With an AARP membership, there’s always more to discover! Check out your member benefits.
by Ron Burley, AARP, November 17, 2009
"I'm sorry, that's our policy," is often company-speak for "Please go away." But as this week's story demonstrates, sometimes the policy you're quoted doesn't even exist.
Back in January 2007, Ronald Sexton of Vesuvius, Va., purchased a set of four tires from the Sears store down the road in Charlottesville. The tires for his 1997 Honda Civic came with a 60,000-mile warranty. After Sears mechanics completed the installation and alignment, Sexton drove away as yet another satisfied Sears customer.
But by May 2008—after only 32,000 miles—the tread depth on two of the tires was down to 1/32 of an inch, not enough rubber to be considered safe. So Sexton returned to Sears and asked the store to honor the warranty by replacing the worn tires—prorating any charges against the current mileage. Sears refused.
"They told me that since my tires had not been rotated every 5,000 miles, my warranty was void," Sexton wrote to "On Your Side." "I called Sears' customer service department and was told the same thing. I was not informed of a 5,000-mile rotation policy when I bought the tires, nor do the warranty papers or sales receipt mention such a policy."
My first call was to the Sears tire center in Charlottesville. Assistant Manager Chad Campbell claimed that the warranty clearly did require that tires be rotated regularly or the warranty would be void. "It's written on the receipt," he told me.
Yet when I asked him to read me the section of the receipt that specifically required tire rotation, he faltered. The closest thing he could find was a phrase dealing with "improper maintenance"—neither tire rotation nor an associated mileage schedule were mentioned. Sexton was right. Sears owed him a new pair of tires.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea to rotate tires—you'll get a lot more life out of them if you do. But if Sears is going to be that specific about tire maintenance, the company needs to put it in writing.
Confident that Sexton was in the right, my next call was to the company's executive offices. The following afternoon, I received a return call from Rick Sawyer, a 37-year Sears veteran and vice president of its automotive products division. Sawyer admitted that Sears had a problem with the wording of its tire warranty, and he pledged to modify it so that the rotation requirement would be more clearly spelled out. Rather than replace the tires, he agreed to provide Sexton with a $200 Sears gift card as compensation for the trouble he'd been through.
Ronald Sexton's story is an important reminder that when making any agreement with a company—and that's what a warranty is—the words matter. To avoid ending up in the same jam, make sure you do the following:
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at