Piston Slap: Wither the Upsell and Cross-sell?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Craig writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I hate the upsell that happens at places like Jiffy Lube, NTB, etc., and one service they seem hell-bent on pushing on everyone is the transmission flush.

I have looked at the service intervals of various vehicles and a lot of them never specify a transmission flush. I’ve read on the internet that it can even be bad for your transmission if it isn’t needed. I don’t doubt there is a finite life for the tranny fluid, but I would just like to hear your and the B&B’s take on the matter.

Sajeev answers:

Transmission flushes have been discussed in the past ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) so perhaps we should discuss the validity of such selling tactics.

But first, a point of order: you might be talking about cross-selling. Upselling is when a shop pushes a synthetic oil change when you wanted the dino stuff. But both happen and they are despised/appreciated depending on the customer. That said, my full-time gig is in car retailing, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

You don’t have to hate this, but I understand why it rubs people the wrong way. If said shop does not show value via credible up/cross sell, the action likely provokes the negative response you’re mentioning.

Here are credible up/cross sells I pulled outta my ass I bet would make a sale, or at least not offend the customer’s sensibilities:

  • I see that well-used trailer hitch, and given your mileage and condition of the fluid, I recommend a transmission fluid flush.
  • If you drove through flood waters after Hurricane Harvey, let us change the differential fluid, especially since there are signs of a leaky diff cover gasket that could let water in.
  • How long do you plan on keeping this vehicle?
    • You should switch to synthetic oil now because (show value)
    • Your shocks are worn out and leaking, which is bad because (show value)
    • Your brakes have about 6 months left on them, so since you’re here AND we have this great coupon…

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with up/cross sell as people often want it: they want THE BEST in a Good/Better/Best proposition. I once spent weeks convincing a former co-worker to stop feeding her four-banger Camry a diet of premium fuel. Even the owner’s manual didn’t convince her!

Not all customers are created equal, some want the best and businesses gotta at least offer it. And wouldn’t you love to buy a used car for a friend/family member with a full service history including regular transmission flushes?

Problem is:

  • Which shop/employee shows value to the customer, versus pushing whatever’s on the printout?
  • Does the shop push employees harder on up/cross sell than they should?

Those two questions are always in the back of my mind. Off to you, Best and Brightest.

[Image: Shutterstock user Syda Productions]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
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  • Oldschool Oldschool on Apr 08, 2018

    I drive for Uber in the side here and there and when I first got my 17 Impala it had around 28,000 miles on it which was a lot for only being a year old. I’d say around the 35K mark, the tranny was shifting a bit harsh, not bad per se but noticeably different than when I first got it. I read online that these GM 6 speeds have a small drain plug that drains 5 quarts of fluid, so I bought some Dexton VI and changed it myself as the dealer wanted over $150 just to loosen a 11mm bolt, ya right I’m not getting ripped off like that ever again. To my surprise I was shocked to see how dark the fluid was at only 35K miles!! Very dark red in color and it smelt bad. The service intervals on these tranny’s is every 60K, shoot if I went with that service interval, I could be looking at a new transmission soon or at least a prematurely worn one. It took 3 drain and refills to finally get the fluid back to that bright red color, and now the trans shifts like butter. It goes to show that sometimes you have to take upon yourself to get the results you need. Just imagine the cost for back to back drain n refills at the dealer or a Indy shop? Insane amount of money wasted for a 10 min DIY ordeal. The job is so easy anybody could do it with basic hand tools. With modern cars having more powerful drivetrains that get very hot and some not having a separate trans coolers, it’s even more vital to do a drain and refill periodically if your vehicle has a drain plug because the fluid can overheat much faster than what the manufacturers are willling to tell you. I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to fluid changes, so personally I’ll probably drain another 5 quarts of trans fluid in 10K miles so the transmission constantly has fresh fluid in its system. Shouldn’t have any long term trans issues (cross my fingers) if I stick to that plan unless it gets taken out by something totally out of my control.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Apr 09, 2018

    Every year when my car went in for service under warranty, the BMW dealer tried to get me to have the tires rotated and balanced, and an alignment done. This despite the fact that the car tracks like a train, is smoother than a baby's butt at 100+ mph, and the tires wore all but perfectly evenly as befits a car with 50:50 weight distribution. And BMW says right in the owner's manual that "tire rotation is not recommended". And of course, not covered under the maintenance warranty, so that would be $300 please. Uh, no, thanks. They gave up when I bought the second one from them.

  • Fred My 2020 Fit has a great phone pairing system and Andriod Auto. However I never use AA and rarely pair my phone through BT. I listen to FM and have an old school XM receiver with a strong transmitter that I use daily.
  • MGS1995 Apple CarPlay is a must. Everything from maps to music, texting to phone calls. Agree with Syke, didn't know what I was missing until I used it.
  • Syke Very. Having Apple CarPlay in my Bolt has been an eye-opener for me. One of those "got along fine without it until I tried it, now, how did I ever live without it?" applications. Yes, I'll accept an equivalent, maybe, after I've tried it out for awhile.
  • Teddyc73 Oh look, dull dreary grey with black trim. How original. The greying of America continues.
  • Redapple2 It doesnt cost much for the mfr to add it as standard. Car makers always strive to surprise and delight the customer. Always ask yourself when considering a new ride, are they trying to take of me- treat me or screw me hard. Take the vampire. A couple quick- come to mind -examples. 1 deleting carplay. 2 buy a Denali and Chrystal Pearl White paint is $1295. On a 2024 Subaru Forester is free. I d put it to you, the Forester's paint is better. Do your own test. Is the Evil gm Vampire trying to Surprise and delight you or screw you??