Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Demise of the American Auto Parts Store

I am a dinosaur, I know.

I still change the oil in my own vehicles, and do what maintenance on them I can.

When I started doing stuff like this, decades ago, Mom and Pop Auto Parts Stores were all over the place. In fact, my grandfather made his fortune running an independent Auto Parts Store that carried his name. I remember the sights and sounds of that store, experienced on my visits to see my grandparents.

Stores like that have pretty much disappeared. They've been replaced by big chain stores, like O'Reilly, Auto Zone, etc. Chains come and go, they go out of business or are bought out. However, I have noticed something disturbing over the past decade or so. I realized it with clarity this past weekend. The chain stores are going away.

Having to travel to 4 different stores to find the oil and filters I needed for my vehicles (none of which are rare or exotic) was exasperating. The experience was summed up in one store. Not seeing the oil brand and weight I wanted, I asked about it. "Oh, we have that brand" was the reply. We walked over to the shelves. They did have that brand - exactly one variety and one weight of that brand's oil. I guess that is all they needed in order to claim they carried it. He offered to order me some of what I needed, or to sell me his house brand, which was "just as good".


What's worse is the fourth store, the one I found what I needed at, was Walmart. Yes ... Wally World had a bigger selection of motor oil and filters than three different dedicated auto parts supply stores.

Somehow, there is a liberal plot underneath this ... I just can't figure out what it is yet.

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