More than an Oil Change

By Lloyd Graff

A dirty car air filter

I recently took my car for an oil change at the local Jiffy Lube, whose many slogans include “More than an oil change,” “Only what you need, guaranteed,” and “We don’t want to change the world, we just want to change your oil.” I had vowed to myself never to patronize the chain because every time I’ve gone there the service was slow and they tried to up-sell me products I didn’t want.

But it had been a year since my last oil change. I saw a sign at the car wash I was visiting, also for the first time in a year, for a $25 oil change at the Jiffy Lube next door, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone on a chilly March Sunday morning.

I drove into the Jiffy Lube, where I happily saw I was the only customer. I maneuvered my 12-year-old Toyota Avalon into position, got out of the car and proclaimed that I “just want an oil change, nothing else.”

The young fellow, who was the only other person present, agreed and showed me to the waiting room. Soon after, he motioned me to come out into the shop area where he showed me the car’s air filter, which looked rather grey and dirty. He asked me if I wanted it changed.

“How much?” I asked.

“$14.95,” he said.

My moment of decision.

“Ok, replace it. But don’t try to sell me anything else,” I said with resignation.

He replaced the oil and then came into the office to ring me up. The bill was too high. I told him the reason I came to the store was because I saw the big sign for the promotion in the carwash lobby next door.

“Oh, that promotion is over,” he said.

“No way I’m paying the higher fee. This is why I don’t go to your stores,” I said.

“I’ll take care of it. I’ve got a coupon I’ll give you to take the price down,” the young attendant said.

I paid the lesser amount and left as usual with disgust.

I thought to myself, this is a terrible business model. Falsely advertise the price for your primary product, the oil change, try to sneak the higher price by the customer but provide a “coupon” if he squawks. Then display the dirty filter to attempt to fatten the bill on the visit.

I usually patronize the Pennzoil shop a few miles away, but they have moved or gone out of business. They never used such tactics, but I usually bought wiper blades from them, which they had on display but never pushed on me.

I believe the Jiffy Lube store’s tactics were unscrupulous and counterproductive. I will never go to one of their outlets again. No wonder their store was empty while the car wash next door was thriving.

But maybe I’m naive.

The reputable Pennzoil guys are gone, and the Jiffy Lube is still standing. Is playing the customer for a sucker the only way to make an oil change business survive? Was I a fool to replace a dirty air filter that could have been vacuumed?

I know it’s hard to be in a commodity service business, but does it have to be run like this?

Question: Do you feel like a sucker when you get an oil change?

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33 thoughts on “More than an Oil Change

  1. Don

    Is that how they treat Toyota drivers? I’ve never had that problem in a Chevrolet. They must see you coming a mile away. (Couldn’t resist)

  2. Scott @ GenSwiss

    Jiffy Lube is the rock bottom of the automotive industry. It’s where all the cant-hack-its land when no one else will hire them. Sorry Lloyd, but you should know better by now.

    You’re better off forming a personal relationship with a reputable small shop and paying a little bit more for this very crucial maintenance requirement.

    I wouldn’t trust a JL tech to check the air pressure in my tires.

    1. Jack

      Hard to find a good shop. I did find one a few years back. They did pretty good work and the owner was very friendly would talk your arm off. Regular jabber jaw. They closed up just like that. Found out the owner was dealing coke and got caught. No wonder he could talk a mile a minute.

    2. Clint McInnes

      I used Jiffy Lube once. Only once. A long time ago. They were handy and I was WAY out of town because of family issues. Fortunately, I was still there the next day when my CRANKCASE RAN DRY BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T TIGHTEN THE PLUG. I had to park it by the side of the road.


      They tried to argue (I’d had AAA tow it back to their shop) but I made such a big, loud stink that two waiting customers left, so they finally, grudgingly put oil back in it. Then they squawked because I insisted on watching them. Said it was against company policy. I wanted to know if it was company policy to screw over the customers, and didn’t budge. I stated that history was on my side and if they wanted to end up in small claims court, I had absolutely no problem with that. So I watched and they fumed and then I left.

      Never again.

      I have a local lube shop that has done all my oil changes (the ones I haven’t done myself) over the last decade. They always do a good job, they are always fast, and they don’t try to snow me.

  3. Gregory Weekes

    I have also stopped going to Jiffy Lube for the very same reason. They so upsold my wife that I have to go back and DEMAND money back for items they replaced that I knew very well were good.

