by Pat O’Neal
In the late 1970s, when I was about 18 years old, I had some extra money and wanted to buy new tires and wheels that would really stand out. The fashion at the time was wide tires with raised, white-letter sidewalls. I desperately wanted those! But my car was a very small imported economy car with 12-inch diameter wheels. The smallest size custom wheel available was 13 inches, but I was sure I could fit 13-inch wheels and tires on my car.
At a local tire shop, I explained to the salesman what I was looking for. Rather than tell me why I shouldn’t try to do what I intended, he showed me a set of chrome rims that he had — and I loved them! Then he brought out a set of tires that were exactly what I was looking for.
I’m sure he knew they wouldn’t fit my car, but went through the motions anyway just to please me. He even had the tires mounted and balanced on the new wheels and installed them on my car. They looked fantastic! But as soon as I began driving through the parking lot, my heart sank; the tires were so big, they rubbed the insides of my fenders if I turned even slightly.
I parked and went back in the store. I told the salesman that I thought I knew where to get another set of wheels with a different “offset” that might give these tires enough clearance. But my old tires had already been thrown away and I couldn’t drive on the new ones. To my astonishment, he offered me HIS CAR to drive to another store to buy someone else’s wheels!
Accepting his generous offer, I went shopping. The other rims were nearly identical to the ones that didn’t fit, so I returned. All the while, my car was on his hydraulic lift, taking up space. Only when I told him that the other wheels wouldn’t work did he try to change my mind. He showed me tires that were smaller, better and cheaper. No, they didn’t have raised white letters, but they would fit and would perform better. I reluctantly agreed, so he dismounted the big tires and mounted and balanced the smaller set. They fit with no rubbing.
When he drew up the bill, the tires and wheels were already discounted. Then he deducted another $10 for “wasting my time”! I couldn’t believe it! I have never had such service before or since. I immediately recommended that shop to all my friends.
More importantly, he showed me that giving a high level of customer service made more impact than just offering a low price. He treated an 18-year-old kid like an adult, even trusting me with his personal car. I’ve tried to employ his formula ever since.