Sears Auto Sucks As Hard As Sears Repair

While Sears Auto may not be the division of Sears that leaves you without hot water for three weeks, or refuses to refund the money on the TV they never delivered, they are the division that magnificently screws up changing a tire then tries to bill you for the labor it took them to fix their mistake. Reader R writes in to tell us when he needed to replace a damaged tire, Sears Auto had the cheapest price. After three hours and two different tires, he left Sears Auto with the damaged tire he drove in with. Sears botched the first attempt at a tire change by giving him a tire in the wrong size, then presented him with a bill for the additional labor it took them to get it right. When R balked at paying to fix their mistake, the manager on duty put the busted tire back on the car. Classy! Read his story, inside.

About two weeks ago I called around my neighborhood in Brooklyn looking for new tires. I called Sears Auto, and since they had the lowest price on what they called a “good, reliable” tire, I drove to the store in Elmhurst, Queens, nervously, with a bum tire.

After waiting to speak with a customer representative, I told him that someone had put a screw in the sidewall of my tire, that I knew it was unstable to drive on, and that I wanted to buy four new tires. I told the rep what price I was looking to spend, but I was sad to see on his computer screen I was pretty much getting the poorest quality but cheapest tires in the place. After walking around a bit, I noticed that there were all sorts of sales going on, and after I asked if it was possible to get a better set for the same price, he looked, and I could.

Two hours later I received a call that they couldn’t get one of the bolts off of my tire. Again, after some discussion, I told them that I would rather just have the one dangerous tire replaced, and that I would have another dealer take off the “renegade bolt-” Sears Auto didn’t want to be responsible, which I guess I can understand. Although I never got a call to let me know if that one tire was changed, I wandered back to the shop after an hour and saw my car was ready. However, after I paid $99 for a new tire, I noticed, in the pouring rain, that it was much bigger than my other tires. I heard the mechanics in the garage saying something to the extent of “just drive off,” and pointing at me. When I saw a nearby mechanic, I grabbed him in the rain, and he agreed that they had installed the wrong size tire.

Although they never apologized, they said that they would “take care of the problem,” and thirty minutes later, when I was in the Sears Auto waiting area, the customer rep came to me and told me that they didn’t have my size in stock (what a surprise), but they could put a different speed-rated tire than the ones I had already on the car. When I told him that the thought of different-rated tires on my car made me uncomfortable, he told me that he did have a Bridgestone, but that now I would have to pay $115. I told him that they should eat the $16 for putting the wrong tire on my car, and I begrudgingly told him to put the Bridgestone on.

When they were finished, the rep asked for my credit card to bill me an additional $40- bringing the total to $139. Turns out the $115 he quoted me didn’t include service. What made my jaw drop was that when I protested the higher price, rather than apologize or bargain with me or do anything to remedy the situation, the manager said, “If he doesn’t want to pay it, put the old (dangerous) tire back on.” All I said was that I thought I was being taken advantage of. There was literally no discussion between anyone at Sears and I. They put my old, broken tire back on, and they handed my keys back to me with an attitude.

I wouldn’t believe it if it didn’t happen to me. Just to give your readers a head up that big auto chains can seriously mess up. I’ve read putting the wrong size tire on a car is a serious violation.

Best,

R

First order of business, R, is to make sure you didn’t get charged at all by Sears Auto. You left with your original damaged tire, so no money for them. Second order of business is to learn how to change a tire to the spare. WikiHow has an easy to read article here. It’ll suck to change a tire in the rain, but less than it sucks to waste three hours of your life having Sears Auto screw around and screw up.

(photo: madmolecule)

Comments

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  1. mercnet says:

    There is a reason why they put a spare tire in the trunk… thanks for driving on a bad tire.

  2. endlessendres says:

    My family has used Sears Auto for out tires for years and have yet to have a single problem. They’ve always found a way to make our repairs fit under warranty when they warranty was surely expired. Oh well, there is always a bad story to cover the good ones.

  3. Juggernaut says:

    You don’t look for the cheapest tires or brake jobs! WTF!!

  4. CRNewsom says:

    There’s a reason Ron White includes the bit about Sears in his routine.

