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Earning Respect of the Parts Store ----- ----- ----- ----- "When your actions affect their reactions"


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Earning Respect at the Parts Store


When your actions can affect their reaction


I started my shop like a lot of other guys in the auto business. Not a lot of startup capital, a hand painted sign, a box of tools, and a dream. Boy, was that a long time ago. I still have the tools, but the hand painted sign is long gone. One thing I didn't have was any track record of paying my bills with the parts stores. People knew of me, but not well enough to put a lot of trust into my business just yet. Believe me, it was a struggle to get things started.


I was buying parts from any local parts store or warehouse that would let me. A lot of the parts stores wouldn't even give me a line of credit, and others would only give me one week or so on credit. So every Monday I would have to make good on the parts I had bought the week before. I can't blame them; it's quite a risk for parts store to let their products go out the front door to an unknown without any track record.


I wanted to do whatever it took to make my new business thrive. Back then I would do as much as I could in the way of in-house repairs, or rebuild as many components as possible. In fact, a lot of the components back then could be taken apart and rebuilt. (Not like the glued together components we see today.) I would rebuild switches, window motors, starters, alternators, or anything else that I could take apart and replace internal components on. It wasn't long after I opened that I ran into a little problem with one of my suppliers. It was on an IC-type Delco alternator that had a bad rectifier in it. Simple repair, I could knock this job out in no time.


I ordered a new one from my supplier, and got to work tearing the alternator down to install the new rectifier. Once I had it back together again, I installed it back onto the car. As soon as I reached for the battery clamp and touched it to the battery, Z-ZAPP! Sparks flew in every direction. What the…!?!? What did I just do??


I disconnected everything I just put together. With the alternator disconnected the problem was gone. I must have screwed up…or at least that's what I was thinking at the time. Guess I'll take the whole thing apart and check my work. I went through the alternator with a fine toothed comb. Nothing looked wrong; everything was in its proper place. I got out the ohm meter and started checking things. Sure enough, the rectifier was the culprit. The diodes inside the rectifier that I just bought were installed from the factory … … … backwards! I called the supplier and told them the situation.


I'm busy explaining to the parts store what I found out, but I could tell something else was wrong besides the rectifier. It was me, let's face it, I was young, a new shop owner (only in business a few months) with no track record, and nothing more than my word that the part was bad. The big problem was getting the part store convinced that I wasn't just another idiot with a box of wrenches trying to run a repair shop. I'm sure that's what they were thinking. I'll bet they've seen a lot of shops come and go … and there's no doubt I probably sounded like another "wanna-be" shop owner to them.


I went into great detail how I discovered the backwards diodes, but what did you expect, I'm still that green kid with a multi-meter… they didn't believe a word of it. I had to buy a second one. Because it was an electrical part, and of course… I must have screwed it up, and as their store policy was "No return on electrical parts", I'll have to eat the first one, unless I can prove it was faulty. Their reasoning was simple, although buying extra parts wasn't in my budget at all.


I have to agree with the parts store though, it doesn't take much to screw up an electrical part by an amateur installing it wrong, I might have been new at this shop ownership, but this wasn't the first time I installed a rectifier in a GM alternator. I knew what I was doing… I just had to gain their respect and confidence.


When the replacement part showed up I checked it "before" installing it. Well, what do ya know, this one is backwards too. I called them back again, and now they were even more suspicious. Since I was the "new" guy on the block, I think they wanted to be sure about my results first. This time they sent another one down to me, and had me check it while the parts driver waited (I think they wanted to see if I was actually testing them)…..same thing again, it was backwards also.


That's when I told them that I thought they had an entire order of these rectifiers built wrong, and to send me a different brand. There again, I'm the new guy, it's another case of "I have to buy another one." On their fourth trip to my shop the parts store brought one from a different manufacturer and this one checked out perfectly. In order to get my money back on the faulty ones, they had to send them back to their supplier and have it verified, before they could get their money back and of course my money back too. Unfortunately this took awhile.


That was many, many, years ago. These days it's a little easier for me to return an electrical part if I need to. I very, very seldom ever do. My track record speaks for itself. Years later that same part store and I are old pals. The store has changed owners several times, but some of the same counter people are still there. Anytime they have a question on an electrical issue they'll usually call me first. I guess I've earned their trust, their respect, and their admiration. In fact, I've helped bail them out of a few situations too.


I look at it this way, we have to provide some amount of trust in everything we do in life or business. Whether that trust is directed to a customer or a supplier, you still need to gain their confidence. Just because you think you know something… doesn't make you right… ya still have to prove it.



Thanks for reading "Gonzo's Toolbox" these stories are here before anyone else sees them. Final editing and actual publication depends a lot on your comments. Not all my stories make it out there into print, but you can help decide which do. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of it. It really makes a difference. Thanks again to ASO Gonzo

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Great Tire Deal

Coming up with different topics for my column gets to be quite a job. The funny thing is, just when I think.. nah, this story will never work... I get a call from one of my editors and they LOVE it... go figure... this could be one of them... Ya never know do ya.


I was working with another shop the other day with a component they thought was bad. They brought it over for me to check and it was exactly that... bad. But, these guys didn't have the same level of "respect" that I have with the parts stores. With my help they were credited back for the faulty part. (It jogged my memory of how I started out so I put this story together) Experience and a track record does help sometimes... LOL


thanx Joe and the gang at ASO for providing me with a place to post my stories. Makes my job a lot easier. thanx again.


I hope everyone enjoys reading them. :) Gonzo

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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