My Sears Auto Center Experience


What you are about to read is my true life experience that happened in Johnson City Tennessee.
I have tried to leave no detail out to make this as honest as possible.

Thanks for viewing my page. I thought others should know what happened to me before it happens to you. I like to research a business from time to time and I hope others will see this and think twice. Maybe it's just this location, or maybe just a lot of bad luck. If you have similiar stories send them to me and I'll post them also.

What does it take to get a $15.00 - 30 minute brake inspection? $25.00 and 19 days!

On Sunday 4-6-03 I was working on one of my mustangs. It was a 1987 Mustang that had been abused and banged up some. It had two good weld draglite wheels, one broken weld wheel, and one ten hole ford rim. I took a look in the shed and found four good turbine rims with decent tires on them. The tire on the bottom was flat. Generally this would be no problem. I can fix a flat and have done it several times before. I started investigating it and found it was leaking along the outside edge of the rim. I deflated the tire and beat the tire back so it would reseal when I inflated it. This worked well. Since the tire was on the bottom of the stack I figured this was no big deal. I reinflated it and found it was leaking on the other side. I tried the same trick, but it didn't work this time. At this point I thought I had better take it to a tire shop and get the tire dismounted and have the rim cleaned.

I work 8 to 6 Monday through Friday, so thought it was best to get it done on the same day. I thought for a moment and remembered Sears Auto is open seven days a week. I called and asked them if they had time to fix a flat and Art said to bring it over. I took it over to their shop at 2:45. I noticed one of the rear brakes locked up prematurely on my F-350 truck on the way over. When I got there I identified myself to Art as the guy that had just called about the flat tire. He remembered and promptly started writing the work order. I noticed their shop seemed mostly empty and asked him how much he would charge to do a brake inspection on my F-350. He said $15.00. I then asked him if he had time and he said he could do the inspection, but wouldn't have time to install the parts. I figured it was worth the $15.00 to have an expert tell me what parts I needed. It took me 5 minutes and countless tries to explain that I have a flat tire in the back of my one ton truck that I would like to have fixed and please inspect the brakes on my truck. He couldn't understand that it was two seporate deals. Finally though, I go it through.

I asked him how long it would take. It was now 2:50pm and they closed at 5:00. He said about 30 minutes. I walked over to the mall and came back at 3:35. It had been 45 minutes. I figured a little extra time just in case. I went by the garage before going up front. I had the privilege of seeing the tech (Richard) take out the first lug nut from my truck and throw it down like he was mad at it or something. That was depressing. Another tech came up to me and told me that my flat tire couldn't be fixed. His tire machine had chewed up the tire on the inside as it broke the tire loose from the rim. It was an old tire, although I was surprised I could understand how it might happen, especially if someone didn't pay attention. I told him clean the rim and put sealer on it and mount the tire anyway. He said he couldn't guarantee that it would hold air, but he'd try. I thought this was a sad attempt to sell a new set of tires, but I guess it's his job and they were kind of old.

I went in and talked to Art again. I asked him what happened and why they were just now starting on the brake inspection. He told me they had been working on it since I left and it had just taken a little longer. I knew the truth, but decided not to argue. I then left and went back to the mall for about another 30 minutes. I came back at about 4:15 I saw my left axle removed from the axle housing and oil had run out and onto the floor. This was a real shocker. The brake drum was still on the right side. I asked the tech what happened. He said he couldn't get the drum off so he pulled the axle. In the process he busted the seal. Art had ordered the seal from Advance Auto but it was the wrong one and he had gone to their store the see about getting the correct seal. I looked at the brake shoes from the side that was taken apart and they looked about half worn. There was about 1/4 inch of material on them. I mentioned to the tech that they didn't look bad. He said they were shot and needed to be replaced. The rivets that hold the pads to the metal weren't even showing. I had never seen new brake shoes for a one ton truck. From the way he talked they must be really think maybe 3/4 inch in order for 1/4 inch to be trash. So I asked him if he had looked at the other side. He said he had not. I then asked him why, as he was not doing anything but sitting around. He said he was waiting on the seal. Once again odd, but maybe it's company policy.

By now I had looked at everything in the mall that I had any interest in twice, so I ran across the 4 lane and went to Office Depot. I decided to go up and down each isle. I saw some neat stuff, but nothing that I needed today. At about 4:40 I ran back across the road in the rain. This was a whole new problem. I didn't care about getting wet, but I had left my Mustang GT Convertible at home and outside with the top down. After all I was only going to be gone for about an hour and it didn't look like it was going to rain when I left. I thought about calling someone, but my wife was at work, and my Dad was out of town. Oh well, it collected about half an inch in the floors before I got home. I now fight with a constant mildew problem in the mustang.

