By on May 4, 2021

Phoutthavong SOUVANNACHAK/Shutterstock.com

During my brief time as a service advisor/writer, I worked in two types of shops. One was an “express lube” – meaning this shop only did basic maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations. Cars that needed more complex repairs were sent across the parking lot to the main service bays – the full-service ones.

The other type of shop I worked at was a full-service one. This dealership had no express lube – techs did everything from oil changes to fluid flushes to warranty work to major customer-pay jobs.

I mention this because when I was working in the express lube, we didn’t have much to upsell. We got spiffs for tire rotations and filter replacements, but aside from those spiffs, we were on salary. So we had no incentive to “drop the hammer” – meaning to advise that a customer would need to spend hundreds, perhaps even a grand, on maintenance (think fluid flushes) and/or needed repairs (maybe the brakes were worn or a CV boot torn).

Later, of course, that changed – the full-service shop I worked in gave me the chance to upsell (I wasn’t good at that, which is why I am no longer in that world, but that’s a story for another time). But I never did feel right about dropping the hammer.

We can, and will, discuss whether fluid flushes and other expensive maintenance operations are needed in another post in this series. And sometimes, yeah, a car was so poorly maintained – or someone just had such bad luck – that a whole bunch of expensive repairs were needed. Often for safety’s sake.

But it was never, ever easy for me to try to sell someone who came in for a $30 oil change on the idea that their car would need, if not that day then sometime in the near future, several hundred dollars worth of work.

At this point, you might be thinking that someone who works in a sales-based profession shouldn’t feel guilty about selling service, especially if it’s needed to keep a car running safely. As long as the service is needed and the transaction is ethical, of course.

But the discussion about dropping the hammer goes beyond what guilt or hesitation any one individual might feel. It’s a question of best practices – is it better to be aggressive, knowing that even if the customer declines the work that day he or she might come back and do it at a later date? Or does giving a customer a laundry list of recommendations scare them away from returning?

I had a boss who said he never understood why people would “drop the hammer.” He implied that customers, especially those who didn’t know much about cars, would feel like the shop was trying to con them – even if their car legitimately did need a lot of expensive repairs – and/or that they’d feel intimidated to see all those recommendations on their repair order, especially if they only came in for a tire rotation.

Further, his stance implied that even if the customer bit and approved some or all of the work, they might regret it later, before deciding to seek out another shop for future work. Perhaps an independent, since they tend to be cheaper than dealerships.

I tend to think he was right, though I can’t deny that dropping the hammer successfully meant good things for the service writer. For the better ones, it meant another payment on their boat. For a struggling greenhorn like me, it could be the difference between the free buffet that came with the purchase of a $7 pitcher of swill at my neighborhood tavern, or a trip to a place that actually had tablecloths.

I was paid on commission based on a draw – which will also be covered later – and the difference between a $35 sale and a $900 sale could be huge.

Still, if I ever find myself wearing khakis and a dealer-logo polo ever again, standing behind a desk with an ancient computer, under fluorescent lights, I think I will aim for long-term customer retention over short-term gain. I’d think it might pay off – become a trusted service writer that customers ask for, and you’ll start selling certain major repairs, like a timing-belt replacement, with no effort at all. Because the customer trusts you.

When customers see that their car is due for major maintenance or repair, will they take it to the guy who will try to dump a bunch of upsells on them or the guy that they remember from last time who was gentle when it came to upsells?

I think you know the answer.

This isn’t to say a service writer can’t make recommendations and still be trusted. The good ones know how to do exactly that. They know what to recommend and what not to, how to explain it to the customer, how to tell the customer what he/she really needs and what isn’t urgent or a matter of safety. They also know how to set it up in the computer system so that the next time the customer comes in, they can be reminded of what’s needed.

It would be easy to say one reason I didn’t last as a service advisor is that I never figured out how to do it well, but while there’s some truth to that, I suspect writers who out-earned me struggle with it, as well. Some are just really aggressive, but they convince enough people to say “yes” that it counterbalances any potential loss of business from others.

