Monday, March 13, 2006

Free is expensive

How I saved less!

This afternoon I used a special coupon for a free tire alignment. The free alignment cost me $90, although without a coupon you can get it for $70. Here's how it works:

The tires on my car are over four years old and ready for replacement. Before going to the tire shop, I visited their website and printed out a coupon good for a free tire alignment with the purchase of four new tires. At the tire shop, the sales rep and I looked over some options and I chose a set of four tires for a total of $450. They'd be good for an estimated 80,000 miles, although they did not carry a lifetime guarantee (which seems a lot like one of those extended warranties, right?). The other 80,000-mile set came with the guarantee, but listed for $540. I wasn't interested in ponying up an additional $90 for the guarantee. I left the shop and began the one-mile hike home. (The walk is good for me.)

Before I got halfway there (note the clever use of the blog title, eh?), the sales rep caught up to me in the company pickup (he should have offered me a ride home) and apologized for not telling me that the coupon was not valid with the tires we had chosen. The free alignment offer is good only for tires labeled with their company logo; it says so in the fine print. What did I want to do? If I paid $70 for the alignment (certainly needed after several years of driving), my total cost jumped to $520. Did I want the alignment anyway?

Yes, I did. The sales rep then reminded me that we had looked at another set of tires that carried the company logo. That was the set that listed for $540. If I was going to pay $520 anyway for new tires and an alignment, why not toss in another $20 and get the alignment for free (you following this?) and also get the lifetime guarantee that came with the more expensive set. At this point, as you might imagine, I gave a sickly smile and said, “Sure, just get this over with.”

Later this afternoon I'll call the tire shop to check when my car will be ready. I'll walk back into town, pick up my vehicle, and ride home on my new—and properly aligned—tires. Complete with lifetime guarantee! And a free alignment that cost me only $90.

Your mileage may vary.

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