Working at Discount Tire

This is the second in a multi-part series about the places I’ve worked. You can read the first in the series about Culligan Water Conditioning here.

“To be the best! Our unique success is based on caring for and cultivating people, delighting our customers, and growing responsibly.”

I first learned the mission statement in July, 2004 on my first day of work at the Delta Township, Michigan Discount Tire. After finishing working at Culligan, I began the search for a new job, and found one amazingly fast. The first place I went to, I asked to speak with the Manager, and he was interested in hiring me right away. After filling out the application, I received a call a few days later offering me the position at Discount Tire Co.

Why did I think of seeking a job at Discount Tire first? About a month before, while still working at Culligan, I got a flat tire and had to get it repaired. The first place I saw was on my way home was Discount Tire, so that’s where I went. Now, my dad had purchased tires from Discount Tire on many occasions, so the place wasn’t completely new to me; but I had never had to get a flat repaired before, so I went to the first place I saw off the highway! I remember one of the associates coming to my car, rolling the flat tire into one of the bays, and walking me inside, being very friendly and accommodating in the whole process. During my short wait, I remember thinking, “If I had to work somewhere else, this would be the place.” The technicians looked like they truly enjoyed their work, service was quick, and the customer service was out-of-this-world. Thus, the first place I tried looking for a new job was at Discount Tire Co; and I was blessed to get it.

The Discount Tire Co. was founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the ’60’s by a man named Bruce Halle. Over time, the company grew and expanded, and by the time I left in 2008, they had just over 700 stores nationwide. They are big pretty much everywhere nationwide, except in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (which is ironically where I live now!). The location I worked at was famous for being the 500th store.

First, I have to admit, I knew very little about cars before starting at Discount Tire. They knew that, and were willing to train me with everything I needed to know. The training program with the company is top-flight. There were strong elements of apprenticeship, material reading, hands-on work, observation, and immersive learning. The first thing that anyone learns when starting at Discount Tire, whether an hourly associate or a manager, is the mission statement previously quoted (I still remember it years later!). After that, associates progress through a “passport”, which is a listing of different company certifications that are learned, tested, and re-tested before being allowed to do those things. Some example certifications are: tire size, speed ratings, de-installation, installation, un-mounting, mounting, balancing, and siping. I wish I still had my passport as a keepsake!

My first responsibility as the “new guy” was being the associate who worked on unloading new tires off of vendor trucks, and putting them away in an organized way. As tough as work could be at Culligan from time to time, it was nothing compared to taking care of tire stock. There was a lot of physical labor, but on top of all of that, there was a lot of thinking involved. A usual day consisted of unloading between 200 and 400 new tires off the back of a semi and stacking them by size and brand. After the entire order was accounted for, the rest of the day was spent putting that stock away in its rightful place on the shelves. At first, all of the numbers and brands were completely gibberish to me; this was definitely immersive learning! I made lots of mistakes (putting the stock away in the wrong place, mixing sizes, etc.), but after a few months, I felt that I had it down to a science. For about 6 months, inventory was my main job function. At times it was not very enjoyable, but I am so thankful for those months; I learned practically every tire, knew what every brand’s tread looked like by sight, and could quickly find what I needed when I needed it in later job functions.

My manager at Discount Tire, Steve, was always flexible with my schedule. As the summer of 2004 was coming to a close, they asked if I could stay on and work after school during the week, as well as a full day Saturday. Of course, I was excited to say, “Yes!” Each day after school, I would rush and throw my uniform on, then drive the six minutes to the store in West Lansing on Marketplace Drive. When I’d arrive, I got to jump right into whatever needed done. As my first year progressed, I worked less on inventory and more on tire installation. I’m also thankful that Discount Tire kept me busy all the time. I don’t remember many “open days” where I had nothing to do but sit at home.


I would say my last day of being the “stock guy” was Friday, November 26, 2004. The day after Thanksgiving is commonly known as “Black Friday.” We often think of people pushing each other over at Best Buy, and fights breaking out at Wal-Mart. Believe it or not, Black Friday is a huge day in the tire retail business as well. People would leave their cars at the tire place for a few hours while they went shopping. Black Friday, 2004 in Michigan was extra-special, though: it was also the day of the first big snow of the year. The first big snow always brings hoards of customers who all of a sudden realize that they have no traction with their bald tires in the snow. So, November 26th, being Black Friday and the year’s first snowstorm, was a perfect storm. There was no time for anyone to put stock away. There was no time for anyone to do anything other than work on cars and deal with customers. I was thrown into the mix when I first got to the store at 7:30a. I was certified in all of the things I needed, but at the time I usually didn’t do technician work. I quickly got into the rhythm. The day was a blur! We closed the doors at 5:00p, and were finished by about 6:30p. At the end of the day, it was by far the busiest day the store had ever had, and it actually might still be the record day that store has ever had. We all took a picture in the lobby (sopping wet and freezing from all of the snow!) that evening, and I bet it still hangs on the store wall in Lansing. Our corporation even rewarded us for that day by taking us all out to Carrabba’s! After that day, I transitioned from being the “stock guy” to a tire tech.

