At some level, investing is really about perception -- what I think might be a great stock, you might consider a ridiculously overpriced one-way ticket to oblivion. That can also extend to your analysis and opinion of a company's results.

Take auto parts and services provider Pep Boys (NYSE:PBY), for example. The company says that things are improving and that the service business is "clearly starting to turn the corner." I'll grant that a sales drop of less than 1% in this quarter is better than the third quarter's drop of 2.4%, but in my opinion, a real performance improvement should have plus signs in front of the growth rates.

Still, I will give them credit on the merchandise/retail side of the ledger. The company did have positive sales growth here (barely), and the adjusted gross margin on merchandise sales expanded nicely. Also in Pep Boys' favor, SG&A expenses dropped 14% for the quarter. Management seems to be effectively tightening its belt, while things are tough on the top line.

As for the service business. well, I didn't like it before, and I still don't like it much now. Revenue continued a fairly long downward trend, and margins worsened. I still think the service business should be separated, sold off, or otherwise killed. Perhaps a potential buyer for the company (Pep Boys has retained Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) for that oft-mentioned "exploration of strategic alternatives") would do likewise.

The good news here is that the brand still has value, the company still has real assets, and turnarounds are always possible. The bad news, though, is that the company has some pretty good competitors on the retail side, such as Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP) and Motley Fool Inside Value pick AutoZone (NYSE:AZO). What's more, cash flow is currently in the hole, even though the company has cut back on capex spending.

I can't, and won't, rule out the possibility that this turnaround will work and/or that the company will attract a suitor willing to give investors a nice buyout premium. I'm also honest enough to point out that I didn't like the stock back in early November, and it's up about 15% since then. Maybe I'm still wrong about the stock, but at least I'll go down with a consistent story -- there are other, better ideas out there today.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).