Walmart Auto Care Leaves Car Unlocked With Ignition On, Wanders Off

Peter copied Consumerist on his letter to Walmart about his baffling recent experience with a local Auto Care Center. The ever-helpful technicians–who, as he learned later, were apparently random people drafted to perform oil changes on an understaffed day–left Peter’s car unlocked and unattended in the parking lot, with the ignition on but the motor not running, despite his explicit instructions. Would you have shrugged the incident off, or been as angry as Peter?

My name is Peter [redacted] and I am writing today to express a deep concern about the Auto Care Center at your Walmart Store #[redacted]. I had arrived at the store right about 615pm on September 1st for an oil change on my 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. I was told it would be 1hr 45 mins for the oil change. That was fine as me and my wife were going to walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

The associate filled out information on the handheld scanner and went out to check the mileage. When he came back in, I asked him; “Did you lock the car door, I have my work laptop and GPS in the car.” The associate stated ” I did not lock it, don’t worry, we will be pulling it in momentarily”. I said ok, and me and my wife proceeded out the door to go have dinner. An hour went by and we came back and the car was still in the same spot, so I decided to look in the passenger side window to see if they put the new sticker on signaling a complete oil change.

But then I got upset. Not because the oil change had not been done, but I noticed that my radio was on and other items as well. I walked around to the driver side of the car to still find my car unlocked. Now, my car is one of these new cars that you do not have to use a key for, as long as the keyfob is in the car you can turn the ignition. But, then you can take the key out of the car and it will still start and drive away without the key in the car. So, my car sat in the parking lot for an hour unlocked with the ignition turned to the accessory position with my work laptop and GPS in the car and anyone could have just gotten in the car, started it and driven off!

We went inside and question the technician, my wife said to him, “You left the car on for an hour draining the battery and anyone could have taken the car.” To which his response was, “Well, sorry, but if the battery would of went bad we would have just jumped it.” He did not seem to care that the car was unlocked and on. I heard the other tech in the garage on the way out to the car to ensure he turned it off and locked it say to the other tech “It’s not a big deal, there is no key so it will not start.” This is also a wrong statement.

My wife and I went up and talked to the assistant manager of the store and she told me that they are short staffed back there and had people helping out that were not techs. But when I went back out to check, the original associate that took my order that said when I got there that “There was only one tech and and I’m not it”, was under a car doing an oil change. That worries me as well, if he is not a tech, what is he doing under a car performing oil changes?

So, the manager told me she would discuss the issue with them and that she would make sure it did not happen again. You know, I have been a Wal-Mart shopper for quite a few years now, I buy all of my groceries from there versus another local chain down the road, but this is the second time now with an oil change that I have had a sour experience, the other being at [redacted], near where I work. I have paid $57 dollars and change for this oil change, but it could of cost Walmart a lot more, like an insurance claim for a stolen car and this situation may deter me from shopping with Walmart in the future. I thank you for your time.

Sending this letter was important, since Walmart should know precisely who is dealing with their customers’ cars. However, the lesson for Peter here is clear: stop taking his car to Walmart. (Also, stop leaving his laptop and GPS in the unattended car, whether it’s locked or not.)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.