Canadian Tire stores have a weekly sales flier, very often with some great discounts. I've always said that if you buy something at Canadian Tire at regular price, you're crazy...because whatever it is it will come on sale at some point in the next month. So the stores themselves are great for getting some good deals.
But, each store also operates an automotive service center. This is where things go downhill.
Canadian Tire Auto Service Centres don't have a good reputation. I was in the automotive business for 20 years, and it was a well known generality that you didn't bring your car to Canadian Tire unless it was for a flat repair or something simple. And I say it's a generality because I'm sure there are good stores and mechanics at some of the stores, but on an overall basis you need to be wary.
There's even a website called canadiantiresucks.net where people with complaints can, ...well, ...complain! Most of the complaints are to do with overcharging and repairs that may not have been necessary.
Okay, so on to our particular story.
Because we've decided to stay in Saskatchewan and we now have Saskatchewan driver's licences, we have to get the little blue car registered and insured in this province. Of course with anything related to the government, they don't make this particularly easy. We needed to get a provincial automotive inspection done to give them confidence that the car is safe enough for us to drive! And, because the provinces don't talk to each other, we needed to supply them with a record of any past insurance claims from our previous province.
The insurance certificate is relatively easy, although they send it by mail so they said we can expect it in ten days or so.
The vehicle inspection costs 1.5 hours of labor, which, depending on the shop's hourly labor rate could be anywhere between $120 and $160 dollars. They pretty much check anything safety related, as well as a wheel alignment set up and spec report. This dollar figure does not include doing any wheel alignment adjustments if necessary, only the set up and report.
I called around, and Canadian Tire was the cheapest. On the phone, I was told $119.99 plus 5% GST. There is no provincial sales tax charged on the inspection. They also said that if I brought it in at 8:00am yesterday morning, they would take it right away and do it while we wait. Because of the stigma associated with their repair shops, I almost didn't make the appointment, but it's only an inspection, and possible wheel alignment so I figured there wasn't much to screw up.
So, we were up at 6:00am yesterday morning, and left the house at 7:10am, and arrived at 8:00am on the button.
Prairie scenery along the way.
They had asked if I wanted to approve a full wheel alignment if they found anything wrong with the specs and I said to come and get me if there's a problem because I wanted to see the specs first. I had a feeling they would be out...the little blue car has never had a wheel alignment and I know it pulled very slightly to the right and the steering wheel was ever so slightly off center. Never enough to bother me, and I've kept an eye on the tires and they're not wearing unevenly at all.
Sure enough, they come out to tell me it needs a wheel alignment. I look at the specs, and I agree with them and tell them to go ahead and do the adjustments seeing as it's sitting on the machine with all of the heads already clamped to the wheels.
And, they tell me it needs front brake pads. I looked at the pads last year and I didn't think they needed to be replaced yet. The guy said that they're "not bad but the inner ones are wearing funny". So, do they meet specs, or not? The guy says no. I still disagree with that, but I didn't argue.
They quoted me $171.60 tax included to change the front brake pads (with cheap pads). I declined, and said that I would change them myself. I have since bought the brake pads (top quality ceramic) myself for $42 tax included. It's only an hour's work for me. I'll also have to pay them another $35 to remove the wheels for "re-inspection" after I've done it. It's a rip off, but I don't see any way out of it.
The guy does the alignment adjustment, and I'm presented with a bill for $269.74.
What? How does $126, and a wheel alignment adjustment become $270?
They charged me the $119.99 plus GST, as discussed for the inspection. And they agreed that this figure included the set up and spec report for the wheel alignment.
Then, they charged me $109.99 for the wheel alignment adjustment. But, I argued, that's the price you charge for a guy coming in off the street for a full alignment. I'm already paying the set and spec report in the $119.99 charge. So essentially, you're charging me twice for the set up and inspection, when in fact the car is already on the machine and ready.
But, they wouldn't budge. Essentially, they double charged me for the set up and report, which they admitted would have been a $35 charge if I would have asked for that to be done separately.
On top of that, there was a bogus charge for "shop supplies" of $20.70. Huh? What shop supplies?
The guy says "oh, the computer just includes that on every invoice".
I asked "okay, but how do you come up with the figure? Do you just pick a number out of a hat?"
The guy had to go ask the other guys, and eventually there were four of them trying to figure it out. It turns out that it's a charge based on 9% of the total labor amount. I can't believe that nobody questions this crap. So essentially, their labor rate is 9% higher than they actually tell you it is.
They wouldn't remove it, so I went to the customer service desk and asked for the store manager. He authorized that the charge be removed. I didn't bother explaining to him about the wheel alignment set up charge. I want to talk to Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) first as it's them who oversee this whole inspection program.
Anyhow, that is my one (and only) experience with Canadian Tire Auto Service. It won't happen again.
(As a side note, they did the wheel alignment properly. The car no longer pulls to the right, and the steering wheel is once again centered.)
Amazon.ca finally has a good deal on an external battery pack to recharge your iPhone or other smartphone. These have come on sale regularly on Amazon.com in the States, but this is the first time I've seen a great price on these in Canada. At this price, I'm going to buy one myself! (Edit: I just placed my order...there's no tax, and free shipping!)
And coincidentally, Amazon.com has a variety of them for sale...