Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The good, the bad, the profitable

October 11, 2010

In 1996, we purchased seven Jiffy Lubes in Albany, NY, partially as a compliment to our existing carwashes in the upstate New York market. Today we operate 11 Jiffy Lubes, six of them attached to a carwash.

Immediately after purchasing the Jiffy Lubes we began to cross-market the two businesses as a way to increase car counts, sales and profits of both the Jiffy Lubes and our carwashes. Over the years many of our efforts have succeeded and our Jiffy Lube car counts have consistently grown while the industry has been experiencing declining counts.

However, some of our efforts have failed. I’ll try to identify and explain some of our good ideas, and some which were not so good, in the hope our experiences may help you.

One for all, but not always
As a general rule we feature our carwashes and Jiffy Lubes together in print media. Since the largest portion of any direct mail campaign is the cost of postage, it makes sense to include both businesses when designing a mailer. Additionally, making a newspaper ad slightly larger to feature both businesses has always proven to be a good investment.

However, we rarely combine our carwashes and Jiffy Lubes when developing the creative content for electronic media. We have found it difficult to effectively market both businesses in a 30-second spot.

What has worked

1. Free wash with a Jiffy Lube. While this would appear to be a “no-brainer,” it remains the most controversial of all our cross-marketing efforts.

Within our company there are those who feel it was a major factor in growing our Jiffy Lube business immediately after the acquisition. That side feels the offer differentiates and adds value to our basic oil change. The other side feels we hurt the perceived value of the carwash by giving it away.

It’s important for an operator to think this decision through prior to committing to, probably for life, the offer of a free wash with an oil change. At one of our locations, we rescinded the offer for a period of time and our customers made it clear how they felt about the decision. After about six months we returned to a free carwash with an oil change. It’s difficult to take back a service once you begin to offer it free.

We market the free carwash on every Jiffy Lube coupon and in every radio and TV spot we develop. Our customers have come to expect a free carwash when they visit one of our Jiffy Lube locations.

2. Car wash coupons with Jiffy Lube reminder mail. Like many lube shop operators, we mail our customers a reminder every 90 days and, along with a Jiffy Lube coupon, we include a carwash coupon. The cost of the carwash coupon is essentially nothing since we are already paying for the printing and postage of the Jiffy Lube coupon.

We have also used the reminder mail to market our express detail services, remind customers about gift books during the holidays and introduce new services like tire shine. Since these are being sent to customers who already use our Jiffy Lube services, we receive a high redemption rate on the coupons and offers.

3. Jiffy Lube coupons on greeter tickets. We use greeter tickets at our three traditional full service locations. On the portion of the ticket retained by the customer is a perforated Jiffy Lube coupon. The customer simply tears off the coupon to use on the next visit. The redemption rate for this type of coupon is among the highest in the Jiffy Lubes. Again, the cost is negligible since we are already producing the greeter ticket.

4. Jiffy Lube coupons in ticket books. We sell a lot of our carwash ticket books. The books offer four carwashes at a discounted price and in each book we include a coupon for an oil change, printed on the inside of the back cover of the carwash book. By using a space that already exists, we are able to keep the incremental costs of an additional coupon down.

This coupon always ranks among the top five coupons redeemed in our Jiffy Lubes.

What has not worked

1. Selling books in the lubes. We have tried for years to increase the number of carwash books sold by our Jiffy Lube shops. To date, our results have been dismal.

The books are included in the computer-based service review we conduct with every customer and POS material is located at the cash register. The only time we sell carwash books in any volume is during the holiday season and only at our Jiffy Lube service centers attached to our exterior carwashes. Customers will come into the Jiffy Lube lounges and purchase carwash books for gifts during the holiday season.

Outside of this 4-6 week period, we have had very little success selling carwash books in our Jiffy Lubes.

2. Converting full service customers. It can be very humbling if you’ve ever driven cars onto the conveyor at your full service locations and tracked the number of your oil change competitions’ static stickers on the windshield of your carwash customers.

To convert these customers we had “Post-it” style sticky notes printed to look like a $5.00 off coupon. We asked our drive-off guys to place one in every vehicle that did not have our company’s static sticker.

The drive-off guys didn’t like doing it and some of our customers were not happy with a sticky note appearing on their windshields. The idea probably failed more due to poor execution on our part than it not being a good idea.

3. Upgrading Jiffy Lube customers. We offer all our Jiffy Lube customers the opportunity to upgrade from the free exterior carwash to our Ultimate Car Wash (includes an undercarriage wash, polish and Rain-X) for half price. This represents a $5 purchase to the customer.

Our Jiffy Lube shops upgrade less than 10 percent of our customers. This percentage has remained fairly constant over the years and is always below our expectations.

We feel the conversion is low because one, we have not done a good job of establishing the value of the upgraded wash package with the customer and two, our Jiffy Lube technicians have a lot of services to review with a customer and the carwash upgrades tend to get lost in the service review.

A happy pair
Having owned the lube shops for the past 10 years we feel the two businesses compliment one another. On busy carwash days our Jiffy Lube volumes will increase. Conversely, we see them decline on rainy days.

Customers who frequent one of our businesses and have a good experience are predisposed to visiting the other business. Marketing them together increases the likelihood a customer will take advantage of both the lube and carwash offer on the same visit. We have many customers who drop off their vehicle for an oil change and ask that we take it to the carwash for a detail service.

While not all of our cross-marketing efforts have worked, we feel we learned something from each of them and will continue to seek new ways to bring the businesses together in our customers’ minds.


Ron Slone is the vice-president of Hoffman Development Corporation. The company operates 18 carwash and 11 Jiffy Lube locations in the Albany, NY market. You can reach Ron at rslone@hoffman-developement.com.