These guys – and they were almost all guys – probably wouldn’t even notice that they could’ve made more money by better balancing the dance of when and when not to drop the hammer. Because they make enough to finance their lifestyle comfortably.

That is all for today’s peek behind the dealership curtain. Aspiring service writers (and managers) take note.

[Image: Phoutthavong SOUVANNACHAK/Shutterstock.com]

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49 Comments on “Tales from the Service Desk: Dropping the Hammer...”


  • avatar
    Fred

    Audi had free service for 3 years, but they would up sell me about 2-3 hundred dollars worth. The Acura dealer doesn’t even bother. I’d bring the Chevy truck for service and they would always find something wrong with it. No up sells just more repairs.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    The crazy thing is, there is so much ACTUAL work in our town, there is absolutely no need to drop the hammer. We have tons of car repair shops, and all are busy. My BMW mechanic has been telling me for the past year that I always get priority as an existing faithful customer, but that he is NOT LOOKING for more work, and that if I wish to do oil changes or brakes elsewhere, I’d be helping him. The Pronto goes to Midas, and their attitude is, if we can get away with not doing it, we’d prefer to not do it. Mechanic listened to a belt whine or something, he goes, it’s either serp or steering pump “morning sickness,” either way won’t let you stranded, go drive come back if/when it gets worse. “Or turn the radio higher.” Not joking.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    No comprendo. I never go to dealers for service work, or almost anybody else for that matter – except for tires and alignments.

    I have paid the local Monro Muffler shop for a couple essential repairs I could have done myself, but my schedule didn’t allow it. The shop is trustworthy but expensive, and their parts markup is high.

    No hammer dropping for this customer.

  • avatar
    Snooder

    I think generally the problem isn’t so much the recommendation to get a repair as much as it is the instant and aggressive push to pay premium dollars immediately to get it fixed.

    Back in 2014 or so, I had a 2000 Toyota celica with about 150k miles on. I took it in for a state inspection and just for some routine maintenance. And then the service writer calls me back and lets me know that I’m gonna have to pay $300 for what basically boiled down to a spark plug change.

    Note, he didn’t say “hey, your spark plugs are bad and if you get it done here it’ll cost $300.” Instead he launched right into “you’re gonna pay $300.” I, not being a total idiot, told him to pound rocks and did the spark plug change myself. Cost about $50 and 15 minutes.

    Shit like that is what drives customers away.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      That’s exactly what I mean about how the better advisors are able to make recommendations without trying to be pushy about doing the work that day.

      If I took a car I owned to a dealer for an oil change, and the advisor says to me, “hey, we recommend based on mileage that you have your spark plugs replaced, and the cost for that is around $300” or “hey, we see your brakes are worn to 5/32nds and so you should get the pads replaced soon”, I might be more willing to get it done, even if it’s not that day.

      But if they call me up and say “the spark plugs are due for a change and we’re going to do that today and the cost is $300” I’d tell him exactly what he could do to himself.

      That’s the difference between selling it properly and being too aggressive.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Last year I got in a big argument with the shop manager at the local Suzuki motorcycle dealer. I brought my bike in for a 24k valve check necessary for the warranty. I told the writer just valves, nothing else. I signed the work order after I confirmed that’s what he wrote. They did a complete service and oil change and padded the bill by at least $400. They had the audacity to expect me to pay it. The manager turned pale when I said that a signed work order is a legal contract. I was not responsible for their breach of contract. The moment I said that he knew I wasn’t going to let them get away with it.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Exactly. Provide me with the options, let me decide, accept my decision, and you have just obtained a repeat customer.

        Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t work like you and I. They bend under the pressure, because they’re not sure. The car dealers know this and that’s why some of them use the tactic.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Anecdotal evidence:
    They will attempt this trick more often with women, suspecting that most but not all, do not have the technical knowledge to refute and refuse such “recommendations”.
    At least I have witnessed this with my wife. She knows nowadays that before agreeing to anything with her car, she will talk to me first.