    I actually wrote to Jiffy Lube headquarters about this behavior. Never heard back from them.

  4. Jeff Kernell

    No, but it is Pennzoil. They are not pushy, they show me, and I make the decisions. If the filter looks dirty, I change it based upon that, and the # of miles. They have done some things for free, but then, I am a loyal customer. Also, they are fast.

  5. Jack

    When they try to upsell I just say no. Even if they show me a dirty filter, just tell them I have one at home.
    I try and stay away from the quicklubes. Last time I went to the Pennzoil place they didn’t tighten the oil filter properly had oil spots on the garage floor. Could have fixed it myself but I paid them to do it. So took it back they took care of it, I thought. Next morning oil spots on the floor. So I checked it, barely finger tight. So I fixed it this time, haven’t been back there since.
    We did take the wifes car to the Ford dealer recently for some service, had a surprisingly pleasant experience. They may get some more business from me.

  6. MM

    At the end of the day, all shops are more than just service locations. They need to play the sales role to survive. This is a controversial tactic because if customers always asks to only do oil changes, then something happens down the road (because of a clogged air filter, etc) then the customer blames the shop for not notifying them. But if the shop notifies them, they are automatically crooks and trying to get every penny out of you.

    Therefore it is a common practice for shops to ignore your request and identify problems once the vehicle is being overlooked. There is nothing wrong with approaching a person and notifying them, and giving them the opportunity to address it. The least someone can say is no.

    If all shops only did oil changes, they would not be in business. Think about the equipment, maintenance, leasing, utilities, oil recycling expenses, tools, payroll, advertising, and franchise fees. You really think doing 10-20 oil changes a day at $15 is going to cover all of that with profit to be made?

    I guess it comes down to liability. You have to understand shops, even though are part of the service industry, aren’t a restaurant or mcdonalds. You are dealing with critical components of a fine tuned machine. If a shop doesn’t make you aware of your vehicle’s problems, let’s say a worn out balljoint, then you go barreling down the road, and it lets loose. You WILL loose a wheel. You may lose your life. Guess where lawyers like to look first when horrible accidents occur? Previous places maintenance has been performed. Guess who tries to get blamed when the shop it was just at 1 day ago missed this critical component when it is listed as a point checked in their procedures (as most shops do)?

    I also take into question why you ignore your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and only do oil changes 1 time a year? And filters can’t just be vacuumed or blown out, is going to the auto parts store and getting one for $7.99 once a year a big task? This is basic maintenance.

  7. Tod Anderson

    The last time I took a car to Jiffy Lube (was heading out of town ran out of time to do it myself or have my primary shop do it) I told them: don’t check the air filter (K&N permanent filter) nor the cabin air filter, nor check the tires. They of course check all three and wanted to replace the filters (cabin filter was a month old and I had cleaned and re-oil the air filter 4 days earlier. Also said my tire pressure was low in the rear. ( I run the front tires at 34psi and rears at 30psi due to weight balance on the car to maximize traction and tire life – not at 33psi in all four as specified). I told the guy, read the notes and finish the oil change. Then check the dip stick to make sure they put fresh oil in and looked under car to confirm a new filter was on the car and never went back

  8. Bruce Patel

    I was at Mr.Lube and they are worst than even Jiffey Lube.
    I went for an oil change and the same scenario the guys said your air filter needs to change and it costed me $500.00 with labor oil change ,air filter on my Cadillac.
    All outfit are same no difference.I wrote there head office but no response and they keep sending me the emails ,I got mad and told them to stop sending me.

  9. dan

    Ah, no…..I don’t feel like a sucker.
    Because I know my way around cars and engines, taught to me by my father starting at about age 5.

    Many times in life it does not pay to be oblivious…
    Automotive maintenance procedures are not rocket science, LEARN something about them and be educated so you can make intelligent decisions about this subject.
    Best to take your car to someone that knows what they’re doing than to let it waste away as a result of your lack of maintenance or just outright cheapskatedness…

  10. Chuck

    Lloyd, as someone in the machine selling and repair business, I’m a little surprised you don’t see the correlation to your own business. If you ask me to repair a screw machine and to only fix a pre-determined list of items, what should I do if I discover something else needs repairing in the process? Ship the machine with the item still in dis-repair or call you up, let you know what we found, and give you the option to have me repair it or not.

    We all know what happens if I just ship the machine off without repairing the “extra” item. Within 30 days or so that item causes a catastrophic breakdown to the machine and now the customer is having a fit because the item wasn’t repaired, much less brought to their attention.

