Auto Parts Counter Worker

views updated

Auto Parts Counter Worker

Education and Training High school and on-the-job training

Salary Median—$15.16 per hour

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Auto parts counter workers, also known as auto parts salespersons, sell parts for motor vehicles. They deal in spare parts, replacement parts, accessories, and other equipment for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. In addition to selling directly to the public, auto parts salespersons take orders over the telephone and by e-mail.

Many auto parts counter workers work for dealerships. Dealerships are companies that sell and service vehicles made by one or two manufacturers. The counter workers they employ sell parts only for the makes of cars and trucks sold by the dealer. While these counter workers sometimes sell parts to private customers, they spend most of their time supplying parts to mechanics who service and repair vehicles within the dealership.

Some auto parts counter workers work for wholesale dealers who buy parts at cost from manufacturers and sell them to individual customers or other businesses. Counter workers employed by wholesale dealers sell parts for many different makes of automobiles and trucks. Their customers include independent repair shops, service stations, self-employed mechanics, and people who do their own car repairs. Counter workers also work for retail automobile parts stores. In large trucking companies and bus lines, counter workers supply parts to mechanics who keep the fleets in good repair.

In addition to selling parts, counter workers order parts and store them in the stockroom. They must be able to find parts when customers ask for them. Auto

parts counter workers are generally familiar with the appearance and purpose of thousands of parts. They use catalogs and price lists to identify parts their customers need. This information is likely to be stored in a computer or on the Internet. If the parts are not in stock, counter workers may order them or suggest substitutes. To make sure a substitute part will fit, they use measuring devices such as micrometers and calipers. When customers bring in defective parts, counter workers may have to repair them. In some wholesale stores they are responsible for repairing or rebuilding parts.

Counter workers also keep catalogs and price lists up to date. They use computer tracking to take inventory and order more parts when they are needed. Auto parts counter workers unpack and store incoming shipments and perform sales transactions as well.

Many dealers and some independent garages employ service writers, also known as service advisers. They are experienced counter workers or former auto mechanics. When customers bring in vehicles to be repaired, service writers obtain written permission from them to service their vehicles and write estimates of the cost of repairs. To write estimates, they may have to diagnose the problem first. Service writers may also perform customer service work such as settling complaints from dissatisfied customers.

Education and Training Requirements

Auto parts counter workers are trained on the job. Employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Because counter workers deal with prices and sales, they must understand mathematics and be able to write clearly. High school or vocational school courses in business math, bookkeeping, and automobile technology are useful. Practical experience relating to cars or trucks is a great advantage. In addition, counter workers must be tactful and courteous when dealing with customers.

Getting the Job

Individuals interested in becoming auto parts counter workers should apply directly to automobile and truck dealers and to retail and wholesale parts stores. The state employment service may list job openings. Career sites on the Internet and classified ads in local newspapers often advertise openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Auto parts counter workers may advance to become parts department managers or service writers. Some become outside sales workers for large parts wholesalers or distributors. They call on automobile repair shops, service stations, and other businesses that service motor vehicles. Some even open their own stores.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for auto parts counter workers is expected to decline through the year 2014. As automobile dealerships and wholesalers continue to consolidate, many auto parts counter worker jobs will be eliminated. In addition, the Internet allows an increasing number of customers to order parts online directly from the manufacturer, bypassing the need to visit auto parts stores. Growth in the field of auto parts counter worker is related to increases in the number of motor vehicles on the road and to the introduction each year of new mechanical features in those vehicles. Other job openings are expected to occur each year to replace workers who retire or transfer to other occupations.

Working Conditions

Auto parts counter workers can expect to work in stockrooms that are usually well lighted, orderly, and ventilated. Good eyesight is helpful for reading closely printed lists in catalogs and on computer screens. Counter workers stand for most of the day and may have to carry heavy parts. They generally work forty hours a week, including some weekend and evening hours. Many counter workers belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association
7101 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 1300
Bethesda, MD 20814-3415
(301) 654-6664

International Brotherhood of Teamsters
25 Louisiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 624-6800

Sheet Metal Workers International Association
1750 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 783-5880

Earnings and Benefits

Auto parts counter workers employed in dealerships made a median hourly wage of $15.16 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some parts stores pay counter workers a commission based on sales. Benefits may include paid holidays and vacations, life and health insurance, and retirement plans.