Just last week I described to you our $250+ oil change at the MINI dealership in the DC area (there’s only two here, but I’m holding out on saying which one yet). I tried to explain why, in some cases, you should go to the dealer to service your vehicle, but it’s hard to do that when you’re getting charged 8x-10x what it costs to get similar service at a quick lube shop.
The Customer Service Survey
Luckily, just after posting the article, I got an email from the dealership to complete a customer service survey. I had great things to say about my advisor, as well as the timeliness of completion and some other ranking factors, but I couldn’t give them the full 5 stars.
Nor could I say I would recommend them to others.
Knowing what I know about vehicle maintenance costs, I can’t consciously direct someone to pay so much more for something so simple. And I told MINI that in my survey. I don’t care how nice their service advisors are, if management decides to charge so much for materials, labor, “shop fees” and even windshield washer fluid, then they can charge someone else, not me.
MINI’s Survey Response
The next day after completing the survey, the Service Dept. Manager emailed me back. I’m pasting it below:
I appreciate the positive feedback on the survey of your recent service visit with us.
I understand that there is dissatisfaction of the cost of the oil service and the cost of the windshield washer fluid.
I applaud you performing service on your own vehicles. Typically, customers are not aware of the costs pertaining to such repairs that have been covered under the MINI maintenance plan of 3 years or 36,000 miles. I certainly don’t want you to feel “ripped off” so I hope you understand that even though you do perform your own service to your vehicles, there is a time value as well. The time value we place on the oil service pays for the technician’s time, proper disposal of waste oil, and of course a small profit for being a dealership.
Since you do pay for your own windshield washer fluid, may I strongly advise you to consider buying a fluid that has more anti-freezing agent in the solution as some of the less expensive fluid tends to freeze in the line and in the reservoir.
Again I would like to thank you for your positive feedback. We appreciated the opportunity to earn your business.
Have a great weekend and Happy Motoring!
MINI Service Manager
Keep It MINI!
I thought out a response during a drive to Pennsylvania yesterday and sent the following (I’m not posting the service manager’s name though):
My Response to MINI’s Response
Thank you for your quick response. However, it does not ease my concerns of improper billing for service to our MINI. Also, you did not address that we spent $4 for washer fluid that was not needed since it was just recently topped off. Pointing me to purchasing proper washer fluid was a very inappropriate answer considering that cheap or expensive fluid is all just distilled water and ammonia, and none of it should cost $4 a gallon, much less $4 for a couple ounces to top off our car’s tank.
I understand your dealership is out to make a profit, and I won’t argue against that. However, doubling the price on all materials AND charging a full hour for work was very inappropriate. Unless you can assure me that a worker was standing at our MINI for a full hour, monitoring the oil drainage (which it can take less than 10 minutes to drain) and replacing the cabin filter (again, under 10 minutes), then I would like a full explanation of why I paid $122 for 20-30 minutes of worker time. Does your billing system not support partial hours?
As a note, I’ve already written of this experience at my website, although I have not yet mentioned your dealership name. I have over 2000 subscribers and 30,000 monthly visitors, many from the DC area. The commenters on the article (see link below) are already aghast at the price we paid for a simple oil change and cabin filter replacement, especially since I already calculated the price of doing this work on our other vehicles in the past.
Also, regarding the shop fees, you charged me almost as much as it costs Jiffy Lube to do the entire oil service. Now I know I was ripped off there. Lastly, regarding disposal fees, I pay nothing to take the old oil to our county recycling facility. I can accept if your municipality charges fees considering the amount that you dispose of during the year, but when you add it up, I can’t see how someone like Jiffy Lube could stay in operation with the same fees. The numbers just don’t add up.
As you’ll read in my article, I actually tried to support going to the dealer to get work done. However, the insane cost of getting just a simple oil change done at (your dealership) has ruined any likelihood of my ever going back, or of my recommending service at your facility.
If you can provide a better explanation, I would greatly appreciate it.
I was very tempted to name their dealership in this article, but I don’t think that would get me anywhere. Right now, I’m just looking for a reasonable explanation for the costs we paid for a simple oil change. They weren’t using liquid gold, just synthetic oil. I know they buy it in bulk and pay even less than I pay when I buy it from Sam’s Club. They use synthetic in all their vehicles, so I know they’re not going out of their way to use it for our MINI.
My assumption right now is that there IS no reasonable explanation except that they’re jacking up the price on me while thinking I won’t question it. I know better. I know it only cost HALF as much to get the same service done on my Acura TL-S, and even THAT was getting overcharged.
The excuse that I’m not aware how much they pay to cover our car for the free maintenance is ridiculous. Whether it’s corporate MINI or the dealership covering the maintenance costs during those 3 years, both parties are only paying bare minimum costs. Maybe $20 for the oil, and the same for the cabin filter and maybe even the maintenance. Tack on another $20 for the car rental and you’re topping out at about $80, not $250+ (remember I’m not even adding in the $50 tire rotation here).
A dealership can’t expect to gouge people when it’s so obvious a blatant rip-off. Scale back that price by $100 and it would be reasonable for a dealer visit (not a third-party mechanic), but they’re getting into super-luxury prices. And the MINI is no super-luxury car.
UPDATE: Looks like this guy was shocked at the price back in 2006. He was smart enough to walk away, but found the local lube shops don’t service MINIs. I wonder if that’s changed?
What do you think?
I’m not going to ask if you think the price we paid for the service was reasonable, because no sane person would think so. Rather, I’d like to know what you would do in this situation. And keep it sensible. It’s easy to say you would refuse to pay, but if it’s about getting your car back at 7 o’clock at night so you can get home 30 miles away, you might act differently in the moment.
Should I ask for money back? I’m not the litigious type, so don’t expect me to go to court over something so small (to me). Personally, I think I can do more through this website (awareness) than through any court of law.