Hammer Time: Freebies
It was the good old days. The Summer of 2007. I had become one of the top buyers at a nearby discount parts store, and several others nearby wanted my business. At this point I was buying all my parts for my cars at ‘cost’ plus 10%. But that didn’t matter. Like the sub-prime world, the store managers were paid bonuses based on their volume of sales. Who needed profit when you could make it up with volume? Well, it took about a year for the guys up the chain of command to figure that out.
Jeff was a manager at O’Reilly’s. Wonderful old bald guy. The corporate mothership wanted him to build up business no matter what the consequences.
“Hey Steve… can you use a free OBDII scanner?”
“Hey Steve, we’re closing out Quaker State Synthetic. You want to buy them for $1 a bottle?”
“Hey Steve. I’ve organized about $300 worth of oils and supplies that you can get just for the sales tax. Are you interested?”
Before I knew it, I had a treasure trove of synthetic and conventional motor oils. All the cleaning supplies I would need for years. Even a few doo-dad’s whose limited use were checked by a price that was well into Happy Meal territory. Then Autozone called…
“Hey Steve! We have a new battery program that gives you 12 free batteries. You just have to order another one when the time comes.”
“Will you match the price of the refurbished car batteries down the street?”… They went for $25 at the time.
“Well okey-dokey then.”
I had a real bidding war going on. Advance Auto Parts started offering coupons that reduced their prices even further. O’Reilly’s was willing to beat everything out there. Autozone was selling batteries cheaper than China could make them. Even the NAPA store started to become a solicitor par excellence. My profit margins ballooned. That was until late 2008.
Once that market went to hell, the deals never came back. You can still get free motor oil. But it’s a pain and a process. Parts are inflated to double their past price points. Why? Collusion. You now have four different parts stores whose names and warranties are different enough that they never quite compete with each other on a technical level. I can still get the price matching since I’ve been doing it for so long. But it’s not much in savings.
For those of you looking to save cash… go here and here. Throw in some Craigslist, Ebay and some random google searches, and you have almost all the tools I have at my disposal. Except for a few hundred Chinese wrenches, closeouts and Black Friday sales, the commercial market has become as pricey as a 30lb freon dispenser.
The hobbyist will still do fine with timing their purchases when the opportunity comes. As for me, I now have to wait for these stores to have their ultimate close-outs. With all the folks keeping their rides these days I know that’s going to be a very long wait.
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A few years ago I got a couple cases of Valvoline Synpower for the cost of sales tax and rebate postage. Those deals seem to have dried up for good. Once my stock of synthetic dries up I will probably switch back to dino oil as my Subaru is not turboed.