Jiffy Lube Caught Spamming Customers With Text Messages

It’s been reported that Jiffy Lube has been caught sending text messages to customers who hadn’t opted-in to receive advertising. Derek Johnson, CEO of Tatango, wrote a blog post recently explaining that he’d received over a dozen calls from people in the Seattle area complaining of random SMS messages sent by Jiffy Lube promoting a …   Read More

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It’s been reported that Jiffy Lube has been caught sending text messages to customers who hadn’t opted-in to receive advertising.

Derek Johnson, CEO of Tatango, wrote a blog post recently explaining that he’d received over a dozen calls from people in the Seattle area complaining of random SMS messages sent by Jiffy Lube promoting a “1-time offer” for its “eClub” along with a 45% discount on an oil change service.  The campaign was sent nationwide to an unknown amount of recipients.

As Johnson points out, however, Jiffy Lube might not be 100% to blame for the mixup.  “While this definitely has hurt Jiffy Lube, I wouldn’t put all the blame on them,” he said in the post.  “The rules and regulations for text message advertising are extremely confusing and most big corporations work with an SMS provider to launch their campaign.  It looks like whoever Jiffy Lube was using gave them the wrong information and lead them down this destructive path.”

What most likely happened is that Jiffy Lube (or the service provider it chose to facilitate the campaign) used a process it thought was opt-in, when in reality it didn’t follow proper guidelines and best practices.  Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should.  Johnson goes on to give some examples of processes that seem like they might count as an SMS opt-ins, but fall short of explicit consent for specific campaigns.  Things like…

  • Dropping your business card in a fish bowl with your mobile phone number on it.
  • Giving your mobile phone number to a business when purchasing a product.
  • Leaving your phone number with a business to have them call you when they are done with a service.
  • Filling out any type of paper form that asks you for your mobile phone number. Even if they disclose that they will send you text messages in the future, it still doesn’t count. The reason… There is no safeguard in place for someone else to give the business your phone number.
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  1. Mike

    Where TextMarks possibly blew it, and I see they still do this to some extent, is that they have this "free" service, where there are ads in the last 40 chars of your message. They still do this, except (I just tried) the ad is now "powered by textmarks" or something. At one point, they were throwing in arbitrary ads at the bottom of their "FREE" messages. I know that Sprint has specifically banned that practice, and is the most stringent of the carriers to satisfy (requiring a "monthly renewal reminder"). As "Chief Compliance Officer" of Lightwave Mobile, I've been through the MMA Best Practices docs a few times, and have had direct conversations with our aggregator over what's allowed and what's banned.
    Given the advice I have received from them and the MMA Docs, I suspect that TextMarks allowed JiffyLube to spam that "1-time invitation" to people who only subscribed to otherwise "free" lists. If not, this is like the end of mobile-marketing, as "what really constitutes a legal opt-in?"

  2. webmarketingaster

    How can everyone say that Jiffy lube broke the rules???? Here are the rules….

    Subscriber initiates opt-in to a recurring Standard Rate Program by
    responding to a call to action (CTA)
    i.) Subscriber may send a Mobile Originated (MO) message from their
    handset to the short code.
    ii.) Subscriber may initiate opt-in from a web interface
    iii.) Subscriber may initiate opt-in from a WAP interface
    iv.) Subscriber may initiate opt-in from an IVR system
    v.) Subscriber may initiate opt-in from a paper-based consent form

    How do you know that Jiffy lube didnt use a paper based consent form?????

    1. Derek Johnson

      Looks like it was against the rules: http://www.tatango.com/blog/textmarks-sms-spam-la

  3. Jonathan

    The likelihood of this happening increases with use of shared short codes. Although it can happen with a dedicated short code, it is the multi-level marketing of shared short codes that allows many different companies to use the same short code for different purposes, resulting in total lack of control.
    Of course, a dedicated a short code is very expensive.
    An alternative: a dedicated long code.

    1. Derek Johnson

      huh? Your argument is completely off point. The problem isn't shared short codes, it's the ability to import phone numbers into a mobile marketing campaign like Jiffy Lube did. If you allow businesses to import phone numbers onto a campaign run on a dedicated long code, we would still have the same problems.

      Also, last time I checked the carriers are against using long codes for commercial purposes. Am I wrong?

  4. mylogon

    Employees are an entirely different animal. If a business states this is the way that they communicate with their employees as part of an HR document, then no opt-in is needed. That is like saying they cannot be emailed without the employees saying they can or they can receive telephone calls. Hello, this is the company that writes their checks… They make the rules, within reason.

    1. Derek Johnson

      Again wrong… there has been no law passed that says this, so until there is, that would technically be breaking the TCPA.

