Article > Editor’s Note

The Great Aftermarket Auto Parts Catalog Debate Continues

By Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips
I was privileged to be asked by Scott Luckett of AAIA to speak at the National Catalog Managers Association annual meeting, which just took place last month in San Antonio, Texas.

Their organization is comprised of the people who take all the parts information and funnel it into the format you use at the counter, whether it’s in paper form or electronically.

Prior to going to Texas, I took a little, unscientific poll about how parts pros feel about e-catalogs. I know how pretty much everyone falls on the topic, but it’s always good to get a new read on the pulse. One of the first comments I received said it all:

“Please don’t take away my paper catalog.”

Paper catalog?

I didn’t even mention paper catalogs. I was asking about e-catalogs, but that’s how deep these paper catalog emotions run. But if your counterparts in Mexico have anything to say about it, paper isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s essential to how many counterpros do their jobs there. One Mexican counterpro, for example, said the absence of paper would “kill” their business. (You can read more about it in the story on page 52.)

But back to what you have to say about e-catalogs. For some of you, there’s simply too much information that many of you say you don’t need. For example:

“Do I need to see list price? Nope! I need to see what I have, how many, and what the price is, before anything else. For instance, I don’t need to scroll through loaded calipers, powdercoated calipers, calipers that make toast, before I see the plain caliper with hardware that I actually have in stock at the bottom of the page,” wrote one reader.

Someone else feels the same way:

“Why do the countermen have to scroll through a bunch of useless non-stock parts lists while the one in stock is on the bottom? Not efficient at all! Especially when the wholesale commercial customers get annoyed waiting for two minutes for a quote.”

Another counterpro sees huge advantages to using VIN:

“If parts houses had the VIN decoder that eliminated all the stuff not specific to a vehicle, that would be seriously awesome. It would help stop those wrong parts returns. A part locator would also help us to tell customers where the ‘thingamagig’ goes and what it’s connected to/beside.”

And finally:

“E-cats are just a tool. People don’t really care how you look up their parts as long as they are the right ones the first time, fairly priced, and in stock.”

Amen to that. 


We’ve officially kicked off our call for entries for the Counter Professional of the Year award, sponsored by WIX, Raybestos and Affinia. We accept entries online year-round at  Counter Professional of the Year is open to ASE-certified and AIA Import Parts Specialist-certified counter professionals, WD employees or jobbers.
The award recognizes the best and brightest in the industry today. You can either nominate yourself or someone you believe is worthy of the recognition.

  Previous Comments
avatar   THE REAL PARTS GUY   star   6/10/2010   1:11 PM


avatar   Steve   star   6/10/2010   10:49 AM

Gabe you can use the F5 to look past march for their sales history, and you are totally right about all companies return policies should be like the big "O".

avatar   Gabe   star   6/8/2010   3:29 PM

Well ok then! I guess you don't know too much about the catalog system for your job. You need to keep bustin some balls! Today I have an issue with a commercial customer who bought a low grade rotor 6 months ago. I sent them in to be turned, guess what? One has a crack through it.

So I try to warranty it out, which I did. But I have no history on it. Because the 9 screen only goes back so far. Then under the 5 option under his account it only goes back to March of this year. Now I am sure he has a receipt in a box filed away from 6 months ago. But I am not asking him to dig it out.

So my conclusion, if a commercial customer has a part warranty for a year or whatever. Don't you think I should be able to find that history?

Retail customers I don't care about their history. Personally when they throw a receipt away, and then get ****** because I can't find their history makes me happy! In that respect O'Reilly is fricken awesome! Just because it has never been a companies responsibility to keep track of all your records. It is yours, and personally these companies have babied their customers too much! I actually like giving them that smack in the face every once and a while. Just to remind them the world isn't fair, and just because you paid with your debit card I can't find it! Whaa Whhaaa boo hoo go home and cry!

By the way the reason I like this is for this reason. At Target you can return a cake you ate half of, just because you didn't like it, without a receipt, as long as you gripe, and complain, and yell enough to get the manager involved. How much money could companies save if they all followed the O'Reilly way. No receipt, No history tough lucl, you screwed the pooch!

avatar   Kim   star   6/7/2010   4:14 PM

LOL! Thanks Gabe! I do now work in the E-Cat Depart. and believe me, coming from the counter I have had to learn the tech. part the hard way! It is nice to have 15 years of counter experience to bring to this side of the job and argue with the IT guys though! They just don't think like a partsman/woman!

avatar   Gabe   star   6/7/2010   3:35 PM

No we use the wqrp-t7 system! LOL Kim no offense but you know way too much about your job! If you are listing off computer systems for E-cats and are familiar with them.

avatar   tiny   star   6/5/2010   5:07 PM

the problem i find most with our illustrious infinity system is universal joints. no matter how thorough the ecat seems, the u-joint listings are almost always wrong. I've got the paper catalog, and generally just look up the joint using a micrometer and the index.

avatar   blazer   star   6/3/2010   12:47 PM

I agree that the e-catalogs should include vehicles older than 1962. We have many customers that come in and are needing parts to restore old classic vehicles. I also have a few classic cars myself. It would be great to be able to find these parts for collectors.

avatar   Gabe   star   6/1/2010   5:08 PM

I checked it after I wrote this. I had the year wrong, and corporate changed it already too. I did have the c198 right though. It was tough remembering from like 4 months ago.

avatar   Kim   star   5/27/2010   2:48 PM

Gabe Do you all use the AAIA system for E-Cat? If so, AAIA is the one that doesn't list the 1981 4.1-8, which is the 8 cyl Caddy. AAIA doesn't show that engine until 1982. That is not your corp.'s fault either.