When I got to Sears Auto I find nothing has changed since I had left. What's with these people? Do I need to baby-sit them? I hate it when you trust someone to do something and they find any excuse to not do it. I went up front to ask Art what was wrong now. He said the Advance Auto store that he went to didn't have the seal. I asked him if he had checked with Autozone across the street. He said no. I then asked why. His response was that Autozone doesn't deliver. Why did that matter? He had driven to Advance Auto! I asked him what he was going to do about it now and he said that they'd try to get it fixed Monday. I thanked him for his time and went back to Sears in the Mall and asked for the manager.

I think the guy's name was Derek, but I'm not sure. He was an assistant manager. He was very polite and his main concern was getting the situation taken care of. I commend this guy for his efforts. He said that he had no authority over the Auto center, but would have the main store manager and the manger for the Auto center call me Monday. He asked me if there was someone that I could call for a ride home. When I said no, he promptly offered to call a cab and asked me if I had a preference. I had never taken a cab before, so I said any would do. He paid for the ride from their petty cash fund and I went home to get my convertible out of the rain.

This is where the real problem began and the situation could have been easily resolved. Art should have gotten the seal, even if he had to pay for it from his own pocket. I got to see just how easy it was to access petty cash fund and get reimbursed. Art should have had the mechanic stay and finish the job. This would have been the correct thing to do. I would have been able to end my story here and would have never bothered to write this web page. Instead I managed to do without my truck for another two weeks plus.

At about noon on Monday I called Sears since I had not heard from anyone yet. I asked for Wayne who was the Auto center manager. He was polite and said he had just gotten in and would get it taken care of. I called back a few hours later and talked to Pat. She said Wayne wasn't available. I left my cell phone number and told her that was how they needed to contact me when they got my truck finished. I called about 4:00 to see why they hadn't bothered to call me and what was going on. Art said that they had called my home phone and left a message and that it was ready. I gave him my credit card number over the phone and told him to lock the key in it since I would have to pick it up after work. I asked Art if they had checked the brakes on the other side. He said yes, and that it looked just like the side that I had seen. I asked him if he filled up the axle with grease and he said yes. I knew by now they would screw it up if they could, so I asked if he had put in friction modifier. He didn't seem to know what that was. Maybe there's a different term, so I described that since my truck had a limited slip differential, you had to put in an additive to make it work right. At this point he seemed to know what I was talking about and said yes, they had done that also.

Since they called the house my wife went by and picked up the key and the receipt. I got home and she took me over to pick up the truck. I was once again angered by the Sears Auto. They had left the truck unlocked with the windows down. This was after I told them to lock it and I would pick it up after they close. Well at least I had my truck back, even though I still didn't know what was wrong with the brakes. I expected that a wheel cylinder was bad or something had broke in one of the brakes. I started driving it and noticed that it was very noisy. This was apparent even in the parking lot. I thought that maybe one of the brake pads wasn't seated well. I thought it would clear up after applying the brakes a few times. I drove it for about 1 to 2 miles and it didn't clear up. I parked it in the parking lot of the nearest mechanics' shop. My wife had taken me over there to pick up the truck and was following me, so she gave me a ride home also. When I got home I reviewed the papers that she had gotten from the Auto center. They had charged $25.00 for the $15.00 brake inspection and gave me no information about the condition of the brakes. I expected a print out stating what was wrong and how much the repair cost would be. Nobody had even told me what the front brakes looked like.

Tuesday morning I called the shop I had left the truck at. I spoke with Ernie and told him the story. He said he would take a look at it and see what was going on. He called me back about 15 minutes later and told me that they had bent the dust shields on the front wheels of my truck. He said this was normal in order to get a precise reading of the wear of the rotor for disc brakes. This dust shield had eaten a ring into the aluminum wheels and the truck was no longer safe to drive. I asked him, just because the rim was scratched, why would that be a problem? He told be it was pretty deep and that aluminum broke very easily if scratched in a straight line, kind of like glass. He said since it was a one ton truck that just made it more important to get the rims replaced. He also said Sears Auto should be responsible and took several photos just in case. He called Sears Auto and Wayne went by and looked at the rims. Later Wayne called me called me and said that Sears was going to order two new Ford rims and have them overnighted. That sounded good, except they weren't Ford rims, they were American Racing rims. I got on the internet and found out that Sears Auto was the local dealer and called Wayne to let him know. Wayne said that they were Ford rims and that he'd double check when he put them on tomorrow.

