It started like this. A friend of mine, after checking out my wife's car, said it needed grease. It was loose underneath, he said.
There was a new quick lube that opened up near the mall, so I decided to give them a try. I brought the car to the quick lube, told them twice that it was very important that they grease the car and went off to the nearest bookstore on foot.
When I returned to pick up the car, I asked specifically if they greased it. The counterman said, "I will check." Now greasing the car is a standard procedure listed on the wall and I should not have to ask, but I figure that the only reason I brought the car in was for the grease job. (I usually change the oil and filter myself.) He came back and told me, "He says most of the fittings are too rusted and he couldn¹t grease all of them." I asked the counterman what to do and he said I'd need to take it to a mechanic and get new fittings.
I bought new grease fittings and brought the car over to Harbor Garage. (It's nice to have a mechanic within walking distance of the office, when able.) After the once over he told me there was nothing wrong with the existing grease fittings other than they hadn't been touched in a while. He gave me a grease job and charged me eighteen dollars.
In other words, somebody at the quick lube was not honest.
You can be sure my fiber was broiling as a result of these roguish ill-bred wagtails. Since time is money (two more trips to quick lube, a trip to auto parts store, a trip to mechanic, plus parts and labor costs) I figure the only way to get something back from this is to write a few articles about ethics and somehow save someone else the hassle I went through.
I went back to the quick lube and shared what I was told at Harbor Garage. The QL manager, a different one this time, said he would check into it if I went and got the VIN number off my wife's car, which was now parked at my father-in-law's. He also said there was nothing he could do without my bringing the receipt. I came back another day with the receipt and VIN number. Based on what I presented, he said that there was no evidence that the car was worked on because the VIN number wasn¹t on the paperwork. Furthermore, he wouldn't reimburse me for the work done at Harbor Garage because I didn't -- stupid me -- remember to bring THAT receipt in with me this time.
When I went back the third time (excluding the initial oil change) I found the original assistant manager whom I entrusted my car to, and although he could give me no money, I got a coupon for a free oil change. (Yes, but will they grease the fittings next time?)
WHY DO PEOPLE CHEAT?
There are several reasons people behave badly. First, they get seduced into believing they can get something (money, diplomas, trophies) for nothing (no effort.) In the short run this actually seems to work. But there are problems. We fail to learn the true price of things.
When we cheat, the short term gain is appealing. But a business is only as good as its reputation. This short term gain will end in long term pain for the employee who practices deceit and the business that condones it.
Cheating is a selfish behavior, almost always motivated by self-centered, rather than "others-centered" concerns. It is the antithesis of good customer service. It is also a symptom of dysfunction in a business when a pattern of deceit is permitted to continue.
The word integrity comes from a root word meaning wholeness or completeness. It has come to be associated with the word honesty because what we believe corresponds to what we say and is in harmony with what we do.
The whole of business and enterprise is built on trust. When the package label reads "Twelve Ounces" we expect it to contain twelve ounces. When we give our credit card number to a department store to purchase a pair of shoes, we do not expect them to ring up four thousand dollars of additional charges for furniture or appliances.
And when we tell people we greased their fittings and performed a ten point check, we'd better have done it. A bad experience damages not only the credibility of your own shop but tarnishes the whole industry.
OIL CHANGE INTERVALS & HONESTY
I have in my hand here a letter to the editor of a Chicago newspaper automotive column in which a fellow named Ruben doesn't know what to think about his brother's BMW going 9,000 miles without an oil change. His brother told him that the oil change interval for the car was 2 years or 20,000 miles because BMW puts synthetic oil in at the factory. Ruben asks, "Is this true?" He couldn't believe any oil would go that far.
The Answer Man replied, "Yes, it is true." He wrote that the brother should be commended for reading the owner's manual.
But what do we say and do? I know quick lubes where the last thing they want is for people to read the owner's manual. The industry's fear of people extending their oil change intervals has made many mechanics and quick lube operators tread a fine line between truthfulness and deceit. The inability to acknowledge the long drain capabilities of synthetic lubricants will result and is resulting in a loss of respect and credibility.
Instead of denying the possibility of extended drain intervals, it would be better to educate customers to the fact that they have choices. They can pay more for the convenience of coming in less often with a premium synthetic motor oil, or do the routine of conventional oil and frequent oil changes. Consumers should have a choice and be informed about their choices. If we don't make the effort to educate consumers ourselves, the auto manufacturers will happily do it for us.
Ed Newman is Marketing & Advertising Manager for AMSOIL INC.