There’s a certain amount of dread one encounters when breaking out and going to a new mechanic or automotive-related business for the first time. Especially in small towns or cities like Elko, NV, there’s always gossip and talk about competing businesses. Soon, however, you find out someone who said something negative is related to a competing business and the legitimacy of the comment falls short.
Until recently, I did business mostly through Wal-Mart’s automotive center and my hometown’s one of two mechanics. Making the move to Big O Tires on 11th and Idaho Streets in Elko was a bold move. For years I’d gone through the convenience of Wal-Mart, but after hearing the horror stories of people driving off with loose oil pan plugs and tires not properly balanced, I had no other choice. It was my wallet or my car.
In the end, it wasn’t so bad. My initial encounter with Big O involved a tire with a slow leak. While they had it, I told them to change its oil. After getting the car back, the manager told me there was no charge since what they’d discovered was a nail in the gum line causing the leak. Removing it solved the problem. In the end, all I had to pay for was the oil change.
From the consumer’s perspective, this left me with a good feeling. I had come expecting to at least pay a base fee, but left feeling better than before. This led me to return after noticing the tires on my other vehicle were wearing thin on the insides of the tread, indicating my car was out of alignment. When I came back to Big O to get my tires replaced, I learned that it wasn’t so much that my car was out of alignment, it was that for the year I’d owned it prior I had never rotated the tires.
On normal terrain, a good quality tire can go great distances before having to be rotated. However, I had been riding on factory tires in gravely, rocky terrain. I was used to driving in the Midwest on mostly paved roads, but since coming to the West I’d adopted more outdoorsman-like activities.
Judging from the amount of wear, the manager not only gave me a variety of tires to choose from, but also offered a suggested rotation schedule to make sure I wouldn’t get into the same mess I’d been in before. I also thought to purchase a 5-year warranty on the two front tires I purchased since I knew I’d have the car for several years (it was a year old) and the value seemed right.
Fast forward three months later. My lovely wife was in the drive-thru at the Kentucky Fried Chicken when was turned too sharply near the exit and ended up slicing through the sidewall. She was able to just barely get home before the car finally sank to the pavement.
I changed the tire, all the while thinking I was screwed and would have to pay another $134 for the same Big O brand tire to replace it. I couldn’t remember the details of my warranty, but was almost certain it covered defects or roadway use, not operator error.
Upon pulling into the parking lot with the puny doughnut attached, a manager came out to greet me. He asked me what my problem was, so I notified him of my tire situation. He immediately asked for my paperwork, which I handed to him. He checked the front and the back tires. Since it was one of the front tires I’d previously purchased, and I had a warranty, the company simply “warranteed out” the tire. It only cost me a little time on a Saturday and about $30 for the remount and balance of the new tire.
Will I return to Big O Tires again? As long as it’s for one of the services they provide, you bet! On top of good service, they provide you with coffee and doughnuts. The only thing that could make it better is if they included a neck rub and a plump, elderly woman to stroke your hair and tell you everything was “going to be all right.”
The only negative aspect, and this is barely worth mentioning, but the last time I was there the magazine selection had somehow shifted from being neutral to mostly woman-oriented. Nowhere could I find a Field and Stream or an Outside magazine. It was all Family Circle, Good Housekeeping or Lady’s Home Journal. Oh, well. Considering it was mostly ladies in the waiting area, I suppose it’s just another example of how Big O likes to cater to their customers – men and women.