A letter that I never sent to Al Amatuzio

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Spilling my guts again. Below is a letter I wrote last year to the owner of Amsoil. I never sent it because I was still collecting information for my file. It's in rough draft form and I didn't bother to clean it up, or even update it, so I apologize for any danglers, typos, etc. Some of the references are right here on BiTOG, so you should be able to figure it out. Also, I'm NOT a bridge burner. This was written when I was still in business. Just take it as information. Have a read. ________________________________________________ Al Amatuzio May 25, 2003 Amsoil Building Superior Building Superior, WI Dear Al, I have been an Amsoil dealer for a little over four years and have gained some fascinating information about the great world of lubricants. My reason for writing this letter directly to you is; to help Amsoil, and hopefully, eventually myself via improved products. As you will see this is a compilation of information. Chemistry has always been somewhat of an interest for me, however lubricants have grabbed my full concentration. I also want to tell you two reasons I’m not writing this letter: 1) I am not writing this to get anyone at Amsoil in trouble or stir the personnel side of things. 2) And despite my feelings of how difficult it is to make any money as a downline dealer, I’m actually not writing to complain about the tiny margins, small commission credits, the necessity of a motivated sales force to buy product literature, the slow dissemination of critical information to dealers or the saturated market (# dealers/area). You would basically tell me what you have told the others with these concerns: “Try harder”, and of course you would be essentially correct. Please take the time to read attached “e-mail string”. It began as a simple “check this issue out ” but after some soul searching, and deep thought, led me to the conclusion that I have information that could at the very least, help improve Amsoil. As you will find out I have been a site sponsor at Bob Is The Oil Guy.com as have two other Amsoil dealers. I know it is not the Amsoil policy to engage in “chat room” forums, however I can and have made some statements on this: 1) sometimes you have to go were the dragons are to fight dragons (meaning: an oil website is growing and succeeding, sometimes biased sometimes not. But why turn our backs and have zero input to this?) and 2) you can learn a lot from some chat rooms (the Bob Is The Oil Guy.com is an EXCELLENT forum with real practical technical meat – Again, why just say we don’t want to play?) Hopefully you will see some logic and wisdom in this, regardless of the history with Bob Winters and Schaeffers. In the email, Ed Kellerman asks for proof. He is spot-on to ask this, but I cannot give you a one page note that will prove everything. I will take one issue at a time and try to layout the facts as I know them. These things cannot possibly be surprises to you and thusly you should have private backing information for each item. He also asks “WHO” is performing “these tests”. Not all the information I will provides is from ASTM (or other “certified” methods), but I doubt every improvement the Ferrari F1 team does to their car is proven with a certified test – but it is proven, one way or another. I can make the case that sometimes we ALL haven’t proven everything necessary, including Amsoil. Foam Air Filters degrading and planar air filters with improper fit: Degrading: Certainly this is not new news. Filters have fallen apart in less than 10,000 miles (before cleaning). Filters fall apart after one clean using a Amsoil recommended non-harmful cleaning method. I cannot say a lot about this topic other than Amsoil will replace them if customers scream loud enough. Lately there have been a couple cases that the customer did get fairly prompt replacements. Dealers need to know the magnitude of the problem. Certain filters were not as good? Was a date range of improper foam used (bad material)? This one is difficult – because I have seen filters last a long time. Mostly filters close to engine heat have the most issues, but not all. Have someone check your records and check the Air Filter forum at www.bobistheoilguy.com as well as the reputation of foam air filters in general at other car related web sites. To truly solve this one, we will need to know the root cause. Improper fit: Edge seals on planar filters that require a molded edge in a seat for proper seal. An example is the Volvo 850 callout for a TS118. I will not sell these, mainly because there are dirt/unfiltered air pathways. Often the advice is to seat it in the airbox, then (as normal) clamp the lid on. The problem is that the lid is the intake side and the lack of seal is downstream from the filter. I believe the root cause was improper specifying for a given application. Obsoleting the special order filters went a long way to solve this issue, but a few of these improper applications still exist. Dual Remote Oil Filter I have sold a grand total of one of these. I do not have one on any of my cars, but I do have a dual remote filter set-up, non Amsoil, non bypass – just two SDF-15’s or FL-1A’s, so I do have