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The dying off of professional autoparts counterpersons---

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by diesel4me, Sep 24, 2004.

  1. diesel4me

    diesel4me 1 ton status Premium Member

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    After reading the post in the lounge about Autozone and their inept counterpeople,I feel obligated to speak in their behalf.I was a parts counter person at several large and small auto parts and paint stores for nearly 20 years.All that time the most I was ever paid was 8 bucks an hour--searching for a job now,the pay is not much different--10 bucks an hour is considered average pay for a manager,not a counterperson--as a couterperson you must answer the phone,wait on customers,pull parts from the huge warehouse behind the counter,unload delivery trucks,occasionally make deliveries if the parts drivers are all out on the road,call warehouses to order parts and remember to fill out the log sheet so the drivers will get the parts,sweep the floor when its slow,stock the shelves,turn brake rotors and drums(now your a machineist,and have to inhale asbestos and metal filings)and often you have to do 2 or 3 things at the same time,this is expected of you,and you get no extra pay or benifits for doing the work of several people--and as far as getting any respect,auto parts counterpeople rate right up there with Rodney Dangerfeild--we had his picture on the counter with the words "Parts People Get No Respect"on it!.Oh,yea--you have to be phsycic too--more people ask you whats wrong with their car than they ask their mechanics(many "mechanics"would call ME and ask if I knew the problem!).I would often have to bite my tounge if the boss was listening--they didnt like us giving advice(even if it meant a sizable sale /forums/images/graemlins/dunno.gif /forums/images/graemlins/screwy.gif /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif)
    The real problem is the management of the stores--the computer HAS ruined the parts business--you dont need any brains to be a counterman today--you just need to ask the right questions,push the right buttons,and hopefully it will give you the correct part numbers.If you cant provide an application for a certain part,they say "sorry,then we cant sell you this"because they are paranoid they will be sued if a part not belonging on a certain car causes problems.This makes it very difficult for anyone like us here on CK5 to buy any parts--unless we know exactly what to ask for,your out of luck--they will fold their arms and look at you like your crazy,and tell you sorry,no parts.
    This is why Napa,and many other "jobber" stores still exist,despite their higher prices and smaller sized stores,they are about the last place you can go where a guy at the counter actually knows what your talking about,and will take a few minites to let you look through an illustrated parts guide catolog(yes,some people can still read them,and actually HAVE catologs,and dont rely on the almighty computer for everything)--but you pay a premium price for all this /forums/images/graemlins/1zhelp.gif-(and it takes at least 2 hours of your day--our Napa is in no hurry to wait on anyone)-When I worked at the larger stores,the management would frown upon me spending more than 5 minites with any customer---if they overheard someone say "I have this vehicle and I want to put this driveshaft from a different year in mine"type of question,they would practically time me with a stopwatch--they knew I was rather knowledgeable about such things,and I was always glad to help people,but they felt it lost more money in the end than they made--often it meant many returns when parts didnt fit,and returned in greasy torn boxes,and hard feelings between employees and management.
    It didnt have to be that way,but since today its all about speed and efficiency,not personal service or customer satisfaction,thats how the auto parts world has become--take any boob off the street that can push computer buttons,and the hell with having to actually know your job.I'm not blaming the counterpeople--most of them just need a job,like everyone else.But I think its wrong of big chain stores to not hire experienced counterpeople because they expext to be paid what they are worth for their knowledege,and they arent pretty with nice boobies,and put profits before customer satisfction.While I was at the "Zone"getting parts for my motor swap,the girl behind the counter was very upset,almost in tears,because someone called to ask for a water pump,and they didnt havre it in stock--so the guy on the other end of the phone said"thanks for nothing you stupid C---t!--she was ready to quit,I told her she wasnt stupid(or the"C"word either /forums/images/graemlins/whistling.gif)and said she impressed me with her knowledge (she actually knew what an oil pump driveshaft and screen was!)and also told her how I put up with people like that jerk several times a day for nearly 20 years---I felt really bad for her,I knew exactly what she was going through. Would you want to go to work every morning knowing that this is going to happen every day??--or look foreward to someone wanting to shove a part down your throat,when it was the wrong one through no fault of your own??--or get blamed for a defective part,like YOU rebuilt it??
    So--next time you go to buy parts,and they give you that blank stare and say their sorry,dont blame it all on the person at he counter--direct it towards their employers,they are the real villans here for their policies.The counterpersons get paid rather little for the amount of work they do (and nowhere enough for all the crap they have to put up with from the public and their employers).Not to say there arent some arrogant A-hole counterpersons though--I have met some of them too---I avoid their places of employment like the plauge.Maybe if enough customers boycott places with poor counterpeople,they wont be able to keep them employed--and they will have to be nicer at their next job.
    Sorry for the long rant--but I had to get this off my chest. In my job search,I've learned that you can make about 2 bucks an hour more working the counter VS being the parts delivery driver--I'd rather drive and put up with all the road rage and jerks on the road,than be imprisoned behind a counter all day---a job can feel like a paid prison term if your not happy doing it. /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif And that leads to "Countermans Atittude", like the girl in the lounge post--a disgruntled employee is usually a result of poor treatment by the employer and the public--you get tired of being treated like crap after awhile! /forums/images/graemlins/deal.gif--But I can say this also--employees seem to be able to get away with bad atittudes and poor performance in general than back when I worked in the retail world--seems all Wal-Mart and similar stores want is warm bodies that show up every day--intelligence and courtesy seem to be optional,not really mandatory like it used to be. /forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif
     
