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?