tiresNov 1, 2023–If you’d told me I would get emotional while picking up a tire, I’d have punctured your sidewall.

Believe it or not, I visited a Discount Tire for the first time this summer. It’s like the Buc-cees of tire chain stores. My first clue it was a special place was when I called in to find a new tire to replace one that blew out on my wife’s car, and someone actually answered the phone.

In fact, over the course of tracking down what turned out to be a rare size and brand, they answered all eight of my phone calls to the store in Kerrville.

They had the tire in stock and my son-in-law dropped off the bad tire mid-afternoon. He was told it would be ready to pick up the following day. That was wrong. I got a text that it was ready 30 minutes after he dropped it off.

When I went to pick it up, I was not prepared for the reception.

I’ve been around tire repair shops. My brother worked at one for years. They are noisy, dirty, greasy places, by necessity. There are old tires piled against one wall, you have to pick your way around rags and tools, and that is even if they let you in the repair bay. And I love them all, and have and will continue to spread my tire business to all of them.

But at Discount Tire, you could eat off the floor. There were six customer service stations in the large lobby, each with a human person helping customers. While you waited, you could watch through a picture window and see the techs at work. But that’s all, well, window dressing. The real eye-opener was when the guy helping me, “Alex,” rolled my repaired tire outside and hefted it into my truck.

That alone would have earned them a high rating on Yelp. I thanked him and mentioned how impressed I was with the efficiency of the operation.

Then Alex asked me something no tire technician had ever asked me.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I write,” I replied.

“Do you like to read?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then read ‘Six Tires, No Plan.’”

He commenced to sit on the tailgate of my truck and went on to tell me about how the company was founded, and how he left a higher-paying career to come work there, because he liked the way the company treated employees and customers. Alex gave me permission to share his story. He told how after only one year as an employee his newborn faced a critical surgery that cost in excess of a million dollars. Discount Tires made sure that his insurance covered the procedure, and even went the extra step of reimbursing his out-of-pocket expenses.

This was not the customer experience I was expecting to have while shopping for tires. I was faking allergies to cover up my teary eyes. I shook his hand and pledged I would write about this business.

Thinking on it later, it struck me that the best businesses understand that personal relationships are what make me spend money with them, not low prices. For years I took my car to the most expensive repair shop in the area. I knew I was paying more, but when I walked in, they always knew me, they always made me laugh, and they never let me leave without making sure my vehicle was safe for my wife to drive.

Whether it’s a tire shop, insurance office, restaurant, plumbing repair, or your proctologist–it’s not the business we patronize; it’s the people providing the service; and the way the business services its own people.

What’s keeping us all from doing business that way?