Wheels, Tires, and Wisdom

by Pat O’Neal
California, USA

 Wheels, Tires, and Wisdom

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.

Originally published as HeroicStories #377 on Jan 23, 2003

5 thoughts on “Wheels, Tires, and Wisdom”

  1. All these stories are from the 70’s. Nothing seems to be coming from the 21st century. Have people changed that much in forty years. We don’t help others any more?

  2. I believe it reflects the age of the readers and contributers of Heroic Stories. There still are good people out there helping others. Or at least I’d like to think so.

  3. This was one of the best stories I have ever read. Being female and having to buy tires and take a car in for servicing, I know what it is like to be “talked down” to and treated poorly by men in that profession. The fact that the owner treated this young man as an adult was very impressive. What a wonderful business owner. What a great example he set for his customers.

  4. This story brought back memories for me, because I had a sporty little Mercury Capri, red with a black vinyl top. I thought some “raised-letter wide ovals” would look SO cool on my car, so I bought some.

    When my boyfriend drove up after putting them on, my heart sank. They just made my car look silly. Eventually, I had my brother turn the tires around so the letters wouldn’t show.

    One of my co-workers said my car looked like it belonged to a guy who couldn’t afford a big sports car.


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