Learning to be a tire tech was challenging at times, but once I started to get the hang of it, I began to enjoy what I did. I had the opportunity to work on some pretty interesting vehicles, including: Bentley, Rolls Royce, Dodge Viper, big country-boy trucks, and even an antique Model-T once! Even with just working on tires and wheels, I learned that every make/model/style has their own intricacies. Many European cars have bolt-through lugs. Most Japanese-made cars torque their wheels at 80 lbs., while German cars are at 90 lbs., and American cars tend to be around 100 lbs. Also, split rims are super-difficult and can kill you if you don’t watch it. There’s nothing like making an older gentleman happy my just putting a tube in his lawn tractor tire. Oh, and some old hot rods’ lugs are reverse-threaded on the left side of the car (can be tricky!). And never use fix-a-flat: you look like an idiot if you do 🙂 It’s funny that 7 years later, I can still remember all of this!


You can ask my mom about this one: every day getting home from work, I would be covered in black rubber/dirt; especially my arms! Often in the summer months, I would be drenched in sweat by noon. Working with black tires all day outside will do that to you! I would sometimes come home at lunch, jump in the pool, scrub all the dirt off me, throw my uniform back on, then head back in for the second half of the day. The Michigan winters were freezing, of course. The wind could whip into those bays, freeze my snowy-wet hands, and every hour or so, I’d have to put my gloves in front of a kerosene heater for a few minutes.

As I finished my first full year at Discount Tire in July, 2005, it was also the time in my life where I was preparing for college at Fairhaven. I remember Steve asking me if I could work during holidays and summers, and I thought, “Sure…like you’re really going to keep hiring me back year after year.” They did. Ever Christmas, every Spring Break I had, and every summer, I was back at Discount Tire. They didn’t even question it. I realize now how big of a blessing it was to have a job in place before I even came home for the summer. One summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I was actually transferred to another location about 5 miles away until the next semester started; I didn’t mind it, but I think I liked my original store better.

We Discount Tire associates seemed to always have a sense of camaraderie with each other. I think turnover was pretty low (except for me leaving at the end of every summer!). We had fun working on cars in the garage. We would race (in a safe manner) to see who could rotate tires the fastest — I could win often 🙂 . Our manager Steve was all about that too. A few Saturdays a year, he would take the team out for breakfast on a Saturday before the shop opened. He would also challenge us a lot to be better. “What’s the mission statement? Did you make sure to greet that customer as he was watching his car being worked on? Are you smiling? Did you shave this morning (oh yes…no scruffy techs in our shop!)? Are you having fun?” I heard those things from Steve often, and I even miss it at times! I have to say, of all the places I’ve worked, and not to down any other place, thinking of Discount Tire, store MIL-28 makes me smile the most. And I’m not going out on a limb to say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without working there.

This past May, a married Software Engineer working for a logistics company drove into the parking lot of the Discount Tire at 650 N. Marketplace with his gorgeous wife and two little boys in a red 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe. He needed four new tires put on the vehicle that he refused to let anyone else work on but this place. As the tires were being installed in bay 2, there was some serious sentimentalism going on…

I hadn’t been back to this place for almost seven years. I only saw one familiar face: an assistant manager I knew from working down the street. Unfortunately Steve was on vacation that week, but he was still the fearless manager of the store! I then started asking about some of the people I had worked with over the years there. It was neat to hear that so many had advanced their careers with the company. At any given time, there were a dozen or so associates working at a store (though not all at the same time). I mentioned at least a dozen different guys, and almost every one of them still worked for Discount Tire Co. Several had their own stores. Even more were assistant managers. That is a good example of company loyalty! But some things never change: the smell of tires in a store-room is still the same; the sound of mounting machines, impact guns, and torque wrenches; greeting every customer; even the hooting and hollering of the techs in the back as they had fun working. This is Discount Tire. This was my life just a few short years ago!

P.S. I did take pride in showing one of the associates how to install the TPMS sensors in my Hyundai tires this past May: I’ve still got it in me!

Stomping Grounds: Part 2

In the summer of 1995, Ebay and Yahoo were founded, the conflict in the Balkan countries of Bosnia and Croatia were raging, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, and I moved to Lansing–the capitol of Michigan.  We found our suburban home just south of the city limits, in a quiet new subdivision surrounded by fields.  The address was 6165 Lindsey Lane.  I don’t actually remember much about the whole moving experience, but I do remember how much we all loved our new house.

"The Michigan Militia"

My sister and I were scheduled to start school at Capitol City Baptist School (which was our church also) soon after we moved in.  I can remember my very first day of third grade–Mrs. Grimwood.  Everyone was brand new to me, but thankfully I was befriended quickly.  One friend from that first day ended up standing in my wedding as a groomsman, and still is a good friend.  I was baptized at Capital City Baptist Church, I began to see God leading me to the ministry, and learned what a good teacher was; in fact, all of my teachers from third to sixth grade were excellent.  I also learned to stand up for my faith–yes, even in a Christian school.  There were some who did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and I learned to study the Book so as to know what I believe and communicate that to others.  A strong educational foundation was instilled on me at Capital City, and without it, I do not believe I would have had the discipline and studiousness I needed in the rest of my school years.

