How a little act of service could have earned a customer for life

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News.
My colleague, Amy Wilson, just wrote how even some car people were displeased with the way a few dealerships suggest service the customer may not need. So while we’re on the subject, I thought I’d bring up a recent repair incident my husband and I had with our Cadillac.

I don’t want to come down too hard on car dealerships -- I frequent them for repairs and generally feel a lot safer taking our vehicles to the dealership for service. I am not a fan of Jiffy Lube. I haven’t been back there for years since the time one of its technicians decided to skip washing my car windows even though it was included in the price. But that’s another story.

So my husband and I noticed that our car was leaking oil. We took it to a local dealer and paid a $100 diagnostic fee. That fee is typical, and it’s justified because the shop needs to be reimbursed for the time it takes to look the car over.

But here’s why the fee bothers me: The dealership recommended replacing the oil pan without trying to tighten the bolts holding it in place to see whether that was the cause of the leak. We went to an independent garage that tightened the bolts -- taking all of a few minutes -- and the oil leak went away. We were in that shop for another reason and were not charged for the service.

Now for $100, why couldn’t the technician at the Cadillac dealership try tightening the bolts to see whether that would fix the problem? If he did, he would’ve been my new best friend, and that dealership would have made a customer for life.