25 April 2011

Buying A Tire at Wal-Mart

I promise:  This won't be merely a rant against a corporate monolith.  However, I am warning you that this post will contain one.  So proceed at your own peril.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I got a flat.  Since Mom and Dad don't ride, and the bike was borrowed, there was no spare tire or tube in the house.  So Dad took me to Wal-Mart, which was the only store open, to get them.

I bought a mountain bike tire and two tubes.  The total cost, with tax, was $25.88.  That doesn't sound bad, except that I know that I could have gotten something of better quality online, or even from my local bike shops, for less money.  And these tires and tubes were the only ones offered in the store.

The tire and tubes were from Bell, which seems to have become a generic brand of bike parts and accessories without being, or admitting to being, generic.  I've used Bell helmets, which were fine. But I see, at best, a tenuous connection between whoever is making the tires and tubes and whoever is making the helmets. 

So, it seems, Wal-Mart is now taking advantage of the apparent lack of competition in the area by offering a limited selection and inferior quality at whatever prices they can get away with charging.  

And don't get me started on the way the company treats its employees.  That they were working on a holiday, for minimum wage,  was bad enough.  But the workers--even the young floor manager--didn't seem very healthy.  And the cashier--one of those wonderful Southern women of a certain age who calls everyone "hon" and "darlin'"--was missing nearly all of her teeth.

She probably couldn't have afforded the tires and tubes I'd just bought.


  1. Besides all the stuff you mention, did the tires/tubes even work?

    I had a bad experience on our Olympic Peninsula tour when I blew out a front tire on my Long Haul Trucker. The only thing nearby that was open was Wal-Mart, as the bike shop in town closed five minutes before the blowout. Amazingly they had a 700C tire. I thought I had at least had a temporary fix for the problem until I could get a better tire. But the damn thing wouldn't stay on! As soon as I pumped the tube to, oh 30 psi, the tire would pop out from the rim!

    With the sun setting and no camping options close by (except an RV park that wanted to charge us $40 to put up a tent ON CONCRETE), I had to shell out $$ for a sub-par motel and wait for the bike shop in the morning. I told them about the Wal-Mart tire and they said, "Let me guess, it unseated itself as soon as you started pumping it up?"

  2. On the other hand, the Walmart near me had better quality bike locks at lower cost than my LBS.

  3. Currently don't have a car so I understand your pain. By the way, I'm back to blogging, feel free to pop in again. 3 new posts.

  4. Ok, I hope this doesn't make me sound terrible, or that I think I'm better, but I have a hard time going into Walmart. I just can't bring myself to go in. My husband gives me a hard time about it because like Steve, if he can can get a better deal on something price wise - that's where he will go. He jokes about it with me all the time. So, with that said, I will have to tell him about your experience Justine. And, about Shawn's experience as well.

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  6. Shawn, the tire fit and seems to ride reasonably well, given what it is. I guess I lucked out.

    Steve, I don't blame anybody going for the best deal. Wal-Marts and hardware stores generally offer better quality locks, or at least a wider choice, than most local LBSes. My objections to Wal-Mart include what they have done in communities like the one in which the one I visited: Once they've destroyed the competition, they raise prices and constrict the number of choices. Plus, they don't always treat their employees as well as their PR would have people believe.

    Sophisticated: Welcome back!

    Sue, In light of what I said to Steve, I still prefer to go to a business owned and staffed by people I know whenever it's possible. I guess I'm spoiled from living in an urban neighborhood with mom-and-pop businesses, some of which have been in existence for a long time.