It's now day 4, Wednesday. Guess what? I was right. The rims he had ordered were the wrong ones. The rims I had were discontinued and replaced by a very similar rim that had some imitation rivets on it. He was going to order a set of four. I said that would be fine and expected that he'd have them overnighted also. He called me later and said that they were on back order for the size that I needed. I got on the Internet and found a company that had 10 in stock of the size that I needed and called him back with their phone number. He called me and said that company wouldn't take a corporate credit card, but he had got them somewhere else. He was off Thursday, but they should be there on Friday.

On Friday, day 6 I get a call from my mechanic. Sears had him bring the rims over to their shop for them to mount the tires. He caught them though. I had 16.5 x 9.75 rims on the truck. Wayne and I had talked about that before and that was the size I had found on the Internet. Sears Auto was going to replace them with 16.5 x 8.25. I thought it was pretty low to try to sneak that in hoping we wouldn't catch it. He told me the factory was out of the size we needed. I was wondering how he had got them since he didn't order from the company I had reccomended. He didn't ask me about it, but sure did try to talk me into keeping them. I told him that I might go up in tire size, but never thought I would go down in size. I wanted the right size rims. This was insulting. I called the place that "wouldn't take a corporate credit card" and talked to a sales rep. I asked him about it and he said that was no problem. I called Wayne again and gave him the name and extension of the sales rep that I had spoken to. He placed the order. It was two or three days away by UPS shipping. They would be there by Wednesday at the latest.

On Thursday, day 11 I called Sears Auto to ask what was going on. They told me that Wayne had picked up the rims Wednesday and had them with him and that he wouldn't be back until Friday. Why didn't he have them delivered to the store? Why didn't they get them put on Wednesday? Why did he take them home? Did he want to do something to the rims off of Sears property? I assumed the best, he just wanted to personally inspect each one for scratches or factory defects.

On Friday, day 12 I get a call from Wayne saying that he didn't get the centers, but he got the rims and my truck was ready. I told my mechanic to look at the brakes. He said the left rear (which I had seen) was ok, but that the right side was down to the metal. The emergency brake cable was sticking and had caused premature wear. He recommended to replace both emergency brake cables, both rear brake shoes, hardware kit for new brake springs, and have the drums turned. I authorized the work only to find out that he would have to order the cables, but they would be there Saturday and I could get the truck then.

On Saturday day 13, almost two weeks later I finally get my truck back. I feel like Gilligan's Island. A 30 minute job, hmm, well at least I'm not stranded for life. He showed me the old shoes and the new ones. One pair was about half worn and the other set was down to the metal. I asked him about the axle grease and he showed me where the fill plug was, and that it hadn't been touched in years. The old rims were in the back of the truck. Wayne had given them to me.

On Friday the 25th, 19 days later, Wayne called my mechanic. He had lost my phone number. My mechanic then called me to come pick up my centers at Sears Auto. I got there and they offered to install them, so I let them while I carefully watched. Wayne had originally told me that he thought they were in the box with the wheels. I expected him to call me Monday and say he got them. I asked if I could have the shipping box that they had come in. I tracked it on UPS web site. I had gotten to Sears on the 16th. That was a week and a half ago. Art of all people had signed for it. Just goes to show the skill of these people.

Some interesting info I found at Sears web site. Click on automotive. There I found what they call the Sears Customer Service Promise "We provide fast, expert service and more." I can't agree with the fast or expert part, but I found out the hard way what they mean by "and more." They also go so far as to say "Helping you understand:"

1. The condition of your vehicle - That's odd, I never did get that $15.00 dollar inspection report that cost $25.00

2. Your product and service options - I now have the option to never go back there again.

3. The status of work being performed - Just as long as you don't mind calling them and asking for every detail and having half of it made instead of finding out the real answers.



If you found my story interesting check out these other people and their stories!

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/sears_auto_centers.htm

http://www.epinions.com/auto-review-5561-2E4D4DCB-39A178E1-prod5

http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/92q3/hearnoise.html

http://www.lemonlawclaims.com/Sear's%20Auto%20mechanic%20fraud.htm

http://www.hobokenonline.com/governor/sears.htm