Would You Give Your Dealership A Positive Rating In Exchange For A Free Oil Change?

Where do you draw the line between a business offering an incentive for you to fill out a survey and an attempt to buy your opinion outright? And just what would a business need to offer you for you to part with whatever principles you might have?

Consumerist reader Liz writes in about the service center at her local car dealership in Maryland, where she was tempted by an offer to buy her opinion.

“The service was fine and I have no complaints,” she tells Consumerist, “but as I was checking out, I was told in no uncertain terms that if I gave a perfect rating on the survey that I’d be receiving online and by phone that I would get a free oil change. So I guess they think I can be bought for the price of an oil change.”

Liz tells us she has no intention of taking them up on the free oil change, but we wanted to know just how easily your opinion can be swayed by the prospect of a free oil change:


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  1. Bsamm09 says:

    Yes I would. Cadillac charges over $90 for an oil change.

    • jvanbrecht says:

      MB charges me $360 for what is essentially an oil change (Service A1) every 10k miles… yeah not happening, I perform my own maintenance. (AMG C63 btw)

      • clippy2.0 says:

        That’s why MB engines require vacuums now to suck all of the oil out instead of draining it!

        Worth it!

        • jvanbrecht says:

          You never get the sludge and crap out that way.

          I alternate between dropping the oil plug and draining from the bottom, and pulling the oil out the top through the dip stick.

          The filter is conveniently located at the top front of the engine, so it really is just a 5 minute job, and that is using the vacuum pump (I picked one up from West Marine supplies).

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            Is there any reason why you don’t just take it from the pan every time? I’ve never even heard of sucking it from the top of the engine.

  2. Coffee says:

    There’s a line being crossed here. If the dealership says, “We would like to give you a complimentary oil change, and please don’t forget to review us on such and such site,” that’s fine. I’ve given a restaurant a positive review before when they offered, without prompting, a complimentary appetizer that was new on the menu. It increased the quality of my experience, so I was honest.

    In contrast, asking me what to write in a review is bribery, quid pro quo. That’s not ethical and I wouldn’t do it.

    • nautox says:

      I work at a dealership and what one needs to understand is that the manufacturer conducts these surveys and hammers us when they aren’t 100% excellent. Most customers would never give an excellent survey unless they got something free or the bill was way under the estimate.
      I wish we would give away oil changes for excellent surveys and I don’t see it as unethical becuase you can’t convey to the customer that the manufacturer sees all “goods” on a survey… as a bad survey.

      • Coffee says:

        I know this will sound trite from your perspective, but that sounds like a problem between the dealership and the manufacturer. Bribing customers to write positive reviews doesn’t solve the actual problem; it just creates an environment where everyone has to game the system.

        • nautox says:

          You’re absolutely right, it does turn into a game very quickly. I know of dealerships in the area that has a table set up with “gifts” for people to fill out the survey and pick a gift if they put perfect answers.
          The survey is flawed, the call center that conducts it is lame. And when you try to survey people like me that hate surveys, I’m going to trash it because the time of my day you are taking to do it with no benefit to me … unless you give me a free oil change or something :)

          • erinpac says:

            I hate that whole situation.
            Maybe if the bribes stopped and NOBODY got all 100% surveys then they’d have to reconsider the policies. It wouldn’t be productive to penalize every dealer.

            I got one of those dealers and ended up with about 20 lectures along the lines of “If I get even one 9/10, then you are destroying my salary, starving my children and ruining Christmas. You wouldn’t want to take Christmas from my children would you? We aren’t allowed to get ANY 9’s!” Well, blegh. You know what? That makes me want to put NO 10’s, because that’s a scummy thing to use to pressure customers and not a useful survey at all!

            I put a similar about 80-90% rating on a survey for a repair shop once… then got about 5 follow up calls from the insurance company AND the repair shop about how that would cause them to be dropped. Nuts. I even explained the one imperfect rating on the sheet! They called me and said my car was done earlier, and I could come pick it up. So, I scrambled for a friend to go to the shop (for a 2nd driver) … and the car wasn’t done, even though they called at lunch & this was trying to squeeze a pickup between the end of work and their close time. It was done on time by the original estimate (next day) – so mostly good, but I’d not have bothered a friend to go out of their way to drive me ASAP without that call. Apparently their reason for calling was that the repair was done, but the cleanup wasn’t, so I couldn’t get the car until the next day…

  3. Cat says:

    I’d do it, but for more than an oil change. But consider that if I was a woman, I’d be a whore.

