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A Tale of Two Car Service Companies

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A few days ago, the oil light in my wife's Jeep started ringing with attention. This was curious because she had just been Jiffy Lube a month earlier. We immediately thought that it had to be one of two things: Jiffy Lube had made some kind of error or the car had a part malfunction. I braced myself for the later as it doesn't seem normal that a car would run for a month fine if Jiffy Lube had made the error. I hoped that they didn't reset the oil light and it wasn't really a problem.

Last night after my wife got home from work (she took the bus and didn't need the car), we went back to Jiffy Lube to see what their explanation was. They were closed. It was 6:30PM. (That's one of my wife's biggest pet peeve's - places that are closed after the traditional 9-5 workday so you can't get errands done.) After calming her down, we went to AutoZone, checked the oil, and added new oil. You are probably wondering why I hadn't checked the oil before now. I have no good answer for you. On the way home, we stopped for gas, and noticed that the new oil was already leaking out.

At this point, I figured something is wrong with the car. There's a mechanic less than a mile from my house. I check his Yelp ratings and they are fantastic - almost suspiciously fantastic. Everyone gave him 5 stars. The comments were great and I decided that I'd take the car to him in the morning. I called him up, he told me bring the car down. I explained the problem and he said that if it was just something that needed tightening there would be no charge. He also said that he was working on another car right now and his two assistants were away. He asked if it would be okay if he called me in an hour when he had a chance to look at it. I was prepared to wait three days - an hour would be the fastest mechanic in the history of the world. It did take him a whole 75 minutes to call me back, but he explained the problem and said that he could do it, or I could take it back to Jiffy Lube and they should fix it as it was their error. I told him that I'd like to take it to Jiffy Lube and give them a piece of my mind. I go to pick up the car, and he has it still on the lift. He brings a light and shows me the problem with the oil filter. Then he brings it down and tells me to go. I offer to pay him. He says it's free. I was prepared for that from our earlier talk and had Mr. Jackson ready for him. I'm sure that wasn't enough, but he'll get my business forever and I think he knows this.

I go to Jiffy Lube. I explain the situation and they look at the car. The guy takes me outside so that the other customers can't hear. He says that it was just a little wet and not leaking. I explained that it was bone dry and I had to put in 3 quarts the night before, so there's definitely something going wrong. He says they'll look at it again. Ten minutes pass and he says that it's fixed. He doesn't say what he fixed, but I'm focusing on what he's going to do for the run-around that this caused. I expected to get at least two free oil changes. Instead he said, that next time I come in, just ask for the manager and he'll give me half off. He didn't give me a piece of paper or write down my name (that I saw), so I don't know how they'll know. It really doesn't matter because if all they are willing to give me is half off, Jiffy Lube has lost my business forever.

Posted on January 28, 2009.

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13 Responses to “A Tale of Two Car Service Companies”

  1. Moneymonk says:

    I hate Jiffy Lube, I really don’t know why they are in business. They do not have any training in automobiles.

    I once went their just to get a measly oil change, guess what they forgot to put the oil cap back on, I rode around for days and starting seeing smoke come from the hood of my car. get what no cap, the cap was laying on my battery the whole while. Crazy nuts

    They mess up simple tasks. Never know more.

    Jiffy Lube has lousy service

  2. Green Panda says:

    I’m glad you found a solid mechanic from this situation. Sorry you had to go through the hassle, though.

    I don’t mind paying a bit more to get reliable service. It took me a bit, but I think I got a pretty good mechanic. Prices are reasonable and they take the time to explain the repairs.

  3. Traciatim says:

    Wow, they could have destroyed your car and all you get is 50% off . . . what a rip. I have a local shop do all my regular maintenance and they have always been fantastic to me. Mostly the good stories come down to things like ‘there was a noise here, the mechanic said a clip was loose and he tightened it, no charge’ . . . so now they get all my work. Since I drive a lemon, that’s lots of work :)

  4. The takeaway from this story is that if you own a business, make sure you treat your customer right. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Mr. GoTo says:

    You were fortunate that you did not suffer a sudden oil loss and subsequent engine damage (which I have seen happen). The problem with places like Jiffy Lube is that most of the employees’ knowledge of cars and tools is limited to what is presented to them in a training manual. That is not much.

  6. kosmo says:

    1) About 6 years ago, I moved to a new town. I needed a place to go for oil changes, and I picked the local Goodyear. The first time I go there, this little old lady is trying to force them to take money ““ to no avail. I’m not exactly sure what they did for her ““ probably just check something ““ but it was a good first impression.

