A couple of weeks ago I heard from Joseph Pasternack of Wilkes-Barre, who claimed Firestone Complete Auto Care in Kingston had taken advantage of him a few months back when he took his car in for a front-end alignment.
“I asked them to check my oil and top it off if necessary,” Pasternack wrote. “They told me I needed parts for the front-end alignment that would cost $280, which I authorized them to do.”
Pasternack also agreed to pay $179 for a “lifetime alignment,” meaning Firestone would realign the car whenever it was needed at no further cost, as long as he owned the car. He figured the total would be about $600, including labor, and says his head spun like a tire when he was handed an invoice for $947.52.
“They billed me $640.00 for labor for around two hours work,” he told me. “They had put in a new air filter and spark plugs and flushed the transmission, which I didn’t need and didn’t authorize them to do.”
Pasternack immediately emailed a complaint to Firestone’s corporate office and got a quick response.
“They sent a letter saying they understood my frustration that one of their stores would do something like that,” he said. “They stated they they’d settle in a timely manner, but I never heard from them.”
Pasternack kept trying to reach someone at Firestone, to no avail.
“They wouldn’t respond to emails, and any time I called they weren’t available.”
After two months passed, he contacted me.
I made a call to the Kingston store manager, Kristine Conners, a pleasant, easy-going woman who agreed to look into the problem.
Within a few days I heard from Pasternack. He’d received a call from Josh Evans at the corporate headquarters of Bridgestone Americas, Firestone’s parent company in Nashville.
“We made a settlement that he’ll take $350 off the labor,” Pasternack said, adding that Evans would not refund a nickel for the “lifetime alignment” he had purchased, even though he has since sold the car.
“I have a lifetime of free alignments, but I don’t have the car,” he said. “I’ll just be satisfied with $350.”
I called Conners to thank her and to ask her what went wrong.
“He sold the car and had buyer’s remorse for the lifetime alignment,” she said. “He got the service and maintenance items that were suggested. We would never do anything without authorization. He signed off on the invoices.”
So why give him a refund? I asked.
“We wanted to retain our customer,” replied Conners.
Can’t argue with service like that.
Christine Young is the Times Leader’s Consumer Watchdog. She can be reached at ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com. Her column appears weekly.