  2. nvrenuf

    nvrenuf NONE shall pass! Premium Member

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    I've been in your shoes and I couldn't agree more. /forums/images/graemlins/peace.gif
     
  3. NoSmog73

    NoSmog73 1/2 ton status

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    I hear your frustration.,I have a "big retailer" auto parts store here and I am bless to have most of the people there that know me and It dosent mater what the part came off of they will listen to me and go to the book if they don't know ..
    If it wasnt for all there employees at that store I wouldnt have half the parts on the blazer I have now...Props to them.. /forums/images/graemlins/waytogo.gif
    I never go in there with an attitude and that is a a big help,Because I want to be treated the same and they know that when I walk-in the doors More then likely the part I am after isn't off the year rig I have...lol /forums/images/graemlins/peace.gif
     
  4. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    [ QUOTE ]
    The real problem is the management of the stores--the computer HAS ruined the parts business--you dont need any brains to be a counterman today--you just need to ask the right questions,push the right buttons,and hopefully it will give you the correct part numbers.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I beg to differ with you there. The computer has made the sale of common parts faster and more efficient so I have time to spend 20 minutes with the guy like you that is trying to put parts together from 5 different rigs. The computer catalog is the best thing that has ever happened to this business as long as you have counter people that can still read catalogs.

    The price war is the only thing that has ruined countermen in this day and age. Parts at autozone sell at "jobber" price or below. The average guy like me could never open an independant parts store because without the buying power of a huge chain like Autozone, nobody would buy any of my parts because they'd think I was ripping them off!!!

    The internet parts business is the same way. I'd be glad to sell ALL of you guys parts at jobber price, in fact, I could still make a living!! The reality is that even though I spend thousands of dollars every month with my wholesalers, there's always a guy out there that spends double what I do, and he's selling parts below my cost!! I started Tim's Offroad thinking that I'd be able to sell parts at what I believe to be a REASONABLE margin and turn some my my parts knowledge into profit. The reality is that I always end up cutting hardcore deals with people because the price war has killed me.

    I KNOW how to read a catalog. In fact, right behind me, I have BOXES of them, SLAM FULL of parts that EVERYBODY on this board would want. The problem is that with shipping and everything, I shoot you a price that I feel is reasonable without burying myself in freight charges and a customer goes and saves $5 on the same part somewhere else and I lose the sale.

