Bolt Fix

While driving to the grocery store last evening, I heard a sudden, distinct drumming of one tire against asphalt–an instantly deflating sound-report of a crisis likely needing repair. I pulled over, walked a circle around the Element, checked the tires, found nothing, drove a bit farther, heard it again: a pronounced clack synced with each tire’s full orbit.

When I reached the Meijer parking lot, I walked the perimeter once more, and this time spotted the thumb-tip sized head of a bolt protruding from the face of the right-rear tire. Just after 7 p.m. on a Monday, so I guessed the odds of finding a repair shop open and accepting new jobs was very low. But this was a big bolt, and even though the tire appeared to be maintaining its full pressure, I wasn’t all too keen on driving more than necessary before arranging a repair. I don’t own a fancy Internet phone (might pick up an iPhone later this month…maybe), so I dialed D. and asked her to search out a tire shop proximate to Carpenter and Ellsworth. Belle Tire was closest.  I called, told a rep. named Mike about the desperate condition this poor tire was in, and he said, “Bring it over.”

Belle Tire was open until 8 p.m.  They assured me they could make the repair before closing. Better, Belle sits next to a Kroger, so I was able to pick up groceries while they replaced the bolt with some kind of plug or patch. I returned at 7:50 p.m., loaded a few foodthings into the back of the vehicle, which had just been lowered to the garage floor, and listened to the cashier say something astonishing: “No charge. This one’s on us.  Enjoy your night.” Astonishing.

There’s more. On the way back to the car, I noticed a lug nut missing from the front right wheel–a wheel not in any way involved in the repair work they’d done. I’d just had a brake service and rotation at another shop two weeks ago; possibly they neglected to torque one of the nuts. I stepped back inside and asked the cashier/tech whether they had an extra. He told me to pull up to the garage door again where they put on a new lug nut free of charge. Uh-stonishing.

Let this stand as a formal registration of my amazement. Recent Google reviews of this location have been overwhelmingly negative, but how can I be anything other than impressed? Even if the free service was a strategic attempt to attract me as a future customer, it likely worked. I often feel like car repair situations amount to rip-offs (most unsettling is the deplorable gaming of standard labor charges for jobs accomplished in fewer hours than itemized, e.g., a three-hour labor rate for a job that is ready in 45-minutes). Last night’s complimentary assist by Belle Tire, however, stood in refreshing contrast to this pattern.