Ever since I’ve been buying parts for racecars — or any car for that matter — I have had a longstanding, yet unwritten rule that I don’t buy them from Amazon. Here’s why.
I can’t be certain, of course, but I suspect Jeff Bezos already has plenty of money, some of which came from my household. Furthermore, I’ve never once seen any Amazon support for motorsports. I feel it’s important to patronize businesses that not only are involved in selling to the racing community, but also involved enough to give back.
I’m loath to admit I recently broke that unwritten rule and ordered a set of Energy Suspension polyester suspension bushings for a project I’m working on. I pressed out all the factory rubber bushings, but when I went to install the new poly bushings, I discovered two were missing from the kit.
When I contacted the manufacturer, the customer service representative told me they get five or six calls a day from people who bought their product on Amazon — which is not an authorized distributor — and experienced similar shortages. He said sometimes people buy full kits, take out what they need, then reseal and resell on Amazon for less than their authorized distributors.
I’m shortening the story here for expediency, but it took a few phone calls and emails to get it squared away. At first, it looked as though I might have to buy another partial kit to get what I needed.
When I explained to rep that it was just two bushings that were missing, nothing that would do anyone any good on their own, he agreed to open a warranty claim and ship me the missing bushings if I could send him photos of the packaging so he could trace who packed the kit. That’s above-and-beyond service.
The experience reminded me of when I was a parts counterman in my early 20s. Guys would come in and try to buy parts for their boats because they were cheaper at an auto parts store than they were at a marine dealer. A lot of times I’d have to guess at what might fit because I didn’t have a good way to look up parts for a GM “Iron Duke” four-cylinder boat engine. As often as not, they’d end up back at my counter because the part didn’t fit. As you might imagine, they weren’t real receptive to the idea that maybe if they’d gone to the marine store in the first place they’d have gotten the correct part.
Lesson learned. I will never again stray from my unwritten rule not to buy racecar parts from Amazon.
Buying parts right might mean paying a little more, but with the understanding that the cost differences often flow back into motorsports. I recently bought a set of Toyo Tires for my son’s Mini Cooper because Toyo has such a great contingency program for us racers. I also try to buy as much as I can from NASA’s national partners and participants in NASA’s Member Benefits program. More often than not, I end up saving more than the cost of my NASA membership.
The companies that give back to motorsports, the vendors who are on site at NASA events, the companies that support our members, those are the companies that are going to get my business, because if I have a problem, I know they’re going to be there to help. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
I digress, but when I was a kid, growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, we learned a lot about Ben Franklin. He’s one of my only true heroes, and my curiosity about him continued well into my college years and beyond, so much so that I think I’ve read darn near everything he wrote. One of his quotes has always stuck with me: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
I lost sight of his wisdom when I clicked “Buy Now” on Amazon. Lesson learned.