    I'm glad to spend FOREVER looking up parts for a guy if he wants to buy something. I've spent hours looking up gear, locker, tire, and wheel packages for people and cut them AWESOME deals that nearly nobody can beat....and a week later I find out that some jackass beat my price by a few bucks, and to the other person they go.

    Of course I'm a nice guy so I did all the dirty work, gave them part numbers, etc., because that's the way I am.

    But, the only thing killing this business is the price war!! I can get you any aftermarket part you could potentially want at a lower cost to you than nearly anywhere, but nobody can lose money on parts. Hell I'd be happy to sell stuff at zero profit or nearly zero profit. The problem is that once I spend 4 hours looking up part numbers and pay the credit card fees there isn't anything left for me. /forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif

    I feel sorry for the salesman and the customers in this instance though. The only reason that there are no real parts guys left is the price war.
     
  5. tx_sub

    tx_sub 1/2 ton status

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    i worked at advanced auto parts for a stint to help the poor college student synrome. i figured i would know tons more about cars than the yahoos that work there. i drew this conclusion from some of the other people i've dealt with in the past. i was surprised with my fellow employees' knowledge. nice folks too. i don't know if its just the attitude of people in new orleans, but i usually sold a third to a half of the merchandise for the day on weekends. plus i was the only white guy there. the rest were african americans.

    one time i sold a regular customer a set of spark plugs. the manufacturer put the wrong plugs in the box they were labeled as. when he returned them, he gave me hell for it. apparently it was my fault i sold him the wrong parts. with spark plugs you're lucky enough to get a set in that store because the computer doesn't ever match up with the inventory.

    i'm only a kid in the auto parts world, but i've definately found the value of a good parts person. there are a few good ole shops back home where the guys have done that their whole lives. i only wish i could know a portion of what those guys have forgotten. they are irreplaceable.

    KNOLEGEABLE AUTO PARTS PERSON, WE SALUTE YOU.
     
  6. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    [ QUOTE ]
    there are a few good ole shops back home where the guys have done that their whole lives. i only wish i could know a portion of what those guys have forgotten. they are irreplaceable.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Damn right. /forums/images/graemlins/thumb.gif I've learned a lot from those guys.
     
  7. nvrenuf

    nvrenuf NONE shall pass! Premium Member

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    As I stated in The Lounge, I still think the computer is ultimately the downfall of the real parts guy. I'm not saying computers are bad, they're wonderful tools. My reason for blaming the computer is (like I said) the fact that anyone can look up parts now. You no longer need to have any automotive knowledge to do the job only the ability to read.

    You're right, price wars are to blame but it's not the parts prices, it's the wages. The fact is a store manager can put someone behind the counter for minimum wage and do basically the same job as a parts "pro" who was earning double that. Granted the inexperienced seller takes longer and will get stuff wrong but from a corporate stand point they do the job well enough.

    The parts price wars have been around for ever. There are more large chains offering "every day low prices" now than ever before but places like AutoZone(Shack) have been around for 30 years so the parts price war is nothing new.
     
  8. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    The parts price war the way it is today is nothing like it has been for the last 30 years, trust me.

    The wages are terrible because the sales margins are terrible, thus the downfall of the real parts guy. Don't blame the computer, blame the smart consumer that goes elsewhere when the price is too high.
     
  9. nvrenuf

    nvrenuf NONE shall pass! Premium Member

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    The wages are simply the worst in the retail chain market, dealerships still pay good money and have to deal with more price war issues than any AutoZone ever thought of (try dealing with an entire wholesale client base that want 25% or more off parts).

    The sales margins are still there, trust me stores like AutoZone still make 25~30% profit on just about everything they sell (except oil, coolant and freon) all the while saying they're giving it away.
     
  10. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    Autozone doesn't offer discounts to commercial customers.

    Dealers are still selling parts at list price (or higher) and making a killing.

    Trust me the sales margins in "jobber" type stores to compete with places like autozone, suck.

    That's why I tell you guys to go to autozone if I give you a part number. The same U joint at Autozone sells for $13 that sells for $20 at Carquest. It's the exact same part, and as long as you know what part you want, it doesn't matter where you buy it.

