Trip to Halfords

markjay

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Some years ago I used to go to Halfords (and before that, to Ripspeed in Edmonton, who later became part of Halfords) to buy bits I needed, and remembered it as a rather friendly type of place.

Around two years ago the battery on the Renault died, and I took the car to Halfords. They were promoting Bosch batteries with five years warranty at the time, however when I arrived it turned-out that they did not have the Bosch battery for the Renault in stock, and offered me their own-brand battery instead, with four years warranty. I accepted, and they even fitted it for £6 (as mentioned in another thread).

Last weekend the new (well, two years old) battery died. I jump-started the car from the Merc and drove it straight to the Halfords branch where I purchased the battery two years earlier, a 30 minute drive from my home.

In the olden days, batteries had a sticker on them showing the installation date, and as this was a Halfords own-brand battery there should not have been any issue with the warranty. Or so I thought.

I approached the electrician and explained that the battery was bought two years ago, to which he asked 'Do you have the receipt?'. 'No', said I, 'Then there's nothing we can do' came the prompt and decisive reply.

Having been around for a number of years I did not get upset, instead politely and patiently explored with the chap what 'can' be done as opposed to what 'can't' be done. He quickly ruled-out searching their records based on my credit card details, saying they 'did not keep records that far back' (i.e. two years). He did suggest that I contact my bank and ask for a credit card statement for said period showing the purchase, however I would have to chance driving back home with the dead battery and obtain the these records.

After some further negotiations, he had no good reason to refuse my proposal of purchasing a brand new battery and fully pay for it including fitting, and then have the cost refunded to my credit card once I satisfy them by whatever proof they deem acceptable as for the dead battery's original purchase date.

Off he went to obtain approval from his manager, and came back with two conditions - that I came back with proof-of-purchase within 28 days, and that I do this on weekdays (i.e. not weekends). The deal was done, and I drove away with the new (and fully-paid) battery fitted. He also mentioned that the warranty for the replacement battery would be the remaining warranty period from the original purchase, which was fine as I did not really expect anything else.


Today I drove back to the shop with both the original purchase invoice and the new one, asking for a refund. After some further questioning by supervisor lady no.1 'where is the old battery?' ('I have no idea, your chap took it), 'where did he put it, at the parts department?' ('Again, no idea, he just took it with him'), 'Was it a Calcium battery?' (No idea, the exact model is listed on both invoices'), I was asked to wait for the manager's approval, followed by further wait while they phoned the electrician at his home to verify my story. She again explained that the warranty for the replacement battery would be the remaining warranty period from the original purchase.

Ultimately, supervisor lady no.1 took me to the ICE counter, where I waited a few minutes before she realised she could not actually do the refund there, and took me back to main till. The till lady looked at both invoices, and said she needed approval from supervisor lady no. 2, who appeared after some further wait and called on bloke supervisor no. 3 to 'log her in to the till so that she can do a refund', which he promptly did. She then made a handwritten note on the invoice to say that the warranty for the replacement battery would be the remaining warranty period from the original purchase. Finally, the refund was done. Hallelujah.


Not quite Hallelujah yet. While there I noticed that they were promoting cabin filters, and went to look for one. The model I needed was not on in stock, so I went over to the parts counter in search of assistance. I waited for around 10 minutes at the abandoned parts counter chatting to another waiting customer - a rather impatient elderly gentleman who was complaining about the lack of service. When the conversation dried out, I went back to the main till and asked lady supervisor no. 1 for assistance. Alas, she was just about to sign-out as she had to pick up her small children from school.

I was more successful with the till lady, who after attempting to divert me back to the (still abandoned) parts counter, barked into the loudspeaker system 'Staff member to parts counter, staff member to parts counter' before going back to dealing with the waiting customers at the till.

On my hopeful return to the parts counter, I noticed that the shop was almost empty, which probably explains why the staff all left their positions and went into the storeroom at the back. I also noticed that from time to time an invisible door would open, a member of staff seen hurrying out carried some items and quickly disappearing into another hidden door before they could be intercepted.

