Quick lube financial advice

It’s been well over a decade since I took my vehicle to a national quick lube franchise for an oil change, but here’s how I remember my last experience.  I arrived a minute before they opened.  Through the garage doors, I could see several guys talking and laughing.  Five minutes later, the door opens, and I drive in.  Todd the technician greets me.

Todd: “How can I help you today?”

Me: “I’m looking for a new mattress.  Do you sell those here?  Actually, I’m here for an oil change.”

Todd: “Alright.  Do you want 5w30 or 10w30?”

Me: “Whatever you recommend, I guess.”

Todd: “Synthetic or conventional oil?”

Me: “Frankly, all I want is maximum protection against viscosity and thermal breakdown.”

Tech: “Okay, if you’ll have a seat in our waiting room, we’ll be with you shortly.”

Ahh, the waiting room.  That 6’ x 6’ space where customers share knowing glances, pretend to read two-month-old magazines and think up rebuttals to the inevitable.  After 15 minutes, I hear “Mr. Saa-Venker?”  (Close enough.)  “Mr. Saa-Venker, we gave your vehicle a thorough inspection as you can see from these marks on this piece of pink paper.  We inspected your engine air filtration system, filled your transfer case and differential, and lubricated your chassis.  We also…” (you get the idea).

Then Todd presented me with a list of concerns and recommendations.  “Would you like us to flush your transmission today?”  “Here’s your air filter, and here’s what a new one looks like.”  “Your rear wiper has a small crack in it.  We can replace it for $59.”  Invariably, I replied no to all these solicitations.  I couldn’t figure out if they were truly being helpful, or if their entire compensation depended on squeezing every possible additional service out of me.   All I wanted was an oil change.  Why does it have to be such a hassle?  It doesn’t.

I knew I needed to make a change, so I reached out for recommendations from my colleagues and friends, and eventually found somebody I knew I could trust. What I really appreciate is that he doesn’t try to upsell me on a dozen items every visit.  He doesn’t beat me up with shoptalk, and he doesn’t make me feel like a callous car owner.  I’ve had nothing but good experiences with him.  As a result, I’ve now recommended him to my family and friends.

Over the years, P&A has picked up a lot of new clients from the financial advisory version of the quick lube business model.  Sure, their old advisors were nice people, active in their church or community, and for the most part, probably believed they were helping their clients.  But like the quick lubers, they simply had a bad business model.  One that raised doubts rather than engendered trust.  One that felt more adversarial than advisory.  One that extracted more value from the client than it created for the client.

All people want to feel respected and understood, especially when it comes to their money and financial goals.  They don’t want to be sold products.  They don’t want to feel like a number.  They don’t want to be talked down to or made to feel stupid.  Why does it have to be such a hassle?  It doesn’t.

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Pittenger & Anderson, Inc. does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.  Additionally, the information presented here is not intended to be a recommendation to buy or sell any specific security.  To learn more about our firm and investment approach, check out our Form ADV.


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Since 1995, Pittenger & Anderson has guided individuals and families going through money-in-motion events. We are a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor and a full-time fiduciary providing investment management, financial planning, and complimentary services to 800+ clients in over 30 U.S. states.

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