An Open Letter to Alexandria VW

13 03 2007

Joe Lishman
Service Manager
Alexandria Volkswagen
107 West Glebe Road
Alexandria, VA 22305
(703) 684.8888

13 March 2007

Greetings Joe,

I would like to inform you of the experiences I have had with your dealership’s service department. Unfortunately, they have never been very positive, and what I experienced today was sadly the final nail in the coffin.

I purchased my 2006 Candy White MkV GTI 2.0T pre-owned in January of this year from Don Beyer Volvo in Dulles. To date, I have been very pleased with the car, as I have previously owned a MkIV 2000 Jetta VR6 (which we still have) and a 1996 MkIII Jeta 2.0L. You can say we’re a bit of a Volkswagen family as well, with my brother owning a MkIV Jetta GLX VR6, my aunt with a Passat V6, my sister with a 2003 Jetta GLX VR6, and my niece with a 2005 GTI 1.8T.

Upon receiving my new GTI, the previous owner failed to return/provide the key tag and radio card. On Sunday, 11 March, I stopped by your dealership and spoke to one of your younger sales reps and your sales manager Wesley, both of whom were very polite and straightforward in answering my question (they were the bright points in this story, it will get worse from here). I asked them what I should do now if I ever wanted to order new key fobs or had to re-enter my radio code without these two missing items from the original owner.

Wesley informed me that the keys would never be a problem as you simply use the VIN# to order keys. As for the radio, all the service department would need to do was look up the serial number on the head unit, and the radio code could be obtained. I told them this was good news, as I recently installed VW’s factory navigation unit, so the previous head unit was already uninstalled. They suggested I just come back with my serial number when the service department was open and get my radio code looked up.

This afternoon, I again returned to your dealership to inquire about my radio code.While I do not remember the name of the service rep that dealt with me, he in turn told me that obtaining the radio code would cost me $45. This surprised me, as the radio code is something, as the owner of the vehicle, is supposed to have in the first place, and I did not feel that I should be charged for an item I am supposed to originally have. Remembering Wesley’s advice, I asked why it was going to cost me anything, since ‘all you have to do is plug in a serial number into the database.’ Your service rep told me, quite smugly and matter-of-factly, that ‘it’s not as simple as looking some numbers up in a database.’ Annoyed at the rudeness and the audacity of the $45 charge, I left—running into the young sales rep I spoke to a few days back, to thank him for being so nice before, as well as let him know that I thought the charge was ‘bullshit.’

Here’s the best part of the story: I only went to Alexandria Volkswagen because it’s the closest dealership to my house. I usually get my car serviced at Marten’s Volkswagen (it’s near my office), or Lindsay Volkswagen (it’s near my brother’s office at Don Beyer Volvo). I try to avoid coming to your dealership for anything due to poor customer service in past dealings with your staff (the 1996 Jetta we owned was bought at Alexandria). Encouraged by the friendliness of Wesley and the other sales rep I spoke to over the weekend, I thought I would give your crew one last shot. I’m sorry Joe, but to be honest, they blew it, and this is the final nail in your dealership’s coffin for me. I wouldn’t even walk into your dealership to spit on it.

I drove to Marten’s VW next and told their service rep the same thing I told your staff, and you know what they did? They looked up the serial number of the head unit and provided me with the radio code—free of charge. All they did was ask for my license and proof of ownership to verify that the head unit was indeed mine.

I am disturbed by your staff’s smugness and rudeness. I am disappointed at their dishonesty (remember the ‘it’s not as simple as plugging numbers in a database’ remark?) and willingness to strangle every last cent from their customers. And I am surprised at the attitude displayed by your staff that Alexandria VW is the only game in town. A simple search on shows that there are NINE other dealerships within 20 miles of you, and it’s a shame that you are still able to con people into settling for the sub-standard service at your shop.

Your staff could use a lesson in customer service and ‘going the extra mile’ to exceed their expectations. That’s how you keep LOYAL and DEVOTED customers that are actually excited to come see you for their services, instead of dreading it more than torture. Please do your future customers a favor and take a few lessons from the service ethic at Marten’s and Lindsay. As for me, I am resolute in never patronizing Alexandria VW for as long as I live and breathe. In addition, I will discourage any and all other VW drivers that I interact with (and there a LOT outside of just my family circle) about bringing their business to your dealership, whether it be sales OR service. It has become my personal business to make sure your shop is the worst performing one in the DC Area.

Copies of this letter have been forwarded to Volkswagen of America. I have also made copies of this letter for the service managers at the other DC-Area dealerships to serve as a cautionary tale against poor customer service. I have also posted an electronic version of this letter on VWVortex, a very vibrant community site of VW drivers and enthusiasts. A lot of people new to Volkswagen come here for tips and advice how to maximize their experience with their car, and hopefully this letter will keep them away from your shop as well. You can view the posts on the links below:

Post 1
Post 2

Lastly, to show that it isn’t all about anger, I have enclosed a copy of the letter I have written to Marten’s VW, thanking them for their excellent service ethic and reinforcing my loyalty to them as a customer.