    Anyone has had similar experiences?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I knew a nurse who was into horses. She needed a truck to tow her horse trailer. The sales guy flat out told her “Now,little lady, send your husband over and we can talk trucks.” She lost her sh!t on the guy and the manager. A week later she went back to that dealer with a new truck bought elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      USAFMech

      All the time with women. Sometimes with guys who are oblivious when it comes to car stuff. But most women I know have been ‘taken’ by a shop at some point.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I definitely saw it. Heck, I had at least one woman buy a ton of upsells from me before her husband called to chew me out. I didn’t do it because she was a woman — I tried to treat everyone equally regardless of skin color, gender, age, or car knowledge, and I would’ve tried to do the same sell on a man — but even if I didn’t do it intentionally because of her gender, it still happened. And I definitely saw it happen other times, though no one ever, to my recollection, explicitly did it because of someone’s gender.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Ah, the dreaded “vajayjay tax.”

      My boss said the Acura shop was pushing her to get the timing belt done on her SUV as it was nearing 100K miles, and she asked if I would have it done if it were mine. I started to say “yeah, it’s about time for that,” when I remembered she has a first-gen RDX with the 2.3 and a timing CHAIN.

      I explained the difference (it’s not mansplaining if a woman ASKS your opinion) and said “Are you sure he didn’t mean just the serpentine belt?” She showed me the written estimate: $1200 for timing belt and water pump replacement. She was reluctant to believe me, so I found pics on the Internet showing the 2.3 with its timing chain vs. the 3.5 with its belt.

      There are only two reasons why a service writer at an Acura dealership would suggest this: he’s incompetent, or he’s a crook. There is no third option.

      She refused the service, but for some reason, she still goes to that dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Vajayjay tax” – THIS.

        My kid recently lost a tire to a bad pothole and had it replaced at a tire shop. They recommended a whole new set of tires – for a car with maybe 17,000 miles. (Eye roll…) Kid was smart enough to say no to that.

        But I think this has to be said – these a-holes do it because there are women who actually buy into this. My EXGF used to say she was totally intimidated by car stuff, and she took her Hyundai to a Firestone place that knew that all too well. They always loaded her up with all kinds of stupidly overpriced services, like an air filter for $40, cabin filter for $75, new wiper blades for $60, and on and on and on. In fact, I remember them charging $40 for the air filter one time and $50 the next. Didn’t say anything. I told her that if she bought the parts and just had me put them on, she could save a ton of money. Even offered to show her how to do it herself. Nope. Ah well. #ReasonsSheIsMyEx

        • 0 avatar
          2ACL

          @FreedMike

          #ReasonsSheIsMyEx – Good call. I don’t expect a woman to be mechanical guru, but when she willfully refuses to try and develop enough familiarity with mechanisms she regularly uses to not be taken for a ride come time to service them, that’s a problem. Not only have I seen it become a major expense in relationships, it undermines the notion of her being independent.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          The Canadian Tire in my town tried to convince my ex that her Toyota Sienna needed brake pads, rotors, and calipers all around. I told her that there was no logical reason. Probably road grit or road de-icer causing an intermittent squeak and smell. She took it to a different shop and they said they could not find anything wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      Whoo boy….
      Years ago, my wife took her car at the time (a like new 2009 Camry w/ maybe 40,000 miles on it) to a local quick lube to get her annual state inspection done (needed for property taxes in our state). The bastards tried to tell her not only that she needed new shocks and struts ALL THE WAY AROUND to the tune of nearly 2 grand, but that HER CAR WOULD NOT PASS STATE INSPECTION WITHOUT THEM DOING IT!

      Thank God she called me so I could tell her to get her car back. It was all I could do to not drive right over to that place and blast every four-letter word in my arsenal at those sleazebags.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Not on a repair, but on a sale.

