Are Parts Store Employees Getting Worse?


$100 site donor 2024
Feb 19, 2013
Phoenix, AZ
Is it just me or is the intelligence level getting lower? Every once in a while I get a good parts store person but lately it seems they really either aren't too bright in general or just don't know anything about cars. Here's a few of my encounters.

While standing in line the person infront of me was inquiring about the special O'Reilly's had going on at the time which was Havoline Full Synthetic and some filter. The parts store guy looked up the filter part number and wrote it down, and then asked what kind of car the guy had (I don't remember what it was) and the parts store employee brought back 5 quarts of 5w30. The owner then said "Oh, but my car has high miles, 75,000." Then the parts store employee without saying a word went and got 10w30 of the same oil (Non-HM) instead. Apparently that's better for such a high mileage car LOL.

When getting parts for a 1970 Beetle (which they often do have in stock) I had a hard time explaining myself to the parts store employee. I even had to show him how to search for it on the computer.

In an import parts store where they sell lots of vintage VW parts I went in asking for some retractable seat belts for the 70' Beetle. The guy looked at me like I was an idiot and tried to get me to buy them from some other store across the street. But I wanted to spend my money at their store for the part that they had. He wouldn't have it. It would have required him to put in a special order that would have taken a week for it to get there. I don't care how long it takes the car rarely gets driven anyways. I spent my money elsewhere.

Customer infront of me has a check engine light for an engine misfire. Parts store employee hands over a $2.99 bottle of fuel injector cleaner and says to try this first. What?

At the dealer wanting to buy a filter for my VW TDI and asked if they had oil. The parts counter guy reaches back and gets 5 quarts of 5w30 which apparently does back-spec for my car, but I asked if he had any 5w40 and he said no. I then told him I didn't want the oil and I would order some online. He looked at me like I was crazy and insisted on me buying the oil there because regardless of all the camshaft failures on my car's type of engine, he wanted to sell me a 5w30 and kind of tried to force me to buy it. Back off dude, it's my car. I call the shots.

Went in to O'Reilly's to buy some gear oil. I asked for Mobil 1 which they keep in the back and not on the shelf. The employee then tries to get me not to buy the Mobil 1 because it's all just a marketing gimmick and they're all the exact same stuff just with a different label on it. I don't care if the other brands are just as good, maybe they are, but spending the extra $2 of MY money that gives me butterflies in my stomach and I sleep well at night when I use it (not literally) is my choice.

At AutoZone getting my battery and alternator checked. They couldn't clamp their machine tester on my battery (Negative is kind of squished in there) and after like 5 minutes of them struggling I do it for them I n 5 seconds. Voila, it worked.

I often have to show them how to ring up the O'Reilly's coupons when they have their sales.

Is it just me?
Yeah, i have run into problems getting parts. I can find what i need in 2 seconds on their website but when i get to the store i have to help them search on the computer or tell them where to look for the item.
Parts stores don't pay enough for anyone that knows their stuff to bother working there. And for managers they want people that know about business, not cars or auto parts.

About the only people I've found at parts stores that know anything about cars are the old timers that are retired but working there part time for something to do and don't really need the money.
Many of these jobs have been reduced to minimum wage jobs and there may be no future in staying long enough to learn the trade.

I heard an employee of a big chain parts store tell a customer they he could mix any kind of antifreeze with any other kind of antifreeze and there would never be a problem. I told the customer to be safe and never mix types of antifreeze and to carefully follow the owner's manual. He had a Toyota with the pink antifreeze and I told him I had the same with my 4Runner and I use the Toyota brand purchased from the dealer. I told him I did not mind the extra expense and I was also playing it safe. The store employee went on to say that if in doubt just add the green coolant to any other coolant. I think this guy is going to create problems with some customers. I don't believe that he is an expert on the subject and his belief that he knows is a problem. I'd rather hear, I don't know, lets find the answer.
Originally Posted By: bvance554
I don't think this is limited to parts stores.

Agreed. It's most any big business where quota hiring is used and the pay is too low to really get the best applicants. That said, even skilled and quality folks can have their own wife's tales and all...

What amazes me is that there is so much help and good advice on forums... All it would take is a little reading on part of many of these folks and they could increase their utility a thousand fold. I guess in the end all though, roughly half of the population is below average, so that will never really be the case.
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
Agreed. It's most any big business where quota hiring is used and the pay is too low to really get the best applicants.

In my experience it is a management problem. Either the philosophy of the company and / or how that translates into hiring, setting objectives and training or the management of a particular store or set of stores.