    Same for the $37.99 Raybestos premium semi metallics at Autozone vs. Carquest blue $60.
     
  11. Z3PR

    Z3PR Banned

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    [ QUOTE ]

    Quote:
    The real problem is the management of the stores--the computer HAS ruined the parts business--you dont need any brains to be a counterman today--you just need to ask the right questions,push the right buttons,and hopefully it will give you the correct part numbers.



    I beg to differ with you there. The computer has made the sale of common parts faster and more efficient so I have time to spend 20 minutes with the guy like you that is trying to put parts together from 5 different rigs. The computer catalog is the best thing that has ever happened to this business as long as you have counter people that can still read catalogs.

    [/ QUOTE ] I beg too differ. For years I've had too deal with part house people who are completely clueless. If it's not on thier computer screen, it doesn't exsist. The biggest problem I run into is most of them can't understand the consept of a modified vehicle. Yes, they are a few parts counter people who know thier stuff, but they are few. I refuce too deal with NAPA anymore just because they always give me the WRONG parts. I'll take in the old parts, tell them what I need. They'll bring out a wrong part, after I show them it's the wrong part, they'll try too argue with me telling me I'm wrong and it is the right part. Really hets too me when I took the part off the car myself, brought it in, it's right in front of them and they still tell me I'm f_cken wrong because the part they brought out is the right one because the computer screen says so !!!!!
     
  12. ZooMad75

    ZooMad75 1/2 ton status Premium Member GMOTM Winner

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    I'll refrain from my "I've been burned by auto zone" story, but Tim's got a point here. I've worked in the parts business for a Car Quest Distribution wherhouse in Denver and had Friends that ran thier own store. I've been there and glad to not be in it now due to the 'Zone, Pep boys and the CSK guys.

    The guy I knew that had his own store in Arvada, CO was lined up with Parts Plus, but had been in business for almost 20 years. As more and more Mega-National chain parts stores went up, his business went down. This guy like most old school countermen knew his stuff and could navigate that big stack-o-catalogs with the utmost precision. He just could not compete with the big guns and the "loss leader" mentality. No independent part store can compete with the every day sales like oil and filters. You can go to Wal-Mart and even beat the Zone's price on that. Sure this guy had his core of customer's that were loyal (my dad and I were two) but Joe Everybody is going to bargain hunt and go to the place that has the cheapest parts regardless of quality. That regular stream of street traffic just died up. Sooner or later the expenses become greater than sales and profits and one is forced to close its doors. He moved his store 3 times to get away from the big chains and still lost. As warped as the logic is, people will drive further in some cases to save a dollar. /forums/images/graemlins/screwy.gif

    I do what I can to support our local parts stores and buy from them when I can, but it is hard as hell not to want to save some money and run down to the local 'zone and tell them what I need and save a little dough.

    What was said before about the price war being a new or an old thing is really a little of both. Yes Auto Zone, Pep Boys and CSK (Checker) have been around for a long time, but for most of the time they were regionally based competing just locally. It wasn't until 10-12 years ago that they exploded nationally. Once they knew it would work on a national basis, the real big buying power came into play and the pricing dropped dramatically. The same thing has happened with the home improvement industry. Remember what they used to be???? Hardware stores, locally owned, helpfull, knowledgeable staff and reasonble prices. Now you got Home Depot, Lowes and Menards putting these little Mom and Pop stores out of business. It is the same thing. Buying power/cheap pricing and warm bodies to sell it = profit by sheer volume of sales.

    Buy from the good counter people while you can, because before you know it they will be an extinct breed.
     
  13. nvrenuf

    nvrenuf NONE shall pass! Premium Member

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    When I said dealer I was talking about wholesale only, no walk in or shop income. We do make a killing on walk in and shop sales but the real money is in wholesale, the volume is great enough that even at 25~30% off the dept still makes good money. A dealer that is living off of it's retail, walk in sales is extremely rare, the volume is just too low.