  4. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i wouldn’t even go to the dealership for a no strings attached free oil change. it’s not worth my time for how long my dealership takes to get anything done

    • nbs2 says:


      I voted that I would if I was going to give a good review anyway, but your point trumps that. The stealership (see what I did there?) exists to make money on service, but they seem to be imcompetent in doing so in a timely manner.

      In the end, I plan to take our newer car in for service every 15k, just so that another set of eyes can catch anything I might miss; I take our older one in every 7500 for the same reason (I also get every other oil change free – working out to $10/change, cheaper than what I can do). When it gets to 200k, the older one will go in every 3750 (because then every oil change will be free).

  5. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    I avail of the freebies if I am satisfied. I had an Amazon vendor that offered 10% discount on next purchase if I rated the current purchase at least 4-stars, and while that prompted me to see if they had other items I liked, I don’t avail the discount if I didn’t find anything I liked.

    And I also was fair in giving reviews on other products that I’ve ordered from them.

  6. Snaptastic says:

    After what the local Hyundai did to me a few months ago after I bought a car, they would have to offer me a certain salesman’s testicles on a plate if they wanted a good review from me.

  7. bwcbwc says:

    If I did, I would disclose it in the review comments. “Hey, this dealership is great, they gave me a free oil-change in exchange for writing a review here.”

  8. ungeheier says:

    I wouldnt go to a specific dealership just BECAUSE they had a deal like this though.

    But if my dealership I already like and go to did this, i would jump on it in an instant.

  9. pop top says:

    I guess it depends. If I get perfect service from a company, I have no problem saying so when/if I review them; the “extra incentive” would just be a nice bonus. I don’t see the problem in this specific situation though. It’s not like they are trying to bribe Liz to keep her from giving an honest but negative review. She liked their service, they said she’d get a bonus for giving a positive review, and she gets a free oil change.

    I have to say I find this incredibly hilarious: “So I guess they think I can be bought for the price of an oil change.” Yes, of course Liz, this dastardly oil change place is trying to buy your very soul for the price of a simple service! Too melodramatic.

    • cosby says:

      Yea I agree. Thing is most people do not leave positive reviews, just negative ones. Business owners are trying to get people to go the extra step to leave positive reviews that they normally wouldn’t even if they were happy with the service.

      I really don’t see a problem with this.

  10. scoosdad says:

    The dealership included a coupon for a free oil change when I picked up my new-used car recently, but it’s so far off my usual routes that it wasn’t worth it to me.

    They did badger me several times afterward to go online and rate them, though. The rating system on the site was a numerical value from 0 to 5, in increments of 0.5, and they already had a 4.5 rating. I pointed out to the salesman when he called to ask if I had rated them yet, that even if everyone from now until kingdom come rated them a 5, they’d probably never get above a 4.5 average since they had some negative reviews that pulled them down to 4.5 anyway (unless there was some rounding-up in the ratings that negated those eventually to give them a perfect 5.0).

  11. josephbloseph says:

    I can change my own oil. Now, if they did the rotation, rebalancing and alignment on my car while doing my brakes, sure I might shill for my new best friends the dealership.

  12. chucklebuck says:

    I gave a car dealership a terrible rating on Yelp (I went in to look at an advertised car that the “Internet Sales Manager” responded to my inquiries about with form e-mails, only to have no one at the dealership acknowledge me being there and then finding it had already been sold when I took a walk around the lot). No more than 3 hours later, I got e-mail from the general manager with an apology about my experience and an offer to track down a similar car for a similar deal. Fast forward a bit, he found me another car at a terrific deal and I bought it. From the point he got involved onward, my experience with them was fabulous. He asked, after I bought the car, if I wouldn’t mind revising my Yelp review as they rely on 5 star ratings to attract customers.