    I side with the JL in this matter. It is my job to tell you what is wrong with your machine (car) and it is your job to let me know how you want me to handle it. To do otherwise would be a dis-service to the customer.

  11. Kim

    I agree with Chuck up to a point – yes, it’s important to point out other things that are in need of repair. The issue is that many times as consumers, we’re left wondering if it really needed to be repaired right now, or if its something that we probably need to repair sometime in the next 6 mo, a year or even ever! Naturally the business wants to sell you something today not 6 months from now when you could go anywhere. Some will try to sell you unnecessary repairs. That’s where having a good relationship with someone you trust to do repairs makes the difference as they are more likely to tell you this because they know you’ll come back to them. I avoid quick oil change places and have learned to do a few basic maintenance things on my own.

    1. MM

      Don’t blame everyone else for your own ignorance. If you are that paranoid about people lying to you, it’s time you pick up a book on automotive repair

      1. Kim

        I have actually taken a course on auto repair through the local adult education school so I’m not a complete idiot on the subject, but I have neither the desire, nor the time to do everything myself. I’m sure there are plenty of reputable service stations out there, and I’m sure they struggle with the stereotype that they’re out to sucker us all. I’m not going to become a car mechanic any more than I’m going to become a doctor to cure my ailments – we all have to rely on experts from time to time.
        Perhaps I’m just biased from some bad past experiences as well as from listening of too many stories from a colleague who used to work in the car repair industry. That’s why I said it’s important to build a relationship with someone you trust.

  12. Dan

    In short, NO! They always give you a choice, it is hardly a hard sell. A 10 year old Toyota that has not had the oil changed in a year, chances are you would not vacuum an air filter either (if that would even help)? The $14.00 filter will save more than that in fuel savings.

    Once a promotional sign is placed they should remove it when the promotion is over. They did honor it (with a coupon) after they were made aware of it. Hopefully they remove the promotional sign after being made aware of it.

    Many employees of large corporations don’t care as much as owner operated stores, and why should they.

    This gripe seems more of an Andy Rooney rant then ” unscrupulous and counterproductive”
    Just my opinion!

  13. Dave

    I drive certified pre-owned BMW’s which include free service from any BMW dealer. The car has an indicator to tell you when it needs service (about every 15,000 miles). You can take it in and wait or they will give you a free loaner for the day. If you wait for your car, they provide free food, drinks, Wi-Fi and TV. If you are waiting longer than you planned, they will give you a free loaner to use until you pick up your car.

    They have never tried to sell me anything I did not need. The only thing I pay for is tires and I get them from

    BMW makes the service experience extremely courteous and pleasant–and keeps their customers coming back.

    1. Jack

      Sure they did, they sold you a Bimmer. You don’t need a Bimmer. Lloyd gets by with a 12 year old Toy. 🙂 🙂

  14. Donald Green


    For my previous Subaru Forester (10 yrs. old/160,000 mi), I had been buying my own oil & filter, and taking it to a guy with a little garage near us. $15 to do the oil change. I’ve also had him do brakes, exhaust system, and other things (always very reasonably priced, and done well). I also trusted my Subaru dealer for a lot of the maintenance and bigger items on the old car, and definitely with the new one I got last Fall.

  15. Rajamaha

    So you spent $39.95+tax for car service after a year and you claim you were being ripped off? No wonder the Pennzoil place you never went to went out of business. I checked 10 “Yelp” reviews of JLubes around where I live, and most (80%) were positive (3 or more stars, a couple with 2 or 1 star). And, how many times have you taken your car in for service and were told you needed this or that? I would be concerned if they didn’t suggest anything additional be performed. There are 2 little words that help in this situation: “yes” or “no”. These places are independently owned and when I had my older vehicle I got to know the owners fairly well. Many came from foreign countries – most were Middle Eastern – and I found them to be honest, hardworking people. But to some, as you demonstrated in your blog, anyone who dares asks for money in exchange for goods and services is the Devil. I’m just grateful I’m not a waiter or waitress for your table getting stiffed by you for a tip after you clean your plate of food you “didn’t enjoy.” I did enjoy reading the responses to your blog that refers to you as being a “cheapskate”. They’re being kind.

