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For a Few Dollars More

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Even as we were congratulating ourselves for dodging the sweeps month hidden camera run NBC’s Today Show took at tire and repair shops, a more compelling story ran on Nov. 21 on WTVD-TV in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

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Investigative reporter Steve Daniels bought a few used tires from local shops, products promoted as “safe” by the stores, who were charging $20-$30 for their ‘quality’ wares.

Confronted by Daniels, an employee at Raleigh’s  Solo Tire was shown a used tire they sold and asked for an assessment of the product. 

“It’s really worn out right here,” the man said on air, pointing out a horribly worn portion of the tread. “Really messed up already.”

That’s when Daniels reminded the man where the tire had come from. The employee “admitted the tire wouldn’t pass a state inspection,” but said his customers know what it means to buy used.

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“‘The people know what exactly they’re buying,’ he explained. ‘They should know what they’re buying. They’re used tires.’”

No, they don’t know. A statement like that is pure bull-pucky. Especially when that tire also had a sidewall repair – done with a temporary plug. Find me a single consumer who could spot all three of those dangerous faults.

Obviously they don’t know or that knucklehead and his ilk wouldn’t profit by trying to sell crappy used tires. Oh, you think they should know what they’re buying? How about this: You should know what the hell you are selling.

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For $20.

(You can see the whole sorry TVstory at http://bit.ly/1hdSSdo)

Across town at Blue Flame Tire Center, Daniels crew bought a used tire and then showed it to RMA vice president Dan Zielinski for his analysis.

Zielinski quickly noticed that “chunks of the tire have come out,” pointing to a series of fingernail-sized divots in tread elements along one of the outer ribs. “This is a tire that shouldn’t be placed back into service.”

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Comically, it was. For $30.

In dismissing the missing tread, the store owner said: “You’ll see this on most any tire, depending on where it’s been driven at. The tire’s not dry-rotted. It appears to be in good shape at the sidewalls. So I think that the tire would probably be safe.”

But when Daniels asked if he would let a member of his family drive on that tire, the owner changed his tune: “If my family was in this vehicle, I would hope that I could get new tires.”

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Still, because sheer volume always makes things right, the owner pointed to his stock of 40,000 used tires with pride. And every one of them is carefully scrutinized, the owner claimed.

“Yes, we do. We definitely try to. Once we have, you know, picked it out, now it’s on the wheel, we balance it, run it through the water, make sure there’s no leaks. We also inspect the sidewalls to make sure there’s no splits.”

I feel safer already, don’t you?

The used tire argument is a tough one. Yes, there are many reputable firms that specialize in supplying dealers with “quality” used tires. But as much as they claim each and every tire is carefully and fully inspected, no one can offer 100% assurance that a good looking used radial with 6/32nds tread left hasn’t been curbed or run flat or otherwise abused. No one warrants them.

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Anyone with a set of take-offs can be in the used tire game. Anyone who collects 40,000 used tires can sell them direct to unknowing, unwitting consumers.

The arguments in favor of dealers selling used tires are thin, especially: “Every tire on the road is used!”

Yes, that’s true. So are the shoes on my feet, the jeans on my legs and the hamburger in my stomach.

Wanna buy my used hamburger?

Didn’t think so.

Used shoes and used jeans can’t kill people. Can’t maim them, or leave them in comas.

People don’t know what they’re getting into when they buy used tires; few even understand what tires mean to their safety. You know, that whole envelope-sized contact patch connection between your 3,000-pound vehicle and the roadway?

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‘Upstanding businessmen’ can always come up with excuses, ‘er explanations to support their methods of money-making. I mean, come on, there’s a huge market of people who can’t afford brand new tires, right? Can’t keep their families safe if their tires are worn out, right? So they need tires to get by, right?

And hey, it’s a free market system, right? So you can sell whatever’s legal, right?

Legal. Right.

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