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Editor's Notebook

(Between the Lines): Intercepted Holiday Letter From a Tire Dealer’s Wife

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We all get them. The Holiday Update Letter from friends or relatives. They are usually over-the-top cheery, even for the holiday season, and provide interesting tidbits about how life is treating those closest to you, especially helpful if they live far away.

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Sometimes, though, a more honest assessment comes from reading between the lines, such as with this letter we intercepted:

What a difference a year makes (like, last year we had a house). What was new has become old and what was old has become better (unless you count the tire machine we can’t afford to replace).

Our shop is so blessed to have a great group of core customers. We see dozens of our best customers each week (as they drive by on their way to the unemployment office). And our lovely town continues to grow and add new people (they just built two retirement centers). It’s just so exciting to see positive things happening here (it’s been a blight since they closed the factory last year).

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Speaking of exciting, we’ve really gotten into the “green” movement like we’ve seen so many communities and businesses doing. Our shop is doing its part to keep our planet green and we’ve started a recycling program (we’re selling all of the take-offs we possibly can, and the rest get shipped to some third-world country) and are encouraging our customers to do the same (not with their tires, though).

It sure has been a challenge to match our 2007 success (not even close), and in a lot of ways we’re seeing an upswing (mostly in our costs, thanks to those price increases). Keeping a positive attitude can be tough sometimes, but we are honestly positive people and all of our employees have caught the “positive bug.” Why just the other day, our bookkeeper said she was feeling positive about her future (we haven’t seen her since, strangely).

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At a dealer meeting we went to this past spring (first vacation in years) we heard there were a lot of opportunities in what they called “unperformed maintenance” (or is it “underperformed maintenance”…I can never keep it straight). Anyway, this guy was really good, and he said there was like a gazillion dollars of potential sales out there for the asking. People just don’t know that they need to get their cars fixed (vs. eating or paying the mortgage). All we have to do, he says, is be more aggressive in our sales techniques (we’re trying begging now) and remind them that their safety is important.

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Our store manager Ted’s family has had a rough year (we had to let him go because of cutbacks), so keep them in your thoughts. Same with our lead tire man Andy (ditto) and best service tech Zak (ditto squared). Bob, bless his heart, has had to take on a few more chores around the shop, so his days have gotten a wee bit longer (he hasn’t slept at home in two months).

Still, Bob is really excited about the positive results we’ve seen from our green efforts (he cut off the shop heat and is collecting empty pop cans to sell at the scrap yard…I think the patio set is next).

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The kids are both doing great. Amy and Bobby Jr. are both helping around the shop (that’s the only way they get to see their Dad). Amy, as you know, does OK at school so we’re giving her some “special projects” to help her along (she now does our books). Little Bobby is not so little any more. He loves to help his Daddy with the customers (he’s our new tire man). Bob’s second cousin Hal (the scary one with the Elvis haircut) loves to tinker around on things, and he comes over to keep Bob company around the shop (he’s our new service tech).

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So far so good, the new set-up has worked out fabulously (except it’s hard to hold a wrench when you’re wearing mittens). Bob found a used waste oil heater online, and that has really helped – free heat from used motor oil (and the stuff we steal from Denny’s).

Personally, I was never a winter person. All that snow, and it’s drab and gray (or maybe it’s the depression), so I try to find my little special ways to perk up. Can’t wait until spring – maybe things will be better then. It’s always exciting when the flowers bloom (maybe we can sell them).

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Speaking of spring, our accountant says we have a lot to look forward to (we’re way behind on our taxes and will probably have a meeting downtown) and we may have some other important developments to deal with then (like a visit to a bankruptcy lawyer).

Despite everything, we still have each other (thank God), and that’s important. We know a lot of others who have had tough times and split up. Bob likes to say, “We’re tire people, we’re too tough to back down.” I know he’s right.

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Happy Holidays…Judy

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