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.
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.