Could this business model be made to work?

A bit of brainstorming here. We get a lot of posts about errors like leaving the drain plug loose, or overfilling, or overtightening the filter, mainly after the car has been to a quickie lube. Here is my question, could a quickie lube promote the idea that if any harm comes to your engine that is their fault, you get a new engine?

This promise will have to be worded very carefully to avoid scams from the public and other unintended use of the promise.

On the other hand is the way these things are being handled the right way in a business sense? What I mean is they seem to be handled on a case by case basis to decide what level of repair and additional guarantee given. Would a business go broke if it made such a promise? Would it even do a business any good to make such a promise? It seems the rule about your employees making mistakes is to act like they just could not happen. I am talking about being upfront and sayng right from the beginning “if we mess up, new engine for you”.

The problem with the model is you have people that have little or no automotive expierience, so mistakes will occur that results in major engine damage.

These quick lube places are franchises. So the owner of the franchise is responsible for engine damage. Not the corporate office. And very few can get the proper liabilty insurance for such an event because of the inexpierience of the people working on the vehicles.


I think you’d run the risk of an unscrupulous customer coming in with a very tired engine, getting an oil change, and then loosening the drain plug or filter in order to ruin his own engine. Shops, car dealers, and lawyers are in the only folks who have been known to cheat.

An interesting marketing idea but I don’t think it would work. While it would promote a feeling of security amongst the customers it would also draw a lot of cockroaches out of the woodwork.

Someone who knows their engine is getting a little tired may have an oil change performed and drive off, only to return later with the claim the drain plug is missing and the engine has scattered.
While most would not resort to sabotage the ones that would may ruin it for everyone.

Some years ago while working for Subaru a 15k miles Subaru was towed in with a totally trashed transmission. This car was a bank repo. Come to find out the guy did not like making car payments so after a year of stalling the bank he finally told them to come and get it. He left it on the street in front of his house AFTER draining the hypoid oil out and circling the block until the transmission blew up.
If people will do this to an essentially new car there’s no reason to think they won’t do it with an older car nor would they confine it to engines only. Transmissions, rear axles, etc would all be fair game.

Well I said it was a “Brainstorm”. What I mean is I was trying to think of a way for the quickie lubes to turn their image around. I do realize that perhaps the quickie lubes have “run the numbers” and just accept their reputations as is and will take the customers they get in spite of their reputations. Cleaning up their acts is simply not cost effective I conclude.

I do agree it would be almost impossible to word the “promise” to get the effect they want and not get scammed themselves.

Could the formula for undamaged engines rest with the customer?

I hate to say that if the customers were perfect, their cars would survive. I hate that statement because it just isn’t true. A perfect customer would check the oil before driving away, but that’s all I can ask of a customer.

If I wanted to check the filter for tightness and the oil filter for the same, I wouldn’t take the car to a shop anyway.

The shops have checklists to prevent bad things from happening to innocent cars but the workers and bosses cannot be trusted to do what they are asked to do. I learned that on airplanes.

I signed something off once before checking it and forgot to check it. Sure enough, my supervisor checked up behind me and found the missing part. Never again did I sign anything off before checking it. It’s too late to save what reputation you have after you get caught with a missing cotter pin. The worker was twice as qualified to do the work as I was when I was his rank. Older too. You can’t trust anybody.

In conclusion: Cheap out whenever you can and lose the customer. There will be another unlucky one coming along in five minutes. They’re born every day.

Why would you give a customer with a used engine a brand new one? All you would owe them is an engine as good as theirs was. And if you get such an offer from a chain lube place that ruined your engine you should kiss the ground they walk on.

Just my opinion, but I don’t think most fast lubes are death personified when it comes to damaging cars.
Granted, the odds of a problem happening go up due to inexperience and pressure to hurry it up.

My feeling is that if one added up all of the damaged engines due to mistakes that occurred nationwide in say one month and compared that against the total number of services performed the percentage of screwups would be quite small.

That’s a tough question to answer and I honestly have no idea what would happen if facilities adopted a policy like this. Just off the cuff, it seems like some would really abuse that sign on the wall. I’d hate to be the corporate guy making a decision like that. :slight_smile:

I actually agree that the model could work, especially if you charge just a little more than the high prices for routine fluid changes that the leading chains charge. But the leading chain in my area gets you to sign a contract when you go to get your car back and pay the bill, in which you agree by signing to arbitration in lieu of small claims or higher courts in the event that an employee of the chain fails to replace the oil plug before you drive the car away. There is definitely an advantage to the company to get you to sign this contract.

Imagine your company promising to refill ALL fluids and failing to refill the nearly empty windshield washer fluid just before a snowstorm, or the low brake fluid in a car. In a national chain model, it will happen. In some cases, the failures to perform the exact service as promised will result in injury or death. Not the kind of case you want going before a jury.