    “I told Sears I would tell this story at every show until the lawsuit is settled…”

    Classic stuff.

  5. SarcasticDwarf says:

    So how is it that R does not know how to change a tire?

  6. MrEvil says:

    R, if you don’t want to shell out for a new set just yet, go find a local used tire place. Most used tires are takeoffs from people that are anal about how good their tires look, or people with money that’ll buy a complete new set of tires when one gets irrepairably damaged. Not a big safety risk as long as the tire has good tread, isn’t more than 8 years old, and isn’t dry-rotted. Usually a used tire place will pop on a used tire for $50 or less.

    If used tires aren’t your thing, find a local tire dealer. The local tire dealer I go to cut me a deal of $65 each for a full set of five tires (I needed a spare) for my Crown Vic price included installation. The brand was one I’d never heard of (Doral), but they ride better than the Good Years that were on the car when I bought it.

    If you have a local Discount tire, their prices are alright, but they’ve gotten a bit full of themselves in recent years and aren’t the great deal they used to be.

  7. intellivised says:

    A very good friend of mine is an ASE certified mechanic and certified Lexus fix-it guy and he has shared with me a horror story or two of what happens when Sears fixes your car – this includes a poor SC400 that had it’s whole electrical system destroyed/started on fire because the Sears person hooked the battery back-up backwards.

  8. MrsLopsided says:

    Most spares are not full size and are just a temporary fix. R went to Sears to get all 4 tires replaced.

  9. Nighthawke says:

    Discount Tire wanted to roll me because of a nail I had caught in my sidewall. The nail was right at the edge of the tread, in at a angle. I told them to slap the spare on. So they did, not charging me.

    I went back to the mom n pop place where I had bought the rubbers and they took one look at it, “no problem!” They did their magic at no charge at all.

  10. mac-phisto says:

    ugh. & i thought town fair tire sucked. well, they do, but not nearly as bad as this.

  11. MyPetFly says:

    I had an incident with Sear Auto many years ago (about 16 or 17 years) which could have killed me, but it was resolved later.

    I had brake work done on my car at a Sears in California. The work involved temporarily removing (or just moving) a brake line on a front wheel. Brake job done, no problem.

    A week or so later, I’m moving across country to Florida for a new job. A week into my residency in Florida, I’m driving home one night and suddenly I have no brakes. Fortunately, this happened in a nearly-empty parking lot at fairly low speed at night, so I was able to stop using the emergency brake. I carefully made it home (just a couple of miles on little-used roads).

    The next morning, I had the car towed to a Sears Auto. As they began to diagnose the problem, what they found was that the brake line involved in the previous repair came loose and landed on the rubber boot covering the CV joint. At this point, the brakes were still working. However, the boot, rotating under the brake line, wore through, allowing the brake line to fall a bit more and make contact with the CV joint itself. The CV joint ate through the brake line, causing a loss of brake fluid.

    Once the Florida Sear Auto verified that the brake work had been done by another Sears Auto, they fixed the brake line and the CV joint, boot, etc.

    To be honest though, I’ve had decent service with Sears Auto other than that (and the location that fixed the fix did fine). I believe I may have used them a few times since, but I’m not sure. Now, however, I usually use independent garages for most of my auto work.

  12. apotheosis says:

    I know nobody wants to hear this around here, since nothing sells a story like a chorus of outraged damnation, but my experiences with Sears Auto in Kansas have always been good.

    Sears as a company certainly isn’t without problems but let’s stop short of saying the whole shebang is going completely Hindenburg.

  13. bohemian says:

    The last time I went to Sears to get a tire replaced some 19 year old kid tried to tell my one of my rear springs was broken. His evidence was to try to have me reach up in and “feel” the end of the spring claiming it was a broke end of said spring. I got the keys back and left.

    As much as I hate Walmart, Sam’s Club has been good about tires and warranty replacements.

  14. sgodun says:

    Using Sears for auto care is one of those things that I always shake my head and wonder why people still do it. I’d rather chew an entire roll of aluminum foil after having a double root canal than use Sears for anything other than a punchline.

