Monday, July 27, 2009

National Auto Parts Store

I recently visited one of the national auto stores to pick up a part for my wife’s car. Upon entering, I was ambushed by a “store associate” who offered his assistance. I thanked him but said that I needed to go to the parts counter for help. He insisted he would be able to help me—after several laps around the store he suggested that I would need to go to the parts counter for further assistance.

There were quite a few customers standing at the counter, but only one (harried) employee working there. This, in spite of the fact that there were four store associates buzzing around the place, with the apparent mission of raising customer’s blood-pressure to dangerous levels before sending them to the parts counter.

I listened as Solo-employee started to assist the next customer in line, a guy who only needed replacement windshield wipers. I thought, “Good! This one should be quick.”

Solo-employee: (at a computer terminal) Year and Make?

Customer: 1999 Bonneville.

Solo-employee: Engine?

Customer (Confused, he looks around at the rest of us—we weren't able to help him)

Solo-employee (more pointedly): What size engine is in the vehicle, sir?

Customer: Oh sorry, (nervous chuckle) 2.0, it’s either a 2.0 or a 2.2… I think.

Solo-employee: (giving customer a glare that suggested knowing this information should be on par with remembering his kid’s birthdates, which he can’t do either) Two-door or four-door?

Customer: I need windshield wipers!

Solo-employee: I understand sir; two-door or four-door?

Customer: (Sighing) Four door.

Solo-employee: Air conditioning?

Customer: Yes.

Solo-employee: Was it manufactured between January and July, or May and December?

Customer: (now red-faced and shouting) How should I know?

Solo-employee: On the underside of your vehicle, and on top of the catalytic converter, there should be a metal tag with a code. If you get me that code I can tell you which windshield wipers you need.

Customer: (Looks around at the fairly significant crowd now waiting for assistance.)

Solo-employee (sensing the early onset of an anxiety attack): You won’t have to wait; I’ll get you as soon as you come back in.

This helped perk the exasperated customer up a bit and he leaves for about 20 minutes. When he walks back in, he has dirt down his back side, grease down his front side, and a piece of paper in his hand... he’s nursing a burn.

Solo-employee: Yes sir, do you have the code?

Customer: (Silently hands over the piece of paper)

Solo-employee: Year and Make?

And the entire scene repeats itself as Solo-employee drills down through the computer prompts to finally arrive at an answer.

Solo-employee: Okay sir, do you want Rain-Master, Super-Master, Super-Squeegee or The Hurricane?

Customer: (Obviously defeated, and not daring to ask the difference, glumly responds) Just give me the cheapest one.

Solo-employee: (Gives him another look—this time seeming to suggest that the guy might be the kind of person who would kick a cat, or intentionally commit negligent homicide... also on a cat.)

This is where I walked out. Instead of buying a replacement part, I’m thinking it might be easier to go out and buy a new car. I believe one of those bumper-to-bumper lifetime warranties might be a good idea, too.

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