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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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Service Coupons:
Competition is a Wonderful Thing

Service coupons – if you’ve ever bought a vehicle from a new car dealer, you’ve probably received them. Sometimes they even provide you with helpful reminders that your vehicle may be due for service.

My Toyota dealership’s mailed service coupon flyer

Colorful flyers containing these service coupons are mailed to me on what seems like a monthly basis from the dealership where I bought my 2005 Toyota Prius. As my service records show, I have been taking it back there for service since I bought it. I have used those coupons to try to save some money.

A competitor’s flyer with a deeply discounted oil change special

Occasionally I also receive coupon flyers from other dealerships’ service departments so, when I received a particularly good one in the mail from Kearny Mesa Toyota, I saved it too. It offered me a one-time lube, oil and filter special for only $9.95. That was too good to pass up.

From my Toyota dealership’s service dept. flyer

In its service specials flyer, my selling dealership stated in bold print that they would meet or even beat a coupon from another authorized dealer. Since my Prius was due for an oil change and the dates of both coupons were still current, I decided to present the competitor’s coupon to my selling dealership for them to meet or beat.

I arrived at my dealership’s service department in my Toyota Prius just after 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Once there, I asked my service advisor to confirm what was clearly stated in their flyer: that they will indeed meet or beat competitive coupons. In response, he confirmed that they will do that for coupons from other Toyota dealers. He asked for the key to my car and told me that I needed new tires.

I gave him my car key, declined his suggestion that I get new tires at this time and presented my Kearny Mesa Toyota flyer to him. He looked at the competitor’s flyer and then, seeing the low price, he told me that he would not meet or beat that price. By way of explanation, he said that they don’t honor those and that $9.95 wouldn’t even cover his costs.

I told him that in that case I would not be leaving my car with him. He stepped aside, allowing me to get into my car and leave.

I arrived at Kearny Mesa Toyota shortly before 4pm. Their service department was supposed to close at 5pm, so I knew that I was cutting it pretty tight. Nevertheless Doug Kane, the Service Manager of Kearny Mesa Toyota Scion, welcomed me to his dealership, took my coupon and wrote me up. I mentioned what had just happened at the other Toyota dealership. He expressed surprise that they had not honored their advertising and met or beat his dealership’s price to keep me as a satisfied, long-term customer.


As promised, Kearny Mesa Toyota serviced my car for the agreed price. They even included a free 18 point inspection. They did not try to upsell me at all, although I did buy something from their parts department. I noted that the receipt included a coupon for a 20% parts or accessories discount that stays good for over three months. I’ll keep that in mind.


To further encourage my future business, they gave me a convenient key ring tag that said “We Appreciate Your Business” and offered me “15% OFF accessories,” “FREE Safety inspection,” “FREE car wash with any service” and “Buy 3 oil changes – get 4th FREE!.” They stamped my card for this oil change as the first of the three.

Since my Prius was ready by about 4:30pm, I drove back to my selling dealership to get that earlier service advisor’s business card. He was still there and readily gave me his card. On it, he was listed as “Assistant Service Manager.” I told him that I was unhappy that he had not honored his dealership’s direct mail advertising that they had sent to me, and I asked to speak to his Service Manager so that I could complain. He said that I was welcome to do that but to do so I would have to return after the long weekend, since his manager was not there.

I left and drove over to the dealership’s sales department, hoping to bring this situation to the attention of the dealership’s general manager. Unfortunately, he too was not there so I spoke to the sales manager on duty.

He expressed disappointment at my experience and assured me that he would convey my dissatisfaction to his dealership’s service manager. Noting that the service advisor’s card said “Assistant Service Manager,” I expressed concern that their refusal to honor their advertising reflected the position of the dealership’s management. In response, the sales manager told me that all of their service advisors’ cards say that.

My 2005 Toyota Prius

So, what might all of this mean for you as a service customer? Oil changes notwithstanding, vehicle service is expensive over the long term. Like any other company, car dealership’s service departments should earn the business that we give to them. If a new car dealerships’ service department offers you a special discount so that you can check them out, perhaps you should take them up on their offer – especially if your current dealership does not show much interest in keeping you as a customer.

Thanks to a discount oil change coupon and my dealership’s disappointing refusal to honor their advertising, I learned by first-hand experience that Kearny Mesa Toyota has a modern, spacious service facility. I was very impressed with that and their courteous, efficient service. Furthermore their dealership is closer to my home, so that is a bonus.

My selling dealership’s service department did not treat me right, despite the fact that I bought my Prius from them and have loyally taken it there for service since it was new. That negative experience contrasted with the very positive one from the other dealership leaves me strongly inclined to give Kearny Mesa Toyota my service business going forward. Competition is a wonderful thing.

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Copyright © 2007 Jan R. Wagner – #234 AutoMatters 


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