some practical familiarity with remote filtration. I was not familiar with the inner working of the Amsoil Dual Remote Bypass until last week – however I was not completely ignorant, so allow me let me back up. Keep in mind this information only applies to the dual remote bypass and full flow filter, not the stand-alone bypass. When I first looked at the literature on this product (G-498 8/98) in 2000, I thought the schematic cutaway diagram was incorrect. This picture essentially depicts a device (restrictor) allowing some (metered) oil to flow into the full flow oil filter and full oil pressure to flow to the by-pass filter side. I thought the diagram was either wrong or I couldn’t understand the inner workings, so at that point in time and since some of the otherliterature in my purchased materials binder was quite old – I dismissed it. Last year I read two reports of people who reported an over 10+ PSI oil pressure drop with the dual remote bypass filter mount - both said they had contacted Amsoil directly - and really got no answers, yet when the dual remotes were removed oil pressure came back to normal. Then this year (Jan. 2003) a solidly mechanical individual reports: With BMK-13: Idle cold = 50 psi Warm low cruise = 30 psi Without BMK-13: Idle cold = 75-80 psi Warm low cruise = 50 psi This got my interest up, as did some earlier discussions. All of these I, again, dismissed as something wrong with the data or the installation. Well, ignoring problems does not make them go away, so last week I read Bob (yes THAT Bob from Schaeffers Oil) continued his practical oil filter flow test that he started back in March by testing two dual remote bypass set-ups. Please go to www.bobistheoilguy.com and click on the Oil Filter forum, then the bobistheoilguy filter study thread. On pages 4, 5 and 6 of the discussion/data you’ll see where he went – and I agree – it makes no sense the way the dual remote is engineered by Amsoil. Very interesting reading throughout. ( Earlier in the test SDF-15 does quite well for a high capacity filter, I might add!). You can say this method is not ASTM, but there is the pressure drop. How can we account for this? I had never before seen the (apparently) cast model he uses, in a picture or otherwise, and assume it is an early Amsoil design. I could easily throw that one out, as irrelevant, but both types appear to have the same internals. To restrict the full flow makes zero sense for engine longevity – but I can almost see what the engineer was attempting to do. With a really precise/light spring some oil will flow through the more restrictive bypass filter. The original engineers may have set out to keep a constant pressure at the by-pass and when the pressure goes higher than the spring pressure it lets oil go through. In practical terms this does not work – regardless of the nice pictures of installations on the corporate web site! (I would truly love the filter oil pressure readings, before and after installation of all these applications) May 25, 2003, as posted in the oil filter flow test thread : “Well I was the guy with the concern, and the dual bypass system that Bob tested was the one that was on my truck. Good thing it was only on for a VERY short while. I thought that maybe it was my truck or the way I installed the system, but it now seems that my concerns were genuine and the problem seems to lie with the D.R system not my install of it. I think that these tests are what this site is all about, and getting unbiased testing of products like the Amsoil dual remote bypass system is something that is hard to come by. I can't help but wonder if someone with this system who is getting low UOA results, if the low oil pressure is contributing to increased engine wear but the bypass filter is removing the wear metals giving a false reading; who knows maybe your bearings and cams are now in your bypass filter?” IF this turns out to be an Engineering flaw (vs. mfr. Batch issue) I have an Engineering solution or two in mind, all have drawbacks but none as serious as the current design. The real PR (and legal) problem is as I see it Amsoil should come up with some non-BS answers or redesign/drop the thing. Anyhow, I suspect it is NOT by random that Bob decided to test these. Inside word is that Bob was “on to” this pressure drop issue (via the posts, obviously and his desire, of course, to sell more Shaefer’s oil) Also, there are oil analysis’ that are not greatly improved and sometimes worsened by filter set-up – real engine data, not just lab stuff. Gear Oil GL-4 Applications I think the Series 2000 75W-90/140 gear oils are pretty great products (although I’m not sure why the need to cost more than Redline’s offerings). However, both the analysis and the shift feel feedback is telling me this stuff is NOT the ticket for many GL-4 manual gear boxes. Solution should be fairly apparent: Either stop recommending it for such gearboxes and/or come out with a new product similar to Redline MTL. Small market, I know. Universal ATF and Chrysler ATF+4 Amsoil ATF is the best on the market. I’ll stand toe to toe with any Dexron application, any test GM or ASTM or otherwise, any time of the year! Then step in some “specialized” fluids, well maybe not that specialized – ATF+4. I’ll be the first to claim that some of the Daimler-Benz AT’s have just been garbage, and fixes through creative ATF are a band-aid at best. The medium level savvy customer knows that it is improbable that any ATF could meet all the different car AT specifications, (especially those such as ATF+4 that REQUIRE the exact DC formulation) and despite words from Amsoil Corporate, the situation is not getting more rosy when people report their AT’s slipping in Jeeps, minivans, etc after switching to our ATF and Amsoil tells them to add a bottle of Lubegard! We take a lot of heat here. I know we can come closer to the DC formulation, (violation or not?) but this will require a separate product (again). Solution: another ATF product for DC, or maybe 2 more – Mercon V and a DC ATF+ - ATF +4 products. Series 2000 0W-30 Motor Oil (and other motor oils) TSO hardly comes close to making it to 20,000 miles in healthy cars. I can’t even defend it, and I will not lie to customers about our products. The product rarely makes it to 10,000 miles without severe TBN depletion, oxidation and nitration numbers through the roof and wear metals not looking good – not to mention the related viscosity increase. Again, check the used oil analysis section of www.bobistheoilguy.com it’s a gold mine of information. And if we want to insist Bob is making all the numbers up we can go down that ill advised path, but what about the analyses’ you are seeing? Are they all great Action News material? I think not, because people have given this information to Amsoil (mainly because they think they didn’t get their value for the $8.35/qt). Now this may really make you angry: It almost appears that this oil (TSO) was not adequately tested in real world applications. If not for the 12 months – we would have an even larger mess. I have to say it is almost laughing stock material. What is the feedback customers get from Amsoil? “Must be something wrong with your engine”, “Blackstone who uses 1940’s technology” or something other than improving the oil; “From: [email protected] To: Subject: RE: Technical Service Contact Form Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 12:10:32 -0500 Who did the analysis? What was the engine condition? What is the mileage? Was their glycol present? Is there an emissions problem causing nitration? Can you explain that? Seems to be a whole lot of missing info. The testing methods we use are ASTM certified and can be duplicated in ANY lab using these methods. (with maybe the exception of Blackstone who uses 1940's technology). We have not seen this oil. Unless this is just hearsay we sure would like to see a sample. Thank you.” The other oils do a tad better. The HDD does OK. The standard ATM and ASL are pretty darn good value, but how often do they make it to 25,000 miles without severe oxidation and TBN reduction? Sure the ASL did OK in the shoot out with Mobil 1 in our tests, and the ATM did good in the engine sequence test – but the analysis are saying it’s not making it to 25,000 miles. Also take a look at this shoot-out: http://neptune.spacebears.com/cars/stories/oil-life.html Will the ASL (I supplied) hold up as well as the 5W-30 Mobil1? I hope so! This is NOT BOB running this test. This guy is very friendly to me and has NOTHING to do with Bob. Solutions: Part 1: Reformulation of the oils. Look at the ASTM D 4742 TFOUT Oxidation resistance testing and the formulations of the top tier competition. Don’t rule out modern Mo and B additives. Basically beef up the additive package – for a top tier oil, at top dollar, the Amsoil additives just aren’t cutting it. Part 2: Seriously change the extended OCI recommendation, wording and preparation information. The drain interval table is OK, but needs updating and expansion. It just is not safe, especially with the 35,000 mile recommendation without more detailed disclaimers, “how to” and precise information by and for (at least) engine mfr and type. As far as the Amsoil solvent flush goes, it’s just OK, but doesn’t really clean much of the old acid forming, oxidized crud and varnish out. I suggest a better pre-cleaning process with products similar to Auto-Rx. (that Frank guy is starting to make some serious cash with his product, despite his early manufacturing flaws). Informed consumers are more and more wary of dumping solvent type flushes in their engines, despite words on paper. This will help with the early TBN killing we see with first Amsoil motor oil fills – which again should not be recommended as super extended OCI’s. Well that’s about it. I know this is not a popular thing. You could just toss me out as a dealer. So be it, because I like to think I’m dealing with/for a company that handles the truth and improves. Amsoil, now more than ever, needs products that can excel over Redline, Royal Purple, Schaeffers, Mobil 1, and the other niche top tier oils. I suspect the answer will be: Amsoil has sold 1,000’s of systems and 1,000’s of gallons of lubes and we have no complaints or the complaints were invalid. Al – I challenge you to not let this pat answer fly. A six page letter and not one gripe about the API labeling scheme. Please let me know what you think. Thank you, Paul A. Seminara Dealer #515729 Cell: (360) 319-1721
 
