By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Bait, switch and lose a customer

This morning I brought the Media Nationmobile, a 2007 Corolla LE, to the dealership for its 30,000-mile maintenance. I will omit the name of the dealer in order to protect the guilty.*

Anyway, on the dealer’s Web site the price for the 30,000-mile pit stop is $230. But once I arrived, the guy I handed my keys to told me it would be $575.

I canceled, and told him I’d have to think about it. I also told him that the online price was only $230. It must be a mistake, he informed me, to which I replied that it appeared to be a mistake aimed at fooling people into thinking they could actually afford to have their car worked on there.

He then made me a copy of the “Corolla Maintenance Schedule” the place uses in order to show me that I must be wrong. Well, guess what? The price was listed at $390 — $160 more than the online price, but $185 less than the price he’d quoted me. Then again, he’d also told me the dealership recommends an alignment at 30,000 miles, which wasn’t on either the online or the printed price list. So I guess that’s what brought it up to $575.

I am done with the dealer. I called Direct Tire of Peabody, which has done some pretty amazing work on our 1993 Volvo 240 station wagon, and was quoted a price of less than $200. And the dealership has lost another customer.

*Update: OK, I’ve been shamed into it by Ron and Adam. The dealership is Ira Toyota of Danvers. But let me offer a few caveats: (1) the guy I dealt with was completely upfront about the price once I got there, so I was in no danger of being ripped off; (2) there are probably more goodies on the $390 printed list than on the $230 online list, but I didn’t bother to do a comparison; (3) I should have printed out the online list, gone back and demanded to see a manager. But I didn’t.

Photo (cc) by Tracy O and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Irv Arons

    In addition to doing good work, the people at Direct Tire in Danvers/Peabody are nice as well.

  2. Ron Newman

    Why not tell us who the dealer is, so your readers can all stay away from them?

  3. Aaron Read

    I prefer not to shill for any one company, but Direct Tire is a notable exception. I was always impressed at their prices and quality of their service; one time I had a blowout (not as bad as it sounds) while driving down I-93…this was maybe a year after I’d put new tires on my old Tercel.After putting on the spare, I drove to the same Direct Tire that put on the tires, honestly because nobody else was open at that time…they replaced the tire and inspected the others in less than an hour…FOR FREE. Now THAT’S service.

  4. Aaron Read

    Actually, Dan, if you’re already a member, you might want to file a report on the dealer with Angie’s List, too.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: A fair question, to which I offer the following: (1) I’m not concerned about anyone getting ripped off, because they were very upfront about what I would have to pay once I was there in person; (2) I don’t feel like I gathered enough information to call them out publicly — I could have brought the Internet price list in, demanded to see a manager, etc., but I didn’t; (3) I’m a wimp.

  6. Ari Herzog

    Over at, there is a forum where people share information about cars — and the dealers and mechanics. You might consider searching that forum for a reference, and if not, adding one about your experience.I drive a 2001 Subaru Forester. I stuck with dealers until my extended warranty ended, at which point I’ve stuck with various mechanics. Had I known then what I know now, I would have used mechanics in lieu of dealers for oil changes and mile checkups.

  7. Steve Garfield

    Had to look it up on the website.Here it is:30K Factory Service (Cars / Mini-vans 2004 & newer every 30,000 Miles)Factory Minimum Requirement*Change Engine oil and Oil filter*Replace Air filter*Inspect Ball joints & dust covers *Inspect Brake lines, hoses & connections *Inspect Brake pads & linings *Inspect Coolant *Inspect Differential fluid*Inspect boots & seals Drive axles *Inspect Exhaust system*Inspect Fuel filler cap*Inspect Fuel system*Inspect Steering gearbox *Inspect Steering linkage *Inspect Transmission fluid*Rotate Wheels & tires* Starting from – Ask your Advisor for model specific pricing$229.95

  8. Elsa

    or you cd listen to click and clack on wbur. they always say to avoid dealers for maintenance. and that has been my experience. whenever i go to a dealer i am given a shopping list of suggested necessary critical repairs. I then take the shopping list to good news garage and guess what, abt 80% are totally unnecessary!!!

  9. jvwalt

    And dealers wonder why they have trouble attracting service customers. This kind of thing is not uncommon; many dealers treat their service departments as profit centers, to make up for selling cars at a discount. (Or, in the case of some brands, not selling cars at all.) It’s a remarkably short-sighted approach to doing business. But it’s hard to get a leopard to change its spots.

  10. Shelly

    I thought their motto was “You can trust Ira.”

  11. Coast Master

    Direct Tire is not a prize either, now; they were seen by my significant other for a front end vibration (we don’t go to that same dealer who also sells Subaru). They tried to tell her her tires would not pass inspection (they did two days later) and tried to up sell her the MOST expensive tire line they sell. I shopped around and went elsewhere for nearly $ 200 less for the four tires we did buy. Be cautious everywhere these days.BTW, props in today’s Globe Magazine for Dan

  12. Jason

    Find a local mechanic that you can trust. I did – pay about half what I would at the dealer.

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