Out for a lakeside walk in Valea Morilor Park in Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 4, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Canadian Tire Automotive - Never Again

Before we get to our story, I'll first give a little background because many of our American readers may not know about Canadian Tire. If you're from Canada, then obviously you do. Essentially, they're a big box store that sells everything...but mostly related to hardware, automotive, and sporting goods. Some of them even tried to get into groceries, but I don't know if that went over very well.

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...


26 comments:

  1. Many years ago I only used Canadian Tire Auto Service but that was before they started all the extra charging. I now shop their store but don't use the service department.
    Not only should you report them to the SGI but the Better Business Bureau and Canadian Tire's head office as well. Black Eyes don't shine well on the company record.
    You've heard the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I did an online complaint with the BBB and had a problem I had been working on for nearly a year with our trailer resolved within 36 hours.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. We had never ever used them before for automotive service and after this inspection thing is through, we will never ever use them again. Trust us, Kevin will be contacting SGI about this and he certainly isn't finished with them. We do have to go back one more time in order for them to inspect the brake pads once Kevin has installed them. One of the reasons that we went with them in the first place was that it was the only place that we could get the inspection done as we waited the other places Kevin called we would have had to leave the car with them for a day and because we have no other transportation that wasn't going to work for us. Yep, you got that right the "squeaky wheel" does get the grease, at least most of the time.

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  2. I feel your pain. That's why I try to do everything I possibly can myself, but once just before our cruise last January, I had a severe vibration problem that cropped up two days before we were to drive to Florida. I took it in to a nearby Honda dealer, who diagnosed a bad caliper on the RF wheel. They replaced the caliper, installed new brake pads and turned the rotors on the car. They hit me $533 for that job. Talk about never again! If I had not been in a rush, I'd have done it myself.

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    1. Kevin is the same, if he can do it himself then he will. When you do it yourself not only is it cheaper but you also know that it is done right. Unfortunately with an inspection it is something out of our control.

      Sorry about your car service, but sometimes you don't always have a lot of choice, especially when you are squeezed for time.

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  3. I hear ya about Canadian Tire's Auto center being an unscrupulous place. I was burned by them more than once & since the last burn in 1994 I have never or will I ever take a vehicle to a CTC store again. They are notorious for replacing parts. Friend of mine years ago landed the job of service manager at a Canadian Tire store in our area but didn't last long once he found out was expected of him to do. He refused, quit the job & went off & opened up his own auto repair business. Your right about the store having great deals on merchandise etc.

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    1. I think just about everyone that has used Canadian Tire automotive service centre has a story, and usually it isn't a good one. I am surprised that they get enough business to keep the service centres open. Glad to hear that your friend has scruples enough not to stay working for them if he didn't like their business practices.

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  4. Our only experience with Canadian Tire (which - haha - we originally thought was a tire store) had to do with black flies. We were desperate to get away from those little devils in the Maritime Provinces in July, and Canadian Tire carried net hoodies and net jackets to protect our faces and necks. The store reeks of Wal-Mart.

    Methinks you got ripped off, big-time!

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    1. Well, not sure that $35 is "big time", but it was a rip off none the less. But, I'm not done with them yet...

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  5. Any place you have to get inspections is a license for rip offs. Here in Pa we have safety and emissions actually the emissions requirement is by location within the state. Even the mechanics I trust rip me off. Less than 5000 miles annual and you are exempt from emissions but the exemption sticker costs the same as the real inspection. And the shop supplies is to meet the government requirement for hazardous disposal and is charged no mater whether they use on red shop towel or have to get rid of 7 quarts of oil.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Then they should have a separate line item for hazardous waste disposal. I have no problem paying for items that they legitimately used on my car, but if they can't give me detail on those items, then it's part of their overhead cost of doing business.

      Delete
  6. We agree with you on Canadian Tire as well. The only thing we do now is purchase our car tires with the Canadian Tire money and then take them to our garage to have them installed and balanced. too many extra charges like you said.

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    1. Good for you George, you don't even give them the satisfaction of installing them! ;-)

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  7. Have been charged those "shop supplies" many times but have never ended up paying. My standard initial response to the service manager has been: "look, you and I both know this was something you picked up at some service seminar with a free lunch on how to invisibly tack on another 10%". The discussion typically doesn't go any further than that.
    Moral of your story Kevin, get it in writing up front.

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    1. Moral of your story Kevin, get it in writing up front.

      Yes, you are absolutely correct.

      Delete
  8. Canadian tire service department does suck, we made the same mistake when we brought our cars to BC. Never again will I walk across their service department doors. They made us peel some window tint off a window (hubby refused to let them do it as they wanted $100 for it) and we did it ourselves - had to pay a reinspection fee too. What a rip off. I think in all honesty it is worth paying more to get a decent mechanic to inspect it. I wish we would have done that.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Sounds like you did much the same as us, do the work yourselves. We agree that it worth more paying a decent mechanic to do the inspection! Our problem was that the mechanic that Kevin had called originally to see about doing the inspection needed us to leave the car with him for the day and we couldn't do that because this is our only transportation, whereas Canadian Tire could do the inspection first thing in the morning and we could wait in their waiting room while they did it.

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  9. It sounds like the "inspection" law is the culprit here. Legislature there could not have for seen the real possibility of fraud and unethical business practices. Anytime a merchant gets paid to perform a legally required activity, there will be monkey business. I love Canada, quality of life is great there. We have all these radicals here screaming about government regulations here. That inspection law you have there is one of few instances where they may have it right.
    Sorry for your troubles and stress. Take a deep breath, forget it and look forward to tomorrow.

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    1. You are very right there David, once there is an inspection law, you are at the hands of those that are inspecting your vehicle. You are not qualified to tell them that you don't think the inspection has been done correctly, you are totally at their mercy and it is very difficult to try and fight something that you don't think is necessary when the government is involved. Trust us though, Kevin will be doing everything in his power to try and fight the system and get reimbursed for the money we are out of hand.

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  10. I took my vehicle in to get the provincial inspection here in BC when I moved here and ran into the same problem. They told me I needed new brakes all the way around (which I didn't get cause I knew I didn't need them and prefer to deal with another mechanic anyway) but they WOULD pass my vehicle if I booked an appt to get them done. I booked the appt and got the paper that said I passed the inspection and then cancelled the appt later. I took my truck over to Fountain Tire and they laughed. No way I needed new brakes. Good decision there!

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    1. Just booking an appointment to get them done here wasn't an option, they had to be done and then reinspected before they would authorize the inspection sheet for SGI. Glad that worked for you. :-)

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  11. Hi,

    Just a little info.
    Shop charges are only allowed in some provinces.

    In Ontario it is pretty strict (if you know your rights.

    for instance it's illegal to charge for parts without the descriptions, (no miscellaneous parts or other kits without itemizing), or labour charges without showing the time and the rate, (no flat rate oil changes ect),

    however it IS legal to increase the total bill by up to 10% without needing any additional approvals from the customer. I've been in the business for about 15 yrs and I've never seen anyone use the 10% clause - not worth losing customers.

    And Canadian Tire is Old (started 1920) and huge for Canada so there are good and bad, (maybe more bad like walmart), average Canadian lives within 15 minutes of a Canadian Tire Store.


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    1. As you said it is different in different provinces and it seems that Saskatchewan uses the 10% shop supplies charge as standard. When we had Sherman's (our motorhome's) inspection done at another shop we were again charged this same charge. We can except this charge when it is explained to us at the start and is part of the quote but not to add it on after the fact and end up charging us more that then original quote.

      Other than Canadian Tire's automotive shop, we quite like the rest of the business and often can get some great deals.

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  12. The shop supplies charge is for items that can't be charged separately such as oil rag cleaning, a squirt or two of penetrating oil, the seat covers and floor mats to keep the car clean and other sundry items. If the garage was to not charge you for these items and hide them in the hourly rate, you can be damn sure that the hourly rate will go up at least $20 per hour. How would you feel if the bill came and it said ... floor mat $1, seat cover $1.73, oil rags 7@ $0.90 ea, penetrating oil 8 squirts @ $0.50ea, vacuuming $4, window cleaning @ $2.65 front only, and more.
    This way they average out all expenses and everyone pays a tiny bit each.
    As for your double dipping of the set up fee, I would contact CTC head office to ask for a refund. Don't forget to bill them for your time at their shop rate for the hours you spent discussing the problem with the manager, researching the laws, the contacting of the labour standards branch and the consumer and corporate affairs offices of both the Saskatchewan and federal gov'ts. Don't forget to add on a 9% service fee, plus of course interest from day one of the value you lost.

    I am sure that by the time you add all of your costs, plus small claims court fees, they will have to pay out much more than you did to defend themselves. It might not get you what you seek but yo should have the satisfaction of costing them money.

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    1. I understand their justification of the shop supplies fee, I simply don't agree with it. It is a cost of overhead, and they are trying to make it a profit center. Especially in this situation where there is no way they used $20.70 worth of materials to do an inspection.

      I never had to take them to court. I went through their automotive mediator, and he ended up sending me a $35 CTC gift card as compensation for my trouble. Better than nothing, but I'll never go back again.

      Delete

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