Exhausted and tyred by motor trade’s service

Should the likes of Richard Branson still be hunting for new consumer businesses to revolutionise, never mind pensions, fashion or cosmetics?

Should the likes of Richard Branson still be hunting for new

consumer businesses to revolutionise, never mind pensions, fashion or


There’s a place to be found on the edge of practically every town in

Britain which remains the last bastion of customer indifference.

I’m talking about those so-called fast-fit tyre and exhaust depots whose

surly service, greasy waiting rooms and menacing blow-lamp wielding

operatives are but a foretaste of hell itself. Trading standards types

will tell you that of all the businesses in Britain, the car sales and

repair trade is still right up there with emergency plumbing, easily

leading the field in the customer dissatisfaction stakes.

Yet in my experience, your smarmiest car salesperson is infinitely

preferable to the dodgy wheeler-dealers who are attracted to the tyre

trade like Arthur Daley to a pad of bent MOT certificates. As you’ve

probably guessed, I’m still smarting for revenge after a day spent

phoning round, then waiting most of the afternoon for a free bay so a

simple job could be done on my car’s exhaust pipe. And that was after I

thought I had booked an appointment.

I mean, where exactly are these shiny palaces we see on TV, where you

can’t get a quicker fitter?

What’s most galling is that these places invariably have all the

trappings of the modern service organisation, without actually

delivering any of the features.

The walls are lined with staff training certificates and mission


Yet the inmates of these establishments give every appearance of having

served their apprenticeships with Aeroflot in the mid-70s. For a start,

you rarely get acknowledged when you walk in. You’ll hardly ever be

given a spontaneous run-down of the alternatives and costs, and are then

often misled about how long the work will take.

Yes, I know there must be fast-fit centres which have charming, helpful

staff. It is a notoriously tricky business to make money in.

Longer-lasting products have meant fewer repeat visits for small


Now there are important but expensive environmental measures for tyre

traders to cope with. They also have to compete against powerful

distributors in a complex market in which keenly-priced tyres are

sourced and shipped from plants all over the globe.

But all the customer wants is to be able to trust the tyres and the

people fitting them so as to get that rubber rolling on the road again

as soon as possible.

Laughably, the only reading matter provided to take customers minds off

all this in the waiting room I visited last week was a dull trade

magazine for tyre dealers. It is a shame nobody reads it, because

ironically one of the main features was a consumer visit to an Essex

town where the service was found to be duff in every tyre depot -

including the market leader.

So who will deliver us from this over-inflated, radial tyred hell? Your

country needs you.


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