    I thought about it for awhile, and then I did revise my Yelp rating upward – but only to 4 stars. I left the original text up and added in my experience afterward. I also made it clear that I couldn’t give a 5 star rating because that would be like pretending the first part of my experience didn’t happen when it did and it caused the sum of my dealings with them to fall short of perfection.

    The GM was not happy to not be able to get 5 stars, but he did understand and appreciate my reasoning. He also sent me video of one of the dealership meetings where he brought up my Yelp review and went over it with the staff to train them on what went wrong the first time and how they should have handled things.

    Some people accused me of letting them buy my review score with a good deal, but I disagree. I think if a company takes the time to learn from a constructive review and makes the effort to fix things, then letting a one star review sit out there is pretty unfair to them.

    • MMD says:

      There’s a difference between being “bought” and reflecting honestly on what happened. It seems like you did the latter – nothing wrong with that in my book!

  13. polishhillbilly says:

    yes, For a set of shop manuals. and perhaps some tshirts for the kids

  14. elangomatt says:

    I think that the difference between this and what I would be OK with is that they said the OP said it had to be a perfect review to get the free oil change. I think customer surveys are stupid anyway since many times if it isn’t the highest rating, it counts as a negative against the store. I am very unlikely to ever give something 10 out of 10 unless someone goes above and beyond what is expected to improve my experience.

  15. Cream Of Meat says:

    I show my appreciation by returning next time I need service. If they want a free, public, pat on the back they better warm up their hand and gimmie the old rub n tug treatment. In public.

  16. wren337 says:

    Every month

  17. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    For an oil change? That’s not even close to my price.

  18. PaulR says:

    No, I wouldn’t give a positive review for an oil change at a car dealership. People get their oil changed at car dealerships? Gawd, they must have a lot more free time than I do.

    Sometimes, I change my oil more often than I fill my windshield washer fluid tank. Me, I go to lube shops. When I’m due for an oil change, I drive in without making an appointment, twenty minutes later, I’m done.

    And they fill up my windshield washer fluid tank.

  19. southpaw1971 says:

    My dealership always leaves these flyers in my car stressing how much my feedback needs to be that things are PERFECT when I get the survey. I haven’t yet felt the experiences I’ve had were ever worthy of perfect, so I just don’t respond to the surveys.

  20. Jimmy60 says:

    The car manufacturers and the dealerships just love looking at survey results. The problem is that they all game their own system so much that the results can’t really be useful anymore.

  21. shepd says:

    I don’t have a dealership. Closest would be the two or three I frequent for parts purchases.

    Oil changes cost me $10, so I think they’d have to provide me with something of a little more value than that.

  22. ColonelK says:

    Count me in as one of the whores. I’m in MD as well and I was offered a free tank of gas in exchange for bringing the BLANK survey into the stealership. I was actually really happy with my experience, so I went ahead and took the gas (brought the car in on fumes).
    I always wondered what kind of fantastic review they left for themselves.

  23. cornstalker says:

    Here’s a better idea: offer customers a free oil change just for being awesome and only casually mention giving them a review online.

  24. Owls Are Raptors! says:

    I totally would. The mere offer of a free oil change would make me want to talk positively of them. If after said free oil change I felt as though the service was poor, then I would make sure to change my opinion next time I’m asked.

    On a slightly related note, we do something similar at a certain well-known pizza place, the second word of which may or may not rhyme with ‘slut’. Ahem.

    We have those ridiculous surveys too, where unless we earn all perfect ratings, we are penalized for it. By this, I mean that if the survey asks “Was your food served quickly, still fresh and hot?” and they respond with “Agree” instead of “Strongly Agree,” we get a zero. So basically it’s a 100% or 0%, and a lot of people don’t realize that, so we get poor ratings even though individually most people “Agree” that we’re doing a great job, they just don’t feel like shouting from the rooftops about it, I guess. As an incentive to get people doing surveys, and giving us all “Strongly Agrees” we will occasionally tell people that, next time they come in, if they tell us they did the survey we will give them a free appetizer or something like that. We tell them if we didn’t earn a “strongly agree” then they should call our manager and tell him why, and then he will take care of it. I manipulate it a bit by only telling nice people about the survey and I explain to them how silly I think it is that we operate on an all or nothing, pass or fail survey, with 80% of response options earning you a flat zero. Normally they’re like “aw man that’s stupid, yeah I’ll fill it out!” and such. We are very big on customer satisfaction at pizza slut, even if we have to earn it somewhat artificially.

