Thursday, April 28, 2011

How Jiffy Lube Charges $201.75 for an Oil Change vs. Getting It Done at Ford for $39.95

The 2011 North America Service survey identifies Jiffy Lube as the most significant single competitor to a dealer’s service parts business, outside other dealers. The pie chart shows that they are quite significant.

Why do people go to Jiffy Lube? Easy. Because it is cheaper and more convenient.
But, is it really??

Using a 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid with over 87,000 miles on it, we went shopping to find out.

The first stop was to the local Ford dealer where we asked for a comprehensive inspection to find if anything was wrong with the vehicle. We tagged along with the service technician as he did his work - oil was fine, filters were OK, tires safe, all fluids good-to-go and topped off, brakes with plenty of life left, shocks and struts working fine. All they found was a broken license plate light and cracked windshield. When asked for the bill they refused to charge us anything.
Next stop was Jiffy Lube. The Jiffy Lube window sticker in the car told us that we were over 1,000 miles past due for a new “Signature Service.” So we parked the car and sat in the waiting room.
By the way, those window stickers are extremely effective in prompting owners for service. The top prompt for service is when your vehicle has performance problems - number 2 & 3 prompts are odometer readings and window stickers. My guess is that Jiffy Lube knows this.

Mr. Jiffy Lube came in and called out “Sara Carlisle” - that’s the name in their computer system. He validated where we live and asked. “you still using synthetic oil?” (Ford had already told me that the oil and filter were OK - we had taken off all oil service window stickers before the Ford visit.) I said, “We don’t use synthetic oil.” He replied, “Well, that’s what she’s been using.” I replied that we did not need synthetic oil. He came back at me and said that the “Hybrids are supposed to use synthetic oil.” I asked what it costs. He said “$64.99.” So, we let him put in the synthetic oil, because “Hybrids are supposed to use synthetic oil.” We got the car back in about 15 minutes, paid $67.25 and they did not even find the bad license plate bulb.

We went back home and did something that service customers rarely do - we checked out the owner’s manual.

We discovered that synthetic oil was not required by Ford. They did not say “no”, but they were clear that it was not essential. We went to the back of the manual and discovered that the oil and filter service interval was 15,000 kilometers or, around 10,000 miles, not the 3,000 miles recommended by Jiffy Lube. Then, I looked at the Jiffy Lube repair order one more time. I discovered that at the last visit at Jiffy Lube they serviced the automatic transmission and flushed the radiator at a huge cost to “Sara Carlisle.” Was that another bait and switch? Don’t know.

Next stop was to the Ford Owners Center to see if we could learn anything more. Sticking out like a sore thumb was “The Works” - Ford’s synthetic oil change and comprehensive inspection for $39.95. Their inspection was a lot more comprehensive than Jiffy Lube’s - hey, for free they even found that the license plate bulb was broken.

Now the Big Question: Was Jiffy Lube Cheaper and More Convenient?

No, on both counts. Let’s do the math. I can get “The Works” at a Ford Quick Lane facility that is closer to me than Jiffy Lube for $39.95 - synthetic oil and comprehensive inspection. I would do this once every 15,000 kilometers (or, around 10,000 miles). Or, I can go to Jiffy Lube and think I’m getting a deal on “Signature Service” for $35.99 - nearly $4 cheaper than Ford. But, once I’m there, they switch me to synthetic oil with an “up-charge” of $29. They hand me a bill for $67.25 (after tax, 58% more expensive than “The Works”) and slap on a window sticker to come back in 3,000 miles. Their computer system reminds them, and me, that I always get synthetic oil. And, their counterman assures me that Hybrids require it. It is convenient - but, probably no more convenient than that Ford

Quick Lane I passed on my way to Jiffy Lube. Over the course of 10,000 miles I’d be reminded to go back to Jiffy Lube three times. My total cost would be $201.75 ... only if I resisted aggressive sales tactics to change my air filter, flush my radiator again, flush my transmission fluid, and so on. “The Works” would have saved me $159.20 for that single necessary oil and filter change.

Bottom Line: That guy Sy Syms really got it right. An educated consumer really is your best customer. We need to educate them.

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