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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Low Class Yuppie: Odd jobs, tales from behind the parts counter

April 7, 2014 What does vindication taste like? Today was shaping up to be one of "those" days. Sometimes, one solitary day off is not enough to shake the defeat of the previous week. I had a large deal fall through, costing me well over a thousand dollars (a conservative estimate).
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/low-class-yuppie/low-class-yuppie-odd-jobs-tales-from-behind-t...
4 REPLIES 4
audiobycarmine
Technician

GREAT article, Cam.
I wonder how many readers see themselves in more than one of the characters written about.
I think i have been two or three of them — as that former newt said in "M.P. & the H. Grail: "I got better."
ThePOWERtoRULE
Pit Crew

I worked parts counters at various CSK stores from 2003 to about 2009 (I believe?) the O'Reilly days were a sign for me to go ahead and attempt my second exit. But there was no ill will there, it was a great job and such a great simple time in my life.

I have similar stories and experiences. Each store I worked in had it's own personality, customer base, and varying proportions of commercial customers. I, too, had many days of explaining the various changes and iterations of small-block GM engines over the years... often times done with more gentle charity than the offending party warranted. And this was all before there was much of a "meme culture" around this stuff- you just had to look young, be a woman, or not speak the same first language as the other guy; and they were off to the races.

The day-to-day drags I don't remember too much of... the eye rolls and sighs from people you were trying to help, the infamous "Ford Mercury", the Cherokee (or was it Grand Cherokee?) that we couldn't seem to get the right parts for, delicate situations with people who were stranded (or stranded themselves by dismantling) in your parking lot, people that expected you to work on their cars for free, shoplifters, turning away refunds on parts used to "guess and check" repairs, gang members, ignorant people, tweakers, thieving coworkers, janitorial work... I kind of just let all that go.

The good day-to-day stuff I DO remember... my favorite customers who brought me fun projects to try and dig up in old cross-reference catalogs whenever I had some extra time, or the good commercial accounts that I liked sending good business to. Jim Rome in the morning and Dodger baseball on KLAC at night. Learning enough Spanish to fluently and convincingly sell almost any car part, but fall apart if they asked me how my night was going. And of course the long days and nights with my coworkers... just chatting and living while holding down that counter or loading up the shelves.

I put myself through college doing that job. By the time I was graduating I had moved on from my initial career ambitions- so I kept working as a service writer after, at least for a couple years before I was badgered by a friend (for a whole year) to move on. It's crazy to look back and realize that I've worked in the auto industry (now automotive adjacent) my entire adult life... I had applied to that CSK job the week of my 18th birthday. Now whenever we're in an auto parts store or a tire shop my wife tells me that the smell brings her back... the smell of those stores reminds her of me and us, back when her and I were figuring this all out and just having a good time. Now we've got a house, a family, stressful (but rewarding) careers, and a whole heap of responsibilities. But we also still have our 01 XJ, and her 95 YJ... and even picked up some broken VWs along the way. And we also still have each other, and all those great memories.

As it turns out, the whole was indeed much greater than the sum of all those parts. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Cam. We all need it once in awhile.

2manycars
Pit Crew

Great stuff. Just like audiobycarmine, I know that I am probably many or most other people fit into multiple categories in this scenario. I never really had any odd or interesting customer experiences working the Cadillac, or Volkswagen, or Honda dealerships in the Summers after my freshman and sophomore years in college, other than getting the job of detailing Richard Petty's wife's black on black with blacked-out Windows STS with the petty blue racing stripe around the Beltline, instead of Chrome. Other than that, it was mostly the fellow employees who are much much my senior as a young college kid, at least in the Cadillac dealership. A couple of them in their too tight button down shirts and too short ties hanging over their bellies reminded me of Scott Farkas and his Toady Grover Dill from Christmas Story, picking on people and then the other ones slapping the other one. The dirtiest looking and oldest one in his indoor outdoor glasses always liked to asked if I, umm..... well let's just say he likes to go in and do that in the janitor closet off the sales floor. I would always just nervously laugh it off and walk away as quickly as I could. I never felt threatened, I found it disgusting and funny at the same time. Of course nowadays there would have been a lawsuit if you said that to the wrong person. I still enjoy my Cadillacs and Volkswagens, the same mosels now that I used to detail back then when they were new.
BMD4800
Gearhead

I worked for a NAPA corporate store. Good people, terrible corporation. But I digress.

I was the young kid, they put me all the way at the end of the counter, next to the catalogs. No one ever used the catalogs and the assistant manager would run people off asking dumb, or typical 350 Chevy ignorant questions. After a couple of weeks I was the catalog guy. If the answer wasn’t in the magic computer, I’d walk over and flip open the catalog. On Saturdays it was common for there to be one or two people standing in line, all day, with an odd ball part, or mid-change over Ford part, waiting patiently for me. Made the days go quickly.

It was cool to help people.

I went to a Corporate Napa to get a 1515 Filter for a small block Chrysler. Counter guy nearly refused to sell me the filter, swore up and down it wouldn’t fit. Relax Scooter, I’ve been running a 1515 on it for 20 YEARS.
Sometimes the computer doesn’t know all…