During the last couple of weeks, schools and offices have shut, restaurants and retail stores have reduced sales to deliver/pick-up orders, and many factories have curtailed production, but tire and auto service dealerships still are allowed to operate as the Department of Homeland Security deemed them "essential" operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many would argue tire and auto repair shops are always "essential," but during this crisis — unprecedented in modern U.S. history — tire and auto repair dealerships have proved they can step up to the challenge when times get tough.
Across the nation, we have seen and heard about shops assuring their concerned customers that they are making an extra effort to disinfect their facilities and the interiors of vehicles they work in.
They are also taking steps to curtail personal contact with customers as part of the public's need for social distancing.
Some shops have instituted drop-off services where customers don't have to enter the waiting room but instead may leave their cars and keys in a designated area, eliminating the need for human contact. Some shops offer rides or Uber service to drop off and pick up customers from their homes.
Fat Boys Tire & Auto, for example, started offering free pick-up and delivery of customers' vehicles located within a 10-mile radius of its five stores in Wyoming and Nebraska. The dealership also enlisted its fleet of commercial service trucks to provide on-site services for simple needs at a customer's home, such as flat tire repair.
Some tire and auto repair businesses have stepped up their humanitarian efforts, as well, during the pandemic.
RepairSmith Inc., a mobile auto-service operation in California, is donating up to $100,000 in free repairs and maintenance to vehicle owners severely impacted by the pandemic, such as those who lost their jobs or are employed as a frontline worker or medical staff.
Tom's Automotive Service Center of Long Beach, Calif., is serving as a food collection site and offering discounts to customers who bring in two non-perishable food items to donate to a local charity.
Some tire dealers also showed off their sense of humor amid the chaos.
As the coronavirus fears began to spread in the U.S., Pat's Tire & Auto Repair in Oklahoma City took a tongue-in-cheek approach by changing its Twitter handle to "Pat's Tire & Hand Sanitizer" and tweeted about "specials," such as offering a roll of toilet paper with each oil change (in response to the national shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizers on store shelves due to panic buying.)
Smart businesses are encouraging consumers, as they temporarily work from home, to drop off their vehicles for needed maintenance and repairs, so when this pandemic finally subsides, their vehicles are in good working order when they resume commuting.
Through the years we have proudly reported on businesses, large and small, in this industry that stepped up to help and proved how essential they are during the many calamities that have hit the country — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, earthquakes and terrorist attacks. And to the industry's credit, these humanitarians are not hard to find.
We at Tire Business commend the hard work tire dealerships and auto repair shops, as well as their technicians, mechanics and staff, do every day, but especially during a public crisis such as this one.
And we can't forget the valuable services these shops do to maintain vehicles for all first responders, enabling them to drive safely to perform their critical jobs. And we don't mean just police and ambulance and firefighters: Tire dealers are helping to keep doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel mobile as they fight against this heinous disease.
As Kirk Lenhardt of Fat Boys Tire aptly put it: "This is not our first crisis. This, too, will pass."