This was meant to be a simple post about buying tyres over the Internet, and bypassing the “ignorance tax” levied by some local merchants in Jersey. While writing and researching it, I decided it would be better to expand the subject matter. I’ll still go over how to buy tyres but if you read to the end you will probably just buy them locally. If you’re a local merchant, you might even learn a thing or two about people like me who compare your prices to Amazon, et al.
When I moved to Jersey three years ago, I was already buying lots of things online. I heard things were expensive here and found that to be mostly correct. For example, I needed an HDMI cable for a television. I looked at JEC’s Powerhouse retail park where I found one for £99. 99 POUNDS! “Off to a bad start”, I thought. I went home and ordered one from Monoprice, plus two audio cables AND a big flat screen television wall mount bracket, shipped from California to me here in Jersey. Total cost? Less than £50 for everything, including the shipping. I don’t shop at the Powerhouse anymore. That’s an extreme example though.
Over the past three years I’ve continued to look online first for products, but I do try to find things locally. I’ll look up the price on Amazon, then go find it in a local shop (if available) and ask the merchant what their best price is. I’m quite open about it, and I explain I have no problem paying a bit more to have it now. This brings me to the whole point of doing this post. The reaction of the merchant will decide if I ever shop there again. This is the important bit, the part that some Jersey merchants don’t grasp yet. I get anything from savvy counteroffers to open hostility and lies. I’ll give a few examples.
My DSL router died about a year ago. I had no Internet service at all and was keen to replace it as soon as possible. I went to a local shop, let’s call it “Gadgets-bore”, in St Helier. The merchant had the router I wanted, identical to the one I already looked up on Amazon. Amazon had it for £55. He had it for well over £100. I asked what his lowest price was and he wasn’t going to budge from £90. I pointed out the dust on top of the box, clearly the router had been sitting there a while. I showed him the identical router on Amazon on my smart phone, my finger hovering over the “add to basket” button. He made the ridiculous claim that “Amazon can’t possibly be selling it for that price. Those are counterfeit!” I might have paid £70 and given him a very healthy profit margin, but he was lying to me and completely ignorant. I walked out of the store and bought it from Amazon on my mobile on the way home. I will never shop there again and I go out of my way to warn others to avoid it.
Another time, I was looking for some inexpensive macro lens adaptors for some close up photos. I didn’t want a new lens, just the cheap filters that screw on the lens I had. These usually cost less than £20, and are acceptable for what I needed. I went into a camera shop near town hall and asked if they had them in stock. The man working was a bit grumpy and said “No, we don’t sell those, you need a macro lens instead”. He then proceeded to show me several Canon macro lenses that were hundreds of pounds. I asked if he wanted to order me some of the cheap ones, and he scoffed at the idea. I left that shop too, without buying anything. There are a couple things that went wrong for him. First, you aren’t going to up-sell me from £20 to £200+. Second, I have a Nikon camera body and the Canon lenses are incompatible. Both are fine brands, but you can’t just use the lenses interchangeably. The guy never asked, and was grumpy. Ignorant. That shop is now closed, big surprise, and I have the exact filters I wanted. They were about £8 shipped, from Amazon of course.
I just have no sympathy for local shops that refuse to compete, and those that won’t provide an acceptable level of service. I have no obligation to help them with an obsolete business model, and I will always reject their hostility when I ask them to compete with online merchants.
Contrast the above examples with a shop like Tech Supplies, across from Sand Street Car Park. I’m in there regularly buying things. If ever there was a business that should be worried about Amazon it’s them, and yet I go in there frequently and buy. They are friendly, they have loads of different things in stock (which means no waiting) and they are happy to negotiate on price, whenever their prices are much different from Amazon’s. Mostly they aren’t far off and I don’t mind paying some extra to have it now and keep the money local. They have even opened up the box on several items and showed me how they work. Great!
Now to the tyres, because maybe you read the headline and need tyres. I asked two different shops in St Helier for a quote on new tyres. The quotes weren’t the least bit competitive. What is worse, the shops kept trying to focus on the speed rating of the tyres they wanted to sell me. I asked, “The maximum speed for the entire island is only 40mph, what do I care about speed ratings?” I got blank looks. I asked for the traction ratings and noise levels, both important to me. One guy told me “The manufacturer isn’t releasing that information until next year” with a straight face. Since this information is widely available online, and usually moulded into the tyre side-wall when it is manufactured, I took offence to being lied to. I walked out in disgust and ordered the tyres online. Then on to the next hurdle, finding a shop to mount and balance my new tyres. What fun. One shop actually accused me of having stolen tyres, and refused to even quote a price. Others reacted with stunned disbelief that I actually had new tyres bought over the internet, and just wanted to pay someone to mount them on the rims. They gave wildly different prices, some quotes were hundreds of pounds. I think they wanted to punish me for not buying them in the shop. I found this hilarious at some point, calling shops to see who would give the most outrageous price or stunned reaction. That’s when I came across two shops that I will definitely use in the future.
The first was Bagot Road Garage. I already knew of them from the work they do with a local charity. I got a friendly greeting when I called, no hostility, and they gave me a low price per mounted tyre straight away. No problem at all, and the lowest price yet!
Feeling lucky, I decided to call another shop that was nearer to me. I called Trinity Tyres (new location by the Steam Museum) and got a still lower price! They were very friendly and said that they did this for others plenty of times already. No attitude at all. They weren’t busy so I drove right over. They helped me unload the tyres from the car, and had the job done quickly. There were huge racks of tyres there so I asked about their prices. They couldn’t exactly match the price I paid but were within a few pounds which is very competitive.
So, the moral of the story? If you are buying something in Jersey, and you can find it online, give a local shop or two a chance at selling it to you. Be prepared to pay a little bit more if it’s something you want quickly. With so many local merchants acting completely ignorant it’s easy to get discouraged and just buy everything online. Still, try to find the merchants that are positive and are willing to compete, and reward them with your custom. Pretty simple.
And if you still want to buy tyres online I sorted through all the places that won’t ship to Jersey and/or won’t deduct UK VAT, and chose Rochford Tyres (aka alloywheels.com). They were very good with email response time, shipping was very low, and they had good prices.
If I had it to do over again I might just go to Trinity Tyres or Bagot Road Garage and have them do it all. It’s only a small difference in price and they handle everything for you in one simple transaction.