r-daub-a-blog, June 21, 2006

I’m sitting in the lounge of Jiffy Lube location #1307 waiting for the J-Team to change the oil that has been in my car a couple of thousand miles too long with some nice, fresh Pennzoil—and also to fill me up with some more windshield wiper fluid that always proves so valuable in wiping bug storms off my windshield while driving along the country roads around here.

In addition, they will top off the antifreeze/coolant (if necessary), vacuum the interior, put air in the tires, and give me a ticket for a free run through the automated car wash (retail value $3.00)—all for the $35.95 I was just quoted, which doesn’t even include the $3.00 coupon on the ‘RETURN FOR SERVICE’ sticker they affix to the windshield to remind you when and at what mileage your next oil change is due. This was an issue the last time I was here a couple of months back when the cashier gave me a bit of an attitude because you’re technically supposed to use this coupon within 500 miles of the mileage printed on the sticker, but, as is the case again today, I was more than 2,000 miles over (my total commute is about a hundred miles a day, so I would be here constantly if I faithfully followed the 3,000 mile per-change recommendation). After an awkward moment, she reluctantly said, as if doing me a favor that required extraordinary effort, that she’ll accept it this time, but that next time she wouldn’t be able to extend such a courtesy to someone who does not adhere to the terms of the discount explicitly stated on said windshield sticker coupon.

She probably forgot all about me as soon as I walked out the door that day, but ever since then it has been weighing on my mind because I knew there was no way I was ever going to make it back within the 500 mile buffer zone. Before this incident, never once had any cashier at any Jiffy Lube location I had ever been to said anything to me about this coupon compliance issue, so I’m not sure if this was a managerial crackdown or if she was just in a foul mood that day. But, if it was the latter reason, I may be in luck because working the counter today is a different cashier whom I have never seen before.

There are six other customers sitting here in the lounge with me, a number that left me the opportunity to secure the last available seat. There were two vehicles ahead of me on line for bay #2 when I pulled in around back, and the guy who greeted me with the clipboard (another J-Team member whom I have never seen before) and took down my mileage and gave me the price quote after consulting the Jiffy Lube International, Inc. database informed me with his nearly unintelligible speed-mumble that it would be about a 25 minute wait and invited me to have a seat here in the lounge.

I have been coming to location #1307 for nearly two years now since my wife and I moved out this way, and during that time I have grown accustomed to seeing the same faces during each visit. Today, however, in addition to the cashier and the clipboard guy, I don’t recognize anyone. Where’s the ‘Clipboard Kid,’ the one who usually greets the customers and looks like he’s nine years old? What about ‘Kubiac,’ the portly guy with the goatee down in the pit who normally does the oil changes? And, of course, what happened to ‘Cashier Chick,’ the one with the strong appetite for Marlboro Lights who had been cool up until that last visit?

This turnover is a bit disconcerting, and I am relieved at having taken my usual precautions of removing the ignition key from the keychain and taking the rest of my keys into the lounge with me, along with my coffee mug, water bottle, bookbag, and Sirius satellite radio—especially since I was almost at the point where I felt I knew these people just well enough to leave all that stuff in the car while they performed their tasks. But they are all gone now, leaving myself and every other patron with me here in this lounge today having to deal with a J-Team made up of total strangers. Perhaps the old sports team adage of rooting for the uniform and not the player can come into play here, but that doesn’t seem applicable in this case because fans don’t normally interact with their favorite sports teams the way customers interact with their local J-Team.

Another disconcerting development is the addition of a low-quality radio with the volume turned way up high to a country music station. The new chairs, however, are nice—solid, stained-wood frames covered with plush leather upholstery, the kind of chair you might find as a guest seat in front of the desk of a powerful corporate executive—a big improvement over the old plastic Wal-Mart specials they had in here previously. These chairs impressed me so much last time that I told my wife all about them when I got home.

Then there’s the coffee machine—nothing new here. I wouldn’t mind a cup right now (not that I need it after having already guzzled my usual two large cups today), but I have a bit of a phobia about drinking Jiffy Lube lounge coffee. This may stem from having had my oil changed at Jiffy Lube what— fifty? A hundred times now?—and not once ever having seen a customer or an employee pour themselves a cup.

I have been here ten minutes now, and the plumber’s van that was ahead of me just pulled out of the bay, so my princely ’98 Camry should be next—and yes, there it is. In fact, they had it in the bay with the hood popped open even before I finished scribbling that last sentence. Kudos to the new J-Team!

Whoa… For a moment there while I was busy with that last paragraph, I thought history might actually be taking place in the form of one of the other customers pouring himself a cup of Jiffy java. When I looked up, however, I saw that he was actually only pouring himself a cup of water from the water cooler next to the coffee machine (but almost in a way like he was pouring himself a glass of whiskey after receiving some bad news—which, in fact, he did, because the new cashier informed him that it would be another few minutes because the malfunctioning turn signal bulb they were going to replace on his vehicle was mistakenly replaced on someone else’s of which the bulb was likely functioning just fine).

It’s been around fifteen minutes now and it appears that they’re almost done, which, based on the time estimate I was given, leads me to believe that this franchise follows the old customer service philosophy of under-promising and over-delivering. In fact, the hood just slammed shut on the ol’ Camry and the cashier is calling out, “Camry? ’98 Camry? ‘Who owns the ’98 Camry?” Alright, I’d better get up there—I’ll be right back…

* * *

Five minutes later in the car wash bay…

Well, New Cashier Chick took my coupon without making me feel like I was trying to get away with something, which may be why she’s in there now instead of Old Cashier Chick. Perhaps the previous crew simply burned themselves out after one too many radiator flushes and it infected their attitude to the point where someone down at corporate headquarters in Houston exclaimed “Break up the J-Team at 1307!” after being handed a report submitted by a mystery shopper.

Whatever the case may be, a new era has begun here at ol’ #1307, and I am very happy to have experienced it firsthand. In fact, the final price after the coupon was applied turned out to be $28.89 since I didn’t need the antifreeze/coolant topoff after all. For everything that comes with the Signature Service, including the honesty and integrity of the J-Team, that’s a pretty damn good deal in my book!

And now here I am relaxing in the car wash bay as the padded talons work their way around my vehicle and lather it with their soapy mist, followed by a high-pressure rinse that will hopefully remove the bird shit that has been caked to the passenger side window for the past week. And now the finale—a sprinkle of clear-coat protectant that seems to take forever when you’re on line waiting for the vehicle ahead of you finish, but, when it’s you in there, feels like nary a moment has passed before it’s over and you’re rolling under the heat dryers feeling Zest-fully Clean® in your Well-Oiled Machine® and free of the fear that your engine could seize at any moment and leave you stranded by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere because of your own inexcusable neglect…

And yes, the bird shit is gone… ▪