Actual mechanics suffer the same exposure to liability without the benefit of tricking their customers into arbitration, and many insure against that liability. The better the job they do, the lower the cost of liability insurance. The difference is a much higher standard of training, certification and process, and much less emphasis on the quick turnover, 1/2 hour service that the chains thrive on and that draws the often very busy customers themselves. No one who just wants an oil change who works sixty hour weeks is going to scoff at paying $50 for a 15 to 30 minute oil change without an appointment. Your average mechanic can’t promise that at all. The bottom line is, a business model such as you suggest would need to take into account real liablility, not just whether or not to replace an engine. It would need to be airtight in terms of process and focus much less on turnover. Even if that inconveniences the customer for five or thirty more minutes. There is a definite niche for a higher quality fluid change service. I’d add a much better waiting area than the average chain including a wireless connection, recent periodicals and a big screen TV.

Finally, most new car owners and even owners owners of used cars that were bought from a dealer will tend to go back to the dealer for basic service. Most go to avoid voiding the warranty and the rest go just because they don’t want to risk ruining the “relationship” they have with the dealer. In almost every case of course this is a one-sided relationship in any event.
An awful lot of smart people ignore this trap and need to get uncompromised solid value in a relatively short amount of time with no appointment without voiding their car’s warranty.
This would be maybe just a much less arrogant and responsive service provided than that of a dealership with the same expectation of quality.

My own experience working at a quick-lube backs up your feeling. I worked there for 2 years and averaged between 30-60 oil changes per day. Never once did we have a customer come back complaining that their engine had seized. Usually the only complaints we had were when a tech was careless and wouldn’t properly clean up the oil on the frame of the car and the customer would have a puddle on the floor of their garage. In these cases we would drive out to the customers house and clean everything up for them.

The real question is: How much additional business would there be compared to the costs involved.

This raises two questions:

1: While many on this forum believe quick lube places have the problems described by the OP, do quick lube places believe they have this problem? And if they do, is it severe enough to motivate them to invest money to fix it?

2: If some quick lube places do invest to fix this problem, how much will they need to raise prices? And how long will they stay in business if customers migrate to their competitors (who did not spend money addressing this problem)?

In addition to that, unless you hire people who are actually good at working on cars (and therefore have to pay them more and therefore have to charge more, and therefore miss out on a lot of business right there) you are going to be replacing so many engines that you’ll go broke.

It seems to me a shop could document pretty easily the different steps of the oil change with a time & date stamp digital camera. (here’s us draining the oil, here we are reinstalling the oil plug, here we are adding the oil) Could help prevent fraud and the data could be stored digitally for a year or so and then deleted. They usually create a customer file anyhow, this could just be stored with it.
Just a thought.

We are brainstorming here,with my understanding of brainstorming no idea is rejected initally.

That policy already exists in a legal sense way down in their fine print along with the disclaimer for the burden of proof.

Which you can bet your life will be their saving grace with a publicized and advertized similar policy.

The burden of proof.

That is correct. I remember reading an electronic company was trying to find a way to install a certain assembly on a unit in production. During a brainstorming session, someone said, “Hold it with your teeth.” Upon review they realized what they needed was a large alligator clip, that is, hold it with those teeth.

My daughter had to attend a teacher’s seminar on brainstorming. They were supposed to brainstorm uses for a certain item, which I forget. The average teacher came up with maybe 3 uses. When time was up, she had like 25 and was still writing as fast as she could, and the person teaching the seminar admitted the wrong person was teaching it.

With experience in brainstorming, it can be used for almost anything, including personal problems.

In business class we had to brainstorm an idea to keep elephants from using telecommunication poles for scratching their backs. I suggested they train the lead elephant not to do this. The actual remedy was to build a cone like structure at the base of the pole, the elephants could not get close enough to scratch themselves.

Lube places are already legally liable for any damage that they cause, as are other shops. Most shops, including lube franchises, carry liability insurance to cover errors of this type. Whatever falls under the exclusionary clause of the policy they have to pay for, whatever is covered the insurance pays for. With franchises, they may be covered under a group policy through their franchisor or by an individual policy, depending on the franchise agreement. The problem for the victim is always proving that the shop caused the damage.

Advertising this would do nothing to bring in business. It would turn business away. It would undermine the sense of security of potential customers. Think about it, would you hire a plumber whose advertising emphasized that he’d make good on his mistakes?

References to mistakes are only good in the advertisements of lawyers, not of service providers.

mb, I did cover the “pickel” you put yourself in when you acknowledge that things can and will go wrong. Who enters a quickie lube theses days not having heard some type of quickie lube horror story? Must be some because they keep comming on in. I know there is going to be trouble with both the wording of the promise and the marketing of the idea “when we mess up we will make it right”.

The unwritten rule in just about every aspect of life is to present yourself as if failure is the last thing possible, we all know this is fantasy, but you must keep up appearances.

I had a boss that would come over and quiz me how the job was going, even if I was having trouble or if I was simply facing normal complications this guy did not want to hear anything negative (even if it was the truth). The response he wanted was “boss things are going fantastic, I should be done any minute and nothing to worry about”, even if you were up to your neck in alligators.