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Surfin' Parts USA


Now more than ever, we’re hearing about Internet part stores that tout great prices and same-day or next-day delivery. Will these virtual stores eventually replace real parts pros?

Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys already own all the good titles pertaining to surfing — the real kind of surfing that involves water and a board. Recently, I was “surfing” the Net looking for some office equipment. I hate to say it, but I believe that the great leveler of all pricing is eBay. Want to know what your Number 2 Texaco Diecast Airplane is really worth? Go to eBay, the real value guide. The “book” may say $50, but if they are only selling for $25, it’s time to lower the price.
Speaking of Internet pricing, I have been hearing about Internet auto parts stores a lot lately. Should you and I be worried about these tech-savvy parts guys? Until I invent the Auto Parts Transdiffuser that instantly beams up parts, I don’t think Internet stores will be the number-one supply choice for fixing broken cars.

But, I’ve also heard the argument that pricing will be much better from Internet suppliers. Really? Better for what kind of part? What kind of vehicle?

I can’t resist. “Let’s go surfin,’ now!” For no particular reason I decided to shop the market on 2000 Ford, F-250, 7.3 code F, diesel water pumps. Of course, the first stop was eBay, which I searched by typing “F-250 diesel water pump.” It jumped right up like a fish out of water — a new, nationally known brand pump for $89.95, plus $14 freight. Good price!

Now let’s see what the big guys are charging. I tried the latest player on the Net and the catalog wanted me to buy everything but a water pump. I tried three times and couldn’t get past the first Web page. No problem, I’ll try later.

Next, I tried a national chain’s online store. This site listed one rebuilt and three new pumps with no explanation of the difference between the new and rebuilt parts. Prices ranged from $159 to $247 for new and the rebuilt was around $110. Why list three different new pumps for the same vehicle with no explanation? Why is one $90 more than the other? Why does one listing have a footnote about an engine type that the others don’t list? It was too confusing for me.

I was sure the discounters would do a better job. Wrong, again. This site also listed four pumps, three new and one rebuilt. The rebuilt was about $86, the new ones ranged from $150 to $200. Three of the pumps ship in one day, the fourth ships in three days — Don’t ask me why.
On to the next discounter. Well, this one only listed one rebuilt and two new. Prices were $100 for the rebuilt and either $150 or $160 for the new. The recommended related parts to add on included a roll of heater hose for $69. Nothing else in the recommended related parts list was in stock, including the upper and lower hoses and serp belt. In that case, every on-line buyer is going to buy 50 feet of heater hose — a person could do every car on the block! What a good Samaritan he would be!

Time to see if the new guy had his Web site up and running yet. I punched in my vehicle, and water pumps weren’t even on the list of popular parts. On to the next screen where I needed to re-enter my information. Then — I’m not kidding — my water pump matched 13,260 choices! No exaggeration. On the first line was a box of spark plugs — 13,260 choices spread out 24 items to a page — every part had one of the letters contained in the words, “water pump.” What else could they possibly trying to match? I didn’t have the time or patience to see if there really was a 2000, F-250 diesel water pump buried in the 13,000 plus listings.

It’s sort of amusing that these big players did everything except hire a parts professional. A counterpro as a consultant? The earth would start spinning the other way. I don’t know about you, but when I’m confused on the Net, I just click to the next site on the list. None of the store sites I visited would allow most people to have the confidence that they were ordering the correct part. Too many choices, confusing footnotes and non-existent listings don’t breed confidence.

I think the counterpros of the world have a safe profession for a while longer, until we all become high-paid Internet consultants. In the end, eBay had the best price and probably the easiest “catalog” in my search. Me, well, my price over the counter is between the eBay price and the discounters. I don’t have the belt and hoses in stock but you can have the part today! And I am silently working on the Auto Parts Transdiffuser for faxing and e-mailing instantly needed parts. But that’s a secret, so please don’t tell anyone.

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