Where to begin? I guess I'll begin in the middle (beginning at the beginning is worn out and beginning at the end is feaux ironic). Saturday afternoon, I took my car to Discount Tire to have the tires rotated. I had been holding out because the dealer wants $20 to do it and Discount does it for free. So, I was in there for about a half hour when the guy came over and told me everything was done and "You know there were scratches on your wheels before you brought it in, right?" "Sure", I said, thinking he was talking about some curb rash I likely incurred as I bumped a curb taking a turn the other day.
I went home and decided I better have a look at the wheels, just to make sure we were talking about the same damage. It didn't take long for me to see what he was talking about: there were gouges in three or four places on each wheel, usually between lug holes on the spokes. I did not recall that damage, so I called to talk to the manager who requested I bring it back in. I did and he had a look at it. He said he wasn't sure how that could've happened, but that it looked pretty fresh because the spots had no "oxidation" yet. I agreed that it looked fresh and asked him what was to be done. He said he wasn't sure what equipment could've done that, but if it was new and I couldn't think of any other cause, then they would have my wheels refinished. During our inspection, we also found some damage to the sidewall on one of the tires. That damage I could explain.
Now back to the beginning. A few days before, I had been driving to the gym when, in an attempt to play air drums with a double-bass pedal and drive, I accidentally clipped a curb on my way into the parking lot. At the time, I didn't think much of it, but I did look at my driver's side wheels to make sure I hadn't done any serious damage. I didn't see anything on either wheel, so I assumed that only the tire had made contact with the curb and that the wheels had been spared. So, I had inspected at least two of the wheels only three days before my visit to Discount, and that's why I was so confident that the gouges on the spokes weren't there before said visit.
Back to the middle. So, I left Discount feeling pretty good and thinking that, even if they did mess up my wheels, at least they were taking responsibility and having them refinished on their dime. It wasn't half an hour before my phone rang and another manager wanted to talk to me. He said he was there when they noticed the damage before they started the work and that it was definitely already there. I asked, "Well, if there was damage and you noticed it before you started the work, why didn't you come in and ask me if I had seen that damage? If I was in that situation, I'd ask the customer first to avoid this kind of confusion." He did some side-stepping and then continued to insist that those marks looked like "balance marks" and that, since they hadn't balanced the wheels, they couldn't have done that damage. He asked if the tires had been balanced before and I told him I thought they had not, but that I would call my dealer to be sure.
I phoned my dealer who informed me that the tires had been balanced in November, eight months earlier, during a regular service visit. He said that it was unlikely they had damaged the wheels and that if the guy at Discount said the damage looked fresh, then it probably was. I agreed. He also said that there was nothing they could do to help me out since someone else had handled the wheels and it'd been so long since the dealer had worked on them anyway. I told him I understood.
So, I called Discount back and talked to the first manager again and told him what the dealer said. He said that when he committed to pay for the refinished, he was under the impression that Discount had also balanced the tires and not just rotated them. I said I understood, but that I was still confident that the damage hadn't been there before I brought the car in. I began to get frustrated as I felt he was backing off from their commitment and that, even worse, they may take no responsibility for the damage. Trying to at least get some assistance, I offered to go halfsies on the refinish and he reluctantly agreed. We set an appointment for Monday morning so I could swap wheels with some loaners and my wheels could be sent to be refinished.
Now to the end (yes, finally). On my way to Discount this morning, I noticed that my "low tire pressure" indicator was lit, and I immediately wondered whether the sidewall damage had caused a leak. I asked the Discount guy to take a look since he'd be taking the tires off to put them on the loaner wheels anyway. Sure enough, the tire had a slow leak and had to be replaced. Lucky for me, he had one in stock. He was kind enough to charge me half price for the tire and recommended I get Discount's lifetime replacement warranty on my tires. I had considered this before since the dealership did not guarantee the tires when they sold me the car. I decided to take the warranty at $23 per tire and I wish I'd done it sooner (since it would've already paid for itself).
So, after going to have a tire rotation, I ended up getting all four wheels refinished, a new tire and a replacement warranty on all four tires for a total cost of $455.
Lessons learned (for those too lazy, or too smart, to read this whole stupid post):
- Avoid air drums and other air instruments when driving around corners
- Inspect personal property before allowing someone else to work on it (this goes for cars, houses, shoes and anything else that may or may not be damaged before or after having the work done)
- Once a company has committed to something, don't allow them to back down from it (like I did, which cost me about $250)
- When buying new tires (or when buying a vehicle with new tires), get a replacement warranty on them in case you catch a nail or, I dunno', clip a curb or something--it will be well worth it or, at worst, a small investment in your peace of mind
EDIT: I was driving to lunch on Saturday afternoon (almost three days after the tire was replaced and the wheels were re-installed) when my "low tire pressure" light came on. Of course I wasn't too happy about this, but I thought it could be that the Texas heat had caused my tires to become over-inflated. So, I went out and bought a little tire pressure gauge and checked everything out. Turns out my front driver's side tire was down to 16.5 psi, which is about half what it should be. I inspected the tire and saw that there was a mark on the sidewall and I suspected it could be another slow-leaking tire. I put some air in it and the light went off, so I was convinced that this was indeed the troublesome tire.
This morning (Monday), the light came on as I left for work, so I decided to swing by Discount to have them look at it. Turns out they never replaced the tire before, so they put a new one on (for real this time). Hopefully this whole tire hassle is over.