Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Ripped Off at the Oil Change - When Coupons Don't Pay

I am a devoted lover of coupons. I come from good Michigan Dutch stock, and we are firm believers in the power of the coupon. I have taken my share of ribbing about it over the years, but rarely has anyone complained when I saved them the cost of a meal with my BOGO coupon prowess. However, there is one time when coupons don't pay... when you don't know the original price to begin with.

My car was needing an oil change, so I was rather pleased to see a coupon on the back of one of my grocery receipts for a local oil change place. Normally I go to the dealership. They treat me well, I don't need and appointment and they are usually done in 20 minutes or so. The other thing is, I have a kind of quirky car - a Honda Civic SI. Now, Honda Civics are a dime a dozen, but the SI is a stranger beastie. In the four years I have had it, I have seen fewer on the roads than I can count on two hands. They just aren't well known here, and the fact they only come in manual transmission doesn't help their popularity, despite the fact that most "car guys" love 'em. Anyway, because of this quirkiness I have had oil change places fill the tires to the incorrect pressure and things like that, so I usually rely on the dealership. I decided this time, however, that I would head to this coupon giving company - they are well known, always seem to have a lot of traffic, located close to work, and let us not forget, and I had a coupon for $5.00 off. Why not give them a try?

Yeah, big mistake.

My normal oil change runs me about $26. This one was $49.99. Yikes! My little $5.00 coupon didn't make much of a dent in that!

It is my fault really, I should have asked about the cost of the oil change before they did the work rather than assume that it would be "around $30." In fact, the change was $35.99 - but that doesn't include the $14.00 they charged me for oil! Now, I will say that they also changed out a small bulb that was dead in one of my side lights for $8.99. That was rather nice and I didn't find that too high at all - though I probably could have done the work myself for $1.25. Still, I had a bit of a heart attack when they read me the total - $56.04... with coupon.

I told the guy straight out that I thought they were way too high and from now on I will be bringing my business back to the dealership. He tried to change my mind saying the dealership won't check everything (I don't know about that, they seem to keep me pretty informed. The last time I was in they said I should keep an eye on my brakes, though they didn't need changing yet,) he tried telling me I had to make an appointment or drop my car off ("Not true!" says I,) and he tried telling me that they take forever if I do drop it off (I told him that not only was it not that long of a wait - they even have warm chocolate chip cookies. No lie.)

The only good thing about the whole deal was I got a "free" car wash. Which was nice... though frankly I would rather save the cash and have my slightly grimy car.

As I say - it isn't their fault, it is mine. I should have asked before okaying the work. I made an assumption and it came back to bite me. I will remember that in the future... and take my buggy back to the dealership next time.

Photo of the oil change by: Kambiz Kamrani

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