In August of this year, I purchased 2 tires from the Walmart Tire Center. My car needed an alignment, so I took it to a local Sears Auto Center to have that done.
I had some abnormal wear on one of the tires and figured it was mainly because of the alignment and figured I'd have to replace it, no big deal. Well, once they got the tires off, they noticed the bit printed on the tire "mount this side in", and that Walmart had clearly mounted them "inside out". On alot of tires, it doesn't matter, but these are what they call "directional" tires, and they have to be mounted on the rim in a specific direction. ie. mount the "inside" of the tire facing "in" to the car & not facing out.
Apparently with the directional tires, the intended outside sidewall is stronger than the inside. So in essence, my tire was collapsing from being mounted wrong. In 3400 miles, the left front tire (outside edge) was worn to the cords. Sears didn't dispose of my tires, instead telling me to take them back to Walmart and ask for a refund, because although the misalignment contributed to uneven tire wear, their stupidity of mounting them wrong was the biggest factor.
Another issue (that could've resulted in my crashing the car and injuring myself & daughter or someone else) is that with them mounted that way, the traction was greatly reduced, meaning that anytime the roadway was wet, I was sliding all over the place & hydroplaning and could've caused an accident. I took the tires back to Walmart, and was met with an instant attitude. They simply told me that I should've brought the tires back (as if I knew they were mounted wrong) and they would've replaced them free (as indicated in their joke of a warranty - which they also then tried to void because the car needed an alignment).
I told them that I had bought 2 new tires from Sears because the ones they (Walmart) sold me were worthless, and Sears did not want me driving on them anymore at all because of the safety issue. The automotive manager was very unprofessional in that he tried to take all blame off the "tech" (loose term here) and put it on me with regard to the alignment. He then called the lead serviceman, who actually stood there and attempted to tell me that the words "mount this side in" were meaningless. Now I am by no means abreast to car things, but I'm intelligent enough to know that those words were put there for a reason.
A former teacher of mine at one time was a tire designer for Firestone, and he made it quite clear that tires are very hard to design because of the balance issues. For each letter that appears on a tire, there has to be design elements built into the tire in order to make balance correct, so I hardly think that the tire manufacturers would put words on tires unnecessarily, especially words that obviously affect the wear of the tires as well as the handling of the vehicle.
Initially they told me they weren't giving me any refund at all. Then I used the magic word "lawyer" and they then told me that they would refund 50% of the money spent. I hate to be picky, but when those tires could've been the cause of injury or death to me, my daughter, or an innocent person, I didn't feel 50% was good enough. I told them that was not acceptable. Then after more rude treatment from the auto center manager and the lead service "tech", I was told that if I got a written statement from Sears stating that the incorrect mounting was the major factor in those tires having excessive wear in only 3400 miles, they would issue a full refund.
Prior to the confrontation, the two of them disappeared into an office, and "called" Sears. They came out and said that the representative from Sears told them that the mis-mounting was not the major factor, but the car being out of alignment. Of course not hearing the conversation, there was no way to prove the call was even made. I left there very angry (angrier after the "tech" told me to have a nice day) and went back to Sears. The person I dealt with there (which I might add went above and beyond the call of duty) said that no call was made to them by Walmart (which I had suspected in the first place).
They were more than happy to give me a written statement that it was because of their failure to follow the manufacturer's specification for mounting the "directional" tires that caused the excessive wear and could've caused damage to both car and bodily injury had I have had an accident. While waiting for them to write the statement, I had occasion to talk to the two excellent Sears technicians that performed the service to my car, and was told that although the major damage was to the left front tire, the way that the car was out of alignment, it should've been on the right front and not the left, and that even out of alignment the tires, although intended to be 40,000 mile tires, would've lasted at least 15 to 20,000, not chewed up like they were.
So I got my statement, and headed back to Walmart. Conveniently, the "manager" who verbally stated that he would issue a 100% refund if I brought back a written statement, had left for the day. Thankfully though, the "tech" was still there, and he came into the customer waiting area. I showed him the statement, and clearly being very agitated by the fact that I did get it, simply stated (in a very unprofessional way) that I should go to the customer service desk in the front of the store and he would call up there and tell them to issue me a credit to my credit card. So although I ultimately did receive a refund credited to my credit card, I am still very unhappy about the way I was treated.
To try to hang primary blame on me for their stupid mistake, and then treat me like I was the idiot was totally unacceptable. If it had been that the wear was simply because the car was out of alignment, that would've been one thing (and I had gone to Sears initially fully expecting to have to pay for the one tire because it was shot), but being alerted to the mistake on their part (for which Sears said it was probably an honest mistake - never once during the ititial visit did they have anything negative to say about Walmart), I felt that something should be done.
And since I had the old tires as proof, and the tread depth readings, and other things to prove it was their mistake, I didn't expect to be treated like I was the idiot in this. This experience has lead me to make the decision to boycott Walmart in the future. Not only was the work shoddy, but when their mistake was proven to them, they became very rude and did all they could to escape making it right. I just hope that by someone reading my report, I can save someone from the same trouble. Maybe if the consumers who purchased tires from them would just check the outside of the tire to make sure they have been mounted correctly, it could save alot of headaches.
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