Thursday, March 3, 2016

To Cap It Off

Some time ago, we found ourselves in need of a hub cap.

Riding around with three fully dressed wheels and one naked one is, in the grand scheme of things, a trivial irritation, so redressing this situation was not high on my priority list. Still, I did propose to deal with it one day, assuming it would be a minor task. Yesterday was that day, and it was anything but.

Having the car to myself for the morning, I took it to a well-known auto-parts dealer (yes, I’m talking to you, Halfords) and, happily, they had a wall-full of hub caps. All of them, I might add, looking a little bit cheaper, chintzier and insubstantial than our current hub caps, but there were four in a box and they all matched and I figured there wasn’t much else you could ask of a hub cap, though they soon proved me wrong.

The cheerful till attendant took my money and offered, for a small fee, to have one of the lads put them on my car for me. I was all over that offer—anything to keep me from having to do, well, anything, but especially something I am not very good at, is something I rarely pass up. So I gave her five quid and she called one of the boys from the back room and he took the hub caps out to my car to fit them. And thank God he did.

When he was finishing up, I was surprised to see him pull out four large zip-ties. These were not packaged with the hub caps, mind you, he actually went to look for them before the went to my car. He then fastened each of the new hub caps to the rims of the wheels with a single zip tie. I was gobsmacked; it looked incredibly naff and if gave me a sinking feeling.

What a hub cap should look like
NOTE: Reconstruction

What a Halfords hub cap looks like after they install them for you.
Okay, this is a reconstruction, too, but I was too busy
trying to local my dropped jaw to think of taking a picture.
This is, however, pretty much what it looked like.
“Are those absolutely necessary?” I asked him as he affixed the final one.

“Oh, it’s just, you know, for additional security,” he replied.

I gave him credit for not blaming EU regulations or some new Health and Safety guideline and proposed to remove them at my earliest opportunity.

So, after I drove about five miles across town and parked in the parking lot outside of where my wife works, I got out of the car intending to remove the zip-ties and found this:

Artists rendering.

All four hub cabs had come away from the wheels and were hanging onto my car only by the zip ties. Had he not secured them with zip ties—as indeed I would not have—all four hub caps would have been sent sailing down the A23.

The fact that the lad had put the zip ties on in the first place confirms that he knew they were going to come off. And he clearly had done this before. So Halfords is stocking and selling and installing items they know full well do not perform the basic function they are made for (i.e. stay on the wheel) and are, in fact, dangerous (Headline: Granny Out Walking Her Dog Decapitated by Flying [Halfords] Hub-Cap).

After some consternation, my wife and I decided to cut the zip ties off and remove the hub caps. As a test, I put one back on and then tugged it to see how secure it was. It came off with the lightest pull. There was no way they could ever stay on any car, ever.

Naturally I sent Halfords a stern e-mail the moment I got home. In reply I received a polite e-mail thanking me for my interest in their products. Dicks.

I am used to the idea that customer service in Britain is abysmal, but this literally takes my breath away.

And since the lad from the store (the guy with the zip ties) helpfully took away my old hub caps (really, what was I going to do with them/) I now have a car with four naked wheels.

But at least they match.