Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pep Boys Review

I wasn't going to do this, but I'm afraid that the situation is so absurd that the only way I am going to get it out of my mind is to write this Pep Boys review.  Pep Boys in California is a three-ring circus. Some of the guys that work there are very nice, but nice doesn't make up for rocks where there should be marbles.

I used to like Pep Boys a lot. Like most people in this economy, I need to save money where I can, and their prices are decent.  They are great at putting on tires and replacing batteries, but it seems they are not competent enough to handle anything remotely more complicated.  I have had a few bad experiences at various California Pep Boys in the last few years.  And I'm done.

Firstly, after four day-long visits to one to install new brakes...and three to replace the faulty new brakes that they installed...which they did ONE AT A TIME, I still have one bad brake. I knew that when I started to pull out of their lot.  It was making noise...the very noise I had told them it was making when I brought it in. They didn't believe me so I had the mechanic drive the car around the block and see for himself.  He came back and told me that that wasn't the noise he had fixed....he hadn't been listening for that noise. Well, I hadn't been listening for that noise either, but it was the one I reported.

Yeah, they screwed up, but yet would not even let me make an appointment so that I didn't have to spend yet another (5th) entire day there.   The manager was rude and asked me if I had driven to to Los Angeles or something.  Huh? What difference did that make??  They didn't guarantee their work for the 12 mile drive to Los Angeles? My brakes were guaranteed as long as I didn't visit that evil city?  Seriously, what?

I was done with Pep Boys (with the exception of breaking down on the freeway last July and having to have my alternator replaced at the nearest possible place) at that point.

Fast forward several years, and I need an expensive part put in my car in order to pass smog...a new idle control motor.  Having just moved to an unfamiliar area, I go to a mom & pop shop. That was no fun. These clowns wanted to charge me for an expensive part that they did not have on hand without fully diagnosing the problem.  They said there was a chance that I did not need the part...I'm sure they didn't want to yank the idle control motor out and test it, only to have to put it back in if it turned out not to be faulty.

Sorry, blonde though I am (sometimes),  I wasn't going to shell out more than 300 dollars on a part I would be stuck with if it turned out my current one was just dirty and could be cleaned. I decided to go elsewhere.  Of course, that was not before mom and pop charged me for for the pleasure giving me an inconclusive diagnosis. Half price for half a diagnosis.  Full pile of crap.

I am actually missing Pep Boys at this seems time heals all automotive repair wounds.  I start to wonder what Pep Boys would charge, and if I'd get better service there.  I had, in fact, had that alternator replaced at a different Pep Boys location after the brake fiasco, and I thought that had gone well. Surely, the brake episode was a one-off.  Surely Pep Boys would not do me wrong again.

I call Pep Boys. They can diagnosis the car, and order the part. They will overnight the part. The part is cheaper than at the other place. They will not charge me for the part if I don't need it. I have a crush on Pep Boys again. Pep Boys and I have a date for two days later.

Sooo...let me tell you how that went.

They don't have the part when I get there.

Them: hasn't come in yet.

Me:  it was supposed to be over-nighted.

Them: oh, um, oh, eh, well... the shipment hasn't come in yet today.

Me:  it was supposed to be over-nighted two days ago.

Them: yeah, but the arrival schedule blah... blah... blah.

Me: why did the guy who said he would over-night the part make an appointment for me at this time, knowing the part would not be here yet?

Them:  oh, um, we don't know, sorry.

Me:  you couldn't have least at called me so I didn't make a wasted trip here?

Them:  yeah, he should have called you.

I'm NOT stupid... it was clear that the ball had been dropped, and the part had not been ordered.  They went ahead and diagnosed the car (to their credit, they did not charge me for the diagnosis), and it turned out that I did need the expensive idle speed control motor that the local clowns said I might need.

