Pep Boys Logo

Pep Boys

Last Saturday an event I had been anticipating for months with apprehension finally occurred. My store van has 260,000 miles on it and a few things, like the ignition switch, are starting to wear out. When your ignition switch is wearing out the typical result of turning the key becomes a toss-up between your car starting or nothing happening.

I had gotten a ballpark quote to replace the switch from my regular mechanic of $200 – $300. Since I could typically still start the van in just a few tries I didn’t bother to get it fixed immediately.

Initial Quote

So after my son’s Pinewood derby race we got in the car to leave, I put the key in the ignition, turned it and nothing happened. “No problem”, I thought. “I’ll just try again.” And again. And again. “Maybe if  I flip the key over and lean over the steering wheel while pulling the key toward the dashboard.” No luck. After several more tries I gave up called Pep Boys for a quote on replacing the ignition switch. The service tech I talked to told me “$110”.  Since that was less than my regular mechanic had guessed, and he had just pulled his number out of the air, I decided to have my van towed over for repairs.

Don’t Believe the Customer

On Monday I called to explain the situation since the tow truck operator hadn’t bothered to leave them any information. I was told that the problem couldn’t possibly be the ignition switch and was probably the starter. They needed to do some test. I agreed since it was possible that something else was also broken. On Monday evening I was told that my starter was fine and it must be some wiring behind the fusebox.


On Tuesday I got another call saying that they had found the problem! The tech proudly announced that it was the ignition switch. I commented that I had told them that on Monday. I asked what the total was going to be for the repair and was told “$290”. I didn’t yell, but I did forcefully explain that I had been quoted $110 on Saturday. The tech said that he didn’t know anything about that but that the diag cost $34 and the rest was parts. I asked why I should pay for a diagnostic when I told them the problem originally and their analysis said the same thing. He then told me that the quote I got was just for the labor. I told him that I had never heard of an auto place giving just a labor quote without mentioning that that there were other costs not included. He told me he would talk to his boss.

Blown Off, But a Glimmer of Hope

Later he called back and said his boss would remove the charge for the test and I could have the van towed somewhere else. I explained that I was filing a report with the BBB for the bait-and-switch pricing. He said that was fine and I was welcome to come get the van whenever I wanted. After filing my complaint with the BBB I posted my story on the Pep Boys’ Facebook page and it was almost instantly removed. I figured that was the end of it but I received a Facebook message from Pep Boys asking me for my contact information so they could discuss the problem with me. This was better than I had expected.


I didn’t receive a call on Tuesday or Wednesday so I wrote back to Pep Boys and told them that having a car down like this while we waited for them to make the situation right wasn’t acceptable. I got an email back saying that they would get back with me in 48 hours. Fantastic. Four days after my initial complaint I was supposed to get a call back.

On Thursday I spoke with the service manager who told me that the total cost that he was going to charge for the repairs was about $160. He made a big point about not charging me for the diagnostic which turned out to be a different price than I had been told on Tuesday. I told him that I didn’t care about the diagnostic, only about the price quote being wrong. He told me he had talked to everyone in the department and no one remembered talking to me. Implying that your customer is a liar is not the way to make things right.

I told him to go ahead and do the repair because I wasn’t about to pay to have the van towed somewhere else. So now we have a fixed van.

I still haven’t heard back from customer service at Pep Boys corporate and it’s six days since I wrote.

UPDATE: Today I got a recorded message from Pep Boys hoping that I was satisfied with my service but that if my problem hadn’t been resolved or if I hadn’t heard from someone I could call them back. Boy that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Takeaway for your business

  • Make sure that you have your numbers straight before giving a quote.
  • Don’t ever, ever, ever imply or tell your customer that he is a liar.
  • If your customer service sets an expectation, they had better meet it.
Read previous post: