While this is a nation-wide company, this post is about my experience with the local franchise on Geary street of the national corp. I used to like Big-O Tires when I went there on a whim many years ago. The tires were cheap and lasted a long time and the service was pretty quick. I’d drop my car off and by the time I’d get home they’d be calling me to come back and pick up my car. What I didn’t realize is that they had been taken over by a large corporation hell bent on scamming people out of money.
And this is where my story begins…I had a tire with a slow leak. My friend Eugene at Gene’s auto service who I’ve trusted for years fixed the tire, but also told me that the nail was at the edge and the fix might not work. Total cost…$10. In the few weeks after I noticed that the slow leak came back only it was becoming a faster and faster leak, so I figure I need a new tire. I bring the car in to Big-O and tell them the problem and they look over the tires and tell me that the wear on the sides of the tires tells them that I need all four tires replaced. Now I could see a bit of cracking on the side walls of the tires, but I had only put 15k of miles on the tires I had bought from Big-O four years earlier. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but Johnny the rep put some pressure on me and did a good job so I agreed to have all the tires replaced because, of course, they didn’t carry the tires they replaced any more even though they were guaranteed for 78k miles and didn’t look worn on the treads. I put my faith in Johnny and Big-O.
I noticed that they also do oil changes and figured it had been awhile since I had an oil change so I asked them to change the oil as well. I like synthetic oil since I had a bad experience with a Dodge Intrepid engine that when regular oil was used it tended to blow the engine. So I went for the full package. It would take a couple of hours to swap the tires and do the oil change so I hopped on the bus to my friend Pete’s house down by the beach. Two hours later I call them and Johnny tells me that they’re under staffed that day and it’ll take another hour. Mind you I dropped the car off at 10 am and now it’s about 12:30 so I figure I’ll give them a little more time. I call back at 2 pm and Johnny tells me that my battery has problems and needs to be replaced. I did notice some build up on the terminals so I figured that made sense and told him to go ahead and replace the battery and while he’s at it since they do replace cabin air filters to replace the cabin and engine air filters.
Tick tock tick. 4 pm. I call Johnny back, note all of the calls begin with I. Johnny mentions that with the air filters and oil change that it’s all combined in package to replace all fluids in the car for just a couple bucks extra. Well gee, thanks Johnny for a couple of bucks over the $50 to change the oil and filters sure go ahead (note to self a couple of bucks extra doesn’t add up to $450).
Tick tock tick. 5:30 pm. I’m hungry and call Johnny back. “Sure come on by it’ll be ready when you get here.” So my friend Pete gives me a ride and when we get there Johnny tells me that they’re just finishing up and it’ll be about an hour. Where does it’ll be ready when you get here equal it’ll be ready in an hour? So we cross the street to the Pig and Whistle for a round of fish and chips and a Boddington’s (note: best part of the day). I go back and wait and extra 30 minutes to get my car with the final bill of $1500+!!!!!!
I went in originally to have a tire changed figuring it might run me $100-$200 at the most and discovered they had bent me over and took me for a mint. I being a nice stupid kind of guy paid them and left with a car that I figured they had done all the work on.
My wife notices that the car sounds funny after words and I noticed that the heating and air conditioning stopped working. I was busy so I didn’t address the problem until about a month later. I decided that some was wrong and called my Nissan rep to tell them that my 2005 Altima had problems with the HVAC. Not something I expected from a Nissan. The tech head part of me suggested that I surf the web for an answer and found, “Check your coolant levels.”
I pop the hood and find there is nothing in the coolant refill and when I pop the cover of the radiator I find I can’t see any coolant. I call Big-o and tell them that I think they didn’t fill up all the fluids that they said because they were understaffed the day I dropped my car off (and didn’t get it back until 8 hours later) and they tell me to bring it in and they’ll refill and check my connections. Beware of check my connections.
Johnny comes back after 30 minutes and tells me that I’ve got a leak in my upper radiator hose AND in my radiator and that they need to be replaced. WTF?!?! a 2005 car with a 7 year extended warranty has the radiator blow? I’ve never had a car that I needed to replace anything other than the oil. He shows me the edge of the the radiator which looks fine and he reinforces it with, “see the moisture”. My bullshit detectors pops into effect when the tech is whispering into his ear and figure you dip your finger in the coolant and rub it around the edge and say there’s a radiator leak. They reinforce that with a “pressure check” where the whispering tech holds his hand over the gauge and pumps up the pressure until coolant starts spurting out of the hose.
I tell Johnny that I have an extended warranty and that I’ll deal with Nissan on that. Oddly enough Johnny makes the mistake of saying that the warranty will cover the hoses as well. Loss for Big-O. They could have scored on a hose change, but Johnny tells me he recommends that I not drive the car if I won’t let them do the work and have it towed home. Mind you they hadn’t put coolant in the car and let me drive it home and are now telling me I have a busted radiator which for some reason never left any residue in my driveway until after I denied them so I blew him off.
At the end of all this, I’m going to my trusted friend Eugene and have him check the radiator to make sure it’s not leaking as I think the only thing Big-O did was loosen the clamp on the hose which has now caused a small amount of leakage visible on my driveway that wasn’t before.
So in the end to sum up my story, I’ve done a search on Big-O Tires on the great Satan of the internet Google and found that the words spouted off to me such as, “if you don’t want us to do it your car is undriveable and must be towed” crop up quite a bit. I remember a friend back in the 80’s who used to work at a auto chain store telling me that they were encouraged to keep razor blades in their pockets to slice lines so that they could add charges on. I should have thought of him when I first entered the shop.
So now I know. Trust in those who know you like Gene’s Auto Service, not scam artists who want to rip you off.