    As far as AutoZone not offering discounts we had one of their counter people come into the dealer I work at trying to solicite business (parts for the used cars, etc). When we asked how much discount they we offering he said "We offer everday deeply discounted prices.", we sent him packing. /forums/images/graemlins/rotfl.gif

    Places like AutoZone can put 2 warm bodies behind the counter for the same cost as one real parts guy, now the real parts guy is no longer needed behind that counter.
     
  14. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    [ QUOTE ]
    As far as AutoZone not offering discounts we had one of their counter people come into the dealer I work at trying to solicite business (parts for the used cars, etc). When we asked how much discount they we offering he said "We offer everday deeply discounted prices.", we sent him packing. /forums/images/graemlins/rotfl.gif

    [/ QUOTE ]

    It's true though. You can get parts cheaper from him than you can from any jobber store, even if you're on stocking dealer or master installer pricing, autozone is still cheaper.

    They can't offer the service that a real parts store can, but you get what you pay for.
     
  15. diesel4me

    diesel4me 1 ton status Premium Member

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    [ QUOTE ]
    [ QUOTE ]
    there are a few good ole shops back home where the guys have done that their whole lives. i only wish i could know a portion of what those guys have forgotten. they are irreplaceable.

    [/ QUOTE ]
    damn right. /forums/images/graemlins/thumb.gif I've learned a lot from those guys.

    [/ QUOTE ]
    Theese are the guys we need to buy parts from---many of theese stores are either out of business or are about to be--Many of theese counterman have forgotten more than todays computer whiz kids will ever learn--
    as others posts have stated,theese guys are the only ones who have the knowledge and will spend the time to look through all the catologs and figure out what you need,and actually sell you something thats not listed for your vehicle--most stores now are so fearful of sue happy lawyers they practically forbid the sale of any parts if they know they arent listed for your vehicle!. Low price is nice,if you can walk in with your own part numbers--but when you start asking for parts not listed,all you get is the blank stare.
    I should clarify my point on the computers role in selling auto parts--I still say it has ruined the parts business---not for the counterman--the consumer.I was working in a large store in 1982 when the first computer hit the scene(a Triad,if anyone ever heard of that system)and we had been using pencils and notepads for several years all the other stores--several of my fellow employees and myself considered leaving the trade when we saw how difficult it appeared to be to learn to operate them.About 2 weeks later,we experienced the first time the system went "down"--and we were all ready to quit again,having to return to pencils and paper was like going back to the stone age--we learned the computer WAS our friend when it came to speed of looking up parts and printing invoices--this was a catch 22 though--now we were expected to know all this computer stuff,and do 2 or 3 times the volume of customers--at the same rate of pay,of course.Its when they started telling us NOT to sell anything to someone that the COMPUTER said was not the correct part that things started getting weird--why would a parts store not want to sell parts??? /forums/images/graemlins/dunno.gif--lawsuits,thats why.And the arrival of the computer meant the demise of the catolog rack,with all its pictures worth thousands of words,a blessing when dealing with our non english speaking customers,who by the way were some of the hardest hit by this new policy,since many of them made a living fixing up cars and swapping parts around on them.
    I often wonder how the countermen older than me have survived all theese years at low wages--how the heck they managed to get a house,or raise kids on their small paycheck,or how many didnt make it due to burnout,I quit after nealy 20 years when my best friend died at age 36 of a hidden heart valve defect--I learned real quick the day he died you only get one chance in life--and when my boss didnt want to give me time off to attend his funeral,I protested--she said if I wanted to take a few weeks off to get my head together,go ahead--but your job might not be here when you come back--so I told her I wouldn't BE back--I miss my paychecks,but not a minite of working in that store,or any of the others.That was 10 years ago--I've worked odd jobs,started a small engine repair business and mowed lawns all this time since, while caring for my elderly parents(my dad died in 2000 after suffering 10 years with parkinsons disease,and my mom has COPD and emphasema,)so my business fell off,now I hardly fix anything thanks to Wal-Mart and Home Depot,people buy new stuff,and junk the old mowers instead of fixing them--the yuppies here wouldnt be caught dead on a "used" riding mower! /forums/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif
    I can see how people think its an easy job from the other side of the counter,but I've worked other jobs,and beleive me its a real demanding job-the telephone calls alone are enough to drive you insane(I still hate phones with a passion--I cant remember how many times I'd answer my own phone at home with the name of the company I worked for!!I want to smash the dam phone--nothing aggravates me more than a phone,after answering 500 calls a day! /forums/images/graemlins/angryfire.gif).
    I dont know what the future will bring,but for the professional counterperson,their days are numbered--like the dinosours,we will all fade away into oblivion,unless the management of some stores start treating them like humans instead of robots,and allow them to HELP people and sell them whatever they ask for,pay them a living wage and provide health benifits(I had none more years than I did).
    Thanks for responding to this post--I know I'm rambling on,but I feel strongly about the state of the retail working world--it seems to me most people are just there to get a paycheck at many places I shop,many times I've walked up to a clerk to ask for assistance,and they are talking to a co-worker or a friend and they give you the "go away" look,or ignore you for several minites before they finally wait on you,and you can see they do as little work as possible.It really irks me--when I worked I was expected to wait on several people at once,and never screw up!.
    /forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif
     
