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Becoming a Hunter-Killer

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I dialed the 800 number, slowly and carefully. It was the third 800 number I had encountered on the Internet as I searched to find a new or reconditioned radiator for the pristine, almost perfect 1974 Mercedes 280SL sitting just outside the door that leads from the front counter into the shop.

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I took a deep breath as the machine automatically switched my call to the same familiar recording I had just finished listening to twice before. As soon as I heard the name and the numbers it was clear I was three for three: three calls, all of which led me to the same 800 number, all tied back to the same company.

And, despite the fact that I was “assured” my needs would be met and my expectations exceeded, I was still frustrated and disappointed when I hung up the phone.

To make matters worse, I was quickly entering what my wife not so affectionately refers to as “Hunter/Killer Mode.” It’s that mental state where a man with a television remote and a mission to find the one program out of the 350 included in the cable package finds himself in as he “sits and clicks his brains out!” (This would be my wife’s description of the physical manifestations of the condition described above!)

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This should be familiar to those of us who have either found ourselves searching for that elusive program or tasked with the responsibility of finding that elusive part. It’s especially familiar to those of us who refuse to accept defeat or who will not quit until we have emerged victorious from the quest.

The search for “280sl Mercedes” and “new radiator” took me to five more sites that looped me right back to the same 800 number, the same company and the same disappointment.

I found this experience particularly disappointing, frustrating and depressing for a number of reasons. It was disappointing because having eight numbers associated with eight different listings — listings meant to offer you the illusion of choice, is disingenuous and results in anything but a choice if they all take you right back to the same place. It was frustrating, because no matter where I tried to go, all roads led not to Rome, but to the same company I had called before I started my Internet search.

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In the end, I found a radiator. In fact, I found two — one at the dealer and one that could be custom built to look the same, but outperform the original. I found it without consideration or regard for the time it took or the money it cost. I found it because the client expressed very clearly that he expected nothing less — nothing less from me; nothing less from our company; nothing less from our industry. I found it because I looked and continued to look until I was successful and I was successful because that is what we do and what we are expected to do.

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In the end, it may be primal. It may even be a manifestation of a unique form of Compulsive/Obsessive Disorder found only in this industry. Or, it may just be plain annoying to the folks who must tolerate our tenacious quest for whatever it is we are searching for. But whatever it is, that quest for the “right” part (or, the right program), the correct component (or the perfect channel) is what drives this industry.

And, regardless of how neurotic those of us who have dedicated hours, perhaps even days to the process of ultimately finding whatever it was we were looking for may seem, we are the folks on both sides of the parts counter who keep this industry vital, viable and moving forward. We do all of this even in an economy such as the one we are currently enduring, by passionately, fanatically, compulsively, obsessively and single-mindedly pulling those parts through the distribution system.

Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at [email protected]

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