I began working as a mechanic at the Dartmouth Kmart Auto Centre (Uniroyal operated the centres) in 1968. I left Uniroyal after eight years in 1975. I was at that time the centre manager in the Sudbury Store. During my time with the company I witness both funny and serious situations. In the Dartmouth store in 1969 we received a shipment of retread snow tires at a very good price. They were first advertised on the morning of a heavy snow fall, it wasn’t planned! I arrived at the auto centre at a few minutes before ten, opening time. There was already a large line up outside the bays, all were here for snow tires. Boy it was a busy morning and the retreads disappears of the racks rapidly. The boss was very please with himself, he’d had a very good day and it was still early afternoon. However, by 4 pm the purchasers of the cheap and cheerful retreads were returning in droves, some carrying the retread strip over their shoulders! these customers were not happy campers. The new tires had only covered a few miles when the treads separated from the tire casing. This was one of the worst days at the Dartmouth Auto Centre.
A few years later I was manager of the Windsor store (By the Bridge) when a customer came in and handed me a speeding ticket. He claimed we were responsible for the ticket because we had tuned his car up a few days earlier. That damn Kmart Policy!!! Customer Satisfaction or Money Cheerfully Refunded. Nevertheless, I stood my ground on this complaint and refused to pay his ticket.
Way back on Christmas Eve in 1972 at the Tecumseh Rd Kmart Auto Centre and Gas Bar in Windsor. In those days the store was open from 10am to 10pm six days a week. On Christmas Eve it was only open 10am to 6 pm. I went into work that morning as usual, happy and expecting a fairly quiet day. Not many people would be looking for brake jobs-alignments-oil changes etc. Even inside the store it was not going to be very busy, just a few last minute shoppers rushing around looking for a stocking stuffer or such. The morning passed with very little work, a couple of minor jobs in the shop, a couple of purchases at the cash register. Around 2pm an old Chev drove up to the doors, the driver said he needed a tune up the car was running rough. We brought him in did the tune up and wish him a Merry Christmas. By three o’clock he was backing out of the bay smiling and happy. By 4.30pm things were really quiet and I was about to let the mechanics go home early, That was when my tune up customer walked back in !. He told me the car was working great then just after he filled up with gas he got about half way across the parking lot and it stalled, and now refuses to start. I sent the mechanics to push the car into the bay so we could check it out. I was quite sure it was nothing to do with the tune up. In the garage the engine turned over but would not fire. One of the guys poured gas into the carb and the engine immediately came to life but only for a moment. We were scratching our heads trying to decide what to try next when another motorist walked into the shop, same problem. Ah Ha says I, must be bad gas, both customers told me they had just filled up at our gas bar. Fortunately the gas bar out at the front of the parking area had a Shell Logo, so people did not connect it to K Mart Auto Centre. I certainly wasn’t going to tell them either!! they were just pleased that we were helping them. I immediately phone the gas bar to tell them to close up not to sell any more gas. The young fellow running the pumps answered the phone saying, Oh glad you called, I think we have water in our regular underground gas storage tank, I have four stalled cars out here, what shall I do. Ugh!!! six cars with water in their gas tanks and its already 5pm. The boys in the shop had by now managed to siphon off the gas from the Chev and added 5 gals of high test that we’d brought over from the gas bar. The car started first time and the happy owner asked me what he owed? Nothing sir, we will bill the Shell people (just a wee white lie). One car down five to go, but the problems increased as we found different shaped tanks that we couldn’t siphon completely empty. Why North American cars didn’t have drain plugs on the tanks was something I thought I should bring to the attention of the Big Three once I got out of this dreadful mess. The boys had to remove the tanks on two of the cars in order to drain them properly. Two others cars we were able to lower the tank enough and remove the gas gauge sending unit then siphon through the hole. Finally around six thirty pm the last car drove off and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But wait for it!! now I had another major problem. While draining the gas off we had used four empty 40 gal oil drums to store the old gas in.
I got the guys to screw the caps on tight and we wheeled roll and wrestled the heavy barrels out side the garage doors and stood them upright against the store wall. However I realized I couldn’t leave them there over the holidays they were a dangerous fire hazard. What to do???The store was close up by this time and the security guard was on my back to lock up the garage. I told him to go — well you can guess where I told him to go. I phoned the nearby fire station and explained my situation to the person who answered the phone. He wasn’t interested, said it was Christmas Eve (like I didn’t know) and he was very busy and this wasn’t the responsibly of the fire department. Just a cigarette butt or match to set it off and it wasn’t his responsibility??? Again I was scratching my head, who do I call now? the police of course. I call the Windsor Police Dept and this time the person answering took my situation seriously and suggested I call the Fire Marshall. He gave me the number and I called, it was now 7.30pm, after a moment the Marshall came on the line, he didn’t sound pleased to be disturbed on this particular evening. Nevertheless he did take my concerns seriously and assured me he would have the barrels picked up within the hour. True to his word a local fire chief arrived along with a truck fitted with a tailgate lift. Ten minutes and the barrels were loaded and gone. My quiet day was over! maybe, I locked up and headed for the front entrance of the darkened store to go home. The security guy who I had earlier told to – you know what, wasn’t pleased to see me and took his time getting around to turning off the alarm and letting me out. I wished him a Merry Christmas
One of my funny moments was when an elderly lady drove into the centre in her Austin Mini. She explained it was making an awful noise. Once I listened, it was obvious what the problem was, I told her she had and exhaust leak. She became quite indignant and straightened to her full height and said., Young man I might be an old woman but I’m not stupid, if my car was leaking I’d have seen a puddle in my driveway. You people are always trying to take advantage of seniors!!! We did fix her exhaust in the end, but she never apologized for accusing me of being underhanded. Just memories now! but all in all fun times.
PS the photo is of an Australian Kmart, they are long gone in Canada
God Bless and keep reading