Arroyo trade gives Jiffy Lube the lunchbox blues

Published February 1, 2005 1:09 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Change is disruptive, so everybody faces questions when an NBA player is traded: How does this affect my career? Did we get enough for him? Why is my favorite player gone?

And the big one: What are we going to do with all these lunchboxes?

That last one is what more than 50 Jiffy Lube franchisees all over Utah are wondering right now, as they stare at cartons full of metal boxes adorned on each side with photos of new Pistons guard Carlos Arroyo, proudly wearing a Jazz uniform.

They are still available, just $2.99 with an oil change, but Jiffy Lube doesn't figure to move much merchandise now that Arroyo plays his home games 1,700 miles away. The company paid for 6,800 of the boxes as the centerpiece of its winter promotion campaign.

So how many remain? "Um, roughly 6,800," Allison Beall, who handles the Jiffy Lube account for the Ostler Group marketing company, said somewhat ruefully. "It's kind of sad."

That's not how the campaign began. Jiffy Lube, which sponsored Andrei Kirilenko lunchboxes a year ago, settled on the Jazz's point guard in August, once Arroyo gained international fame by directing the Puerto Rican Olympic team to a historic victory over Team USA in Athens. "He was so popular, it seemed like a natural," Beall said.

A customer asking for one at one Salt Lake City store Monday was warned, "You do know they traded the guy, don't you?" When the customer persisted, the technician said, "Good, seems like we haven't sold one of these since he was traded."

Jiffy Lube threw a kickoff luncheon at the Delta Center in mid-January, and Arroyo entertained the firm's managers and executives by shaking hands, signing autographs, posing for pictures. A couple of days later, the team gave away Jiffy Lube-sponsored Thermos bottles to kids attending their game with the Cavs - ironically, it was Arroyo's final home game with the Jazz - and enclosed an ad encouraging parents to complete the set by buying a lunchbox. And on Jan. 17, radio and TV commercials began urging Utahns: "Get your Carlos Arroyo lunchbox today!"

Just four days later: Gone.

And the lunchboxes: Definitely not gone.

Only a handful were sold before the trade, Beall said, though the buyers may be making money. The souvenirs of Arroyo's season-turned-sour are apparently collector's items on eBay, where a couple have sold for between $15 and $20. But Jiffy Lube has pulled the commercials, canceled the campaign, and is looking for a way to turn Arroyo's trade into a triumph. Or at least salvage some goodwill.

"We're talking with the Jazz about working together to donate them to someone who could use them," Beall said. "Maybe fill them with food and donate them to a school or a charity, something like that."

And next year's lunchboxes? No plans yet, Beall said, so here's a suggestion: They can't trade the Bear.

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