The wife’s car has had a slow air leak in one tire for nearly a year now. My car had a fast leak on a snow day last spring. I got lucky last year that a place was willing to fix the tire for me when other stores were booked full, so I returned to the same shop this fall on a day that lacked blizzard-like conditions. A and A Tire meets expectations but leaves a slightly sour taste the second time around.
The first thing to realize when you get to A and A Tire on the east side of Hwy 100 just north of Beloit Rd. is that you should park in the back. My first time there, I parked in front and had to walk up a menacing hill in order to tell the guys my car was down below. I probably didn’t see the big arrows under the snow last year, but just remember to follow the yellow asphalt arrows.
Once you’re in the door, even though you’re walking through the work area into the waiting and cash register area, you will normally be greeted by at least a couple of smiling workers. That’s a pretty big deal, and it’s something I read in other reviews. The guys know how to make a first impression, and they make it seem genuine. Keep in mind, however, that you DO have to walk past workers and work being done in order to get to the office. This is a bit odd to me, but as long as you’re careful and hold onto any kids you might have, it should be fine.
Both times I used A and A Tire, I got my car in right away. I think I was more lucky than smart, but I guess that since both endeavors saw me there before 10AM , I’d say get there before 10AM, since other people showed up after me and waited longer than I did. They probably prefer you call ahead, but I’m kind of bad at doing that. I was a bit surprised each time that the counter guy did not give me much information. Obviously the job was tire repair, and I suppose if it needed to be replaced or needed new brakes, they’d let me know. It just seemed like a work order and a general estimate might have reassured me it wasn’t going to cost several hundred dollars suddenly. If it was me running the shop, I’d say, “Most tire repairs cost $30 or less. Is it OK if we fix it for that price before we ask for permission to do more?” I think it’s pretty common to let people know the general range of prices and expected work before it happens.
Don’t get me wrong, A and A Tires does have some prices listed in the waiting room. I guess a customer could kind of guess what the cost might be, and maybe no one has ever complained about not knowing ahead of time. Here are a few of the related prices I saw at the store:
Tire repair - $30
Used tires - from $35
Labor - $80 an hour
Reasonable? Probably, but when you don’t get any confirmation that it’s a simple tire repair as you sit in the waiting area for over an hour, you begin to make calculations in your head. And, yes, I did wait over an hour both times, even though the shop said they’d get me in right away. This is not a complaint. An hour and a half to fix a tire is still infinitely faster than me taking it off the car and not knowing what to do with it. However, I’d once again recommend an estimated finish time. Like this: “Tire repairs generally cost this much, and with the number of customers, we should finish around this time. We’ll let you know if it costs more or will take longer. Is that acceptable?” And it would have been. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but since there was never even a work order, what if I told them the wrong tire, or they heard the wrong tire, and then they screwed around fixing a non-broken tire the whole time? If it’s never happened, I think that’s wonderful, but I can attest that if they hired me, it probably would happen.
Back to the waiting area. It was warm, and I guess that’s because it was not right next to a door that opened into the elements. Both times I was at A and A, the weather was cold, so I appreciated the location of the waiting area for that concern. However, there were some negatives when it came to the waiting area. Actually, most of the negatives that exist at A and A are because of the location of the waiting area. Let me explain.
The bathroom. Two people used the bathroom. Actions in the bathroom could be heard in the waiting room. An extra door or insulation would fix this. It was embarrassing for those who used it while I was there.
The office. In the one hour I was there, I heard many conversations about cars or tires, and that’s expected. I also heard a conversation about paying off a home equity loan taken out by one of the business principals, and that probably belonged elsewhere. I also heard a conversation about the merits of talk radio, cops having ultimate power, parents being able to spank children, government torture to get information, and comparing our president to Hitler. Since Obama won our state, and four people were in the waiting room, the odds were that two of us voted for him. In a state where political discussion has hurt the feelings of others, I’d recommend that those who run businesses refrain from repeating or agreeing to horribly inaccurate information. Ironically, this conversation took place immediately after the customer (who compared Obama to Hitler) said that the space program allowed for tire technology to increase exponentially. I won’t get too much into why his statement was so ironic, except for an allusion to President Bush’s cutting of the space program (not that I totally disagree with that decision, but it’s still ironic).
The basic idea is this: the locations of both the bathroom and of the office lend themselves to the practice of limiting the amount of crap produced in the vicinity of the the waiting room at A and A Tires. A couple of extra doors or some insulation could not cost more than a few hundred dollars. The next time I have to put tires on one of my cars, it will cost that much or more, so I am hoping I will still want to return to A and A at that point. I guess that would be if I knew I would feel as welcome throughout the experience as I did when I first walked in the door. Sure, I am just starting out with my web design business, but I hope others will let me know if my business discussions ever overstep decorum.
In the end, I paid $25 both times and it was the same fix--trying to get the (rusted/damaged) rim to seal better. If this fix works as well as the last one, it’s well worth the money, and it proves that A and A Tires is an honest company because I was not encouraged to purchase tires I did not need.
Since I like dealing with A and A Tires, I hope that the company will read this review and make the small adjustments necessary for me to come back when it’s time to fully replace my tires. As far as auto shops go, it probably does nearly warrant the 5 rating on Google, even if my last experience was more like a 3.5 because of the issues mentioned in this article. If those smiles are genuine, I assume the company will honestly evaluate my suggestions and possibly make a few changes. I am emailing this review to A and A, and I will write about any response I receive. Of course, I can handle finding a new place to take my car, and some business owners would rather me do that than feel like a customer infringed on their right to speak freely.
I had hoped the entire experience was going to be as great as my first visit. I was prepared to give someone my card and say, "Hey, I'm writing a positive review of the service I got here twice. Maybe they would have seen my review and my web design service and asked me to update their site. I was even prepared to suggest they move to the empty auto garage at 92nd and Bluemound so that I could have a repair shop I liked more than the last one near my house and they could have a third stall. It was going to be great.
I'd also like to mention A and A Tires' website, since I provide web design services. I wouldn't say the website is bad, even if it looks slightly dated compared to some newer examples. However, I would say that the company that designed A and A's site has a much newer-looking design for its own homepage. More irony, I suppose. In addition, if you follow the GeoTrust security link, you'll eventually end up here, which seems all kinds of not secure, since that's the domain GeoTrust has issued it's certificate for. I just have to ask what good a security certificate is for a domain that no longer exists...maybe ARI needs to explain that one to me (and its customers). Actually, since there's no online checkout on the site, I'm not even sure why there's a https page or a security certificate.