  25. dangermike says:

    I bought a car about 4 months ago. I gave a good review to the dealership for nothing more than being asked to. To be fair, it was a positive experience, handled quickly and professionally. (and despite what some are saying about truecar, I got a better deal through them than I expected possible before receiving their quote)

  26. framitz says:

    Even if I thought highly of the dealer, the offer of free oil change for positive review would change my opinion to highly negative.

    I would more likely do a review and include the attempted bribery.

  27. momtimestwo says:

    I’d do it in exchange for my 30k service, which is $365.

  28. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    If you think about it, they’re not actually trying to “buy” a 5-star rating unless you would have otherwise rated them zero stars. If you would have rated them 4 stars anyway, they’re only buying 1 star for the oil change.

    If I was going to give them 2 stars or less anyway, I wouldn’t go back for any service regardless of the price. But if I was going to give them 3 or more, I might very well let them buy the extra 1 or 2 stars for an oil change.

  29. DanGarion says:

    No I wouldn’t. In fact my dealer offered me a free tank of gas. My truck holds 36 gallons.I called them out on it on the survey that they tried to bribe me.

  30. luusyphre says:

    I would give ‘a’ review. If he sucked, saw that I was upset, and offered me a free oil change to write a review, my review would say, exactly that. Two stars just for even acknowledging that I was upset.

  31. Bodger says:

    For a new engine or transmission provided with a smile and no arguments, yes. For an oil change, no. I can certainly be bought but I’m not cheap…

  32. lvdave says:

    When the wife and I bought a new Ford Escape at our local Ford dealer, the salesman spent about 5 minutes explaining/cajoling us to rate him and the dealership 100% on the survey we’d be recieiving from Ford. Interestingly, he didn’t try to bribe us with any oil changes or the like, just kinda almost begged, since according to him, with Ford, unless you get 100% perfect scores on these surveys, you get annoyed endlessly by management. I kinda felt sorry for the guy as he was a very good salesman, and didn’t try to gaslight us with all the b.s. you hear about car salesmen. We got a pretty good deal on the car, and it only took one printout from KellyBluebook to make them significantly raise their laughably lo-ball offer on our tradein. We bought the car back in October of last year, and I’ve yet to see this “survey” he was talking about…

  33. Bob Lu says:

    Only if I would have said nice things anyway,

    plus, I will disclose the free oil change (or any other free stuff the dealer gives me for posting it).

  34. cheezfri says:

    My dealer already gives free oil changes. And I usually don’t take my car there for other problems because it’s out of warranty and they are too expensive. So no, I doubt I’d give them a positive review even if we had to pay for oil changes.

  35. BorkBorkBork says:

    I personally wouldn’t do it, but I don’t mind if others do. Though I would prefer some disclosure in their reviews.

    *I was compensated a free oil change for this five-star review.*

    I put a decent amount of weight in customer reviews, so I’d hate to see them diluted with basically paid-for advertising via a customer.

  36. icerabbit says:

    I would like to say: No, I’m not for sale … but since for our German car they do insist on charging $400 for the various annual things; I might be persuaded to leave a perfect review …
    IF said service was indeed perfect, timely, convenient etc and has been in the past
    AND if I can disclose the fact that they offered me a free oil change for the 5 star rating.

    If I had a negative experience with said dealership in the past, that would get mentioned in passing in abbreviated form …

    A few of the American car brand dealerships I’ve been to probably could never get anything but average. I’ve never been in and out the door in less than one hour for even the most basic oil change, with appointment! Typically close to two hours in and out the door. Maddening.

