A failure to communicate

I’ve used Discount Tires for my vehicle needs for years. Like most people I first became familiar with their company through their classic, hilarious and highly-effective commercial touting their return and replacement policy. Their service and price is why I began going to them when I started to drive.

But I’m going to have to think pretty hard about going in again any time soon. A few weeks ago I went to my usual location to get a new tire, which was worn. When I went in I told the salesperson what I needed and why and let them know that was all I was purchasing that day. Getting only one tire at a time is a young man’s gamble. When you change one tire you should change all of them so they all wear evenly, everything balances right and you have no surprises a week later when an old tire fails. But I had been out sick from work for a few months and cash was tight. So I made myself clear about my needs that day

Apparently, through no fault of the employees I’m sure since they are very likely pressured to make sales from upper management, my desires as a customer where pushed aside. Before I left I received no less than six attempts to up-sell my purchase. Quoting a price, then lowering it, adding services and then discounted incentives (still adding up to more than I told them I would spend). Between my last visit to Discount Tires and this one it was like I had visited two different companies. At least at least on the front end experience. The exception being the swiftness and quality of their labor service in replacing the tire which remained great and if anything was better than before.

I understand the hard up-sell. The economy has been in the dumps for years and companies are desperate for every nickle and dime from their brick and mortar outlets as they can be (while still somehow being able to afford using private jets to fly to meetings to exotic vacation resorts). My current employer tried the hard-sells at every opportunity until they realized the customer backlash wasn’t worth it and dropped the requirement for most departments. When a customer says no that should be the end of it. No guilt trips, no acting like I just duct-taped loaded guns with filed down sears to the heads of the passengers of my car, no miming like Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the whole deal and so be it, the fiery deaths of my passengers is on my head.

The pitches that the tire crew was giving me were presented in terms of my safety. I can appreciate that message. They pointed out the others tires were worn (Meh, not so much. All four were new less than a year ago. I wanted one changed because it kept getting scraped on a curb) and that I should change them and here’s a great deal on 4 tires, etc., etc.

But the intent and sincerity perceived by the customer is important. If the pitch doesn’t come off as sincere then I would think you are playing me for a sucker. The first tell that the clerk really was only saying what he had to was that he wouldn’t look at me. Our last conversation before I left went like this:

“Have we told you that you really should replace all those tires? They are getting worn.”
“Yes. Four times now in the last half an hour.”
“Well, that shows you how important it is.”

Sure, except you were looking everywhere but at me when you said all that. It doesn’t mean he was a bad salesman, just that he was uncomfortable pushing another sales pitch on me. At least I hope that is what it was and he wasn’t some predatory huckster. Also, one thing the clerk wasn’t aware of: Their company’s email message.

During the purchase the clerk asked for and I gave my email address. I didn’t mind. This is important because that way I can receive tire recall notices, a handy and necessary service. So while seated in the lobby waiting for the tire to be replaced I did what anyone else would do: Browse the internet, check email and read some news. While waiting I got hit up again for more tires and shortly after received an email from Discount Tires thanking me for my purchase. I read it, knowing I needed to head off a barrage of emails and catalogs mailed to my house by changing my marketing preferences. It was after going to their website via the email and personalizing my visit I felt like was nothing more than a mark with a wallet.


In the image above there are several options for receiving messages from Discount Tires. This is an original, cropped screenshot with the only the customer name changed. In the initial view the message options default to sales pitches and one service reminder which would just be a sales pitch when you go in to the store. The two safety notices, really the most important part for the consumer and in the worst case scenario can mean life or death for a driver, is left unchecked by the company.

So this is the business plan? Hit me up for another sale but, in the case of the many who don’t bother to sign up, or those that do but don’t update their marketing preferences, not receive any notification that they might be driving on a faulty tire?

I guess ultimately the responsibility for checking the warranties and disposition of almost anything anyone purchases is on the buyer but only to a point. Any company has a moral if not legal obligation to inform someone using their product it may be faulty. The government regularly posts information about faulty products and recommends or orders companies to do so on their own. But if there was a recall of tires how would one find out? If they did, would I receive any notification because I did not opt in to the service? Is regular mail an option? Is it still an option if one did not opt in on the website? Would it take weeks or months to mail me a letter when email goes out almost immediately?

