Archive for October, 2007

Oil Change Rip-Off

October 14th, 2007

I put a lot of miles on my truck. Usually 30-40 thousand every year. I also drive my vehicles until they have at least 250,000 miles on them before I sell them. In order to do this I need to maintain them because I MUST have reliable transportation.

The problem is that I don’t know very much about cars.

So I take my car in for an oil change every 3,000 miles, which is about every 4-6 weeks in my household. I have been faithfully taking it to a local place, even though they force me to buy a car wash every time (actually they raised their rates by $6 and gave me a “free” car wash, but the end result is the same).

I paid the increase because I could trust them to keep my truck maintained. Until last week.

What follows is an edited version of a 4 page letter I sent to the new owners of the business. There are a few business lessons to be learned here.

When I visit your shop every 3,000 miles I get new oil. But I am not buying oil. I am not even buying convenience or speed. I will admit that if your service were not convenient and fast, I would not buy from you, but these things are simply the price of entry. They do not distinguish you from any other fast oil change place, of which there are MANY as I’m sure you’re aware.

No, you sell something far more valuable than these things. It has nothing to do with the car wash or perfumed spray or even the magazines we get to read while waiting on our car to get done.

Could it be Expertise?

You know exactly what to check and you systematically check everything each time I come in. You check on things I would have forgotten to check on. You check on things I don’t know how to check. You check on things I didn’t even know existed!

But it is not oil, speed, convenience, or even expertise.

You sell something that NO ONE else can compete against you with because it takes YEARS to create. The best part is that it is a FREE resource for you and you can sell it over and over a thousand times a day and people like me will pay a huge premium for it, though it costs you nothing.

You sell trust.

I have been coming to your Kwik Kar location since the very day it opened four years ago. I have been patronizing Kwik Kar franchises since I began driving. My current truck has over 210,000 miles on it, and my previous vehicle was sold once I racked up 260,000 miles though it ran like a dream. My wife just bought a new mini-van after her car reached 235,000 miles, though it also ran perfectly, we simply needed a bigger vehicle for our growing family.

These high-mileage cars are from all different makers (Ford, Isuzu, and Toyota). In fact the only thing they have in common is the regular service provided by the trusted advisors who work in your bays.

And because of a relationship that spans more than a decade and almost $15,000 in oil changes over the past few years, I feel compelled to tell you why I will never be doing business with you again.

You once employed a man named Ed who no longer works for you. When I came in I would drop off my car and tell him “Do whatever you think it needs”.

Most times I would come back and it was just a routine oil change. Often Ed would call me on my cell phone and recommend one service or another and I would always ask him “If it was your vehicle, would YOU do it?” and if he told me “yes”, then I immediately approved.

But he was no longer working at your location as of about six months ago or so. I was disappointed, but continued to come in, hoping to gain that sort of trust with another employee.

Three visits ago I was asked if I wanted new wiper blades and I was very glad to have been asked because I had been meaning to replace them but never thought about it until it was pouring rain. So I had that done.

The fee was steep, but I expected that, and didn’t have a problem with it.

However, a few weeks later when the wiper blades proved almost totally worthless I was very frustrated. This priceless resource called “Trust” had just been damaged. I paid $10+ for a wiper I could have bought at Wal-Mart for $2, but I got something even worse, because it didn’t work worth a flip. On this day you didn’t sell me convenience you sold me INCONVENIENCE and you charged me a premium for it.

I vowed I would never buy wiper blades from you again, but continued to get my car serviced by your technicians.

The most recent time I needed my oil changed I was out of town and sent my wife in to take care of it for me. Unfortunately I failed to voice to her my concerns about trusting you and your company as much as I once did. Your technicians managed to sell her $123.95 worth of “services” including “Max Oil Up Charge” of $10 (what the hell is THAT!), Gumout Engine Flush for $35 (that had just been done 3 months/7,921 miles earlier on 6/11/07), TX7 Engine treatment for $25 (that had just been done 3 months/7,921 miles earlier on 6/11/07) and of course, 2 new wiper blades because the ones you sold me last time were completely worthless.

Needless to say, I was irate when I got back home and found out that I had failed to warn my wife about what might happen. However, I truly was not expecting things to get THIS bad, THIS quickly.

Congratulations! You have mastered the art of the “Up Sell”. You can sell a trusting spouse on worthless services that her husband just bought a few weeks before.

Unfortunately you have failed miserably in the art of the “Re-Sell”, the art of understanding “Long Term Customer Value”, and the unbelievable power of having a customer trust you so implicitly that they give you the keys to their car and tell a service technician “Do whatever you think it needs” and never blink an eye at what shows up on the invoice when he comes back.

You miss out on the value of having someone trust you so much that they tell everyone they know about how comfortable they feel working with you. You have exchanged that for someone who will LOUDLY proclaim to everyone they know how they were taken advantage of by someone trying to meet a quarterly deadline or some other very short-term sales goal. I will readily and regularly tell others about how quickly several years of trust was destroyed with a few poor decisions by an ambitious sales tech.

Should I continue to patronize your business with a “Buyer Beware” state of mind? NO WAY!! I don’t WANT to scrutinize every step you make waiting to see if you are trying to pick my pockets. If I was going to put that much energy into it, then I would change my OWN oil! The fact is, that I don’t know that much about cars and I WANT to find someone I can trust. I need someone to tell me when it is time to change the belts, flush this fluid, add more of this, and replace all the various filters in the vehicle. I simply CAN’T second guess a technician. I can only find a new one, whom I can trust.

I am upset about having to search out a new company. You have made this VERY inconvenient for me and it further frustrates me.

By the way, this business is the Kwik Kar located on Scarsdale Blvd in Houston, Texas.