    And, I’ve been lied to by one particular American brand service advisers so many times about needed service and parts to the tune of anywhere between $150 (battery replacement 175000 miles without it) instead of the $50 punctured transmission hose replacement … that my blood pressure is going up just thinking about it!

    • icerabbit says:

      Part of my comment went missing during submission?

      The battery part was that I “needed” to replace my defective battery within one year of new vehicle purchase, to the tune of $150 or more. Battery lasted fine for 4 years.

      The transmission repair was quoted >2 grand instead of the $50 punctured leaky hose (known defect actually). The transmission still works fine 100000 miles later without that false repair. They would have just billed for the repair without doing it, replacing the hose line and pocketed 2 grand for nothing!

  37. AngryK9 says:

    I am not a politician or my father’s bankruptcy lawyer. I can’t be bought.

  38. DWMILLER says:

    An oil change is the opening offer. The place where I got my Ford truck was a tank of gas and a wash. They started with an oil change, I just bumped them.

  39. El_Fez says:

    I always loved the customer evaluation surveys for like Arbys and the like. I’ll fill them out as 3 out of five – a dead average review. The service wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t fantastic either. It was, in fact, dead middle of the road average.

    The automated process would then return “We see you were disastified with our service. Please explain why.” to which I say “Three is an average. I was neither pleases or displeased with your service”. No doubt that some middle management somewhere couldn’t wrap his brain around that response.

  40. j2.718ff says:

    Give me the free oil change first. Tell me you’d appreciate the positive review. I’ll probably give it to you.

    Ask me for the review first, and I’ll take my business elsewhere.

  41. tbax929 says:

    My car came with lifetime oil changes, tire rotations, balancing, etc.

    So I guess my answer is no.

  42. f86sabre says:

    I’ve had a dealership offer me the oil change if I brought the blank survey to them to fill out. That didn’t happen.

  43. dush says:

    Should be: would you give great customer service and some minor freebies in exchange for a great review?

  44. arcticJKL says:

    My dilemma is that a free oil change would get a favorable review. They should give away oil changes and they pass out surveys.

    • bayboy says:

      that’s the whole point, negatives on a survey cause them problems so they bribe their way into good ratings. It’s a common tactic that I’ve encountered pretty much every dealership I’ve been to

  45. bayboy says:

    don’t dealers do that a lot?
    When we got our Lexus the sales lady kept saying when we get the survey in the mail to bring it in and get a full tank of gas.

    Too bad we went home that night, after a dreadful negotiation back and forth, logged on to their website and saw the car we just bought listed for $2500 less than what they told us was “internet price”! And the wheels they promised to get us to close the deal were also magically not free.

    Needless to say my rant to Lexus and 1 rating across the board made them unhappy, which unfortunately inconvenienced other people as the CPO prices were removed shortly after from everywhere they had their cars listed

  46. yargrnhoj says:

    My dealership gave me two years of free oil changes and I still won’t give them a positive review (or go there again for an oil change) after my last experience. I showed up one day for an oil change and they told me it would be an hour wait. Then I made an appointment and came by the next week and they wouldn’t change the oil because I had not yet reached the milestone for changing it. I guess they were afraid I would cheat them out of a a few free oil changes by coming in a few hundred miles early each time.

  47. u1itn0w2day says:

    No such thing as A free oilchange. It should be called a selling tool for things just happend to notice they had your care. Your free oil change could turn into a 500 dollar bill in minutes.

  48. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    I would certainly mention that in the review though.

  49. central_ny_dude says:

    Dealers only see me when I need dealer specific parts. Otherwise, I have my own tools, and knowledge to fix my own stuff. Especially oil changes! Seriously? That’s like a electrical contractor offering to change some burnt out light bulbs in your house to give them a 5 star review on his entire business! I don’t trust anyone besides my local “Owner’s name on the shop banner place” to do anything with my car that I can’t. Dealerships are full of it, and this is just another example. If your business is good, people will talk about it, hence the business gets more customers. If your business stinks, people will talk about it, and potential customers go elsewhere. Online reviews mean nothing, really. Anyone that needs work done, I tell them to go to my guy, because he deserves the recommendations, through his good work, not because he offers to change my oil!