This morning one of my turn signal bulbs burned out. The nearest auto-parts store to me when it happened was Advance Auto Parts in Allston, MA, so I figured I would go there and buy replacement bulbs (I figured I might as well replace both sides while I’m at it) before driving home.
They didn’t have the correct bulbs in stock. That’s the first problem.
The manager sold me an LED version of the bulbs for like five times the price of the bulbs I wanted, claiming that it would work in my car (foreshadowing!).
While opening the package after I got home, I was concerned to see “for off-road use only” printed on it (problem number two!). I reasoned that this must be an error since the store manager would not have sold me bulbs that aren’t legal for me to use, so I tried to install them anyway.
They didn’t work (problem number three!). The “is the bulb burnt out?” sensor in my car doesn’t know what to make of the lower voltage used by LED bulbs, so it thinks the bulbs are burnt out even though they’re not.
I went to NAPA Auto Parts on Greenough Street in Brighton. They didn’t have the cheapest version of the bulb either, but they did have a “long-life” version which was compatible with my car and a third the cost of the LED bulb. I bought and installed them with no trouble.
I went back to Advance Auto Parts to return the bad bulbs. The first clerk I told what happened listened to my story, commiserated with me, and then told me that actually he couldn’t process a refund so I would have to speak to the guy standing next to him.
The guy standing next to him made me wait for like five minutes—he wasn’t helping a customer or anything, he was just typing on his computer—before deigning to allow me to tell him the story a second time. Then he informed me that I would have to come back tomorrow to get a refund.
When I (obviously) objected to that, he said, “We’re not even supposed to give refunds on bulbs, and only the manager can approve it, and he won’t be here until tomorrow. In fact he’s probably the one who sold you the bulb.” And then he looked at the receipt and confirmed that was the case.
I told him I would not be returning to the store and would instead be disputing the charge on my credit card, and walked out.
This was a ridiculously bad and entirely unacceptable service experience from start to finish. I will never be going back to this store.
To their credit… When I got home from the store, I gave them one-star reviews on Google and Yelp. They responded to the Google review 15 minutes after I posted it:
Hello, Jonathan. Thank you for taking the time to write your review of our Allston Advance Auto Parts location. We are sorry to hear that your experience with us was not great. We do our best to provide our team members with all necessary training and part knowledge to accurately gauge what part is needed, and we apologize if we missed the mark here. We have notified our Field Leadership Team of your feedback and they will take all necessary action. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention, and we hope that you will give our store another chance to properly serve you in the future.
We’ll see if they make good. If so I will update this posting as well as my Google and Yelp reviews.