I too, was a tire buster when I was younger. Changed a lot and sold a lot of tires.
If you want to be anal. take the dot number on the tire you are looking at and look it up on the internet. an off brand tire can be identified as to who the manufacturer is with this info. Most major tire retailers salespeople seem to be on commission. the first tire they try to sell you will be the one with the highest profit margin. Hankook, Khumho, Nitto, Toyo, all seem to be excellent for the most part.
I have had horrible luck with firestones on 3 of my vehicles that came with firestones from the factory. A 92 Ford Explorer with the infamous ATX tire, Firestone Destinations on my Tacoma lasted less than 15000 miles before they were literally falling apart. And the Firestone Firehawk GTA2 on my wife's Acura had serious sidewall splitting and cracking after less than 20,000 miles resulting in a blowout.
You pay for the name in a Goodyear or a Michelin. But Cooper is made by Goodyear, and a decent tire. Falkens generally suck from what I have seen (and they are made by Firestone).
Funny you posted this as I went to battle with Firestone last week over the tires on my wife's Acura. They ended up cutting me a check after I purchased another brand of tire ( all 4) when we found sidewall failures on all 4 firestones.
Hate to say this, but Walmart tires are not all that bad. I have gotten some amazing mileage on their Uniroyal Liberator tires on my Tacoma. This truck spends a fair amount of time off road. Without rotating the tires at all, I got 75000 miles on the rears, and the fronts are still in the safe treadwear stage at 117,000 miles
Changing the fronts in a month or two before monsoon season hits, new ones on the rear and rears to the front.
Do some shopping, it will save you!!!