avatar   Tim G   star   5/24/2010   5:56 PM

Gabe the thing is that is the same place (human error) that occurs in paper catalogs. And while it has taken a couple of months (atleast) to fix it electronically for the paper cats it would take atleast a year. yes they wouldsend out notifications but most counterpeople file 13rd them.

avatar   Gabe   star   5/22/2010   2:19 PM

Kim he was slightly right when he said corporate lacky. I looked up a distributor cap for an 81 cadillac with a 4.1L V8 once, C198 I think if I remember right. So guy comes back later, and the cap only has 6 towers for spark plug wires. Hm? So I find out the 81 Cadillac came with both a 4.1L V6 and a 4.1L V8 so this is where you say I looked it up wrong right? Wrong! Some corporate computer programmer put the 6 and 8 cylinder fits both engines without realizing it. So you look up a 6 you get C198 you look up an 8 you get C198. In the book it was listed correctly with 2 different part numbers. I send a comment to corporate to fix it. Their response was, "It may take some time, but it will get fixed. I checked months after and it still wasn't changed. As far as I know it is probably still the same way.

But I did understand what you meant about cars prior to '62. I just find most errors in the E-cat are programmer related, because when you check the book you find out it was listed wrong.

avatar   Kim   star   5/19/2010   10:00 AM

manufactures down load data files to your e-cat dept. they are the ones who choose not to list 1969 model parts...the figure it is a waste of space because there aren't that many on the road anymore.

avatar   Gabe   star   5/18/2010   3:20 PM

The one thing I hate looking up here at O'Reilly is exhaust! I open the picture of the exhaust diagram to see how it is all laid out, and what parts I need. I write all the numbers down.

Then I go back to the parts screen and scroll up and down and up and down. To find each and everyone of those part numbers to quote this exhaust over the phone. Now things are clearly marked muffler tailpipe. But I just wrote down a bunch of numbers that now I can't see the picture to see what each oart this number is. So I am searching and searching through numbers to find one number at a time. Guess what else is clogging up all this area? JUNK! THey have the walker gasket, the ROL gasket, high grade low grade muffler, direct fit, u make fit muffler, nut bolts, hangers, more gaskets thrown in between the muffler and the intermediate pipe. I swear today I spent 15 minutes on the phone with someone just trying to give them prices on exhaust from cat back. I was getting so ****** cause I would scroll up and down, over look a number, or see another number I needed to quote. It is ridiculous.

avatar   Kim   star   5/18/2010   3:10 PM

What you have to realize is that most manufactures do not list parts for the older vehicles on the files that they down load to the e-cat systems that you then see. It is nor YOUR corp. lackey...It goes back to the manufacture's programmer. I guess they figure there just aren't thar many 1962 anythings out there, so they don't include those listings....

avatar   Brad   star   5/16/2010   3:05 PM

I like our e-cats here. quicker than looking it up in the paper cat's. I just wish the e-cat's would include vehicles before 1962. the e-cat's only as good as the corporate lackey that programs it.

avatar   Drew   star   5/12/2010   9:38 AM

Unfortunately, the majority of e-Catalog adopters have taken too much human input out of their catalog update process. The result is updates with gaps, glitches and glaring errors. I can't tell you how often we now have to turn to interchanging OE part numbers just to discover that we stock the part, but have no listing by application in the manufacturer's own e-Cat.

This brings up another e-Catalog complaint- the lack of current interchanges. Yes, we are in dire need of VIN decoders. However, if the manufacturers can't deliver updates that don't amount to our losing data. We can decode VIN numbers all day long, yet we will continue losing many sales to the dealers.

avatar   Ed   star   5/11/2010   3:33 PM

The problem will always be a human one. A good example, two years ago, I had a classic VW owner look for, I think it was, a cold start valve, on his Beetle. I found no listing in the E-cat, went to BWD's paper cats, found it, picked up the illustrated guide and flipped to the part number, it matched the one he had in hand. So I ordered it and it came in, wrong part, right part number on the box though. So I ordered all of the remaining quantity from my DC assuming it was boxed wrong. All came in the same way. I contacted our BWD rep, Kyle, he did some research and stated that it was a re-design and they missed updating it in their illustrated guide. The part was completely different, sans the NPT fitting, which was the only similarity. I asked him how the customer could make it work, he researched and found out that it couldn't work.

So they re-designed a part for a later application and made it unusable on the applications it was originally R&D'ed for. It at least seems they have pulled the listing from paper and electronic cats, but have done nothing to re-introduce the original, correct part.

avatar   Tim   star   5/9/2010   11:38 AM

Eliminating the junk would be the best thing that they could do. Here at this store we can hit parts description and eliminate some of it.

Also the e-catalog needs to to a better job of correctly showing foot notes. Too often the e-cat shows that something only fits "c" engine code when it fits all engine codes.

Also when talking about e-cat vs paper both are only as good as the person who keys in the information. I remember when Beck Arnly first went from one to two catalogs then then came out with a 100+ correction. We had a BA rep that actually gave us the twin cats that the corrected applications were highlighted so we knew to look in the correction book. BTW Triad had it corrected in the LazerCat by the time we got the correction.

avatar   sergey   star   5/7/2010   8:15 PM

E-cats are just a tool. It could be a snap on tool, or same size in cheap china made tool. They are not the same quality wise.

E-catalogs just the same way - lazy ******* put it together? Corporate rat? or someone who cares and not afraid to suggest new ways to make it better for everybody instead just blindly following given guide lines? that's it...

lazy *******s are the one who should be ban off autopart's business

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