News 11 Special Report: Oil Slickers

This is a News 11 Special Report by Jonathan Walsh.

Oil changes. Every car needs them, but are you really getting what you're paying for? A two-month News 11 investigation looked into that very question. The results were eye-opening, reports News 11's Jonathan Walsh.

News 11 focused on three Discount Lube centers.

Our investigation found three people who say they have worked for Discount Lube oil change facilities in recent years: the centers on Woodville Rd. in Northwood, on Alexis Rd. in Toledo and on Secor Rd. in Toledo. The former employees say customers have been scammed there in the past, which prompted us to launch our own undercover investigation.

"There's a lot of people who got screwed up, screwed over by Discount Lube," says "Paul" a former employee who tells us he worked for the Discount Lube locations within the past few years.

"I have proof. I am done with these people. They have ripped a lot of people off," he says, claiming that when he worked for the company, those running the business would tell customers they were getting a higher end oil but that, in fact, it was a lower-quality mix.

"The owners will get a pickup truck and have 300 to 400 cases of cheap oil you'd buy at Dollar Stores or Sam's and they'll put it in the back room, and we were told not to tell the customers -- just fill the oil bottles up and put it in," says "Paul."

He isn't alone in his claims.

"Just tell the customer they're gettin' 5-20. They don't know because we put it in a pitcher," says "J," who didn't want us to use his real name. He also says he's worked with the company, and that at the Woodville location, the current manager, Sam Bazzi, is mixing up the brands.

The store advertises Pennzoil, but there's some doubt that it's really Pennzoil you're getting. Jonathan Walsh went dumpster diving at the Woodville location and found lots of empty bottles and boxes of an oil called Sure Guard. He did find a few Pennzoil bottles, but our undercover cameras found a back room at the Woodville location where there were barrels of oil, funnels, broken seals from bottles -- plus Pennzoil bottles with broken seals filled to the top.

We also saw tubs and gloves in that room as well and decided to talk to manager Sam Bazzi, who begged off claiming, "I don't know English very well."

Jonathan Walsh: "Are you mixing the oil and putting it in old Pennzoil bottles?"

Sam shakes his head no and says the cheaper oil is for the $17.95 changes.

But when we give him an opportunity to let us see the back room, he says, "Excuse me, sir. Can you please go?"

Another former employee says customers were scammed.

"They would be getting one thing and being served another," says "Steve," noting that this would happen at all three locations. "As long as I worked, that went on," he says.

With our sources' accusations, News 11 took a car to Triple A Car Care Plus on Alexis Rd., had the car completely checked. Then we had the oil changed and a new oil filter put in. We marked the filter with an "11" in permanent marker so we'd know that is the filter we put in.

We immediately took the car and our hidden camera to the Woodville Rd. location for an oil and filter change.

After the work was done, we headed right back to Triple A and found the filter had been changed. We changed the oil again, marked another filter and drove two miles down Alexis Rd. to that Discount Lube.

We clearly asked for an oil and filter change. A few minutes later the employee says there is no oil in the car we're using.

The employee, whom owners identify as Philip, tells our customer there wasn't any oil in the car. Remember, we had just from the garage two miles down the road.

"I'm telling you the truth," Philip says about his assertion the car had no oil.

Woman: "How can it run if it doesn't have oil in it?"

He tells our customer he couldn't find a leak and charges us $34.15. We then go directly back to Triple A and find out our marked filter is still in the car. The Alexis Rd. Discount Lube did not change the filter -- but did charge us for it.

We changed the oil again, marked a new filter and the next day we went to the Discount Lube on Secor Rd.

We clearly ask for an oil and filter change. Mike Fadel, who says he and his father are leasing the business, helps our customer at the register.

Fadel charges us $34.39. We then immediately take the car back to Triple A and find the same marked filter. Again, our filter had not been changed.

We needed to talk to Fadel, who says he's been running the Secor and Alexis Rd. locations for almost a year now. We tell him about News 11 marking the filters, going to the Alexis and Secor stores, being charged full price but not getting new filters.

Fadel addresses our Secor store visit.

"I wasn't underneath the car. Joseph was in the pit," Fadel says.

Jonathan asks, "Is there any reason why you would charge the normal price and not change the filter?"

Fadel: "No. The filter should have been changed."

Fadel admits the filter should have been changed, asks us to turn off the camera and tells us off camera, "It's hard to find good help." He says he's not trying to rip people off, that he appreciates News 11 letting him know about the problem.

"As far as the stores on Alexis opposite of GM Powertrain and the one on Secor and Monroe -- I'm responsible for. You have any problems, any questions we'll gladly assist you. Come ask for Mike," Fadel says.

Our sources say the problems they saw at Secor and Alexis happened before Fadel took over in May of 2007. The Secretary of State's office shows all the businesses still list Hassan Bazzi as the agent in charge. He is the brother of Sam Bazzi, the manager of the Woodville store.

We've made calls to Bazzi, who lives in Dearborn, Mich. After several days, we were sent this response, which says, in part:

" ... it was a great disappointment ... when we learned from you that some of our employees are not following procedures when servicing cars. We will immediately commence an investigation to explore all of the allegations pointed out by you. At the conclusion of our investigation, we will make sure that certain employees are disciplined and take the appropriate actions to prevent this from occurring in the future."

News 11's sources are firm on their claims of fraud at Discount Lube.

Fadel tells us the employees at the Alexis and Secor stores have been suspended without pay and from now on says he and his brother will change the filters themselves. Meanwhile representatives from the Pennzoil company tell News 11 they will look into whether or not their products are, in fact, being sold at Discount Lube.