Sunday, October 22, 2006
"No Thanks, I'll Pass On the $250 Oil Change"
I still can't believe I actually said this, last Friday, at the MINI/BMW dealership in nearby Calabasas. As I stood there, in uncomfortable silence, I really had hoped the service writer was going to say "Haa! Just kidding!" but that never happened. I began to wonder if they meant Pecos or Dollars. When I quickly discovered the service person was serious, I wondered who in their right mind would ever pay that much to have oil changed and how come I was there. Yes, I know car dealerships like to screw people, but with a jackhammer and a smile?
My wife really wanted a MINI Cooper a few years ago. We were in the market for a new car, and the price wasn't too bad (and gas prices were starting to shoot up fast, the car averages like 37-41mpg!) so a MINI seemed like the best idea around. Oh and the car "looks" pretty cool too. And as a bonus MINI/BMW picked up all the oil changes and maintenance for the first 36,000 miles. Those sure were the days...then when you get use to the VIP service, they stick it to you (and want to recoup their costs - like drug dealers!). In my mind I thought, "O.K. how much can an oil change really cost at the dealer...$50 at the most?". I was wrong. Very, very wrong. When I asked what the $250 included (I don’t know - Don Perignon with an Angry Thai Midget Massage perhaps?) the service woman answered ‘service with a smile, a visual check, Oil and a filter’. Oh, AND the hazardous waster fee of $3 was included (whoopee!). She also added that the changing of the micro-air filter was also overdue, and I was ‘strongly recommended’ to replace it - that part was $60 - but you needed the "air filter replacement service" which was $280 (plus tax). When I asked what my discounted price was (I always ask for a discount, even at Wendy's) she said she could possibly take %10 off, if the manager said "O.K.".
All was not lost though! I did get my car battery replaced when it mysteriously died, and a pretty nice car wash too (at no cost), but no oil change. So over the weekend, I was on a mission - I took the MINI to the nearby trusty Jiffy Lube, only to get 'shooed' away. They told me they don't work on fancy cars like MINI's (the last guy there that tried to work on one got some serious burns trying to remove the filter without some ‘magic tool’). And the other car shop across the street said they've never worked on one and don't carry the parts. And the third place said, "Sorry - why don't you try the dealer".
Driving all around town - I could hear the evil David Hasselhoff laughing at me, from BMW/MINI's headquarters in Germany. I wondered why nobody warned me about oil changes in these cars; how did it come to this. Was this car even worth it?
I can't criticize the car too much. Besides the stylish looks and good gas mileage, the oil doesn't need to be changes every 3,000 miles like other cars - only every 15,000 -which is a science marvel for people like me who still don't understand how a car even moves. But hell will freeze over before I spend $250 on a freakin' oil change! Even if I have to change the oil myself (God, I hope it doesn't come to that...!)