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September 05, 2006

Interview With Lori Miller - Dipstick Fast Lube

Undercar_1 Lori Miller was your average, everyday women consumer before she started her lube shop. She had a first-hand experience with a poor service shop that did damage to her car. Instead of regret, she took charge! She opened Dipstick Fast Lube, her own all-female shop with all women technicians! Ask Patty sat down with Lori and her team to talk with her about her shop and her experiences in the  service industry.

Above Photo:  Lori Miller, owner of Dipstick Fast Lube, is center.

ASK PATTY: Can you tell me a little bit about your company, Dipstick Fast Lube?

Lori: Located in the small town of Easley, South Carolina, Dipstick Fast Lube is, it seems, the first in the Nation all-female staffed Fast Lube. We currently have four female technicians on staff: me (Lori Miller), Amy Williamson, Sarah Valdivia, and Aidee Casebier. We opened our first shop on April 15, 2006. We’ve been in business close to 4 and ½ months and we have serviced over 1,200 vehicles.

ASK PATTY: What made you want to start an all-female owned and operated fast lube shop?

Lori: I originally came up with the idea for Dipstick a little over two years and until my dream was realized I thought about it non-stop. I have to give total credit for the idea after the engine blew in my Dodge Durango. I had the oil changed and the car was serviced every 3,000 miles and I was trusting mechanics I took my vehicle to time and time again to actually be servicing my car as they should have. I would take my car to them; I would sit in the lobby thumbing through magazines as my car would disappear for about half an hour. Little did I know absolutely nothing was being done to my car. After the damage was done was when I found out it wasn’t being serviced. Four thousand dollars later, and completely disgusted with all male mechanics, is when the idea hit me that a woman needed to open up a car maintenance business and never treat their customers the way I was treated.

ASK PATTY: What is the advantage of having a female owned and operated lube business?

Lori: Amy and I have a theory about this. First, women’s hands are smaller so it’s easier for us to get to oil filters placed in confined areas. Second, women tend not to over tighten a new oil filter. Men have this natural reaction—the tighter the better. This is not the case with an oil filter. And third, women just look better greasy and sweaty under the hood of a car (compared to men).

ASK PATTY: What are the challenges for you as a women working in the automotive industry?

Lorismile Lori: The automotive industry just naturally has always been predominately male operated. Being women, we are trusting customers to go out on a limb and trust us in the maintenance of their vehicles. Especially here in the United States, the automotive world is HUGE. So much of the U.S. doesn’t have mass transit systems and most of the Nation has to have their own form of transportation to get up every morning, go to work and be able to make a living. Maintaining your vehicle is terribly important and we want to do the job right. Making our customers happy and performing honest service is our #1 priority. And being women we are automatically tested and second-guessed by men every single on day whether or not we know what we are doing. We have to prove ourselves over and over again.

ASK PATTY: What if any are the big changes you are seeing today in how vehicles are being marketed to women?

Lori: I still feel strongly that the automotive industry is exclusively a male industry. This is something all us women want to change. We need the people who design and manufacture vehicles to look at the things we desire in cars as women .In other words I don’t see big changes. Not yet…

ASK PATTY: Tell me about your most recent personal experience buying a vehicle. What vehicle did you buy, and why did you buy it?

Lori: In August of 2005, I made my way to the Toyota dealership in Greer, SC, and a couple hours later I drove away in a 2005 Toyota Camry. I was specifically in the prowl for a five-speed Camry and this is what I currently drive. The portion of my experience that I now look back on and could kick myself over is the maintenance plan the salesman talked me into. It was late into the night—I had gone there after work and I was exhausted and all alone—and the next thing I know I am signing a paper I knew little or nothing about just to be allowed to leave in the car. From that point on I’ve been forking out over $100 more each month for a maintenance plan that allows me to get my car serviced for free at any Toyota dealership. Little did I know I would be in business for myself, changing my own oil and completely stuck in a maintenance plan I don’t need.

ASK PATTY: Can you give women some basic tips or “things to know” before taking their car in for a service/lube?

Lori: The number one thing is when a light comes on on the dashboard which says something along the lines of “Change Oil Soon,” etc., do NOT lift the hood and add oil. Never ever do this. Most of these indicator lights are preset with the mileage and can’t note the level of oil in your vehicle. If you add any amount you are risking overfilling your engine with oil and this is never a good thing. These lights do not mean “you should add two quarts of oil.” We get this quite often from our customers and what women need to know is get your oil changed when you can if an indicator light comes on. Bone dry your vehicle may take 4 to 4.5 quarts and when you add unnecessary oil you risk damage to your engine.

As equally important, all drivers need to know how to check their fluid levels, specifically their dipstick. Turn off your engine and let it sit for a few minutes. Pull out the stick, wipe it off, push it back in as far as it will go and then look at the level. I think women need to feel more comfortable lifting the hood of the car.

We have another tip concerning air filters. An air filter does not need to be changed each and every time the car is serviced. You should be hands-on, requiring the service tech to show them the filter. If you can’t see light through the filter when it is held against light, then it needs to be replaced. If you can see light, the air filter is fine. This is often the way fast lubes push the ticket margin to get more money out of their customers. It is sometimes a hoax.

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