S tire that was on her vehicle and was subject to an August 2002 recall.


Where is the magic database where we tire dealers must enter the DOT number of every tire we touch to see if it is on a recall list?


I'm a Bridgestone/Firestone dealer, and if I service a customer's vehicle with Conti tires on it, there's no way I'll know if those tires are under recall. That shouldn't be our responsibility.


I can't believe Wal-Mart is not appealing this. I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but they're in the tire business, and we need to get used to that. This judgment sets a dangerous, dangerous precedent—where customers are not taking responsibility for some of the choices they make.


The jury in this case was the problem. They need to see the real day-to-day operation of a tire business.


Jeff Voigt


Owner


Bastrop Tire & Automotive L.L.C.


Bastrop, Texas


The big-box blues


I'm writing to Tire Business because a very disturbing thing happened recently at our dealership.


One of my customers had purchased tires from a local big box store and not from me due to the price issue we all deal with in this industry. That was not the problem.


The problem was that the workers at that tire center where she had the tires installed had no knowledge, training or equipment to handle vehicles equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).


The store basically sent her out with three good tires—the tire technician broke one of the TPMS sensors. So the customer came to my shop, and I had to go to Nissan for a replacement part.


After I gave her a bill for more than $200 to repair the TPMS, she took it back to the other tire center and said they owed her the amount. They said it was not their responsibility.


She never collected anything from that tire center, never got any kind of satisfaction even though they told her they were going to try to take care of the problem in-house.


But if they don't have any knowledge about what they're selling and how to repair it, how can they do that?


Why are these people working on vehicles? The assistant manager for the auto department of the big box store told my customer that they remove these sensors all the time and replace them with rubber valve stems because all they are is a problem and are not needed. He called them “a dealer add-on.” She suggested that they remove the TPMS sensors so they would have no problems with them.


My customer asked them if they have the equipment or the TPMS training and was told no. She also stated that prior to the installation, she told the clerk that she had a few questions and was told, “Look Miss, we take them off and put them on. That's all you need to know.”


I guess they didn't need any extra training since they take the sensors out of the wheels because they're “not needed.” If they just left the sensors in the wheels and the tire pressure alert light was on, all the customer had to do was drive a couple of miles and the system would reset itself.


They also told my customer that they have no responsibility for what they did. My customer was told by a former employee there that this is standard practice at that tire center.


How can we stop this type of salesmanship?


All my technicians have been through TPMS training and we have the tools necessary to service these tires.


I have a couple more questions: Do we need these types of people in our industry? Can the big box stores that sell for price service those sales correctly? What are they thinking when they are selling tires in this manner? Is it only this store or is it nationwide that these types of sales practices are going on? Do they realize that they are opening themselves up for some serious problems?


I'm a small independent tire dealer—my dad started this business in 1959—who keeps up with the industry as far as the cost of equipment, training and providing customers with correct information so they can make the correct decision on their purchase. I'm trying to be a knowledgeable owner.


I ask myself and my fellow business owners: Are you in the tire business, or do you “think” you are in the tire business?


How can we inform the public that what this big box store is doing should not be standard practice?


John Jindra Jr.


Owner


Quality Tire Service Inc.


Spring Grove, Ill.


Used tires are OK


When is a used tire no good? When a professional tire inspector who inspects used tires for a living says so—not anyone else who calls himself a tire expert but knows nothing at all about the used tire industry.


I call these “experts” wannabes. They're people who get pressured every day by new-tire companies that are greedy and want a new tire—only a new tire—sold. Let used tire experts say when a tire is no good. We used tire dealers, just like new-tire dealers, are not going to jeopardize the safety of the public.


How many new tires blow out or have other problems due to defects? We used tire dealers are a valuable source to the industry. With the cost of gasoline shooting past $3 per gallon, every used tire sold saves oil.


Look at all the new tires sold that are wasted because manufacturers flood the market with all these odd sizes. Why? Because they figure that they put so many of a certain size tire on vehicles and people who spend that much money on new cars won't buy used tires. You don't have to be an expert to figure that out.


I think the biggest problem is when a person gets a permit to drive a vehicle, no one tells him or her that the car's tires are one of the most, if not the most important part of the vehicle. There is a lack of driver education. Drivers must be told that, before they start the car, they must look at the tires to make sure they are not low on air, don't have any steel cords sticking out of the tread and that the sidewalls have no cuts or defects.


I live in Pennsylvania, and I have never seen anyone here have to check his tires unless he's a truck driver. How come the Department of Transportation (DOT) doesn't take a few days a week just to check tires on our major highways? Then it might figure out the cause of some car accidents—that they are likely not caused by used tires but because the public knows nothing about tires and are riding around on tires with low or too much air pressure.


Instead of having the DOT just pulling over trucks, it also should have spot checks on cars—perhaps by having a couple of officers stationed in rest areas where they can check out cars. Then, if the tires look bad, they can put a sticker on the window, like a red tag, saying the motorist has to replace the tires within a certain number of days or be fined for not doing so.


I've been in the retail used tire business for 26 years and sell up to 500 tires per week. Used tires are just as safe as new tires. Remember, once you put a new tire on a vehicle and drive it down the road, those tires are no longer new—they're used. We need to educate the public.


Steve Bucholtz


Owner


Steve's Used Tires


Kingston, Pa.


Keep TB comin'


I've run a small tire recycling business in Kansas for 20 years, and I want to thank Tire Business.


It is the best resource that I receive for the tire industry. The content and coverage keeps me up to date with what is going on in the tire and retreading world.


Steve Gee


President


Gee Tire Inc.


Rossville, Kan.

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