Earning Respect at
                  the Parts Store

When your actions can affect their reactions

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 a 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.