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Adventures in price-gouging.

Okay, so long lead-in short, I have to buy at least one new tire, probably two, since I had a flat and a sorta-flat tire yesterday evening.  The flat is in the trunk, with a donut in its place, and the sorta-flat has been filled, and we’re assuming it’s due to me parking the car on the street that it’s getting lower on the passenger side, faster (weight and tilt and all that).  However, the tires are all old, so they need replacing, anyway, so it’s just going to be done in steps, at this point.

Buying two tires would get rid of the one that’s too wide, as well as replace the flat (which is nearly bald, so no shop in their right mind will patch it), and they would both go in front, under the engine.

I decided to call the local Sears to find out about tire availability, and see if they’d be able to put the tires on tomorrow morning.

First, the price quoted me over the phone was $5 more than the price online, and he couldn’t give me a good reason.  Good start, Tire Guy.

I told Tire Guy I didn’t want the $25-per-pair 90-day balancing option (I assume, with a name like that, it’s some sort of warrantee, and I don’t care), just for them to put the tires on, asked for the total, and he said, “Well, you can have someone else put them on, then.”

Huh…okay…

I countered with the question, “So you guys would actually put a set of tires on incorrectly if I don’t pay you that balancing fee?”

The answer: “Well, yes. Yep. [backpedaling] Uh, well, we actually can’t put them on at all if you don’t pay that. If we put the tires on, we balance them.”

How very…noble of you.

Now I’m getting amused:  “So, what you’re telling me is that you won’t put the tires on AT ALL if I don’t pay that balancing fee?”

Going into I’m-The-Man mode:  “Well, ma’am, the tires need to be balanced or else they’ll wear incorrectly…”

I’m losing patience, so I interrupt:  “I’m not a moron. I’m asking you why you’ve got that listed as a separate line item when it’s what you’re supposed to do when you put the tires on, anyway?”

Sheepish, now:  “Well, uh…well…it’s a service charge…”

Laughing:  “Why doesn’t it just say, ‘service charge,’ then?”

Angrily:  “Ma’am, do you want the tires or not?”

Still laughing:  “Not tonight, thanks, have a good one.”

I HAVE A CRAZY IDEA:  How about, instead of calling a line item something stupid, like a “90-day Tire Balancing (option)”, you call it what it is: a MANDATORY INSTALLATION FEE.

Unfortunately, they still have the cheapest tires in my size in town, so I’ll probably make Forrest go with me tomorrow morning to get two put on, because I need them.  *grumblegrumble*

3 comments to Adventures in price-gouging.

  • Do you have a Hibdon’s in town? They will price match even the online competitors (Like Discount Tire, Tire Rack) you’ve just got to bring in a screen print. They don’t advertise it, but they will do it. Look up you tires online and then call them and tell them what you found.
    Yes, they do have to balance them to mount them otherwise they can be hit with some major liability issues. Stupid that they list it that way. Be on the lookout for the disposal charge too. They have to charge it, even if you tell them you want to dispose of them yourself.
    If you can swing it, get an alignment while you are there. It will save you money in the long run.
    Yeah, I know entirely too much about tires. My dad built them for Firestone for 30 years.

  • Most shops list the line item as “Mounting and balancing.” The reason they charge separately to balance your tires is because in situations where there is no suspension (pretty much just light trailers) balancing the tires has no benefit and is therefore not done. Also, if you knew somebody who had a tire shop, you could buy your tires anywhere, and use their mounting and balancing machines to do the work yourself. The kid was just dumb/completely uninformed as to the what and why of the charges on the invoice, which is an unacceptable failure of his management.

    • Yeah, I informed the person I talked to the next day (getting tires there was unavoidable…they had the best price, and I needed the tires ASAP or I couldn’t work) about the phone conversation, and she was PISSED at how I was treated. I’m pretty sure that guy got fired. :-)