    True story: Some 20 years ago my car needed four new tires. Went to Sears, was told it would take two hours to install. Okay. I killed two and a half hours at the mall across the street and then returned. Car still wasn’t done. In fact, it hadn’t budged from where I parked. Asked for the manager, who arrived 30 minutes later and told me that my car was next in line and basically walked away without blinking. No apology or explanation, just “you’re next” and walk away.

    It took them *90 MINUTES* to install four tires. So now, four and a half hours after I arrived, my car was done. I wanted to inspect the car before paying for it, something they REALLY didn’t want me to do. They claimed I was going to drive off without paying — never mind the fact that they had my keys, and the car was still on the lift at the time. Lo and behold, they installed the wrong tires on the car. (Correct size, wrong brand.) After another 15 minutes of arguing with the manager (who insisted that the tires were “just as good”) they replaced the tires which took another hour.

    I examined my bill and found that they had charged me for one set of tires, TWO installations, and TWO balances. I refused to pay. The manager now just wanted to get rid of me as quickly as possible as I had started telling anyone who walked in the door what was happening to my car, and a number of people were driving away as a result. He removed the extra installation and balance fee. I paid, and left.

    On the way home, two wheel covers fell off the car.

    I turned around, drove back to Sears, and raised hell. After several more personal visits and a threat of small claims court, they reimbursed me for the cost of the wheel covers. It only took them four weeks to do it.

    FUCK. SEARS.

  15. DeeJayQueue says:

    1. This may sound stereotypical, because it is, but… you’re amazed that you’re getting attitude in Brooklyn?

    2. That aside, yeah, no money for them. It takes a special kind of dumbass to realize that they cut their nose off to spite their face on this one. Didn’t want to pay the extra labor? Great! Lets waste more labor time putting the old tire back on! This may not be the case in NYC, but around my old neighborhood my mechanics never let me bring my own parts, because they always said that if they put a part on and it failed, it was their responsibility, but if they know where the part came from they can pass that liability to wherever they got the part from. Putting a known bad tire back on the car is a huge liability. EECB! I don’t want to say “sue” but I think you deserve a new tire for having them jeopardize your safety like that.
    (before I get flamed, I know the OP drove to the shop like that, but that doesn’t excuse the mechanics from putting the car back into an unsafe condition after they had a chance to make it right).

  16. WalrusTaco says:

    OP-

    I went to a fix-a-flat place before going to Sears. Put a temp patch on it so I could make it to Sears.

    And yeah, I printed out Consumer Reports’ reviews and brought it with me so I wasn’t buying sloppy jalopy tires.

  17. Superawesomerad says:

    I would’ve taken my business elsewhere the minute they told me they couldn’t get a fucking bolt off.

  18. kretara says:

    I think it varies from store to store and manager to manager.

    There is one Sears Auto place here in town that it known for
    screwing over anyone and everyone and for doing “bad” work.

    The other Sears Auto place in town provides very good customer service and good quality work.

    A few years ago, I went to the “bad” Sears Auto to get my front brakes done and 4 new tires. They messed up my brakes and gave me 3 different tire sizes. Once I looked over the car I could see the tire size issue. The manager told me too bad. Since I had already paid, he would do nothing for me. Lesson learned. He laughed at me when I brought up Sears Corporate and small claims court.

    I immediately drove to the other Sears Auto. On the drive I noticed that I basically had no brakes.
    I tell my story to the “good” Sears Auto place manager and he tells me that he will take care of it.
    He replaces the tires with 4 of the same size, completely redoes my front brakes and takes care of my rear brakes (for free) just because they looked like they were about to wear out. He also gave me a $90 refund because the “bad” Sears Auto had charged me for work that was not done.

    He told me that they were fixing the “bad” Sears Auto jobs all the time. He went out of his way to tell me all this because he wanted to prove to me that his place was honest and would not try to screw the customer over.

    I have been a loyal customer ever since. Any time there is a problem the techs take care of it immediately and without complaint. Heck, one time when they could not get my car fixed in the promised 2 hours (due to them receiving a defective replacement part which caused my car to need to stay over night) the tech offered to drive me home and pick me up the next day when the car was ready. Now that is customer service!

