Piston Slap: Wither the Upsell and Cross-sell?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap wither the upsell and cross sell

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 [s]I pulled outta my ass[/s] 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.

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2 of 46 comments
  • 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.

  • Rng65694730 All auto makers seem to be having problems ! Still supply chain issues !
  • MrIcky I'd go 2500 before I went 1500 with a 6.2. I watched an engineer interview on the 2.7l. I appreciate that their focus on the 2.7 was to make it perform like a diesel and all of their choices including being a relatively large i4 instead of an i6 were all based around it feeling diesel like in it's torque delivery. It's all marketing at the end of the day, but I appreciated hearing the rationale. Personally I wouldnt want to tow much more than 7-8k lbs with a light truck anyway so it seems to fit the 1500 application.
  • MaintenanceCosts If I didn't have to listen to it, I'd take the 2.7 over the 5.3 based both on low-end torque and reliability record (although it's still early). But the 5.3 does sound a lot nicer.
  • Arthur Dailey The Torino Bird which was relatively short lived (3 years), 'feasted' on the prestige originally associated with the T-Bird name. The Cordoba originally did the same as it had a Chrysler nameplate. The Torino 'Bird had modified 'opera' style middle windows, a large hood with a big chrome grill and hood ornament, pop-up headlights, and a 'plush' interior. It was for the time considered a 'good looking' car and could be ordered with a 400 cid engine (the first 2 years) and even a T-bar roof. You can see one just behind De Niro and Liotta in Goodfellas when they are standing in the diner's parking lot and have learned that Pesci has been 'whacked'.Although a basically a renaming/redesign of the (Gran Torino) Elite, the Elite was for a time available with Ford's 460 cid engine.I had both an Elite and a 'Torino Bird'. Although their wheelbases were the same, the 'Bird always seemed 'bigger' both inside and out. The Elite seemed 'faster' but it had the 460 opposed to the 400 in the 'Bird. But those are just subjective judgements/memories on my part. However the 'box Bird' which followed it was a dud. It sold Ok the first year based on the T-Bird name, (probably mostly leases) but it quickly lost any appeal/prestige. Back then, the management/executives of the Toronto Maple Leafs used to get leased T-Birds every year. After the first year of the 'box Bird' they changed to different vehicles.
  • Parkave231 Random question that -- in the interest of full disclosure -- I am too lazy to look up on my own.Back in the day, cars in my mostly-GM family had a hard lock on the steering wheel, such that unless the key was turned to the ACC position, the steering wheel was physically locked in place.I don't recall whether my 2002 Deville locked the wheel in place, but I want to say it didn't, even though it still had a physical key.And now, of course, most everything is push-button, and my current Cadillac doesn't physically lock the wheel.So was the movement away from a literal physical lock of the steering wheel back in the 80s driven solely by the transition to push-button start, or was there some other safety regulation that got rid of them, or just something else that a car manufacturer could omit for cost savings by running something else through software (I'm guessing this since the H/K issue is a thing).