Saturday, June 25, 2011


My son calls and says, "Dad, I have a flat tire." So I head out to assess and assist. Sure enough, really flat, with steel belt showing on both sides of the tread (I guess that whole "check these things before you drive" from driver's ed didn't take, huh?). The other front tire is in similar condition, and the back tires aren't much better. Looking like a new set of tires is needed. Anyway, we put on the spare (after moving the car to some more solid ground vs. trying to jack it up on the soft shoulder, and, yes, i brought the floor jack with me instead of trying to use the scissors jack that was in the trunk) and find it's low on air. Should have thought to being the air compressor with me, but of course I didn't. Back home and back to the car, inflate the temp spare, and then head to the Goodyear shop to get some new rubber.

Guess what? The OEM size on the 9 year old car is obsolete (despite the fact that Tire Rack, I check later, has Goodyears in the original size). Anyway, the cheapest set they have there is $500. Really? Some steel and rubber, in mass-manufactured quantities, is $500? You can buy a computer, or a modern tablet or super smart phone, for less than that. And you can't tell me it costs more to design a tire than it does a computer, and the components in the computer are certainly difficult to manufacture.

Anyway, got me thinking, what can you buy for $500? Four tires, a computer (desktop or laptop) or tablet or smartphone, a nice TV, a month's rent somewhere, a really nice push mower or possibly a cheap riding mower, a really nice gas grill. What else? A pretty decent bicycle? A sofa? A cheap fridge or freezer? What about an 80-gallon water heater? A decent acoustic-electic guitar? Why are some of these things priced so expensively, while others, some seemingly more expensive to develop or manufacture, exist at the same price point?

Really, how long have we been manufacturing tires, consisting of rubber and steel (these days), and yet the price equals (or exceeds) that of the latest computing gadgetry, consisting of the latest innovations in silicon, displays, etc. Granted, there is "more" of the stuff in the tires, but it's still just some rubber and steel, and it's mass-manufactured in molds that are not as complex as the manufacturing processes of, say, your average notebook computer or smartphone.

Something seems amiss. Are we, the dependent consumer, being fleeced by the tire manufacturers? Just wondering.

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