  5. Sara

    Short article but very good comments! I disagree with you on the platform provider being at fault! I use a text message platform to text my employees that all carry a work phone, it's just easier. Relying on all of my employees to opt-in would require a lot of communication and the end result would be a meeting of nearly 1800 employees to have them all opt-in at once. Uploading my numbers was fast, more efficient and very useful. I understand why you feel there should be no upload ability but I would not be using text messaging at all if it were not for the upload ability.

  6. Andrew

    Even customers that do double opt-in often forget that they signed up and will call customer support. Over a dozen calls…. so 20 people out of a 5000 forgot the subscribed? Give me a break guys….

    Mike – Textmarks is no more responsible than Openmarket who is no more responsible than Verizon. That's like saying Constant Contact is responsible for email spam sent through their platform. Or Rackspace is responsible since they host the servers that sends spam. You've been brainwashed by the MMA and the CSCA …

    Its the guy that buys the list and clicks send who is legally responsible. There are no safe harbor laws but there also are no laws against texting your own customer!

    Jiffy Lube should be fined by the FTC/FCC if it was truly unsolicited…. similar to a Robo-call(which is illegal). Textmarks should lose their shortcode if they allow sending of messages to a subscriber after they reply STOP.

    1. Derek Johnson

      Mike, the problem here was that no one opted in for these messages, they shouldn't have received them in the first place. It doesn't matter if they allow them to reply STOP, they've already spammed their customers.

      This is definitely the SMS providers fault, they must have allowed them to do some sort of importing of phone numbers into their system. That should have never happened, period. If they weren't allowed to import phone numbers, none of this would have happened. There is no reason for any company to import phone numbers into an SMS provider, they all should be opting in via keyword.

      Andrew, your comment about no laws on the books about texting your own customers, is completely false. There is such a thing as the CAN-SPAM act, the FCC and the carrier terms & conditions, they are breaking all of these rules.

      Be sure to check out my blog on top 6 lawsuits for sending unsolicited text messages, might change your tune: http://thederekjohnson.com/2011/04/27/top-6-large

    2. mylogon

      Please, people should be able to change sms providers just like the change email marketing providers. There is always a reason to import a list, it just needs to be a valid one. As for one short code not another, that plain bs. The relationship is with the COMPANY, not the shortcode. You need to read the regs yourself.

    3. Derek Johnson

      You should read my post on Who's Killing SMS Marketing, I think you would find it interesting: http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com/whos-killing-

      The majority of the relationship is with the campaign, and the campaign is centered around a specific short code. You need to read the U.S. Consumer Best Practices from the MMA, I guarantee that 99.99% of people that are uploading lists are not following these sets of best practices. With such a small portion actually following the rules, we need to put systems in place to make sure there is no uploading of phone numbers.

      If you want check out section 1.7 of the U.S. Consumer Best Practices from the MMA where it spells it out.

  7. Mike

    Ultimately, textmarks.com IS responsible for sending out the spam text messages for Jiffy Lube. There are no safe harbor laws in mobile. They send it, they are responsible for it. They need to have contracts and processes in place with their clients that specify when and how client data is captured and how it is used. I never heard of textmarks.com, and they may well be an adequate SMS vendor, but I do know there are TOO many fly-by-night mobile companies out there that are damaging the industry with bottom feeding pricing that forces/prevents them from caring about consequences, or investing in people or technology to do whats right for the client.

    1. Derek Johnson

      It's really simple Mike, they shouldn't have to have any discussion with their clients. Either their clients use their keyword & short-code to accept phone numbers into a campaign, or they don't. There should never be a reason to bring a list into an SMS provider. This is where problems happen.

  8. Andy Lynn

    This happened to one of our own guys, he received a text from jiffy lube. Its unfortunate that this happens, and those who it receive messages, could discourage from future promotions. Good Read.

    Andy Lynn

    1. Derek Johnson

      It's also unfortunate as this gives mobile marketing a bad name.

  9. JayC

    Seems likely they knew the subscribers were not opted-in as they ask you to opt-in to get the coupon. The provider is textmarks.com but it may not be directly their fault – with these online sign ups for shared use short codes businesses can upload a list and create campaigns on their own. Where textmarks may be to blame is not having the proper policies and procedures to validate the opt-in status of the list – particularly having record of sending an opt-in confirmation before handling any other traffic to the subscriber.

    1. Derek Johnson

      JayC, it's definitely their fault, their system shouldn't allow the ability to import phone numbers. Did you know that it's even against the carrier guidelines to switch short-codes during a campaign? That means if someone opts in on X short-code, you can never send them a message from Y short-code.

    2. Jane

      It is permissible to switch short codes during a campaign. MMA has specific rules around the process in their latest set of guidelines.

  10. Derek Johnson

    Thanks Justin for following my blog and picking up this story.

Comments are closed.