      The lady and I keep separate accounts for these kinds of things. Less fighting over money that way.

      We made it very clear to the sales guy that she was buying a car for herself. I was just there to help out. Half way through the test drive, sales guy made a crack about her buying the car, but me writing the check. Big mistake.

      A number of years prior to this incident, I worked for a sizable dealership group and got to know a lot of sales guys. Half of them would never make such a mistake. They treated every customer with respect. The other half are just stupid.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    All service advisors are criminals until proven otherwise. They don’t go through background screening and I’m sure dealers prefer the con artists. More Money, More Money…

    So get that second opinion, if not more. Avoid dealerships as much as possible, although the independents can be just as criminal. Don’t be shy about “bothering” that knowledgeable gear-head car guy that’s a friend of a friend, just to see if it makes sense. We love talking cars anytime anyplace.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      It never hurts to just google about your car. You can find out all the issues that are common to your model

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed, and I’d add this: there’s a whole range of repairs that can be done without a mechanic, and Youtube is your friend in this regard. I saved GOBS of money replacing things like window regulators, oxygen sensors, cabin air purifiers, and all kinds of other stuff. A few weeks ago, I made a HVAC repair on my Audi (burned out airflow regulator motor) that would have cost $600 or more at the dealer or the mechanic; a $89 part, about two hours on a Saturday morning, and some bruised knuckles were all it took to fix the problem.

      And here’s the kicker: the guy at the shop I have my car serviced at RECOMMENDED I do it myself. He’s a keeper.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Mike,

        Ditto. I’ve done repairs to my car that 5 years ago would have intimidated the hell out of me. Not anymore. It’s not just the cost…. if you own an older car, it’s fun to get to know more about how it was designed and play an active role in keeping it tip top.

        YouTube University is great. Oil filter housing gasket, underseat woofer, bad ignition coil, jammed seat belt buckle, windshield washer pump…. just be ready to buy some cheap tools, invest some time and enjoy the feeling of doing something yourself.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Just remember, each dealer service bay is very valuable real estate. Each spot needs to squeeze out 3 to $5K a day. That’s what’s on the mind of a service advisor when you pull up.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      And that’s why I’ve never been able to have what should be warranty service performed without a prolonged and unpleasant battle. There’s always something from the list of excuses (“They all do that, there’s nothing we can do,” etc.) for a dealer to avoid filling a precious service bay with anything but a cash customer. Once the warranty is gone, “Welcome!!”

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’m guessing most of us own out of warranty vehicles. If that’s the case, I bet most here agree that calling a dealer is the last option.

    First option should be figuring out if you can do it yourself. YouTube is free and OBDII readers are cheap.
    Second would be finding a respected, experienced independent, that while not cheap, will be much less than the branded dealers.
    Third would be the dealer.

    Don’t underestimate your ability to learn something new.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The dealer where I purchased my 2018 Dodge Challenger GT awd is always sending me coupons and offers for service. So one day I decide to take them up on their offer of a $29,99 oil change with filter. I figured that it’s less expensive than doing it myself. I made the appointment with the service department a few days earlier so I had a slot. I go to the dealer that morning, speak to the service manager and showed him the coupon. He looks at it and says “nope can’t do it, your car is special, probably $100”. I said “why did you send me the coupon in the first place?” He said that he had no control over that, grumble “something marketing” I told him that I’d think about it.
    Later on that day I went to a dealer close to my house and asked them. They said no problem but $49.99 which is fine. I said ok and was in and out in 40 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      When I owned a Saturn in the ’90s, I received a coupon from Saturn for a discounted manual transmission fluid change. When I took it to the dealer, they argued with me for a half-hour that it was Saturn’s mistake – that the coupon was only supposed to go to a different region (there was no indication of region on the coupon). They eventually agreed, after causing me much frustration/anger. It was just another example of what a manufacturer promises – whether it’s a discount on service or the stated “warranty” – possibly being very different from the actions of an independently-owned dealership.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I don’t mind the upsells, as I’m generally of the opinion that most people do a terrible job maintaining their cars and a good fluid change now and again is good for their vehicles.