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What is the reason you did not send it? I think the paragraphs on the oils and OCI recommended intervals are very pertinent and where dealers take the most grief. It would be great if multiple dealers all stated a similar line to AJ and said we need to revise the marketing and OCI recommendations. AJ appears pretty bullheaded though and unlikely he will ever alter his promotional angle, it would be admitting defeat, the product can not go 25,000 miles unless it is all highway in the summer at the speed limit etc. etc. [ February 10, 2004, 09:05 AM: Message edited by: Spector ]
 

Pablo

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I did not send it for two main reasons: a) I did have all the data ready, b) my huevos aren't big enough I guess I figured at some point, it would be pointless.
 
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Pablo, I appreciate your candor and "huveos". I know you're trying to do the right thing. I think AJ will read this as this is a public forum?? I know I will be installing a proper oil pressure gauge now so that I can check my pressure drop across my Amsoil BMK-13 dual by-pass. I am also glad to be going to do a UOA at 6 month use of OW-30 Ser2K. I think I will not be using it for long drain, not worth the money for short drain. This site, not just you, has made that clear. As for the response you may get from AJ, my experience has been unless you are the top sales person of any company you're not going to be paid much attention to even if what you say is 100%. Also don't expect help from other dealers it's rare to get a lot of people to put their A** on the line for someone else. I wish more people were like you.
 
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Pablo, Concur 100%. I ran S2K 0W30 for 3900 miles and had an "abnormal" AL and viscosity increase. It was the first fill with S2K, but I did not use the flush because I didn't like the thought of those harsh chemicals and I had used M1 0W30 since the Tahoe was new (only have 39,000 miles now). (I think you even commented on my UOA thread.) I also wrote a letter to AJ, but seriously doubt that he ever even saw it. A couple of weeks after my letter, I got a very favorable response from customer service/tech support. As I requested, Corporate Amsoil replaced my 6 qts of 0W30, filter and the test kit. My plan is to use S2K 0W30 and change the oil when my GM Oil Life Indicator signals an oil change. Is this too much? Maybe. That's the same schedule I followed with Mobil 1 0W30 and was happy. Is it more cost effective to use Mobil 1 vs S2K? Maybe. I commend you on your insight. I agree with your comments. I was told that my problem was attributed to using Power Foam and not changing the oil soon after. Maybe, maybe not. The tech support person said that they would look at re-wording the Power Foam instructions because it was written for carburetors instead of TBI engines. We'll see. Right now I am happy (because they replaced my oil and filter) and I'll run S2K for a few more months and pull a UOA and post the numbers. Cheers, Doug
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Pablo: I did not send it for two main reasons: a) I did have all the data ready, b) my huevos aren't big enough I guess I figured at some point, it would be pointless.
Pablo, That's a noble idea which is very inconsistent with corporate thinking. You are most likely right and they most likely know it.....but, at the end of the day, money is the big decision maker. I didn't read much....mostly the S2k 0W-30 comments and 20k mile OCIs. They would "never" retract that claim. That's like asking them to put a bullet in their brains (commercially speaking) The closest they would ever come to retracting that claim is to slowly stop "claiming" 20k mile OCIs until people literally forget about it. You seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have realized that Amsoil is a good oil, but not what they make it up to be. I personnaly think for the price and for many, shipping hassles, M1 is a better value and gives equal results and better in some cases. I encourage you to send the letter, but I have a feeling you would just get some "corporate answer" that would not only explain nothing, but would also make you look/feel in "their" eyes as an idiot. Lastly, they would never dare come in here and engage us.....that's like asking Dean to back up Bush. Rick
 
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Pablo, Do me a favor please.....forget the huevos thing.....just go ahead and call 'em COJONES....that word demands more respect and sounds better.....a little more macho too! [Wink]
 
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I didn't say M1 was better....but that for the price and hassle to get Amsoil, M1 was a better "value."
 

Pablo

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Well since you can buy Amsoil at GI Joes in the PNW, or have it delivered to your door the next day (no joke)...it's not so inconvenient, but trust me, I know what you are saying!
 
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Pablo being a dealer and reading your words in your letter I agree 100%. If your going to bust your @ss selling a product it damn well better hold up to your expectations as well as your customers. I agree with the number of dealers who don't know jack but they still try to sell oil. Thanks for your time. [Bang Head]
 
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Pablo, I commend you for this. [Cheers!] It's hard to sell a product when you "question" some of it's abilities and or company strategy. They need more "Real World" testing, for example, the S2k oil. Most over priced, over rated oil I can think of. 99% of the time M1,ASL,ATM,GC or Schaeffer's will match or beat this oil for much less $$. Their marketing is lame and just flat out ridiculous. They think that showing a 4 ball wear scar means their oils protect better...please. [Roll Eyes] Nice try AJ you dope. A more professional approach is needed. Too many dealers out there are just clueless. Those are my complaints. They do make some fine oils though as well. [Smile] [ February 10, 2004, 06:52 PM: Message edited by: buster ]
 
