Walmart Won’t Change The Oil In My Fiat Because It’s Not “In The Book”

For a few years in the ’90s, I was one of maybe three people (or at least that’s how it felt) in the entire U.S. with a Daihatsu (stop giggling; yeah, I mean you). It was a pain in the rear to get certain parts, but I never once had a problem getting the oil changed. Apparently, times have changed.

Consumerist reader David recently took his wife’s 2012 Fiat 500 over to his local Walmart in Virginia to get the oil changed, something he’d never imagined would cause a problem.

[He apparently never read the story about the customer who went in for an oil change and drove away (but not very far) with an unlubricated engine and a transmission full of oil.]

Things started off okay, says David, as the Walmart employee at the auto center went into the computer system and selected the appropriate vehicle.

But then she opened up something that everyone hereafter simply refers to as “The Book.”

“As she flipped through, she noticed there was nothing under Fiat,” writes David. “Apparently, if it does not exist in this great book, the car cannot be serviced in any way, shape or form.”

He asked her if it was possible to just have someone look at the oil filter to confirm what kind he needs so he could buy one off the shelf and do the change himself.

“I was told no again,” he recalls. “If it’s not in the book, they can’t service the car.”

This sentiment was repeated by the service department manager, who explained that without an entry in the book, his staff wouldn’t know which size tool to use.

David asked, “You mean to tell me you honestly cannot find the right tool?” at which point the manager repeated that the car can not be serviced if it’s not in the book.

“I guess that’s the last time I go there for an oil change,” he tells Consumerist. “They’re the most convenient place, but if they can’t service a car that came out in late 2011, then I don’t want them touching any of my other cars.”

If anyone at Walmart wants to clarify what exactly is in this book, we’d very much like to hear from you. Please write us at tips@consumerist.com to share any information that might shine some light on this story.

UPDATE: Consumerist reader N. writes in with this explanation:

The Tire Lube Express uses a manual that lists every vehicle that the shop is equipped to handle. If the shop does not have the tools, type of oil, or in the case of the Fiat 500 the correct oil filter, then they will refuse service. The Fiat 500 uses an obscure enough oil filter that Walmart shops do not carry it, as they can not carry every filter that exists as that is not reasonable. Rather than give the customer a poor experience by changing the oil and leaving in a dirty filter, the customer is sent elsewhere.

Meanwhile, David, who is not a Walmart employee but whose fiancee owns a Fiat 500, suggests that, “Since the Fiat is manufactured and distributed by Chrysler, a lot of places are listing it as a Chrysler Fiat 500 in service books, as in Chrysler made the car and ‘Fiat 500’ is the model of car.”

So we would suggest that if you own a Fiat or any other car that you don’t see hundreds of every day, you should probably call ahead and confirm that Walmart will be able to service your car — and politely ask them to look under “Chrysler Fiat 500″ — so as to minimize wasting everyone’s time.