    However, I recently fired the dealership I bought my truck at when they started passing along the credit card processing fee. Sure, it’s legal now, but it’s also a total cash grab on their part and I won’t stand for it. That may be a losing battle, judging by the way airlines nickle and dime you now to allow them to advertise a much lower price, because most people’s little monkey brains solely shop on advertised price and disregard fees and upcharges.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Credit card fees. The business side of the transaction bears the responsibility to pay the fees for the customer’s use of a credit card. Both the dealer and the customer can avoid these fees the old fashioned way – pay in cash or by check and cut out the middlemen over at Merchant Services who demand these fees for servicing credit cards. Remember that these fees are charged for the customer’s convenience of using a credit card for making purchases. With these fees reaching into the 4% or more range, that becomes a significant figure. I’m sure that retailers would be more than happy to take cash or check to avoid these fees.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        In a previous life, I worked in the credit processing business. With the proper agreement (way less than 4%), it costs the company quite a bit less to process credit cards than to handle cash or checks. Far too much manual labor in the later. The smart ones would process the checks purely electronically to get the TCO closer to that of a credit card.

        Seems the business has changed since I was in it.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I don’t have much sympathy for people who fall for the obvious bullshit like seafoam and annual flushes. Service intervals are right there in the manual.

    The problem is when the same guy – and from the customer side all service advisors everywhere are the same guy – who was pushing those scams at me last time now tells me that I need rotors and calipers and not just pads. Do I? I don’t know, that’s why I paid you to put it on your lift and tell me, but the other upsells destroyed your credibility and without credibility you can’t provide diagnostics either.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    SaulTigh-

    You are paying the credit card fee either via a direct line item or it’s included in the services offered. Many dealers, retail establishments, etc.,are getting tied of consumers getting 2%to 5% rebates returns on their backs. So yea-

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I lost it with the local Honda service department when they tried to upsell me fluid changes and services that they performed at the 100,000 mile service the last time I was there. I even showed them the paperwork in the glovebox showing that they did what they were trying to sell me and pad the bill to close to $1,000. That’s when I knew I couldn’t deal with them any longer, especially knowing that I had additional work that needed to be done. I also suspect them of not using the spark plugs I supplied that they were supposed to swap out (my plug removal tool wasn’t getting the old plugs out and I didn’t want to risk stripping the threads…)
    I’ve had better experiences with other automaker’s service bays, including other Honda dealers so I think this was a one off. But it got very old, very quickly. I kind of prefer the state inspections I used to have in VA and PA where I had an idea of what to expect to replace in the upcoming year.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    CDN Dollar Bucks

    Good socket and wrench set – $250
    Torque wrench – $200
    Breaker bar – Included with torque wrench
    Jack stands ( 4 ) – $80
    Impact and hardened sockets – $400 ( NEVER use chrome sockets with an impact )
    Work light – $20
    Floor jack and ramps – $400
    Crap laptop and YouTube – free

    Total – CDN$1350

    CDN$1350 is, at the moment, USD$1098.

    BLAMMO, you can now fix anything on your car for just a grand and change, plus parts. You might need a hoist for transmission and exhaust stuff but nearly every other repair can be effected in your car-hole or on your driveway with the above tools.

    Fact, as I’ve done it for years.

  • avatar
    ajla

    On maintenance stuff I won’t do it if it isn’t at least written into the “severe” schedule of the manual.

    On repairs I used to DIY everything but I’m too rich for that now so I just have someone take care of it (assuming it isn’t under warranty in the first place).

    I’ll still occasionally break out the tools to help someone if I like the car and the person enough but it is becoming a less frequently used skill.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Interesting timing for a conversation about dealer service.

