One Miamian's crusade against Jiffy Lube

Ever since Riptide saw the above photo in Jacob Katel's Biscayne Bay StreetWorks collection in October we've been haunted by mystery. Who owns this blue truck, how did Jiffy Lube screw it up, and why in God's name did they refuse to fix it?

We were driving down NW 17th Avenue in Liberty City yesterday when our questions were answered. We spotted a man climbing from his un-missable truck, which was parked on the side of the road. We pulled up and met Richard Taft, a 66-year-old vending machine maintenance man who lives on Biscayne Boulevard and 30th St. He's a cantankerous dude who showed Riptide the "nice and fucking heavy" sawed-off pool cue he keeps below his seat to guard against carjackers, and punctuates his speech with the wheezing hawked loogies of a long-time smoker. And he was only happy enough to tell his story of how he came to wage a one-man negative advertising campaign against the oil change corporation. "It really wasn't that bad," he begins. "It's was just the fact that they told me to go fuck yourself, basically. I'm not the type of person to tell that to. In order to get my revenge, I will go to extreme lengths."  

It wasn't one isolated incident that turned Taft against Jiffy Lube. This feud goes back like Saddam vs. The Bushes. The first time- he can't remember when, but it was sometime in the '90s- Taft brought his beloved Cadillac in for an oil change, and the workers accidentally sprayed oil all over its sides. Then there was the two times Tate paid for oil changes for his truck and found they had left his tank a quart low. The last straw came in '04, as evidenced by the Jiffy Lube maintenance reminder sticker still stuck on his front windshield from that fateful visit to the center at 8787 Biscayne Blvd.

He watched a worker clumsily spray his truck battery with water, he says, forcing Taft to jump out of the way from the drops of battery acid that sprayed from it. He didn't think much of it until that afternoon, when he found the side of his truck stained with tiny chemical drops. "I tasted it," he recalls, "and I said 'Son of a bitch, it's battery acid.'"

Can we take a moment here to marvel with respect at a man so grizzled he knows what battery acid tastes like?

Anyways, when Tate brought the truck back to Jiffy Lube, the manager scorned him, he says. "They didn't deny doing it, they just said they weren't going to fix it," says Tate with Clint-Eastwood-high-noon bravado. "All they had to do is say, 'We'll take care of it,' and I would've forgotten about it."

Instead, he had the blunt message stickered onto the canopy- a job that cost him $150, he says, about a hundred more than it would've cost to get rid of the acid spots that still mar his truck. He got the idea from something he saw many years ago- a Cadillac permanently parked across the street from the dealership that sold it, adorned with the scathing symbol of hand-painted lemons.

Taft took photos of his newly-customized truck and sent them to Jiffy Lube's headquarters in Houston. A couple of days later, he says, he received a letter from a representative there offering to get the stains removed free of charge. Taft refused them, with an extortionist's flair. "'We're not talking about fixing the truck anymore,'" he says he responded. "'Now we're talking about what you're going to give me to take the sign off the truck.'"

The Jiffy Lube People never got back to him on that one. At this point, Taft says, he's sick of the message. It's fading as it enters its fifth year of existence, but the letters can't be removed without leaving a residue. And he's stopped at least once a day, he says, to explain it to curious fellow drivers. So his demands of Jiffy Lube have lessened. "All they have to do is sand the letters off," bargains Taft, "and paint the truck top so it's the same color as the truck."    

-Gus Garcia-Roberts

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