At which point I left the unattended parts counter. On my wait out, still no member of staff in sight around the shop, I walked past the till lady saying 'I'll be back another time', and left. She did say 'are you sure' but there was no serious attempt to stop me or offer assistance.


In summary...

Throughout, I remained calm and composed, patient and understanding. I did not raise my voice or make demands. I played along with whatever procedural difficulties they put my way.

I found Halfords's staff attitude defensive in the extreme (can you say offensively defensive?). My impression is that they are used to dealing with dishonest and rude customers, and find it difficult to tune-down their manner when approached by someone who is patient and accommodating.

It seemed that they took no notice of my waiting because they are accustomed to customers who 'make themselves known' in a rather aggressive way when they need assistance.

The multitude of almost-aggressive questions regarding the dead battery - which had their own name on it and a large sticker saying '4 years warranty' - the repeated mentioning that the warranty will only last as far as the original warranty did, while looking up at me suspiciously as if waiting for me to give them an argument - I suppose all their other customers do - all suggest to me that their usual clientele are somewhat loud and vocal, not to mention very inpatient, utterly unreasonable, and apparently also quite dishonest.

In short, I did not find it a very pleasant place to visit. I will not be going there again in a hurry - unless the replacement battery dies again. But even so, only if it happens within the original warranty period, of course. And with the original purchase invoice to hand.


EDIT:

I make no comment here regarding the quality or prices of Halfords' goods.

I also have no formal or legal issue with the warranty - after all, they did honour it and replace the battery. All I am saying is that it was not a pleasant experience. Which is a shame. For me, and for them.
 
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NW_Merc

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I normally book items online to pick up and pay for them in store. The staff in the stores are for the most part unhelpful and know as much about cars and their workings, I have found as I know about cardiac surgery.

I try and get their cheaper deals on oil when they have them on. I mostly get service consumables from ECP as they genuinely take the time to search the database and seem to have more knowledge.
 

christopherwk

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I used to work for Halfords.

A receipt would not have been needed if you were exchanging something of the same or higher value.

A receipt would have been needed for a refund or a partial refund (i.e. if you were to swop something of less value of the item you give back).

However, I left years ago, and store policy could have changed by then.
 

IanW

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Markjay - your experience almost exactly matches mine when trying to get a faulty Garmin Nuvi repaired or replaced at Halfords, Winnersh Triangle.

However, they did manage to keep stalling me for 6 weeks before admitting defeat and swapping the unit.

Never again...

Ian.
 

Coggers

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Not bad for £6 though. :D
 

R120

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Halfords came bottom in a Which survey released today of high street stores and their level of customer service.
 

davidjpowell

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I visited Halfords for the first time in a while yesterday, to buy a lead to allow easy connection for a car kit. I was quite surprised that they kept them in stock, given they were vehicle specific. Paid a little more for the convenience of not having to wait for a delivery.

Found them quite good to be honest.
 

Scott_F

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Halfords came bottom in a Which survey released today of high street stores and their level of customer service.

Their levels of customer service should be good as whenever I visit they always seem to have as many staff as they have punters.
 

corned

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Halfords said: “Our feedback shows thousands of customers each week love the help we provide.”

Why does every firm 'exposed' in this way trot out the same lame PR line (which only translates as "La la la - I'm not listening" anyway)?
 

Firthy

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You showed a lot of patience. Its almost like dealing with a call centre but in person, receiving the shove around from one person to the next and having to explain yourself over and over and still come away frustrated and the issue unresolved. Never dealt with Hartfords but its good to hear of how they treat potential warranty claims.
 
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markjay

markjay

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I used to work for Halfords.

A receipt would not have been needed if you were exchanging something of the same or higher value.

A receipt would have been needed for a refund or a partial refund (i.e. if you were to swop something of less value of the item you give back).

However, I left years ago, and store policy could have changed by then.


Thanks. In this case it was a warranty replacement of like-for-like so in principle should not have gone through the till at all.
 