    I took my Highlander Hybrid to the local Toyota dealer for a 60K service last week. I went to the dealer because I may sell this car in the medium term, it has a spotless and complete dealer service history, and I know that is worth something to some dealers on trade or sale.

    I brought it home and left it on the curb for five days. This morning, we were getting ready to leave on a cross-state trip, and I noticed probably a couple ounces of oil underneath the car. Long story short… the drain plug was freely spinning in the sump. Looked like they finger rotated it into place and forgot to tighten it down. Oops! I’ll be writing a note to the service manager to let them know.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Wow, that could have gone REALLY badly. Unbelievable they’d screw something like that up.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I’d be writing an angry letter, not just a note.

      It reminds me of my first Scout that I had bought from a friend. It had failed emissions many years prior and had been sitting in his garage for years, on some old dark carpet. When I checked the oil before starting it I found it very low so we put some random quarts he had laying around in the garage to get it full enough to start and drive home. It made the trip home no problem but the next day or so I wanted to get fresh oil of all the same weight and brand in it. I rolled under sized up the plug and grabbed a socket to test fit. The socket just seemed to spin so I though I had totally messed up on my size guess. No it was the right size socket it was just that the plug was finger tight. I had driven it 40 miles home and was quite lucky that it didn’t get rattled loose since the thing was missing and running very rough. Later my friend figured out that the carpet had absorbed and spread that once a week drop over the many years it had been parked.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Got an oil change and tire rotation at my Ford dealer. Drove to work the next day and noticed a lug nut missing. Check them all and discovered five loose lug nuts on the passenger side of the car.

      Called down to the dealer and told them what I found. The Service Manager asked me where I worked, jumped in a car, and drove 30 miles to address it in my employer’s parking lot. Tossed in a free oil change for my trouble.

      I still go there. Even bought my next set of tires from them (they price match).

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      That sort of thing happened to a friend. Drain plug fell out and he fried his engine.

      I had the opposite happen. I had an old Safari van and since I was planning on selling or trading it off, I had the local Wal-Mart do the oil change. They stripped it. At least they had the guts to admit it. It took me 3 months or so fighting with their insurance company to get it fixed. They finally asked for 2 quotes. The most expensive were the 2 Chevy dealers in town. They mailed me a cheque and I got a “jobber” pan installed at the cheapest place in town and pocketed $400 cash.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    About 12 years ago I had a Chrysler Town and Country, a 2006 with 65000 on the clock. I took it to a Tires Plus for oil change and tire rotation. While I’m waiting for this the service writer and mechanic came and got me, “Sir, you have a really big problem with your van, all of your engine mounts are shot.” Knowing this was complete bullshit, I challenged them to prove it. They proceed to take me out to the van, on the like and start pointing to (and shining flash lights on) parts of the suspension (like sway bare link and CV joint boots) and telling me they are worn and *MUST* be replaced before I leave the shop.

    I told them they were full of shit. They hadn’t done any work on the van yet, I demanded they bring the van down off the lift and cancel the work order. They demanded they pay for the oil change and tire rotation (that they had not done yet) or they would not give me my keys. They tune changed, quickly, when I pulled out my cell phone and began dialing 911, told them I was report a car theft. The van was down off the lift and out of the shop quicker than I have ever seen before.

    I’d also mention this Tires Plus was closed and empty in less than a year. This had been a very reliable service garage, come to find out the franchise ownership had changed and these shit practices started after that change.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    great article, thanks. How do these guys even get a job? Even the “good”
    ones have no social skills. Recently I could not handle a repair myself and
    went independent shop hunting. How scary. The shop I chose did a good job and
    charged fairly. But the two service writers had few skills. One started calling me “friend”.. And when I dropped the car off I got a ”
    Bud”.. Maybe I’m just too sensitive.

    If I am alive ten years from now I will probably get someone who says “like” every other word. F me.

