Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Persistence Pays

Needing a state inspection for my car, I recently drove to a nearby Jiffy Lube. While there, I remembered that my car was a bit overdue for an oil change. I had always had oil changes done at my normal repair shop, but in this instance, the effort required to schedule and keep an appointment with my mechanic whose shop is a 30 minute drive away, was overcome by the sheer convenience of having the job done right then and there.

Within 24 hours of my oil change, my car began making horrible noises, particularly when turning the steering wheel even the slightest bit. Upon checking my power steering fluid (I was familiar with the procedure and the look and level of the fluid), I discovered that the fluid in the reservoir was frothing up as it overflowed onto my garage floor. And it had a strange color and consistency. After having the car towed to my Audi repairman, he confirmed that it looked like the wrong fluid had been introduced into the reservoir. He couldn’t confirm it without chemical analysis, but based on his experience, it looked wrong, and was the most likely reason for the simultaneous and complete failure of my steering rack and pump. The repair would cost nearly $2,400.

I suspected immediately that during Jiffy Lube’s service the previous day, when my fluids were “topped off”, the technician used an incorrect power steering fluid for my car, and had likely overfilled the reservoir. Both would be easy mistakes to make if proper procedures were ignored. The service manual clearly states (in red print) that fluid types must never be mixed (use the Audi approved fluid only), and the reservoir must not be overfilled.

I immediately filed a claim with customer service for Jiffy Lube International in Houston, TX. Their job, I later learned, was simply to pass the claim information on to the 100% locally owned Jiffy Lube franchise. In my case, this was a company called Lucor, based in Raleigh. At first, the Lucor customer service guy (Joe) seemed pleasant and helpful. He took some additional information and even called my mechanic to confirm the details. Joe requested a sample of the power steering fluid taken from my car, which I gladly supplied. I wanted to cover my bases, though, so I asked for the name of the lab where they planned to have the fluid analyzed. It was at this point that things got less friendly. Joe began to realize that I was not the average customer whose claim could easily be brushed aside. He became defensive and unhelpful, even as I remained pleasantly persistent.

To make a very long (2 month) story short, I continued to be persistent through chemical analysis, denial of my claim, additional chemical analysis and research, which I paid for, numerous phone conversations, hours of documenting, and a final denial of my claim, with a “no further recourse” reply from Lucor. I was treated disrespectfully, with defensive tactics designed to confuse and exasperate. Evidence pointed to the likelihood that I had suffered a loss at their hands (even though it couldn’t be proven), and they summarily dismissed my claim, at one point indicating they were 100% sure they had not made a mistake. Pretty bold claim for a guy who hadn’t been in the Jiffy Lube store that day!

I was not finished fighting to be reimbursed. I decided that before I registered a serious complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and put the power of social media to work getting my story out, I should attempt to find the person who might have the most interest in protecting the Jiffy Lube name. I persisted until I actually reached the office of Steven Ledbetter, the president and CEO of Jiffy Lube International, a company owned by Shell Oil. I was invited to send an email outlining my claim and the disappointing response from the franchise.

 Within 45 minutes, my email had been seen by 3 executives, and I received a personal email from Steven Ledbetter himself. He apologized, asked for a few days to research, and promised a reply within one week. I am happy to report that Mr. Ledbetter was a man of his word. In 6 days, I received a phone call indicating that I would be receiving a check to reimburse me for the entire cost of my repair.

Two lessons: First, I’m reminded that my own clients deserve to be treated with the same high level of integrity and good service I received from the highest Jiffy Lube executives. And second…persistence pays!

1 comment:

Tony P said...

Doug, I'm actually going through something similar after an experience with a local Jiffy Lube. Can you pass along the contact information for the executives and Steve Ledbetter? I'm completely drawing blanks wherever I look. Thank you!