Wallet Flushing: Flushed
Chances are, as an operator, you are familiar with the various fluid flushes common to the fast lube industry. However, there is one flush in particular that had the po- tential to negatively affect the industry as a whole had it come to fruition: the wallet flush. The “wallet flush initiative” sprung to life after a local news station in Southern California rocked the state’s fast lube industry by going undercover to investigate the practices of automotive shops. What they discovered enraged consumers and forced the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (CA BAR) to take action. Because of this, an initiative was born. Wallet flush violations included:
• False claims of benefits (e.g., lowers emissions, improves gas mileage)
• Misrepresentations of vehicle system condition
• Failure to tell the customer the services are not recommended by the manufacturer or risks that are associated to the process and chemical agents used
• Failure to describe all aspects of service so consumers can understand parts and labor purchased or disclose that the flush is being performed as part of a service package
• False advertisements, including use of vehicle manufacturer logos
“They claimed we were recommending services too soon, things that the OEM didn’t recommend, essentially defrauding the public,” said John Denholm, compliance officer of Oil Changers, Inc.
Fortunately, wallet flushing has been flushed, thanks in large part to the timely removal of the two individuals spearhead ing the movement and the persistence of the various industry organizations in opposition.
A statement was issued by the acting chief of the CA BAR, at long last putting an end to their “wallet flush” initiative saying, in an official letter sent to BAR’s Advisory Group as well as industry groups, “The Bureau of Automotive Repair has spent the last year reviewing the marketing and disclosure practices for providing fluid and flush services in the automotive repair industry. After careful review of the practices and communications of automotive repair stations as well as conducting meetings and workshops with the manufacturers of vehicles and automotive fluids and chemical agents, the Bureau has decided not to pursue a new public awareness campaign at this time.”
Needless to say, had it gone through, the implications for the industry would have been very grim indeed.
“Although the industry is moving in the direction of light repairs and shops are branching out and doing more services than ever, there are still many quick lubes in California that are committed to just fluid changes, the basic quick lube model if you will,” Denholm said. “The company I work for is one of them. Our business is basically fluids only. Had this passed, these business models just wouldn’t work anymore.” And it’s not just the fast lube industry that would have been affected.
“It would have hurt not only the oil change industry, but it would have also hurt the customer,” Denholm said. “Instead of zipping in for a transmission service where they put a hose down in the transmission, pull out the fluid and put new in, in 10 minutes, you’re taking your car to a mechanic or a dealership where you have to drop it off and pay the hourly rate for the work. The customer would have to spend more money while getting an inferior service.”