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Editor's Notebook

My Kingdom for $100

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We’ve all played those "If I Won The Lottery" and "If I Were King" games in our heads. Come on, admit it. You’ve all day-dreamed up more than one list of "laws" you’d enact and stuff you’d buy.

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My Mega Lotto fantasy involves a gym bag stuffed with $100,000 in small bills, a scraggly beard, tattered clothes, and a Porsche dealer. ‘Nuff said. I won’t even get into the King thing, other than to say it involves a penal colony the size of Montana.

We may never get to live out our respective dreams, but we can always draw up lists. They’re a cheap and easy way to explore life in a "perfect universe" where everything always goes right, and wrongs are corrected with unfettered gusto.

So, if you suddenly became King of the Tire Industry and had the power to change anything at all, in any way you wanted, what would you do and why?

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Send me a list of five things you would do if you were King of the Tire Industry. Be funny, be cutting, be sarcastic – just don’t be rude. And include your name, title, company, address and daytime phone number. The best list, as judged by our panel of sovereigns, wins $100. Second place gets $50, and third receives something from our gift closet. Entries must be received by Sept. 1, so get off your thrones and start writing.

In the meantime, allow me to indulge myself and outline five things I’d do if I were King of the Tire Industry:

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1) First, we would herald a new era of respect and value by proclaiming that Sears, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s, Kmart, et al immediately discontinue selling tires. Tire advice and service would be put back into the hands of the real experts, not some dweeb teenager who was stocking the lawn and garden department just last week. Tiremakers complain that the "value proposition" of tires has been lost. Well, answer this: What’s a consumer’s perception of a brand sold by a chain that also sells toilet paper in bulk and baked beans by the case? When a brand is sold through every conceivable venue, regardless of consumer perception of those stores, you commoditize the product. And when you rely on untrained, nomadic sales clerks to represent your goods, the value proposition gets sucked out like the last drops of the Slurpee young Justin, this week’s "tire expert" at Wal-Mart, just finished. Burp! One proviso: tire dealers must prove their worthiness (see No. 3). Violators must buy 10 cases of baked beans on sale, but have to pay full boat for the toilet paper.

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2) Three royal edicts for automakers. The first proclaims that all OE tires must provide a minimum margin of 30% above the actual cost to produce. Why should the OEMs get to make such outlandish profits per vehicle on the backs of component suppliers? Secondly, the advice and talents of tire engineers must be utilized in all vehicle design programs, and no OEM can demand tire design or engineering changes against the advice of the tire guys. Third, if car dealers want to sell tires, then tire dealers get to sell cars. Violators must drive an overloaded SUV at excessive speeds with the tires inflated to 26 psi. Safety first, gang!

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3) Away with the old wife’s tales and falsehoods. By royal decree, all tire dealers, their sales staffs and tire techs would receive extensive tire training, and be certified by a national organization. Same for company-owned shops. Expert tire advice should come from experts, right!? As an addendum, all consumers must learn to care for their tires at least as well as they care for their pets. Penalty: A particularly gassy St. Bernard and a locked, unventilated room. If you’re gonna spread it, you might as well get it!

4) The "4 for $99" loss leader special would be retired for all time. And, no tire retailer would be allowed to use any derivation of the following phrase: "We Have the Lowest Prices – Guaranteed!" If we’ve stripped the mass merchants of all tire rights, dealers and company-owned stores shouldn’t be allowed to slip into the commodity-pricing abyss. Violators would be sentenced to a lifetime of listening to hideous on-hold Muzak, or attempting to converse with an impolite, diction-challenged desk clerk.

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5) After that busy morning, I’d break for a fine lunch. Perhaps a dietary oxymoron like Rueben, fries and a Diet Coke. Or some barbeque, mustard cole slaw and an ice tea. And then … Wait, I don’t want to steal all your thunder, so I’ll keep No. 5 to myself.

The winning King of the Tire Industry lists will be published, along with some notable offerings from would-be royals, later this year. Remember, entries must be in my hands by Sept. 1. So get cracking!

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