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Starting a jobbers' club

Monday, June 1, 2009 - 00:00
Mark Smith jobbers resellers customer service

It never fails that sometime during a shopping spree with my wife, I get frustrated. Now the obvious reason for this would be the fact that I detest shopping. But on several occasions, my heightened agitation is the result of dealing with arrogant mega-corporations.

Some of these companies have been so successful with their advertising and market presence that their patrons are like calves to the slaughter, particularly at those "warehouse-style" superstores. There, I watch people amble down huge, poorly lit aisles, reminiscent of an air craft hanger, tossing six-packs of ketchup, 12-packs of corn relish and 24-packs of cooking oil into their carts with little or no regard for the stated price.

I am envious at first glance, but that soon turns to dismay. All of these people who don't check the price, who seemingly care little about the vast unneeded quantity, had to pay a membership fee just to walk in the front door!

As a further insult, upon leaving the mega-quantity warehouse, you are subjected to a virtual reality strip search to make sure you did not steal anything. The most amazing thing to me is that in today's society, people will humbly subject themselves to this level of humiliation. Maybe we could employ some of the same tactics to improve our bottom line.

We could start a Jobber Parts Club and require all customers to have a membership. I'm thinking individual and business annual membership rates.

We would all have to do this simultaneously, but since we control more than 65 percent aftermarket replacement parts, any backlash would be short-lived because the retail stores would be so overwhelmed, they would be buying a membership for themselves.

We could then discontinue selling one spark plug at a time, selling only shop packs of 24 — at a discounted price, of course. Ten bulbs only, cases of oil only, three-packs of serpentine belts, six-packs of ½-inch drive ratchets, four ball-joint box sets, CV shafts in pairs only.

Then we could hire a greeter of sorts to acknowledge the customers, check memberships and inspect shoppers' bags upon leaving. I think in a short period of time, we could be the envy of every retail or wholesale club in America.

Far-fetched or visionary? Some lessons can be learned from the mega-retailer/wholesale clubs. Whether they are subversive or subliminal, they have created a culture of exclusivity and really understand that American consumers will always want what they don't need, especially if they are among a selected group with the ability to buy it. We will pay more for a wasteful amount of anything if the price is right. We like our deals, and we all want to be a member of the clique.

As jobbers, it behooves us to remind our customers of the deals we have and how important they are to us as members of our "family." Tell the customer you actually like him or her, and don't forget to remind them that they can leave the premises without facing the Spanish Inquisition.

Mark Smith is president of Wholesale Auto Parts, Summersville, W.V. Smith most recently served on the Auto Value/BTB National Advisory Council and on his town's Rotary Club as president.

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