Friday, April 17, 2009

Say Uncle, Ed!

I used to adore Uncle Ed. Found comfort in him. Enjoyed spending time with him. He made me feel safe.

Then he went and got greedy, and now I've disowned him.

Uncle Ed's Oil Change was one of my hangouts, back in the day. We're talking the 1990s here. It was before the drive-thru oil change places started sprouting, like mushrooms.

I could cruise into Uncle Ed's, with its brown and yellow color scheme, sit in my car, and know that the dudes beneath my car were dutifully draining and changing me. I could read the paper, chill out, and be done within the 15 minute time frame that Uncle Ed promised on his signs.

I made it a practice to give the good folks there a thumbs up as I left. It was my little ritual. It wouldn't surprise me if I was the only one with such a ritual.

All I needed to do after I pulled into a stall was fill out a brief form on the Uncle Ed clipboard, which asked me what services I'd like to enjoy beyond oil changing.

Need some new wiper blades? Place a check mark next to it. Like your tires filled and the pressure checked? Mark it down! Top off your windshield solvent? Go for it.

Then Uncle Ed, and the knock-offs that he spawned, got all insurance salesman-ish.

Suddenly, a trip to Uncle Ed's and his brethren became similar to a saunter into bear-filled woods with honey smeared all over you.

Oil changes weren't enough anymore for my uncle.

Before I knew it, I was being shown filthy fluids and cruddy air filters and being lectured about catalytic converters and the evils of driving a mile further without a radiator flush.

They began trying to run up the bill on you at the drive-thru oil change places, and they were absolutely shameless about it.

They used scare tactics, plain and simple.

Of course, I didn't fall for any of it, but that wasn't the point. But I think it made them kind of angry, because another trait the oil change guys began assuming was to try to make you feel like you were now driving a death-mobile after rebuffing their advances.

The attitude was, "OK, if you say so...but don't come crawling to me when your engine blows up at the next traffic light."

It's actually been exposed by real mechanics that most of the extras that the oil change places try to sell you are unnecessary at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Before I eschewed the drive-thru places entirely, I would pull in on the offensive.

"Just an oil change," I'd say firmly. Then I'd add, "Nothing else. And I know I need a new air filter, by the way. I'll pick one up later."

Their faces would sink.

In other words, "I'm here to spend my $19.95, plus tax, and not one penny more!"

Dammit.

Eventually I gave up on going to Uncle Ed's, or any of his competitors, entirely. I found a trusty mechanic and gave him all my oil change (and everything else having to do with old cars) business.

There was nothing more irritating than having one of those cheery grease monkeys amble up to me with some sort of dipstick in his hand. For I was supposed to be petrified at what he was showing me. Mostly I'd just look and nod.

"So, for $59.95 we can do a--"

"Just an oil change. Please."

Uncle Ed got greedy. Boy, did he ever.

Is that how you treat nieces and nephews? By luring them into your shop with the promise of a reasonably priced oil change, then scare them into unnecessary services?

They got it all wrong at the drive-thru oil change joints. They keep trying to insert the dipsticks into their customers' tailpipes.

1 comment:

  1. I have had a similar experience as yourself.

    Not only are they extraordinarily pushy with useless services, they are now officially the most expensive quick oil change in the state of Michigan.

    Had my power steering flushed, smelled like very strong degreaser was in the p/s system afterwards, I took it back and told them about the problem, they refused to do anything insisting that it was normal. My mechanic said it is NOT normal. I sampled the fluid, took it to the lab at my college. The fluid had massive amounts of an unidentifiable chemical cleaner of some sort in it. (Said the lab results)

    The owner is not Uncle anybody, he is a real estate tycoon who lives in Florida. They President is a man by the name of Dennis who runs the show here in Michigan.

    Ever notice how Uncle Ed's cycles through whole new crews of employees on what seems a monthly basis? Seems they have problems keeping good help. Wonder why. Hmmmmm. Bad management? Greedy management?

    Somehow they ended up being voted as "Michigan's best oil change of 2008", which they pawn off in a 1 minute long phone answering session every time you call one of their 29 locations.

    I was told by one of their employees that the district managers watch them from anonymous locations, with binoculars to keep up on what the employees are doing on a daily basis. Write-ups for smoking, eating at the wrong time OR 2 people eating at the same time, using your mobile phone, even if you are out of sight and there are no customers, taking too long of a bathroom break, inactivity for prolonged periods of time, for not being "cheerful" enough when making call outs. They actually want employees to scream in a military fashion for every step of work on a vehicle. As a customer, that is rude and scary. Sounds like nothing but a Wal-Mart to me. Treat employees like garbage and profit from it.

    ReplyDelete

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