  19. sburnap42 says:

    Many years ago, I took my car in to get it serviced at Sears before a trip to Las Vegas. Not long after getting on the freeway, the car starts popping out of fifth gear. I’d shift into fifth and after maybe five minutes of driving, it’d pop back into neutral.

    Turns out the idiots had put regular old gear oil in my transmission. Fortunately, it did no permanent damage.

  20. motojen says:

    I got tires at Sears Auto ONCE. I got my car back with badly dented rims on both sides. The manager insisted that I must have hit some curbs while parking and dented my rims because there was NO WAY his guy did it.

    Possible on the passenger side? Sure it is. I think I’d remember hitting a butt load of curbs that hard especially since I rarely need to parallel park (like maybe two or three times a year at most) but I’ll give him a pass on that. The drivers side not so much. Of course I always parallel park on the left side of the street facing traffic and hit the curb because I like to dent my rims and be ticketed for parking facing the wrong direction with my tires more than twelve inches from the curb. I’m made of money and my rims need to be punished.

    Yeah, Sears Auto can pretty much kiss my @ss.

  21. fluiddruid says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve had mostly good experiences with Sears Auto. I always get my oil changes there. Car-X on the other hand was horrible and gouged me terribly for an AC repair that never worked ($1.5k later).

  22. Jmatthew says:

    Les Schwab owns all.

    I’ve been in there once or twice a year as long as I can remember, and I think the last time I paid for anything was 6 or 7 years ago.

  23. TPS Reporter says:

    When I was 21 and had my 1st car (I lived overseas as a teenager up to that point, so I didn’t need a car), I needed a new battery. The old one was a Sears Diehard so I figured I would get the same one. Took it to Sears, waited, paid them for it ($75 or so), and like the idiot kid I was, didn’t bother to look under the hood before I left. Got home and decided to see the new battery. It was the same old battery. I called and no luck. I called my dad and he called Sears. The manager accused me of swapping out the new battery when I got home with an old one. My dad argued with him to no end, but it didn’t do any good. Of course I got flak from my dad, but it was a HUGE lesson learned. I haven’t set foot into a Sears in 17 years, and will never will. FYI – The battery wasn’t dead, I was just replacing it so I didn’t get stranded somewhere with a dead battery.

  24. There is unsafe and then there is UNSAFE.

    How unsafe is unsafe?

    I am sure if the tire was UNSAFE the tire would have never been re-installed on the car.

  25. RRich says:

    Agree with those who’ve said that service and competence vary by location.

    I’ve had pretty good experiences whenever I’ve used Sears Auto. They’re not my first choice or my usual service place, but have no complaints when I’ve had work done (tires, batteries, oil changes, tune-ups, brakes) over the years.

    Basically, if you can find a good shop or mechanic, treat ‘em like gold. If not, take your chances with the chains.

    But going for the lowest price isn’t always the best solution. Like, would you shop for the cheapest brain surgeon?

    Thank you very much.

  26. Smorgasbord says:

    I am a retired over-the-road truck driver of twenty years. I should have kept track of all the times I heard on the local radio news a Sears auto center was being sued by that state’s Attorney General’s Office for repair frauds. They would have a car checked out, then take it into Sears. Sears found all kinds of nonexistent problems. I never got to hear the result of any of the cases because I was just passing through.
    Before I drove a truck I worked at a Montgomery Ward store. Almost every week there would be a Sears add in the paper saying something like “We are sorry, but the *** in the *** catalog is not available.” This is a different type of bait-and-switch. Montgomery Ward would automatically replace an item with the next step up item.

  27. @Superawesomerad:

    I had 5 nuts that would not come off on a car with less than 3000 miles (blowout due to pothole with bent rim) on the car. I could not get them off. The wrecker service with an airgun could not get them off. The repair shop could not get them off. The car was transferred to the dealership…. the nuts had been factory installed with the wrong torque setting….. 3x the proper force. Somebody had really farked up those nuts, but it was only on one tire. Strange.

    Some nuts are not easily removed.

  28. cmdrsass says:

    I have to chime in here and say that for tire changes and other simple work, I have nothing but good service from my local Sears the few times I’ve used them. So, it does seem to vary by store. They always seemed overworked and under staffed though.