I also made several neighborhood friends in those years on Lindsey Lane.  Jake, David, and I pretty much stuck together through thick and thin.  We would go play in the nearby woods and fields, build forts, pretend we were in the army, get chased out of other peoples property, and name any other boy thing to do: we did it.  One summer, a new subdivision was being built directly adjacent to ours, and with it, a new road.  Well they stalled on the road after grading it for several months, so what did we do?  We built our own “BMX” bike track, with jumps and all!  Every day after school we would make our track better, then ride on it and race each other.  Oh, how I wish sometimes I could go back for just one day and ride that track again!  Today, it’s filled with now decade-old (or more) houses, gardens, and swimming pools.

One day in fifth grade, a friend from school came home with me to spend the afternoon outside.  Well, boys enjoy getting dirty–and we sure did!  At a nearby pond we found out that there were plenty of tadpoles to catch.  We found a couple of nets and buckets and wandered in.  We didn’t have waders or water shoes, we just went in with jeans, a t-shirt, and shoe-less.  We caught literally thousands of tadpoles, filling up our buckets, and even a dozen or so crayfish.  The next day, we took the tadpoles to school for “show and tell!”  Oh, how Mrs. Seifert loved us!

I changed a lot when I first moved to Lansing.  One major change was my new-found love of sports, especially the Michigan State Spartans!  Every Saturday in the fall (which tended to be work outside day) we would listen to the Spartans battle it out on the football field.  Back then, Nick Saban was the coach, who since has left MSU and eventually led LSU and Alabama to national championships.  He never did that for the Spartans!  They had their good years in the 90’s–and bad ones!

Then, of course, there was Michigan State basketball.  They had a new coach in 1994–the little known long-time assistant from the backwoods of Michigan.  His name was Tom Izzo.  When I first started paying attention,the Spartans were in the middle or lower end of the pack in the Big Ten.  The dreaded Wolverines at the University of Michigan was the conference powerhouse.  Yet, I always still loved those Spartans, hoping that some day they might get better.  All of the sudden, the stars in the heavens began to line up in 1996.  What happened was the Izzo coaching method and the “Flintstones-” a group of guys from the depressed city of flint.  In ’97, they made it to the NIT.  In ’98, they lost to Dean Smith’s NC Tarheels in the sweet sixteen.  Then in ’99, the Spartans made it to the Final Four!  What they ran up against was one of the greatest teams ever assembled under Mike Krzyzewski and Duke, of which I came to despise as a Spartan fan.  They lost in the semifinals, but with plenty of hope for the next year.  The Spartans had a superb year, followed by a march to the Final Four, were they beat Wisconsin, and then Florida for the National Championship.  Tom Izzo, if he had ran for mayor of Lansing, would have won!  I followed every game intently, and yes, I am still a huge fan of those Spartans!

Spartan "Flint-stones"

Many other life memories happened on Lindsey Lane: we adopted my little brother and sister from Romania, I was introduced to Fairhaven Baptist College, and I surrendered my life to God and the ministry of the Gospel.  I learned a strong work ethic from my parents in Lansing ( I imagine they thought I was hopeless back then!  Lots of regrets of what I should have done right…!).  The attack on September 11 happened one Tuesday morning while I was in the middle of Bible class (I was home-schooled at the time–from 7th-12th grade to be exact), when my mom told me to turn on the TV.  The first plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center, and the second one crashed seconds after turning on the news.  I watched the towers collapse, heard about the heroes on Flight 93, and was filled with a spirit of justice against those who did this.  My dad told me that this would probably be the only time in my life where I would look up on a clear, blue day and not see streaks from a jet.  Fear filled the air.  We went to Burger King that night, and I can clearly remember the solemness on the few faces that were there.  My parents can remember when Martin Luther King was assassinated, Reagan was shot, the Challenger crashed, and the Berlin Wall fell.  I will be able to tell my kids where I was when the terrorists attacked our country on September 11.

In 2001 we moved to the other side of Lansing, in the middle of nowhere with and address in Grand Ledge.  By then, we began attending Community Baptist Church of Lansing.  Most of my friends were at church by then, and those that were in the neighborhood had moved away recently as well.  I was ready to move, but looking back now, I still have those little sentimental memories of childhood on the south-side of Lansing.  Here’s a few more just for my parents: Jenna and Jordan with the ducklings, Rich’s Country Store, stabbing myself in the toe with a garden hoe, having to be shown the right way to mow the lawn a million times, the maximum security kennel and fence for the dogs–that they still managed to escape from, white fur from our dog Levi on the dark green carpet in my room…just to name a few.

Next I get to tell you all of our house in the wilderness on Royston Road!

P.S.–  I have very few pictures from Lansing.  Most of those would be in the possession of my parents!