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Battery Warranty Problem: Good Faith Mishandling or Pretextual Avoidance?

 
 
CDobyns
 
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2015 11:26 pm
We recently began to experience some battery issues, with our '95 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Mostly these were seemingly problems with the installed Autocraft Silver battery just barely having sufficient cold-cranking amps available to get the starter to turn over, once or twice - and then the engine would reliably fire-up, as it has done for the last 20 years. The battery seemed to charge okay with the engine running, and there was no indication of any problem with the alternator. I even hooked the battery up to my trickle charger, which seemed to help - but not much, despite being only halfway through the battery's 72 month life expectancy. The final straw was when the battery left my wife stranded, twice.

After checking the Advance Auto battery warranty online, and locating my original (albeit slightly faded receipt for the battery), I pulled the battery and hauled it down to my neighborhood Advance Auto store. The AA battery warranty is in remarkable plain English, and to paraphrase, says that any battery that is outside the free replacement period, will be credited by the number of months remaining in the original warranty period, multiplied times the original battery price, divided by the number of months in the warranted replacement period. So, on this trip, while I was reasonably certain I would need a new battery, I had no illusions that it would be free - and my calculation (below) suggested that my credit would be in the $43 range.


http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z319/CGDobyns/Warranty20Credit20Calculation_zps6gww8xvw.jpg

After arriving at the store, a parts counterperson, who we'll call Andy (because that was his name), helped me, and after a quick discussion, ran a load test on my battery, which reflected that its cold-cranking amps were only in the 330 range (about half the rated capacity of the battery, which spoke volumes about the problems we had been having). A check of the store automated records for my account, showed purchases only back as far as 2014. Fortunately, I had my original receipt, which very clearly showed the original purchase price, and the faded 72 month replacement period and with a little effort confirmed my recollection (and my home maintenance records - below, lower left) as well as the documentation for that month from my Discover Card, that the battery had been purchased on 15-January 2012.

http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z319/CGDobyns/Jeep%20Grand%20Cherokee%20-%20Maintenance%20and%20Repair%20History_zpsd6tsgorf.jpg

http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z319/CGDobyns/Discover20Card20-20January202012_zps7z87sgy4.jpg

All pretty straight-forward, I thought - but this is the point where things started to get off-track. Despite all of my documentation, and the fact that the battery - or at least a couple of cells, were clearly the problem, Andy told me he would not be able to process a credit towards a new battery ($121.98) at the store level - since warranties that were not documented in the AA system had to be approved by the corporate office. Fortunately, this could be obtained via a phone call. This phone call took us further off-track, since Andy was told that no record of my purchase could be located, again despite having my original receipt, which still had the transaction number.

Eventually, it was determined that more research of the purchase archives would be necessary, before my $43 credit could be issued (again, despite having my original receipt which clearly documented my purchase, the replacement period and the date of the transaction). Asking how long this would take, I was told 24 hours. I explained how this was going to mean my wife would miss a day of work, because while the battery had the ability (power) to get her to work, it didn't have the ability (power) to successfully get her home - and that seemed like a legitimate problem to her. Apparently that was not a source of concern or a consideration for the folks at AA. So, I dragged the battery back home, with the assurances that I would be contacted the next day, when the corporate offices had responded.

The next day I received no communication from AA, which required another missed day of work for my wife. The next day, I went back to the store in person, and was told that the corporate offices were still conducting research of their archives. This time I spoke to the store manager (Tommy), who restated the store policy. He also proposed leaving the battery and letting them "charge it overnight". He also suggested that perhaps my alternator was defective, and might need to be replaced. All of these, I politely rejected, based principally on the test that the store had run on battery on the first visit. I expressed my unhappiness, frustration and my willingness to leave $80-90 with the store today, if only I could obtain a new battery. Tommy emphatically stated that they simply could not calculate my warranty credit, without the benefit of the official store records from which to base the calculation (again, seemingly with complete disregard to the documentation that I still happily offered to them). Finally, I agreed to wait one more day, but after one more missed day of work for my wife, I alluded that she would likely the person they would have to deal with on the next visit, and as she's a practicing attorney - that next visit was almost certainly a guarantee of being an extraordinarily "bad day" for the store's personnel.

Thankfully, the next day, I received a phone call from the Assistant Store Manager, Tina - who informed me that while they had not received any response from their corporate offices yet, they had decided it would be prudent to simply "give" me a $40 gift card - which I could then use as a credit toward a new battery. The battery exchange and the rest of the transaction went fine, and almost exactly as I had estimated, I remitted $90, and the new battery was installed and has remarkably solved the problem.

In retrospect, my prior and nearly unequivocal trust in Advance Auto has now been almost irrevocably lost. Most baffling is this reluctance to comply with the stated warranty, and in a case when the terms and conditions were very clear - and the necessary documentation was available and generally acknowledged. I just cannot believe that a large chain like Advance Auto would resort to this "pretext" of the past purchase documentation not being available, simply with the (appearance) of the objective, to wait the customer out - in the hopes that an urgent need would induce the customer to simply buy a new battery and forgo the warranty credit. I had heard the Advance Auto had been acquired fairly recently by the private equity firm of Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts. Even so, I can't imagine that thr new owners, as a matter of policy or practice would try to extract an extra $40, at the loss of a customer, and all the negative publicity that might accrue to the store, as a result of that experience. What do others thing about this?
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