  16. unclematty

    unclematty 1/2 ton status

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    Tim's got a point there! /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  17. mosesburb

    mosesburb For Rent Premium Member GMOTM Winner

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    A few people have touched on the real problem here. I will state it ourtight.

    It is the customers!!

    Tim said it, he will look everything up, quote a fair price, just to have the nimrod take his info down the road to save two dollars on the parts.
    I have worked in the parts business for 15+ years now and I see it everyday. Help somebody out, just to get told in the end that he can get it cheaper over there. These people are the first ones to bitch when the doo-dah behind the computer at (insert cheezy parts house name here) can't get him the right parts. Yeah, they will pay a little more from the independent stores like I have worked at throughout my time as a parts floozie, but how many times can you bet that "deer in the headlights" look or get the wrong part before it becomes worth it?? The store I am at now is near four of the big-name chains. We get ALOT of customers from those places when they are looking for something odd. They plunk it down on the counter and I tell them waht it is. I get this look of dis-belief from them, "I have just been to..... and......then I went to.....from there over to....... and nobody could understand what I am telling them but you knew right away. So these people will often times purchase the part, swear off the "other" stores, only to never be seen again.
    When you can't keep customers coming in the store and you're not allowed to make any money doing it, wages suffer. When wages suffer, good people go away to find better jobs. Customers need to realize that purchasing their parts from a place that employs quality people benefits them in many ways.

    The other problem I see that contributes to the problem is the people's mindset that the only difference between parts are the price. That could not be further from the truth. Throughout serving time behind the counter, I have been lucky enough to work at establishments that based their inventory on quality instead of price. I see the crap that the "other" stores sell for a few pennies more or less than the store I am at and it is some float-the-boat quality part whereas I would be selling something domestically produced for a similar price, but try to explain that to somebody who doesn't know or hasn't learned the hard way and you may as well be selling snake oil. Quality costs. There is a difference. I got lucky, years ago, as I had a neighbor who would only buy his parts at (insert cheesy parts house name here). I, even being young, noticed he would replace the same part multiple times. I thought that was not right. The same parts on the trucks at my house lasted for many, many thousands of miles and his might last a thousand if he was lucky. That was when I learned there was a difference as I started buying parts for our trucks at the local independent store (that I later ended up managing), and our stuff lasted as long as the original stuff or longer, but I could not convince him that because it has a lifetime warranty doesn't mean it is better than the part with a one year warranty that I put on our trucks and lasts ten years.

    The only difference is price.
    The only difference is price.
    The only difference is price.

    For the most part, the new generation of "parts guys" aren't parts guys, they are keyboard actuators.
     

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