Last Wednesday, I was driving home from work when I heard a strange noise coming from the rear of the car. After a quick pullover in a parking lot, I discovered that I had just experienced my first flat tire.
Remember my rear-end accident of a year and change ago? It appears that I had yet to plumb the depths of the incompetence of Fishers Collision Repair. After rebuilding my van’s rear end, they “fixed” the spare tire assembly, which had been damaged in the collision, by permanently attaching the tire to the assembly, making it impossible to use the spare tire for its intended purpose.
But I digress. These tires were relatively new, purchased at Sam’s Club only a short time ago. At the time, the low prices, combined with the lavish benefits bestowed on tire-buying Sam’s Club members, made the case for us to buy Sam’s. Unfortunately, Sam’s Club could not make the case for us to stay with them, and we recently switched to Costco.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. All of those wonderful benefits were conditional on our membership. Once that was gone, all possibility of using those benefits went away. Sam’s Club, I was told, could not do anything, even sell me a replacement, and the person behind the counter even wondered how I had gotten into the store without a membership card. In other words, I am now devoid of even the basic customer support options one is used to, such as those against manufacturing defects or store mishandling.
And this was not all. Rebuffed at Sam’s, I made my way to a Tire Barn to figure out what to do next. There, I learned my second piece of bad news: the tire make is unique to Sam’s. Had the tire needed replacement, I could not have bought a match anywhere other than Sam’s Club or (possibly) Wal-Mart.
Looking back on it, we should have been more cynical, and assumed that Sam’s wouldn’t honor their word once we stopped paying them a yearly fee to do so. I’m sure Costco has similar policies, so it’s hard to just blame Sam’s Club for this. Nevertheless, as a lesson hard won, it bears repeating: do not buy anything from club stores that you foresee needing ongoing customer support for, including automotive parts, computers and other electronics, or anything else where warranty support is important to you.
The story turned out to have a happy ending; it was a simple puncture, and the tire was not otherwise damaged. Hopefully, these tires will hold up over the long haul, and I won’t have to replace them until they wear out (assuming we keep the van that long). But if they don’t, then what?