I've seen dimwits in high end stores and stellar performers in low end stores. And when I get to see or interact with a store manager, they are usually a good reflection of the store itself.
Originally Posted By: AdRock
Parts stores don't pay enough for anyone that knows their stuff to bother working there. And for managers they want people that know about business, not cars or auto parts.

About the only people I've found at parts stores that know anything about cars are the old timers that are retired but working there part time for something to do and don't really need the money.

I have found only the NAPA counter guys know what their doing.... It's nice, they get to deliver parts with the truck, get time off and actually know how to use a micrometer. Several of them actually OWN classic cars, and drive them proudly! The hand tools are cheapened and outrageous, but they also have "real" tools.

Autozone has noticeably worse in this regard. Parts City is a JOKE, the clowns behind the counter act like some poker host, and they will B.S. you.

O'reilly's, is slightly better than AutoZone, hit or miss. Greedy investors have ruined AutoZone.
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The last time I was at a local Napa there was only one guy that knew what he was talking about. However, the Carquest near my house actually has guys that know their stuff. But I'll also say that I haven't seen an employee at that Carquest under the age of 40 besides one of the delivery people that was there when I was. All 3 of the counter guys I've dealt with are easily in their 60's.
I'm an informed customer. I do my own research on something I need before I step in one of their stores.

What I hate is when I bring in a printout from their site of exactly what I want, its description and part number, and they insist on looking it up themselves 'just to check'.
I only deal with commercial and they are usually better than the others and some are great when you go to the big auto stores its hit or miss.
Here the deal with this. The industry is moving to a low pay model, you are just not going to find the same experience you did 20 years ago. You will never see a counterman who "knows" all the part numbers by memory anymore. Reasons for this are simple A.) except for a few of us , the vast majority are low payed employees B.) cars now have far more parts now with the switch to fuel injection. Honestly do you really expect the average counterperson to know about specific parts on a 70's beetle? Or know that your VW requires 502 oil? This industry especially with the big 3 , are rapidly becoming just another massive retailer. They just happen to sell stuff for cars. The problem is that A.) Mary doesnt know anything about her car , so she falsely believes someone behind the counter knows EVERYTHING about her individual car B.) Ted who gets a real hard on showing off how much he knows about this motor, part etc. So what does he do , treat the person who is probably trying to help him like a common idiot. With the move to lower wages and increasingly becoming extremely retail , the days of finding skilled and knowledgeable counterman is fast disappearing. I still do it because I love it and love to help people. And the skilled counterperson , with the correct certifications can still make a honest wage. On a side note to this rant , I have seen far more just plain stupid customers than just plain stupid counterman. So in short be nice to your parts guy , we are people too. We cant read your mind , we dont have a crystal ball . Most of us just want to do a good job and help our customer out.
For me, Autozone has been getting better lately. In fact they've been really good to me - the stores are well-organized and the staff members seem to be getting better. O'Reilly however, has been going the other direction.
Originally Posted By: Nick1994

Is it just me?

No. In many instances they just need a body and plop them behind the counter with minimal training. The days of being well trained, and taking pride in your job and becoming good at it, are over in many places.
I always look up the part number on the internet before stepping in the store. I don't need an employee to be there. I wish they had self checkout.
I only go to parts stores for filters and little odds and ends. Most parts purchases are made on rockauto. I usually buy oil at a regional chain department store since they've usually always got something good clearanced.
There's a parts store chain in Oregon and Washington that I really like and prefer over O'Reilly or Autozone. All the counter guys at the one I go to are a bunch of middle aged gear heads with no shortage of knowledge, and the girl at the register ain't too bad lookin either!
Worked at a parts/tire shop as a tech but was loitering at the checkout desk. Customer wanted antifreeze for "X". I started explaining how the generic all-makes stuff was like dexcool but without the dye. Waaay over her head. (I should have kept my mouth shut.) Manager/ checkout guy says, it reads on the label it's for all makes. Click. Sale.

One doesn't want to contradict the packaging, as you'll get called on it.

As experts buying parts, having an idiot behind the counter doesn't really block a sale, it just gives said "expert" something to seethe over with contempt. Meh. It could even be a marketing thing to remind the customer that they're always right, flattering them, etc.
I buy my parts mostly at the "Advance Auto" around the corner from my house. There's one "old timer," working there who really knows his stuff. His name is Ben and no matter how long the line, I always wait for him rather than deal with anyone else for the very reasons you guys are mentioning.
My problem with parts store employees is that they don't want to get off their lazy [censored] and actually wait on you,which is their job. Just the very simple act of standing up,ringing up your purchases,and accepting your money,so you can go on about your life.

I don't ever ask for their help or advice,only basic customer service (aka ringing me up) so I can go on about my business. BUT,getting a tiny bit of customer service is like pulling teeth!