An open letter to Neil Mellen, President of Town Fair Tire

[Sent via US Postal Service on 8/20/2009]

Jared Stenquist
CampusLIVE, Inc.
9 East Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002
August 20, 2009

Neil Mellen, President
Town Fair Tire
460 Coe Avenue
East Haven, CT 06512

Dear Neil,
I wanted to take the time to provide feedback from a recent visit to your West Springfield location. As a business owner myself I make it a point to offer easy ways for our customers to provide feedback. Since the invoice I received from Town Fair Tire requested my input at the bottom, I felt I should oblige. I rarely take the time to write letters – only in circumstances of really great or really poor service. Hopefully my time writing will help out future customers.

I made an appointment for 8/6/2009 to have four new tires put on my car. I arrived at 11am to meet my salesman – Dave. He was pleasant enough. I could tell he was knowledgeable. We ended up deciding on a different pair of tires than requested, mostly because he said you didn’t guarantee Goodyear tires – Toyos were the way to go. I’m not sure if this is because you really don’t guarantee them, or because the Toyos were $25 more per tire.

The process of choosing between tires was in my opinion, meant to be extremely confusing. I expected this from a tire salesman as that’s the stereotype. I had hoped to be pleasantly surprised. In an archaic method, Dave spit out 5 different options on a calculator in less than a minute, and tried to explain each, in about 5 seconds. With (25) dollar values per printout and no line item description next to each, they were near impossible to understand – and I’m 25. I can’t imagine what an elderly person goes through.

Suggestion – Why not walk customers through tire options on the computer screen and explain what each item is. It’s easy, and customers won’t feel like you’re just confusing the hell out of them to get them to nod their head. Maybe even some diagrams – what is a front end alignment? What is a rear “thrust” alignment? If your customers learn something while they’re there I bet they’ll be inclined to return.

I had an appointment for 11am, but expected to wait, as most auto shops are very busy. I asked Dave for a rough estimate on the waiting time. He said from start to finish, 90 minutes. For all the work being done I didn’t feel this was bad. I killed some time next door at Staples doing some office shopping. I returned at 12:15pm to find (now one hour after I paid) that my car was still sitting out front, untouched. I remained patient and waited another 30 minutes. The car was still not touched – the only one sitting in front of the bay for over an hour.

I’m a very patient guy – extremely patient I would say. What really got me, was that while I was sitting on the bench out front waiting for them to start my work, there were (5) employees, whistling at or what we could refer to as “hitting on” a female customer who pulled up in a jeep out front. That’s right FIVE! Once they hit 18 minutes I had to go find Dave to see what the deal was. 5 employees x 18 minutes doing nothing = 90 minutes they could have worked on my car. And to top it off, an employee walked out of the front of the shop and yelled to the (5) saying something along the lines of “YO! You boys still off the clock yet?” to which a resounding “NOPE” was heard.

Dave just gave a little chuckle when I mentioned his (5) stellar employees who still hadn’t touched my car now 1 hour and 45 minutes since I paid him $646.00. Another 35 minutes of waiting and someone finally noticed my car (the only one parked in front of the bays).

Suggestion – Maybe you need a manager or some sort of person in charge who makes sure cars don’t sit for 2 hours before they’re seen. Maybe install a timer like that have at McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, Dunkin Donuts Etc.. that shows the vehicle waiting the longest. There must be some way to do this. Anything to keep your customers from waiting 3.5 hours for a tire change.

I have one more thought that may help your company in the long run. A conversation with my father about how my new tires looked gave me the thought. He asked where I took my car to get the tires done. I told him Town Fair, to which he replied – “I’m surprised they didn’t make any attempt to even wipe your rims down. I went to Direct Tire and they even cleaned my wheels thoroughly”

I thought about it and he was right – Not only because it would look like you guys were “Going the extra mile”, but because cleaning the rims makes the tires look better! If I see my car come out of the bay with shiny tires and rims, that image will stick in my head for next time my tires go. This is why I go to AutoExpress in Amherst, MA – unlike Jiffy Lube, they go the extra mile and vacuum my carpets. I know I need to do a better job cleaning my rims, but I guarantee you that giving your customers rims a quick once over for 30 seconds a rim will impact your bottom line in a very positive way.

I thank you for taking my feedback. I hope it will help your business in some way.

Sincerely Yours,

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Jared Stenquist

CEO/Founder
CampusLIVE, Inc.

jared.stenquist@campuslive.com
413.259.6777