  29. HOP says:

    shoulda taken it to the k-mart store….hah….we have nothing to do with sears….how could a nice outfit sink so low??????

  30. Alan Thomas says:

    I’ve also had good experiences. I took my car there last week to get my A/C recharged. They worked on it for a while and determined it had a leek. They didn’t charge me a dime. (Although I did have to wait around to find out what was going on.) The excellent mom&pop place I took my car to to get the A/C leak fixed likewise couldn’t do anything (because of GM computer #$@$!@)–but they charged me!

    I was surprised that Sears Auto wasn’t full–very convenient, being at a large mall.

  31. PHX602 says:

    @CRNewsom:

    It fell off. It fell the fuck off, turning my van into a tripod, spinning me into a dimension of pissed off I’ve never been before in my life.

  32. milk says:

    @PHX602: I don’t even know how many times I’ve used the phrase “in a dimension of pissed off I’ve never been in before.” How appropriate for most of the stories here.

  33. krom says:

    Honestly I’d suggest going to a tire dealership instead of a Sears for a routine tire problem.

    Some tire dealerships even due free road hazard repair if your tire still has good tread.

    Though this may be a West Coast thing, I was unfamiliar with the phenomenon when I lived out east.

  34. krom says:

    @krom: What I meant to say is some tire dealerships will give you free road hazard repair on tires you bought from them in the first place, and the tread is still good.

  35. drunxor says:

    @Juggernaut:

    yup, you get what you pay for. theres a reason sears was the cheapest ;)

  36. Dobernala says:

    @HOP: Kmart is owned by Sears.

  37. jinnrice says:

    lol. I use to be a CSA for sears few months ago.(got fired for helping a friend buy a pair of jeans with my discount.) anyways…i had a team of 5 tech under me and one of them was a total fuck up. he did 2 oil changes and not put the drain plug in on both cars, which cause the car engine to jam up and shit. sears had to buy new engine. did a antifreeze exchange..ended up putting dirty coolant back in instead of new. the worst one was he had to change all 4 tires but forgot to tighten one of the wheels so when i took it out for test drive before giving it back to the costumer, the wheel fell off and i slammed the car into a light pole….SEARS EQUAL BAD…that year was not my best…
    Anyways this was the sears in braintree MA. avoid them.

  38. adamcz says:

    My Sears auto department is excellent. I’ve used them four or five times, and highly recommend them.

  39. Dobernala says:

    @adamcz: Your recommendation is rather meaningless if you don’t tell others which Sears Auto you recommend.

  40. Fredex says:

    Brings back memories. Years ago I was walking past the Sears auto department attached to a mall Sears just in time to hear a manger berating a customer with “WE are doing YOU a favor by staying open late!”

  41. IndiaCycnus says:

    I also had a bad experience with Sears. I purchased a new tire from them and within a few months noticed that it was balding. I went back to them and asked if they could replace it because it was defective. They said that it looked like I was racing and was wearing it out. What! I don’t race. I go to school and work and rarely go over 65 mph. Then they said that the cause was overinflation. I told them that I hadn’t added air to the tire after they installed it. Heck, I don’t even know how to add air to my tires. I usually go to my dad or male friends. They gave me such a hard time that I gave up and decided to write a complaint. Well, that only got me half off a new tire. So, if you do buy tires from Sears make sure they don’t over inflate them.

  42. purplegrog says:

    One lesson I think Consumerists should take away from this story is that when purchasing tires (or any other commodity that should have fixed, unsurprising costs), find out the “out the door” cost prior to agreeing to any service. For automotive items that don’t have a fixed cost (like certain repairs), make sure you have a reasonable estimate of costs, and have a ceiling on how much you’re going to spend on that repair. Make sure that ceiling is in writing and that there is written confirmation that the mechanic will notify you before proceeding with additional costs beyond that ceiling. FWIW, I’ve only had decent to good experiences with Sears Automotive (I’ve only used them to purchase oil I was going to change myself and to buy tires I had them install).

    @OP and various others in the thread: My sympathies. Replacing tires shouldn’t be anything resembling difficult, especially for a shop that specializes in the service.

