Yesterday I bought four tires for our Prius at the south Salem Les Schwab Tire Center and, per usual, my experience with the company was exemplary. I wasn’t thrilled about getting a new set of tires after putting only 20,000 miles on the original equipment Goodyear Integritys, which, along with quite a few other Integrity owners, I can pithily describe as four rolling pieces of crap.
But the Les Schwab employees perked up my spirits as soon as I walked into the store. I’d briefly considered buying tires elsewhere. However, when I called Les Schwab to get a quote on some Toyos I told the guy who answered the phone:
You’ve earned my loyalty after one of your crew ran out to greet me in the parking lot when I came in this spring with a tubeless mower tire that I couldn’t figure out how to fix. He repaired it for free in a flash.
That sort of Les Schwab service is legendary, as described in this glowing online business magazine article: “Four tires, free beef.” They fix flats for free, whether or not they sold you the tires. And when I said “ran out to greet me,” I meant that literally. Les Schwab employees run all over the place. This is one high-energy, high-customer service business.
I love it. Everyone I interacted with yesterday afternoon was positive, enthusiastic, honest, and—most important—real. I always get the sense at Les Schwab that I’m being treated as an authentic human being (albeit with a credit card) by another authentic human being (albeit one who wants me to use my credit card at the store).
After deciding on some top-of-the-line Toyos, the same as we’ve been happily using on our Volvo wagon for several years, I settled in to the customer waiting area. Free popcorn and coffee is another Les Schwab trademark that I personally appreciate a lot more than the free beef (how about a “free tofu” option for us vegetarians, Les?). The popcorn bin was full, as were the coffee pots.
I was within easy earshot of the front desk, so was able to listen to the Les Schwab staff talk on the phone and in person to quite a few other customers. Invariably they were treated with the same respect and competence as I was.
It’s clear that Les Schwab workers enjoy their jobs. Lots of other service businesses, particularly large chains, are filled with sullen employees who, just as clearly, wish they were doing anything but what they’re doing.
You don’t get that feeling as Les Schwab, undoubtedly in part because of the company’s generous profit-sharing plan where half of store profits are set aside for bonuses, health benefits, and retirement trusts.
I was told that my car would be ready in about 45 minutes. At 3:30, right on time, I heard my name being called out. A credit card swipe later I was driving out of the lot on four Toyo tires that are a heck of a lot safer than the near-slicks we were tooling around on before. (Click here to read complaints about the OE tires from other Prius owners.)
And on the positive side, click here to read more praise of Les Schwab from another blogger. The comments to this post are equally positive. Some are quite moving, such as the story about the Les Schwab employee who, at 9 pm, brings four tires to a van stuck in the middle of central Oregon nowhere. The story ends with:
I insisted on tipping him $25 for giving us service that was beyond anything I had ever seen. He said “No thank you” followed by occasional “Sir, it’s just my job.” Not only that, he wouldn’t even let us pay a service fee for coming all the way out there. I have no personal ties to Les Schwab. This was just such an amazing experience that I wanted to share it. I was a Les Schwab customer before, however, now I’m one of their greatest evangelists as well.
I am too. Because when you’ve got a tire problem and see one of these signs, you really are close to heaven.