Running a Shop Customer Service

An Inspection with Impact

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A sentiment that is often echoed by quick lube operators and the greater automotive aftermarket alike is the importance of community involvement. Community is found at the core of many aftermarket businesses, and it goes beyond simply being available during a shop’s hours of operation. In some cases, it can mean showing up for a community when they need it the most.  

This sentiment hits close to home for South Bay Lube, which is a Jiffy Lube franchise with 32 locations in Florida. Following the recent devastation of Hurricane Ian across the state, South Bay Lube co-presidents Jason Thomas and Leif Oskarsson saw firsthand how the natural disaster impacted every aspect of life in Florida.  

“In our situation, with the hurricane, it impacted not just our business but impacted the employees and families of our business,” Thomas says.  

Thomas says some South Bay Lube locations lost power for five days or longer and some were flooded. Almost every location was closed for the first two to three days following the storm. Thomas even created a spreadsheet to keep track of the status and needs of each location. Gradually, they began to open back up, but not without preparation and cleanup efforts. 

Additionally, many employees had damage to their homes, and some went without water access for weeks. It was a life-altering experience for all involved. But the incredible response after the storm was inspiring for Thomas to witness.  

“The following day, we had so many people out on the road, assessing the situation, getting back to locations [and] seeing what they could do to help,” Thomas says. “It was amazing to see that. I couldn’t be any more proud of the people, the men and women that ... are part of our South Bay Lube family.” 

Establish A Response 

The extensive storm damage quickly revealed the needs of the community. Thomas notes that people got back to their lives after the storm out of necessity. They were still grabbing coffee in the mornings, going to work, dropping their kids off at school and doing what they needed to do to keep going.  

“Some of the areas are just obliterated. So, the simplest things like gas, electricity and food became the number one priority,” Thomas says.  

For South Bay Lube, prioritization came from a place of compassion. Thomas says they ensured that employees continued to receive their wages. When it came to supporting the community, there wasn’t even a question as to whether their team would help or not. 

They decided to offer free vehicle inspections to help drivers determine the safety of their vehicles, considering many cars got flooded during the storm. 

“We didn’t want to monetize on people suffering,” Thomas says. “We just wanted to look at the car, [and] if there’s something we see, [the driver] needs to make the decision … at least they know about it. They can get it somewhere and park it [or] whatever they’re going to do instead of just keep driving on it.”  

Initially, the complimentary inspections were set to be offered at South Bay Lube locations in southwest Florida through the end of October 2022. But at the time of this writing, Thomas says he is open to offering the free inspections for a longer period and that the services could be made available at every South Bay Lube location as necessary.  

“If we were a sandwich shop, we would be giving away free coffee and sandwiches,” Thomas says. “If we were a car wash, we would wash your car for free.” 

Bring Everyone Together 

The motivation behind the free vehicle inspections isn’t about getting more customers through the door. It isn’t about making money or getting the South Bay Lube name out there. For Thomas and his team, it’s simple. It’s all about stepping up to help. In this case, that is accomplished by checking tire pressure, oil levels, engine air filtration systems, brake fluid, power steering fluid and more. 

“[For] a lot of people, their decisions are driven for monetary reasons, and that’s a shame. Either they don’t have enough of it, or they want more of it. So, it takes away the humanity,” Thomas says. “When people give, when people do good things, that’s not just good for other people – it's good for them [too.] A lot of repairs can get done to the soul when you go out and help people without asking anything.” 

Thomas says it’s unfortunate that the occurrence of a natural disaster had to be a driving factor for bringing people together, but as a business owner he is grateful that his shops can help check something off someone’s list during a hectic time. Thomas is proud to be part of such an astounding community-wide response effort. 

“This gives us hope. People are just so distant from each other and … quick to point out flaws and mistakes,” Thomas says. “This brings them together and shows them that they can be human again.” 

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