Tired of Tires

And now a few hundred words on NTB (National Tire and Battery) in Waltham, who have managed to expand the variety of car services they offer but have failed to build a motel on site, as it now takes an overnight stay to get your car back for even the most simple procedures.

I made a 11 AM appointment on a Monday to have an oil change and tire rotation for the very low price of $21.00… which is a nice deal compared to a Valvoline, who charges a minimum of $34.00 with a coupon for an oil change… but more on them a little later.

I arrived at 10:50 AM, the store was empty, and the service guy asked if I wanted a “free alignment check while we were at it?” (Sure). Did I want synthetic oil as it was also on sale? (No, thanks). I took a seat in the lounge, where there is a TV, bad coffee, several recent car magazines and bathrooms. After reading every magazine on two end tables, watching more morning TV than I can hold down, and four trips to the bathroom, I asked where my car was, as it had been an hour already. The NTB guy then brought out my engine air filter ($24.00 please) and cabin air filter ($43.00 please) and explained how they needed to be changed. Reminding them that I had asked for a tire rotation and oil change only I declined the service and returned to the lounge.

Crawling out of my skin at 12:22, 90 minutes after I had brought in the car, I asked again where it was. The service guy said “let me go check” and brought it out, handing me a receipt for the quoted price with a listing of “recommended” services required. One of these was for four new struts. When I asked if they were leaking or showing signs of wear he said “no…” and explained it was because the car had so many miles on it. Carrying this logic forward I should likely replace every moving part on the car. What the billing did not have on it was the free review of the front wheel alignment they suggested I get. When asked why he said “you were in a hurry for the car, so we did not do it”. Apparently not waiting to wait more than 90 minutes for an oil change and tire rotation put me in the “pushy customer” category.

The next day this pushy customer went to the NTB website area for feedback and gave them the above written story. The next day the manager from NTB Waltham called me and apologized for the service time, explaining they were busy (they were not), the car had to be moved from one lift to another for the alignment check (something they did NOT do), and he offered a free oil change at another date.

This guy (his name was Bob) was trying to do the right thing without actually admitting there was is no reason a 15 minute procedure should ever take 90 minutes without gross incompetence being involved. He said he had been the new manager of the store for a couple of weeks and this was not how they usually worked.

Now I have a long memory. I actually bought the tires on this car from NTB 18 months ago… and have done business here off and on for years (shame on me). The service here is almost consistently bad. Not more than three years ago they were so short staffed on a day I was there, I ended up answering the NTB phones for them as no employee was picking them up. I was losing my sanity listening to them constantly ringing until the potential customers hung up, only to immediately call back again. I took down customer names and numbers and told them someone would get right back to them. At somewhere past the three hour mark I can recall calling the NTB main office and demanding the cell phone number of the regional manager for this location, so I could ask him from the desk of the unit what kind of operation they were running. The secretary would not release his cell phone number and gave me only his email address even when I explained I was answering their phones for them.

I am sure an NTB is very much like a restaurant. When you open it for the first time you either do it right and runs right forever, or it opens badly and never runs well. This one, to my experience, has never run well. It likely never will either.

I ended up telling Bob I would not accept a free oil change until we both knew when I went back there it would not be a bad experience. Unless Bob is planning to live there 24/7 for the next six months, and is not part of the problem himself, go elsewhere.

This leads us to Valvoline…

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