Les Schwab (the tire center) and I have a long relationship, all positive so far. Sure, we part company on the "Free Beef" deal -- how about some free tofu? -- and we've got different views on a proposed Oregon studded tire ban, but I really like the Les Schwab commitment to customer service.
There's quite a few stories on the Internet about how a Les Schwab employee went above and beyond the call of duty to help someone with a tire problem. Mine isn't as dramatic as most, but I still want to share how my lug nut problem got solved today at the south Salem Les Schwab store.
Our recently-purchased Nissan Leaf needed some tire chains.
My wife, the primary driver of the Leaf, hates to put on regular quick-fit chains even more than I do. So I did some searching for an alternative to the kneel-down-and-reach-around approach (sounds kind of erotic, but when the object of your attention is a tire, believe me, it isn't).
I discovered the Thule K-Summit, a technological marvel, albeit a spendy one. Like Spikes-Spiders, the chains attach entirely from the outside of the tire. A difference, though, is that the K-Summit doesn't require a geeky looking adapter like Spikes-Spiders do.
So I ordered a set for the Leaf.
Only problem was, the gizmo that attaches the Thule chains to a front wheel lug nut wouldn't tighten down firmly. I could tell that I was using the correctly sized lug nut adapter, but when I tried to tighten the gizmo's screw it would end up feeling decidedly loose.
Thule, with its Swedish origin, follows the IKEA practice of providing instructions that are almost 100% pictorial. No words, just diagrams showing what to do. Also, what not to do. With some effort, my unmechanical brain was able to decipher the apparent meaning of a diagram that was so important, it was shown on a card attached to the chains themselves.
A red "X" showed what shouldn't occur when putting on the K-Summit chains: the gizmo should fit completely over a lug nut, not attach to it in a half-assed fashion. Yet that's what I kept encountering with the Leaf lug nuts. Which, upon a closer inspection than I've ever given a lug nut, were strangely rounded on the end.
I needed help. I phoned Portland's Rack Attack and was told that Thule didn't have an adapter for weirdly shaped lug nuts that were too long for the gizmo to attach to. The Rack Attack guy agreed with me that replacement lug nuts would be the only solution.
So this afternoon I found myself at the south Salem Les Schwab, kneeling beside one of our Leaf's tires, showing an attentive Tire Center employee the Thule K-Summit chains, plus all of the adapters that wouldn't fit, demonstrating to him how the lug nuts were acting, well, nutty.
After a few minutes he said, "I'll get some replacement nuts and be right back." Which he was, quickly, because Les Schwab employees don't walk when they're outside the main office/display area -- they run.
When he came back with a couple of possible replacement lug nuts, we played around with them for another five minutes or so. I wanted to be sure that the gizmo would tighten properly around a new nut, and it took my nonmechanical brain longer than the employee's to figure out that new lug nut X would work, whereas new lug nut Y wouldn't.
Once we'd settled on the replacement lug nuts, the Les Schwab employee said he'd round up ten of them and I could pay for them inside. Then, even though I've put on quite a few lug nuts in my time, I successfully played the Helpless Customer Game -- which, this being Les Schwab, I was confident would end up winningly.
"OK, that sounds fine...um, but the Leaf doesn't have a spare tire, so I may not have the right tool to replace the lug nuts. And I'm not that familiar with torqueing. So, um, could you possibly put on the lug nuts for me?"
Yes, he was happy to. He had me move the Leaf behind another car being worked on in a service bay, then jogged over with an air gun -- which I told him was a handy device missing from our garage.
I had just enough time to check email on my iPhone using the Les Schwab wi-fi service and grab a bag of popcorn from the waiting area. The eminently helpful employee then came in and totaled up my bill after talking with me for about fifteen minutes about the lug nuts, and spending another five to ten minutes taking off the old lug nuts and putting on the new ones.
At two bucks a nut, my VISA charge was $20. Well worth it, since without the right lug nuts my oh-so-cool Thule K-Summit chains would have had to be returned. Now the chains seem to fit great.
Yeah, like I said six years ago, "I love Les Schwab."
(Here's another love-reason: yesterday the same Les Schwab Tire Center put on four winter tires/wheels on our Highlander Hybrid for free, temporarily replacing the Toyo all season tires that I'd bought at Les Schwab.)