The Rise And Fall Of Free Here At BITOG

Joined
Jan 25, 2009
Messages
630
Location
Georgia
I remember when the entire auto parts business was swimming in a pool of free SWAG.

When my dealership opened up business with the local O'Reillys, we got nearly $500 worth of parts that cost us only the sales tax. It was like Christmas on a hot August day!

The Autozone down the street from me had a rep come by and give me a rack filled with nine free batteries when they found out I opened near their location.

Every year Pep Boys would give away 32 spark plugs on Black Friday along with an assortment of other free items.

New products seemed to have rebates surgically attached to their retail displays. I remember the coupons were right near the cashier and you could easily picked out what was worth sampling.

Now keep in mind, my spending on auto parts was in the five figures back then. They were more than happy to keep me happy. But about three years ago I saw all of this dry up even on the commercial side.

Yes you can get free oil at BITOG. But that happens maybe two to three times a year and you have to make sure all the rebates and discounts fall into place.

Yes you can get free wash and wax supplies. But that's also not at all common anymore. Maybe twice a year.

Pep Boys is mostly gone. Autozone, O'Reilly, Advance... they are captive prisoners to their next quarterly earnings reports.

An auto enthusiast used to be able to spend less than $50 a year on the parts they needed for maintenance and basic repairs. They also could get free tools. Free battery charging. Free battery removal even if that battery was stuck behind a fender (I'm looking at you Chrysler!), and even free battery exchanges. Yes, the money was definitely made on the starters and alternators along with all the crappy plastic engine components that fell apart with heat and age. But there was a realistic reward on the other side of that rainbow.

What says you? Is the free side of our business doomed? Are we going to be stuck visiting yard sales at their very last hours and offering the owners a deal that can't be refused?

I see the EV destroying it all. I see free stuff becoming as rare as an Isuzu. What says you?
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Messages
2,089
Location
Athens, GA
I think the death of 'free' is directly tied to the 'death of diy'. The reason for that is anyone's guess. Blame it on computers, woke culture, or what have you, but kids today are not being taught by their parents/grandparents to fix things. I'm just as guilty as the next. My daughter turned 17 this year and graduated high school and not two weeks ago was her first instruction on checking her oil.

Guys are too busy with their beard oils and manicures, to get their hands dirty and take care of their stuff. Easier to just throw it away and buy new. Of course, people have been saying that for years, but we truly do (At least here in the US) live in a throwaway society. The people that need the parts are going to be stuck buying them with or without the discount, so why give up the profit.

Just my 2/100ths of $1
 
Joined
Aug 21, 2013
Messages
4,276
Location
Central Maryland
Free stuff and swag are an indication of high profit margins. There's a lot of consolidation and competition in the auto parts market, which means profits are there but the market is too competitive for the profits to be fat.

At the moment, the supply chain from Asia is still stressed by COVID.

EV's will still have wear components, and breakdowns, and accidents.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 21, 2013
Messages
4,276
Location
Central Maryland
I think the death of 'free' is directly tied to the 'death of diy'. The reason for that is anyone's guess. Blame it on computers, woke culture, or what have you, but kids today are not being taught by their parents/grandparents to fix things. I'm just as guilty as the next. My daughter turned 17 this year and graduated high school and not two weeks ago was her first instruction on checking her oil.

Guys are too busy with their beard oils and manicures, to get their hands dirty and take care of their stuff. Easier to just throw it away and buy new. Of course, people have been saying that for years, but we truly do (At least here in the US) live in a throwaway society.

Just my 2/100ths of $1
I keep hearing this... some of you all obviously don't hang out with the lower classes, where people are still forced to repair their own. Look at all the miserable DIY repair videos on youtube made by desperate people who have barely learned to fix something and then share it with bad grammar, bad (really no) editing, poor explanations, and yet there are thousands and thousands of these videos, and they keep coming, and coming.

Go to the other end of town, what do you find? Every strip mall has a liquor store, a check cashing joint, a chinese take-out (take-out only, sign: no bathrooms for public use), a nail salon... and an auto parts store. In the worst and cheapest strip mall, right by the rent-to-own place, you'll find a Harbor Freight doing a brisk business in all kind of tools, especially automotive.

You need to get out of your bubble a little more.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2013
Messages
8,825
Location
The Midwest
Macarose, your really into the freebies. Did the dealer pass along the free parts and only charge the $8 or whatever in sales tax for the car battery plus installation to the customer? Or did the dealership owner benefit from it?
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Messages
5,862
Location
northern Az where the Antelope play
Confused where you're coming from. Indie repair shop? Hardcore car guy? Dealership?

Things change. I had a photography shop for 17 years. Remember real paper photographs? Remember KODAK? There was some swag in the early days but it dried up as the industry changed. Get used to something and you start to feel entitled to it.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2013
Messages
8,825
Location
The Midwest
If I become a home builder, I expect Menards to deliver me a free bundle of plywood. Nevermind the fact I'll buy lumber from a cheaper supplier like 84 Lumber.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2003
Messages
36,984
Location
ME
Free stuff and swag are an indication of high profit margins. There's a lot of consolidation and competition in the auto parts market, which means profits are there but the market is too competitive for the profits to be fat.

At the moment, the supply chain from Asia is still stressed by COVID.

EV's will still have wear components, and breakdowns, and accidents.
Swag is a sign of competition, of which there is less now.

We used to have Pep Boys, VIP, and Advance for consumer auto parts. NAPA, Big-A/Carquest, and API for the pros. Now Advance swallowed up Carquest, O'Reillys got VIP. They're the only games in town and don't need to build loyalty anymore.

I'm not in the business and don't know how many part numbers they stock now vs 20 years ago. I bet it's bedlam though. I remember having 4-5 choices in distributor caps and wires back then-- now it's a generic one in stock and a name brand can be here tomorrow morning on a hub run.
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2017
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10,201
Location
SE British Columbia, Canada
If Pennzoil gave me one of those classic faded T-shirts you can find on the Internet, I would wear it. Same thing with the Quaker State T-shirt. ;)

B27A654E-2CD6-476F-AB09-B80C39211CBF.jpg
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2005
Messages
5,178
Location
Kansas
Remember when Harbor Freight would have the rotating "free with coupon" specials? I must have picked up a dozen DVM meters.
No, they didn't last long, but I could always go to the tool chest and get another.
 

CKN

Joined
Oct 14, 2014
Messages
7,194
Location
Utah
One word: Amazon.

And I strongly dislike it.
I ordered an electric Edger from Lowes Hardware-after one week passed I called them and wanted to know when it would ship-they had no idea. I ordered the identical one from Amazon on a Tuesday-had it on the following Friday.

Amazon has their act together-that's the bottom line. And returns are painless.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
357
Location
Souderton, PA
^ Until they have no competition left, then we're all screwed.
The "pandemic" bolstered them ridiculously. Hopefully things swing the other way now that places are fully opening up and people spend at small businesses again instead of habitually supporting Amazon.
 
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Joined
Feb 23, 2009
Messages
18,774
Location
Michigan
I expect a few less auto parts store changes very soon. The fall out from new car sales is going to hit not only the economy, but part sales in general. And with the way cars have been built in the last 5 years, they too are more throw a away as well. Might make and easier transition to EV......
 
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