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their goofball marketing kept me from buying the stuff for months. It looks WAY too similar to Duralube and the like on the surface but I did as much checking around as I could before I bought some. I don't know if I made the right decision or not; maybe I should get a UOA done on it in the next month or so before I buy more of the stuff and try for another extended OCI? Greg
 

Pablo

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Horatio/Greg - I certainly wouldn't put Amsoil in the Duralube class. It is the real deal, but like anything on this earth one needs to be aware of the warts. I mean is there a perfect motor oil? Redline? I think not. I will NEVER pay $7qt for any oil...so Redline has warts, too.
 
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Well, I guess I need to step up to the plate. Any business that you see today has it's problems. Whether it's product, management, marketing, sales, or whatever. Sometimes I get discouraged with small things, but overall, it don't see a better overall product on the market, really is there any other company that want's you to use less oil?? I do agree that folks should use judgement when encorporating an extended drain. Now to the bypass filter. I've had and sold several of the by-pass filters, I'd say at least 15 but maybe more. I personally use both the Dual remote and the single by-pass. They both work. I've seen several oil analysis with over 50,000 on the oil and a few with 100,000 on the oil. I just can't imagine this product holding up and engines not dying from the system. Paul, sorry that you had a hard time, if you can look back on what you learn, and the help you gave your customers, and the quality product that you were able to provide I bet you can feel good about yourself and the Amsoil product. Lastly on the margines, well I can't argue with it as much as I can argue with selling any product. If you could go to most of the car salesmen and find out their margines please let me know what that is. You can look at the margines on my other sales job It's less than 20% of the overall sales. So I would't think that selling Amsoil Commercial/retail accounts is a bad margin. Hmmm, last week had a call for $800 worth of Amsoil from one of my accounts. Lets see, the call lasted about 2 minutes, I made $160. What I really think that your problem was is that you were stuck on this board basically wasting your time when you should have been out there knocking on doors. There are probably at least 100 retail accounts in your area waiting for you to come by. Again, 20% margine on a product seems pretty good for me especially when you don't have to mess with delivery or payment, heck if you trained your account properly you don't even have to take the order. I knew the business wasn't for you, You should feel good that you had the huevos to admit it. Good luck.
 

Pablo

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ms - let me tell you my first two years I got kicked out of just about every place in 100 mile radius, seems some previous fellow got there before me.....and all they wanted was me to take his product back...and give THEM money! Your margin is based on suggested retail. Problem is, no one pays that here. Period. The well was poisoned so to speak.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Pablo: Your margin is based on suggested retail. Problem is, no one pays that here. Period. The well was poisoned so to speak.
I guess I'm not on here to make money! Just use this as an outlet for enjoyment. My money is made with the commerical/retail. As far as the accounts in your area, well that is is where the salesman in you must come out. If they bought product, why don't they sell it? My first step would be to register them as an account, then I would tell them that I would get rid of their product and pay the the entire retail price. I would basically get them some literature, then show up one day and talk to every customer that comes in about the benifits, then get them to buy that product at the retail price. Then I would get that account to order more Amsoil. I would also train that account to sell the product themselves, and order themselves then just come by every few months. Does that happen overnight? nope, can you register an account on the first visit? not usually, but if you build a relationship with that account and send customers to them, how can they not buy product from you?? It's all part of being a saleman, which it seems your not unfortunately. I know it's hard to walk into a place and do those things, heck after going in and cleaning up after some other dealer I don't even know if I could do anything, but I would try. And yes I've been literally kicked out of places before becuase of what someone did before I got there. OH well, on to the next one [Cheers!]
 
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Your in the PNW right? There is a lot a manufacturing up there. Hmmmm, a couple of large accounts (Boeing comes to mind) buying 5-6 totes of Hydraulic or compressor oil every month would be a decent income. IMO the compressor and Hydralic fluid and grease are better products comparetivly than the the oils are to the competitors. Are there any manufacturing facilities up there??
 

Pablo

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Boeing buys with their own specs. Not from Amsoil. Some light manufacturing. But not much hydraulic, etc fluids used. I realize I'm not salesperson and not dedicated to hang at a store for a day or three. Way outside my comfort zone. Some places I went to had gone through 3 dealers, and at one time had hope...the odds of me being #4 were slim.
 
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