2 companies on shit list, 2.75 I’m pleased with after my 10 hour hassle today

At about 10:00 this morning I headed down the hill from home.  The car didn’t seem to be handling the ice well.  I crawled down in first gear and thought it must be icier than it looked.  As I turned onto Hwy 93 and accelerated it became obvious there was another problem.  I pulled over.  Right front tire was flat.

Now, I didn’t want to be on the shoulder of icy Hwy 93, let alone in a spot prone to accidents.  The Farmers State Bank parking lot was about 50 yards away.

I moved into their lot and called AAA to get a tow to a tire repair shop.  AAA told me the expected response time was one hour and 15 minutes.  When that time passed I didn’t get too excited.  Roads are treacherous, lots of accidents…  When the two hour mark was reached I thought I better call and make sure there wasn’t another issue.  AAA checked with the tow company who told AAA they hadn’t dispatched a two truck.  AAA reassigned the call.

Red’s Towing called a minute or two later to tell me they had the ticket now, and as they were maxed out, they were shuffling some calls to ProTowing to keep response times good.  ProTowing would be there in about 45 minutes.  They arrived closer to the 30 minute mark.

As we were driving in to Missoula, the ProTowing driver told me that Sparr’s Towing had originally been assigned the call by AAA.  He told me that rumor has it that since the original owners died and their daughter is running the business, she has ignored some AAA calls because AAA doesn’t pay as much as a regular call out.  Shit list!

Red’s and ProTowing, on the other hand, I’m pleased with.  Red’s shuffled their overflow to ProTowing in customer interest.  ProTowing arrived promptly and the driver was friendly.

Next up was Les Schwab.  I was under the mistaken impression that Dad had bought those tires for me at the Les Schwab in Deer Lodge and so it was checked in as their warranty service.  The gal who wrote it up was bad tempered.  I wondered who had peed in her Wheaties but proceeded.

When I first arrived, they said the wait was long, did I want to use spare and come back on Friday?  I said I didn’t want to drive the spare on icy roads and wanted to get it taken care of, I’d wait.  Checked the car in for tire repair and was told to expect about a 2 hour wait (tire shops in MT get slammed when snow flies for the first time in early winter with all the people who put off getting new tires or snow tires).  I had expected that.  Left my cell number and walked across the street to Hastings to browse and hang out in the coffee shop.

Well over two hours later — closer to three, the tech from Les Schwab called and to tell me that all of my tires were underinflated by 15lbs and the tire was unrepairable and no warranty due to negligence.  There was NO WAY all four tires could possibly be underinflated by 15lbs each.  I said “What PSI do you show those tires should be inflated to?”  He said 35lbs.  I said they are to be 30lbs.   He said 35.  I said 30 and that given the ambient temperature (about 15 below zeor), the air would be contracted.  He said there is MORE pressure at colder temps.  I said no, air expands when it’s warm, therefore more pressure, and contracts when cold, therefore less pressure.  He said I had it backwards.  I said no… and reiterated.  He said “I know my job and am not going to argue with you. Warranty is void.”  I continued to find it very hard to believe that ALL FOUR tires would be severely underinflated to that extent.  They would all be somewhat underinflated, having been inflated at 50 degrees and it now being -15 degrees.  Furthermore, I was certain he was wrong about the properly inflation of those tires (35 lbs vs 30 lbs).

I hung up, walked over, and asked to talk to a manager.  I told him about the exchange.  He backed his employee, said I must have misunderstood, that they are “under the gun being so busy,” etc.  I said there is no excuse for treating a customer that way.  I asked him if the tire was punctured, or…??  He said he didn’t know.  I said I really wanted to know.  They weren’t going to check.  That was made clear.  They were trying to sell me a tire.  I told them to put the spare on.  I was snottily reminded that I had said earlier that I didn’t want to drive the spare on icy roads.  I replied that I’d risk it to drive to another tire store because there was no way I was buying a tire from them.

Okay, so I was wrong about place of purchase.  It wouldn’t really have been a Les Schwab warranty issue but the point is they were trying to blame me instead of just fixing the problem, acting like I was an idiot and being generally nasty.

I stepped back from the counter to wait for the car.  The next lady in line also wanted to see the manager.  She had been waiting 2.5 hours LONGER than they had told her to expect.  She asked, with a nod in my direction, “is that MY FAULT, too?”  Thanks for the show of solidarity, lady!  That’s Katie’s Les Schwab Story.  *snickers*

Bridger said as we were pulling out “They aren’t nice there at all.  Lesson learned.  I’m never going to buy tires from that store.”

Next I headed for Tire Rama (with some trouble — the spare tire is rubber but skinny and not at all suited for current conditions).   I detoured to take Bridger to his grandparents’ house as I figured that while he had maintained, thus far, a good attitude through the hours (and hours!) of wait, his endurance for the waiting game was about used up.

That Tire Rama store didn’t have an exact match in stock but another Tire Rama store in town did so they had a runner bring the matching tire over.  Courteous, polite, friendly…

When the customer service rep went to move my car to the garage bay lines in back, I told him I had a few questions when he had a minute.  He said he had time then.  I said “First, I’m interested in a second opinion regarding repairability of the tire” (since comments from friends had tipped me on that Les Schwab calls repairable tires unrepairable to sell new tires as standard operating procedure).  We looked.  Okay, obviously not repairable.  Then I asked about proper inflation of those tires.  30lbs, just as I thought.  Then, as though reading my mind, he said that when it’s this cold the pressure is reduced as air contracts.  Thank you!!!!  I asked him if they could, and it didn’t have to be today, it could wait until next week, examine the tire and tell me what caused the failure — defect, road hazard or negligence.  He said they could do that today.  He was very nice, courteous (and sang and whistled beautifully, too!).  Opposite of the jerks of Les Schwab.

Some time later he came over and asked if I wanted the old tire back.  I asked what good it was to me.  He said the damage was road hazard and most places have road hazard warranties so I could take it to place of purchase and as far as he was concerned it should be a failure covered by warranty.  I thanked him and asked him to place the tire in the trunk.

As busy as they were they got me out in about 2 hours, when I arrived at about 4:30.  The difference in the two tire stores could not be greater.  The difference in the first and second two tow companies is also great.  I’ll be writing letters to all — to express my displeasure to two and to let the other three know that in a day when I experienced vast difference in customer service their employees were satisfying in every way (and I remember the names of employees and will be writing them down before I forget).  I will also call AAA about Sparrs.

About 10 hours from the time I first called AAA until I got home.  Long day of hassle.  The customer service rep’s attitude at Tire Rama (whistling while he worked and very friendly with each customer) did much to restore my faith.  Thanks, Skip!!!!

Update:  The store that sold the original tire (in Anaconda) honored a pro-rated warranty.

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