  16. Todd

    I agree with your frustration with Jiffy Lube. I went to our local JL for the first time in February. Since I needed an oil change and it was below zero and my garage is not heated I decided it was a good time to pay to have it done. There was a sign out front giving a special price for oil changes. When I was given the pricing, after I was inside, I was told an entirely different price than the one on the sign outside (sounds familiar). When I asked them about the price difference I was told the special ended a few days earlier & they just forgot to take the sign down. I paid the price & went on down the road. I’m not complaining about the price, but I am left with a lest than favorable view of their “bait and switch” marketing approach. It wasn’t a “mistake” – it was a decision.
    I got the usual offers for extra stuff & I expect that, doesn’t mean I care for it.

    So, do I trust anyone at Jiffy Lube? Of course not. Will I use them again? Maybe, but “buyer beware”. Fortunately I have a good, trustworthy mechanic close by for those bigger items I do not take care of myself.

  17. Jim Lawrence

    The only time I went to a Jiffy Lube was several years ago when they wanted to charge me a higher rate because my Explorer was a 4X4. I explained to them that the motor was the same as what was in my previous Mustang. I understood that this generic charge covered the notion that most full size trucks carry larger sumps and 6qts of oil as opposed to 5 but this was not the case for my little Explorer. It was the same as any of Fords passenger cars with the same engine. I complained to the manager and was just told this was policy. I’ve never been back in 20 years now.

  18. Bob Baiz

    Just for clarification, Jiffy Lube is 100% owned by Pennzoil, which is a whole owned subsidiary of Shell Oil Company. All are headquartered in Houston, TX. Jiffy Lube’s 2,000 stores are 100% franchise-owned by 252 franchise groups. There in may lie the individual store performance issues. I don’t see the problem with “up-selling”. There is a Caveat Emptor standard. It is pretty easy to clean an air filter at home. So just say NO THANKS unless you don’t want to fuss with it for $15.95.

    1. Rajamaha

      Thanks for that clarification. Attempts to demonize an entity without all the facts is ludicrous. My advice to JLube haters: do it yourself!

  19. John

    You made an assumption on the price of a service by not confirming what it was going to cost before you asked them to change your oil. By not confirming the cost of a service you wanted done, you should pay what the service costs. It was nice of them to extend the reduced rate after the sale was over. You should be writing about how they have good customer service, not how your bad assumption was their fault.
    Many businesses use the same model that you describe. Airlines and restaurants both upsell. Airlines try to get you to pay more for 1st class and they charge you for checked bags. Because of that, does that mean you are never going to go flying again? Probably not. It just means that you should take that into account when you consider the total cost of the service and decide if it is something you still want. Restaurants do the same thing by trying to sell you expensive drinks. The patrons that buy drinks help reduce the price of the food for everyone. If you don’t want a drink, then consider all the people that do order drinks as people that are subsidizing your discounted meal. If nobody bought drinks, then your meal would cost you more.
    It seams that you want below market price for your service and loose sight of what it takes to pull that off (upselling).
    The last thing you did wrong was that you reinforced that upselling was productive. You told them you din’t want anything else but then bought the air filter anyway after they asked. I’m assuming that you were not motivated enough to stop by a local place on your way home, buy the filter, and then replace it. That is not their fault. You had the option of doing that. Again, you should be praising them for pointing out your lack of upkeep for the vehicle, not begrudging them the opportunity to sell you the new filter.

  20. Jim Bradshaw

    Wow, all this over an oil change. Aren’t you old enough yet to know how it all works. Seems to me you got a fair deal. Do your self a favor and have your oil changed twice a year and quit bitching. For Christ’s sake do you really want to crawl under a Toyota at your age.
    As for the air filter, you got an excellent installed price, how cheap are you.

    Finally, haven’t you figured it out by now that the safety check is to insure the safety of their profits not your car. Caveat Emptor, but they do find actual problems at times and it is important to fix those issues, but as I always say if my brakes are 70% worn out, I am going us up the last 30% before I buy new ones. You don’t throw the milk out because it’s 70% gone now do you? You only throw it out if it’s gone bad.

  21. BHSarc

    A big can’o’worms in this topic. Brings me to the all to common pricing structure so many markets have adopted that I would consider it collusion on a massive scale. Price that has nothing to do with cost or even value. Phone, cable, satellite, insurance, movies, etc..
    The mind-set of consumers has now adopted itself to this pricing. Expectations of sales, coupons, BOGO, it’s all gone nuts. My guess is it is to the benefit of the corporations and not the consumer.. we are simply Pavlov’s dogs.


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