Alps

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even if you buy tools they question and ask for receipt.. who keeps receipts of tools?

they did change the broken socket when i had a grumble tho
 

renault12ts

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even if you buy tools they question and ask for receipt.. who keeps receipts of tools?

they did change the broken socket when i had a grumble tho

Some Halford's tools have a life time warranty...so why do they need a receipt. Makes you wonder.
 

MOCAŠ

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Some Halford's tools have a life time warranty...so why do they need a receipt. Makes you wonder.

Perhaps they suffer from people shoplifting items. It's reasonable for them to establish that the customer actually paid for the item in the first place.
 
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markjay

markjay

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MOCAŠ said:
Perhaps they suffer from people shoplifting items. It's reasonable for them to establish that the customer actually paid for the item in the first place.

It is indeed, and also in my case there was nothing in what they said or did that was technically wrong. They were just being extremely suspicious, 'guilty until proven innocent'.

As said, they probably deal with a pretty rough crowd on regular basis and somewhere along the line lost the ability to communicate with the average members of society...

Nothing wrong with the way I was treated, apart from it being unnecessarily time consuming and unpleasant. But then perhaps I expect too much.
 

renault12ts

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Perhaps they suffer from people shoplifting items. It's reasonable for them to establish that the customer actually paid for the item in the first place.

Perhaps...but you will not want to replace a shoplifted item...you'll want a refund, which isn't what the lifetime guarantee will provide.
 

brucemillar

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There seems to be an attitude problem with the staff in lots of these large (typically out of town stores) and not just Halfords.

I wonder if they get the job simply because they need the money as opposed to they want to do the job. Asking for information on what they are selling can be a massively disheartening experience (this assumes that you can first locate somebody to ask).

I suspect that training and trust are held back in reserve and only granted to a few more "senior" members of staff. As MarkJays experience of upward delegation shows.

It seems now that the assistants are there simply to take your money and offer no other useful service. You the wanted it ! so you must know all about it ! seems to be the norm.

Sadly the days of staff engaging with you and leaving with you a feeling that you want as opposed to need to return are gone in most of these large stores.

As worrying is the whole Halfords battery saga. My Father in Law was sold a new "duff" battery by Halfords. Which they kept insisting was absolutely fine and his car must be faulty. After a trip to the local Indie the battery was shown to be failing a simple load test. Halfords then insisted that the Indie write a note on headed paper detailing his tests before they would replace the battery. This then meant that the Indie quite correctly charged for his time (up until that point he said he would not charge just for a load test).

Halfords then replaced the battery but would not refund the Indies costs. I would not use them again unless forced to by needs.
 

MOCAŠ

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Perhaps...but you will not want to replace a shoplifted item...you'll want a refund, which isn't what the lifetime guarantee will provide.

Depends why it was 'lifted in the first place. Let's say someone wants, say, a mutimeter, so they just swipe one of the shelves. Then six months later it stops working. Far easier to get Halfords to just replace it than try to steal another one. Hence the need to check that what they're replacing was orignally paid for.
 
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markjay

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Depends why it was 'lifted in the first place. Let's say someone wants, say, a mutimeter, so they just swipe one of the shelves. Then six months later it stops working. Far easier to get Halfords to just replace it than try to steal another one. Hence the need to check that what they're replacing was orignally paid for.


Again... I agree.

But my point is that they probably have so much of it going on that they have become defensive to the extend that it can be very difficult to deal with them.

I knew I was right, so just patiently looked with bemusement at their actions. I was particularly impressed with their opening gambit, played in the first five minutes: 'then there's nothing we can do'. Of course they was something they could do, and I demonstrated it to them, but my idea was apparently so outlandish that it took the involvement of no less than six(!) member of staff to process over nearly an hour.

And I must have been 'warned' that the warranty will only last for the remainder of the original warranty - in rather stern voice and in no uncertain terms - at least five or six times... until it was finally hand-written on the invoice. They seemed genuinely surprised that I agreed with them and gave them no argument, and possibly kept repeating it because they thought I did not hear it properly...

The bottom line is that the staff seemed battle-hardened bunch that lost the touch of how to handle anyone that wasn't actually a roughian. It does not necessarily reflect badly on them though, more so on the market sector they cater for.
 

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