  43. lefty_redhead says:

    @PHX602: I kept hearing that the whole time I was reading this post.

    You guys who are fussing about having your own spare tire–this is a forum for discussing consumer issues. Sears sucks. The existence of a spare tire does not come into play. Stop being so mean.

  44. NoLongerInUse says:

    Gonna take Sears Auto’s side…
    I’ve used Sears to get my tires for some time. I go in with a tirerack.com price quote that they’ve matched, both at Glen Burnie, MD and in Huntington Beach, CA. I’ve had to pay the difference for shipping and installation. Each time, I’ve made out like a bandit and have never had an issue. I also got the tire road hazard. After a nail took out a new tire, I paid $20 to get it replaced on a pair of $150 Z rated tires.

  45. Same thing happened to my mother.
    Got screwed by them not wanting to fix their own mistake and then when agreeing to, finally wanted her to pay for their fix to their screw up.

  46. vdragonmpc says:

    Sears and Merchants are the same bunch… They employ a lot of folks that were looking for something to do out of high school that didnt involve learning anything.

    I had Sears AND Merchants cross thread random lugnuts on rims because they LOVE the Air Guns. God forbid they start a freaking lugnut by hand first! Just try to get them to fix that without having to get bent out of shape. My wife has it licked, she carries the bent lug wrench in with her and tells the salesperson: ” My husband did this trying to get the tire off the car, he is a spot upset and if he comes here because I couldnt get it fixed he may have to come in himself.” They usually fix it up at that point.

    Sears had a idiot tell me that I couldnt run my rear battery as it would “BLOW UP THE CAR”! uhm I had that in there for 7 years with no issue. Sorry to say they havent a clue about charging systems.

    I also had them tell me 2 hours on a job and it turned into an all day job as they only had 3 of the 4 tires. Oh and dont expect clean rims when they give it back either!!! Mine were clean when I arrived and had hand prints everywhere when I left.

    Mom had an “alignment” done there. Her Jeep scared the hell out of her on the way home and she had to take it back. I dont know what was wrong but she said it was all over the road and the mechanic said something was left loose.

    I have piles of stories about shops in the Richmond VA area… They are cesspools of stupidity and idiots that have no idea that a pissed off customer WILL tell their friends not to go there.

    V

  47. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    once upon a time i left my car at a sears auto store for a quick under warranty fix of something not especially dangerous or urgent [but i can’t recall exactly what]
    my friends and i left the car with them around 5 pm, they were open until 9. i gave them my cell phone number as a contact and we walked around the mall. a couple of hours later i checked back and they hadn’t even touched my car because they said i hadn’t left them the key.
    after a couple of rounds and me fortunately knowing the name of the person i gave the key to – the store manager as it turned out – they called him at home and he realized he had it in his pocket.
    sadly, my roommate had borrowed my car a few days before and had my spare [and i forgot to get it back, my stupidity] and was out of town, but i had left one with my parents, who drove it across town to me so i could leave with my car.

    the OTHER sears auto [because hey, it was under warranty with sears!] across town did great service, fixed it in under an hour AND made sure i got a letter of apology from the district manager.
    the first store manager never did bring my key back for me to pick up and i am just glad that i only had an 84 celica at the time – not worth stealing

  48. pjb44 says:

    I’ve always wanted a place to tell my story, but didn’t know where to go.

    Years ago I was shopping at a Mall with my children. I heard a slight squeal in the brakes, so I decided while we were shopping, I would have Sears fix the brakes. After a couple of hours with my car I was informed that there was a leak in the brakes (so long ago I can’t remember exactly where). They were going to charge me $400. My brakes had given me no problems, but with the squeal, I knew they eventually would. I certainly didn’t have $400, and I thought they were trying to take advantage of me because I was a woman and didn’t know anything about cars. Since I knew there was no immediate danger of my brakes failing, I told them no thank you and left. The next day I took my car to my local mechanic. My brakes were fixed quickly for $98. No leaks. Imagine. I have never been back to Sears Auto and never will.

    Kudos to my husband who over the years had made sure I knew enough about cars that I could take care of myself when he was working out of town and could realize when someone was trying to take advantage of me.