Tuffy Auto Service Center uses humorous signs, like this one offering a "pumpkin spice oil change," to connect with customers. Credit: Mauricio Pena/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — A Lakeview auto shop is offering its fall-loving customers a “pumpkin spice oil change.”

Of course, there’s no such thing — but that hasn’t stopped customers from trying to get one.

Tuffy Tire and Auto, 1400 W. Diversey Parkway, has been putting up messages that make passersby do a double-take on its exterior sign since last year, said owner Loren Greenspon. He hoped shifting from traditional advertising to “funny, tongue-in-cheek” promotions would help drive more business to the shop.

“From a business perspective, more people, I hoped, would talk about something funny that they didn’t see every day as opposed to just another special. Who ever heard of a pumpkin spice oil change or anything like that?” Greenspon said.

Another reason for the signs? “Truthfully, because I think they’re funny,” he said.

The change quickly proved profitable: Greenspon put up a sign advertising “pumpkin spice oil changes” last fall, and it was so popular that eight to 12 people a day would stop to take photos. Greenspon thinks the photos were shared on social media, because the shop quickly started seeing more traffic.

Greenspon eventually swapped out the sign, posting one for Valentine’s Day and then another one promising Tesla owners a free oil change (for those not in on the joke, Teslas don’t need oil changes). He brought back the uber-popular pumpkin spice one on Saturday.

“During last year and now this year, two, three people [per day] were coming in asking for the pumpkin spice oil change,” Greenspon said. “Over the past couple weeks I actually had a couple people asking if the pumpkin spice oil change was coming back this year.”

Greenspon, who has owned the Tuffy’s location since March 2017, comes up with the signs, thinking up an idea himself or getting inspired by a joke on the internet and putting his own twist on it. He changes the sign’s message about six times a year.

The shop’s had people come in asking if the oil change will smell like pumpkins or if Tuffy’s sells pumpkin air fresheners, Greenspon said. Unfortunately, no Tesla owner has yet to take advantage of the free oil change offer.

“My favorite is when the late 20s, early 30s single guys come in and kind of under their breath ask for the pumpkin spice oil change like they’re a little embarrassed by it,” Greenspon said. “That always elicits a chuckle from my team.”

Greenspon plans to keep the pumpkin spice sign up through November before swapping in a new message.

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