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Dear LubesnGreases,

I am writing concerning Tom Glenns Need to Know columns in your April and May issues. I always read his columns and generally find them very informative and interesting, but these were different.

I was very taken aback by the April column (Raise Confidence, Not Suspicion), especially in its tone. I came away with the feeling that Glenn thought that most quick lubes are playing sophisticated games with their bulk oil (even highlighting that in a pull quote on the second page) and doing all they can to cheat customers. He talked of oft-mentioned ploy(s) and obstinate refusals when it comes to getting quick lubes to cooperate. His feelings about quick lubes seemed fairly clear in the words that he used to describe our industry.

The May column (Adding Value to the Value Chain) seemed to backtrack from his initial stance, with a more balanced look at the situation. Combine these two articles and you may end up with some good journalism, but as presented it comes across as an apology after the willful harm has already been done.

I will agree that there are quick-lube owners out there who are doing things the wrong way, just as there are dealers, independents, brake and muffler shops that are doing the same things. They all pump bulk oil just like we do. All industries, from the oil companies to the independent repair shops, have bad apples that try to cheat the system.

But I believe that the vast majority of all of these groups operate honestly and with integrity. As far as quick lubes are concerned, when we buy from a distributor we have to have a level of trust.

I trust that the bulk oil that is being delivered matches the information on the delivery ticket. Any good quick lube will demand that the delivery ticket contain not just a quantity, but also a brand and viscosity. I trust that the drum that says Mobil 1 5W-30 is exactly that. Now I know that my distributor probably gets that in bulk and then fills the drum from his bulk tank. How do I know that the correct oil is in the drum? I dont, unless I test it. I would have to test all my drums and bulk tanks all the time to really know that I am getting what I am paying for. We could all waste a tremendous amount of time and money if we didnt make a lot of these trust-based decisions every day.

I dont want API to come in to take samples from my quick lubes when the real objective of their testing is to identify bad oils on the market. Why? Because if the oil does come back as sub-par, the blame falls first on me! But all I did was buy reasonably priced oil and trust my distributor when he told me that the oil met all the specs. API needs to be testing before the oil gets in my tanks. They need to be looking to stop the bad apples at the distributor level, who may be slipping in cheap loads to their own bulk tanks.

Who needs to be testing my tanks? A consumer protection agency, much like the testing that is done every year by state Weights & Measures inspectors at gas station pumps. But you cant just test the oil. You have to look at my inventory records and my delivery tickets to get a true picture of exactly what is going on.

I have no problem with testing, you can come test any of my oils anytime. I would welcome a third-party confirmation of my trust. But the testing must be done by the correct agency for the results being sought. And it must be done in a way that truly encompasses the entire supply chain, and is not making any assumptions about the integrity and actions of those being tested.

Chris Tolsdorf

President, Automotive Oil Change Association

Dallas

Editors Note: Mr. Tolsdorf owns Tolsdorf Oil Lube Express in West Chester, Pa. He was elected president of AOCA, a trade association for the fast-lube industry, in March.

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