  • avatar
    Dartdude

    I bought a Honda Civic and a Ford Escort within days and when I went to the dealers to have them serviced. the Honda dealer did service and that was all. The Ford dealer always had something to fix at my cost. I told the Ford guy why does my Escort always needed extra work when my Civic never did? He was stumped and I said the escort is not up to Civics standard of quality. He said the Escort was a better car. I laughed in his face. Never went to the Ford dealer and had the Escort serviced by the Honda dealer.

  • avatar
    dr_outback

    90% of these comments could be paraphrased by saying, “I expect the lowest possible price while expecting the highest possible level of service.”

    In other words, many of you have no clue how much it costs to operate a service department, let alone make it profitable. And yet I’m sure many, if not all, of you go into jobs that in someway, shape, or form are supported by profits gained from customers.

    A service department cannot make any profit from a $29.99 oil change coupon by the time they pay the technician .5hr at $30hr, buy 5qts of full synthetic oil and install a high quality OEM filter. Oh, and some dealerships will even wash the car for that $29.99. Oh and they had to pay a marketing company to send out that coupon.

    Take it from a service advisor who sold $250k monthly in parts and labor; it can be done ethically, and it can be done profitably, but it can’t be done easily.

    Everyone is okay with other businesses making a profit except car dealerships and their service departments.

    I will say that I wholeheartedly agree that dealerships do it to themselves by even attempting to market their services for so cheap, but since I don’t have an MBA I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about. /s

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Everyone is okay with other businesses making a profit except car dealerships and their service departments.”

      Maybe people in your industry should wonder why that is the case?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Oh yeah they have it so rough. The coupon is an important part of the scam. Even if you brush off all their ripoff attempts, they’ll likely sabotage your vehicle somehow. It’s not worth it, just pay a trusted shop the $120 or whatever they charge for the oil change.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @dr_outback,

      “dealerships do it to themselves by even attempting to market their services for so cheap”

      TL;DR: You are absolutely correct here.

      The gory details: When I was in high school I drove an Old Car which Wasn’t Very Good and we Did Our Own Work because my dad was a Cheapskate (according to me the Wise Teen). So I distinctly remember changing a water pump late on a Tuesday night with the car pulled 12.879% into the garage which was Full of Other Stuff. (Not the Glamorous Life I Envisioned for Myself.)

      So after getting my MBA and going to the Big City to work for the Big OEM [the biggest] and being a Carefree Apartment Dweller, I had visions of paying other people to change my oil and replace my brakes. Except the oil change place made the usual occasional mistakes, and my first “$59.99” brake job turned into an Obvious Bait And Switch that cost me something like $120 [in 1990 forty-bucks-buys-groceries-for-Single-Me-for-the-week-money]. At that point, Teenage Me reminded Newly Independent Adult me of just how inexpensive nice new brake pads were at the auto parts store and a little switch inside me flipped to the Screw This Crap Forever position.

      When I started getting discounted lease vehicles the issue went away somewhat because service was covered – but it was still inconvenient (to me – opinion) to schedule the appointment and show up and wait and have the usual [occasional] discussions about scope of work and competence.

      Fast-forward to my family’s fleet of used vehicles which get worked on by me [and the kids if they are available and interested; spouse assists with Internet Diagnosis] – except for tire mounting and balancing and alignment – and part of me would really really like to have those capabilities. (I choose the day and time to change the oil and I pick nice days and I have fresh coffee and I don’t get into arguments with myself [usually].)

      Summary: The Bait-and-Switch ‘deals’ are not the way to go. Being upfront about the cost would be a better approach.

      • 0 avatar
        dr_outback

        I was a mechanic and will still turn a wrench on my motorcycle because so many motorcycle shops are incompetent and have thrice nearly killed me.

        But I simply make too much money now to take the time to try to save money by doing my own work.

        A mallard hit the driver’s side mirror and window of my Insight and shattered the mirror glass. So I thought I’d be smart and replace the mirror glass myself. Little did I know that a piece of the adjustment armature was missing and I had to buy the entire assembly, but now can’t return the glass.

        Congrats on the MBA!

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