It wouldn’t hurt to have the communication preferences default to choose all options, none of them or prioritize the safety notifications and then let the customer decide. Hold the sales pitches and default to caring about your customers a little bit more. The front end sales pitches and the way the customer notification service may be unrelated but it looks like it is a part of a narrowly focused top-down business strategy that prefers making a sale over any other consideration.

By the way, guys? Don’t bother to contact me with offers or that “you are sorry I wasn’t satisfied with my experience” or even as I know happens on occasion…threats. The tire service was great, the annoying hard up-sells were not. I know you won’t change the front end sales pitches because if you did, let’s be honest, sales would drop and that’s the reality of business. In my experience few respond to those ads and instead search for the best deal they can through the internet going to their favored supplier first, based on their past experiences. Instead, just think about maybe changing the set up of those initial customer communication options.

I’ll tihte the lifeguards

“O mighty Jeebus, please guide these dedicated and highly-skilled lifeguards who without your assistance will be unable to rescue the floating form of your most beloved child who you saw fit in your infinite love and mercy to drown. Also, please intercede and use your mighty healing powers in conjunction with the likewise dedicated and skilled medical professionals using advanced medical equipment whom without your aid will surely fail as they fall prey to Satan. Amen.

I, The Quitter

The roar of the custom tour bus shook the parking lot. Conservatives staggered to the left. Sarah’s eyes were a symphony of incredulity, an unbelieving witness to truth and reality. Quickly, she checked the beautiful swelling of her personal portfolio account where the money went in.

“How could you?” The Tea Party gasped.

Sarah had only a moment before talking to a corpse of a Presidential campaign, but she got it in.

“It was easy,” Sarah said.

I originally meant to post this yesterday

Ballpoint pens sticking out into the aisle at the perfect position and height to have a customer stabbed in the side or arm or, at worst, a child taking one in the face as they bop along with a parent. A fine example of what I have come to call The Culture of Half-Assedness.

Just duct tape a steak knife to the counter while you’re at it.

In many industries, people often seem not to care and fail to think forwards for many reasons. In all cases the origin of that ethic is laziness. Doing things half-assed is a conscious decision. People feel they are too busy, perceive it doesn’t matter because hard work doesn’t pay off, doing the extra work or taking precautions are not appreciated or met with hostility by co-workers or managers.

Mostly this kind of work ethic does no harm and elicits only amusement. Poorly written signs and odd pricing are typically the result. Sometimes it is more serious and can be a work hazard.

Absurdly, I had to argue with people about the wisdom of placing the pens where they did. I actually had to present a convincing case to people to reposition the pens. Overwhelmingly the response was ‘What’s the big deal?? from most everyone. Sure, say that later when your performance bonus is cut by a big percentage due to failing the workplace safety audits and increased injury reports being filed. Also, the big deal is people can be hurt. Duh.

Then I had to do so twice more when the pens were repositioned so that anyone moving groceries on the belt or attempting to pay for their goods would risk being stabbed. So I had the pens moved again and this time they were placed so they stuck out into the cashier’s work area. Scrapes, minor stabbings and ink stained work shirts ensued as the cashiers moved their arms through a space now occupied by something pointy.

Pro tip: Don’t have sharp things point against the flow of traffic. Turn the pens around so the blunt end is facing people. Finally realizing that if I want something done right I’d have to do it myself, I placed the pens under under the counter so they are out of the way while the lanyard is long enough to allow the customer to use the pen.

These pens were a stupid idea anyways. They are cheap, constantly in the way and cause problems for the workers. Even placed under the counter the plastic lanyard, while long enough to reach the counter for use are too short not to get caught on product moving down the belt. The lanyard pulls taut and then launches the pen haphazardly into the air like a ballpointed whip. The ideal length of the pen lanyard would be a foot and a half of chain of the kind used in banks but when we install those type of pens the customers tear them off and take them with them.