    2) A couple of years later, I was in a new town once again. I started going to the local dealer for oil changes, because it was without walking distance. I could drop the car off and walk home in a couple of minutes. It was a few bucks more than other places, but was very convenient. After a while, they got bought another dealer, and the price for oil change/tire rotation went from about $35 to about $55 (quite pricey for this area). Additionally, they stated taking longer to get the job done (bear in mind that these are actual appointments, not walk-ins. Finally, I decided that enough was enough, and went, once again, to the local Goodyear (different ownership than the previous one)

    One of the first times I was there, this younger woman (20s) was there. They had repaired her car. I believe the problem was bolts that were coming loose in the suspension. The charge was something like $15.

    This woman tells the guy that she is about to go on a long trip and cannot afford to have any car problems along the way. She goes through a litany of possible problems ““ “are you sure that X is OK? What about Y?”. I’m biting my tongue, but want to tell her to shut up before the guy targets her as an easy mark and agrees that the car does indeed need some additional work. I’m quite certain that the shop could have made $500 off her with no problem.

    But the guy just smiles, and patiently explains how each of the parts/systems is in good working order.

    And to top it off, the staff is friendly, the cost is about $35, and the turnaround time is very good.

  7. Gawd, I hate Jiffy Lube. Being a girl, I always get treated like an idiot there. I only use Jiffy Lube for oil changes, but even that’s going to stop. If I have any mechanical problems, I take my car to the dealership as it’s under warranty and they take care of it. I also keep my car regularly maintenanced and in good condition. The last time I took my car to Jiffy Lube, not only were they completely rude to me, they tried to tell me I needed my master cylinder replaced. And not only did it need to be replaced, but it was marked on their little sheet as a high priority. I took it to the dealership to have it checked out and the guy told me he had no idea what the heck they were talking about, the master cylinder was just fine. Do you know how much a master cylinder costs to replace? Yeah, NEVER AGAIN!!!!!

    BTW – the only reason I used them for oil changes rather than just take it to the dealership is that Jiffy Lube is like two blocks from my front door. It was totally a convenience factor, but now I think I’ll just stick with the dealership.

  8. I have a good neighborhood mechanic that I’ve been going to for years. I also have a Monro Muffler that I’ve been going to for oil changes. Both are priceless.

    I’ll never trust the dealer I bought my current car from again. On the test drive, white smoke started coming out from under the hood. Turns out they replaced a hose and didn’t put the clamp back on right. Then they just put another clamp OVER the incorrect clamp. I had my mechanic check the car and found tons of little “attention-to-detail” errors. I’ve worked on equipment that can kill people if not properly maintained, and I have little patience for mechanics who can’t remember to put an oil cap back on.

  9. Cos says:

    Good call, Lazy, sounds like you got your guy now. Heck, a relationship with your mechanic is as important as with your family.

    Interesting kosmo mentions Goodyear, I’ve had similar no-charge experiences with the one near me. Maybe they apply a good standard to franchise owners or something.

  10. Michele says:

    Its always good to have a reliable mechanic, even if its not as “convienient” as those 20 minute oil change places. Luckily, my cousin opened a shop about 7 years ago. Prior to that, I got Oil changes at Walmart. Shortly after an oil change I had to put several quarts of oil in my car. I took it to a station nearly and they told me that they stripped the threads where you put the oil filter. When I took it back they tried to say the place I took it to did it. I could have destroyed my engine and their policy was to deny, deny, deny. I haven’t been back.

    Its not just oil change places you have to watch. I bought 4 new tires at an NTB and they stripped 14 of my 16 tire stems, which I would not have discovered except that one of the new tires shredded when the wheel came loose a week after I had the tires put on. And what did I get from them? Blown off again. We are not responsible, we didn’t do it. My guy remembers the stems were in bad shape when he put the tires on. So I asked if it was store policy to make no mention of the fact that my car was dangerous to drive in the condition they released my car in. At that point they agreed to replace the stems labor free, and since it was either tow the car to another place or let them do it, I paid for the parts but have never been back.

  11. tom says:

    Ya these franchise car mechanics are questionable at times and there are lots of stories about mechanic taking advantage of people and charging them for things that are perfectly fine.

  12. Rob says:

    That local mechanic is an absolute genius. People are very loyal to a good mechanic… extremely so. They also tell everyone they know. Instead of trying to clock you for a simple repair, he did the right thing and gained a customer for life. Giving up a one-time payment now for potentially thousands in future business. Thinking ahead – exactly what any good small business owner should be doing.

  13. Another one of those corporate car places I hate is Goodyear/Firestone. They once “fixed” my car and 2 days later i was stuck in a busy crossway on my way to work. My car stopped working and was experiencing the same characteristics that they had supposedly fixed :-)

    These people are told how to “sell, sell, sell”, not how to give good customer service!

    In the long run, that’s why GT has been a horrible investment for shareholders – no competitive advantage due to poor customer service!

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