LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Meineke Car Care Centers was one of the national chains promising to honor those who have served in the military this Veterans Day with a free oil change. But when local Army veteran Josh Storey went to a participating Meineke store in Lauderhill that morning, he was turned away.
"Right off the bat the guy said it was appointment only," Storey said. "'We're booked up today. We're done.'"
Storey said he asked for a rain check but was told there were no rain checks either. The worst part, he said, was that the store was almost empty that morning. He told his wife Nicole Storey, who drove out to the store to see for herself. Once there she said she pretended to be a paying customer.
"He said, 'Are you with the vets?'" she said. "I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, about 20 minutes.'"
At that point, she said, she blew a gasket.
"Oh, so you're turning away veterans on Veterans Day to make money?'" she said she told an employee.
"I feel I can speak for most veterans when I say we're not mad, we're sad and disappointed," said Josh Storey. "It was just an oil change. It was a $25-$30 oil change. I could have paid for it, but the bays were empty. Why would you say no to me and yes to her when she's not a vet?"
While there, Nicole Storey snapped a photo of the sign of the door telling customers, "Our Veterans Day oil changes are fully booked!"
There was no mention of "appointment only" in the company's press release, or by numerous media outlets that informed the public of the oil change promotion, though the news release does say, "Customers are encouraged to take advantage of Meineke's online appointment scheduler."
The company promised, "Rainchecks will be available at Meineke locations offering the promotions who cannot accommodate all free oil change requests on Veterans Day." Yet rain checks weren't extended to Storey, or apparently to several other veterans who were turned away at the Lauderdhill store that day.
When Local 10 News visited the store, the technician in charge said there was plenty of anger that day.
"A lot of veterans left upset. trust me, I (saw) them," said the technician, who refused to give his name, but claimed the store gave away 50 free oil changes that day to those who made appointments online. "I got a door slammed, had a curse word said to me. We were sorry we couldn't help, but it's a business and I don't know what else to say."
The store's owner, Hector Osorio, was emotional when questioned by Local 10 News, saying he was doing his best not to cry about the situation.
"I regret what happened," Osorio said.
He blamed the mess on a misunderstanding about what was actually promised in the promotion, which was advertised on a national level.
When asked if he was serving paying customers while turning away veterans, Osorio initially said he did serve people in cases where there were "spaces" between veterans. But when asked if that was a case of him putting profit over the veterans, he denied serving paying customers that day.
While Josh Storey said business was far from heavy when he was turned away from the store, Osorio blamed the problem on not having enough technicians at the store and promised to double the number from two to four next year.
The corporate Meineke office issued a media statement saying it wanted to rectify the situation.
"Any negative experience is unfortunate and we want the opportunity to make it right," wrote Meineke President Daniel Rivera.
Only Nicole Storey is known to have complained. She said she was offered a free oil change, a gesture she found inadequate, saying she was still outraged.
"How these companies are promoting this stuff and turning away our veterans, where if it wasn't for them they wouldn't have a business," she said.
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