I'm not feeling confident during the hour I spend there while they diagnose my car. I hear an employee telling one customer that her car couldn't be smogged because their smog guy was at home "hugging the porcelain bowl", and they were having trouble locating the keys that belonged to another.  This would be highly entertaining under different circumstances.

Three days later, I get a call that my part is in, and I make another appointment after explaining to them (though I'd done it before) that I also need a smog check. No problem, they tell me.

I keep my appointment and have the idle control motor replaced only to find out that I will have to drive it for 40-50 miles to have the electronics reset before it could be smogged.  Gah...I would have appreciated knowing this beforehnd, but whatever.

By now, I'm getting used to (and disturbingly more comfortable with) driving around with expired tags. After driving what I figured was an acceptable distance, I call Pep Boys back to make an appointment to have my car smogged.  Just one problem.

I can't make that appointment because their smog machine is broken.  HUH?  I would never, ever put in print what I was thinking at that point, and I stifled my frustration and asked when it would be fixed.  I was told that it would be fixed on Tuesday, and to call back then.

Okay.  I did as I was told and called back Tuesday.  On Tuesday, I am told that the smog mechanic is OFF WORK for 2 days!!  I am rendered incredulous.

HEY PEP BOYS...I have an idea...why not change the schedule and make your smog guy take the days off during the time your machine was down?  What...makes too much sense?  Gahhhhhhhh, what is your problem??

All right.  Let's finish this.

I finally make an appointment to get my car smogged at Pep Boys, and they assure me that the machine is working, and so it the smog engineer.  I ask for a morning appointment, but they cannot get me in until 2:30 in the afternoon.  So be it.  I take the 2:30 appointment that they suggest.

You didn't think this could get any worse, did you?  Well, it's Pep Boys, so... can.  I wait 45 minutes with no word on my car, so I decide to go check on it.  Do you want to know what I am told?  That the smog mechanic was OUT TO LUNCH (which was his normal lunchtime), and so my car had not been looked at yet. They had not only (at their suggestion) scheduled my appointment for the time that the mechanic is normally out to lunch, but they had also told me that everything was running on time (after I had inquired), when I got there.

They had just crossed the line from ineptness to deceptiveness.

It was time...I let loose...I like to think in a nice way, but I was outside my body at this the guy who gave me this little bit of news.  2:30 was the time they gave me for the appointment, not one I had suggested.  Why the hell would they make an appointment for me to smog my car when their "smog guy" was going to be taking his "regularly" scheduled lunch break?

The last guy I talked to actually "got it", and in lieu of going back in time and actually making things right, at least he made sure that my smog check was free.

As someone who does not know enough about cars (but would never let a mechanic know that), I constantly face the dilemma of where to take my car when something happens. Will I ever go back to Pep Boys?  I don't think so, but my fickle side can't promise that.

On another note, my DMV tags just arrived. I best go put them on the car before any more time elapses.

Because every little bit helps...

Carole Tee


  1. Carole, I just happened to run across your blog from your Mturk article on Amazon.

    I'm in the auto parts business. Here's the deal w/ Pep Boys -

    Pep Boys is a very badly run company. Buzz in the industry is that they will not be around much longer. Recently a hedge fund was going to buy Pep Boys but backed off the deal after doing their due diligence. THEY PAID A $20 MILLION PENALTY FOR BACKING OUT. Pep Boys employees pretty much know they won't have jobs much longer and have no motivation to perform any service, let alone good service.

    Take your business elsewhere. If you're in the
    LA area (S Bay), I'd be glad to recommend some good shops.

  2. Thanks so much for reading my rant, and for taking the time to respond. That's interesting information, and you're right; the employees at Pep Boys definitely behaved as if they knew their time was limited. It's pretty telling when someone will actually pay a 20 million dollar fine NOT to do business with someone else.

    I'm no longer in Southern California, but you never know when I'll be back. If you want to suggest reliable places for auto repair in that area, I'm sure readers that do live down there would appreciate it.

    Happy 4th of July!