I've been doing "the parts thing" for a lot of years, for various dealerships and parts stores.
14 years total as a Ford partsman, with the remainder of the 36 years (OMG ... 36 years now?) working in the jobber parts store environment. (Mostly, and presently, with NAPA) I have been a licensed partsman since 1983 as it is a recognized trade here in Alberta.
The thing is ... that a lot has changed, and yet a lot has remained the same throughout the entire time.
I don't claim to "know everything" and never have. There is something new to be learned each and every day ... it's one thing that I love about this job.
Frustration is no stranger, either, as it's simply impossible to please or impress everyone.
Computers vs Paper catalogs:
Yep, computers are not perfect ... but they're a tool that I wouldn't want to be without.
"Fred" (F.R.E.D.) has a much better memory than I do, and is also better at math. "Fred" and I became friends in about 1978, and I knew he was here to stay ... especially a decade later when electronic invoicing evolved.
Yes, I still reach for the paper catalogs when it comes to looking up things like universal joints, exhaust parts and steering linkage, etc, because having a diagram and all PERTINENT choices in front of you really helps to avoid the "mental clutter" you'll find on a computer screen.
U-Joints in particular ... OMG!
You can have up to 100 part numbers to choose from on the screen (with all of the individual loacations, repeats, and "good, better, best" product offerings) wheras the catalog readily tells you that u-joints in position #4,5,6 (2-pc rear shaft) are all the same part number (but not always). Greasable or non-greasable? Done.
We're a very small store, and have just hired a young guy, (just out of high school), whose primary job is delivery driver.
Customers don't really seem to understand why he asks the questions he does when looking up a part. The answer is: "Because the computer is asking him." He's doing his best to get you the right part and doesn't have the benefit (?) of an "educated guess" ... so he's going to confirm EVERYTHING.
Trust me ... I have worked with a lot of guys that "do their own thinking" or are afraid to ask "stupid questions" ... and it doesn't always end well.
The best thing (for those reading here at a hot-rod site)to keep in mind is that NOBODY knows your vehicle better than you do, nor should you expect a counterman to know every minute detail about your ride.
No he doesn't know that a "05 Duramax" means that the vehicle is in reality a 2005 GMC Sierra 2500HD 4x4 with a 6.6L diesel engine.
Some of you have an appreciation of the value in establishing a good "working relationship" with your counter people.
IMO ... "Respect is a 2-way street." and that customers that display respect and patience generally get better service than the impatient "know-it-alls".
Let's consider the "Customer arrives 10 minutes after the posted closing time" scenario. I'm counting the cash, making the deposit, and getting ready to do "End of Day" on the computer. The computer is still "UP" and I can still use the electronic catalog and invoicing. I hear a knock on the door, and look up to see a guy with his hands cupped over his eyes so he can peer into the darkened interior. He knows I'm closed, and *should* know that I have a life and commitments waiting for me. "Hmmmm ... wasn't this the guy that got rude, said I was gouging him ... that he would just buy those rotors on-line just a couple of days ago? Hmmmm. Just try getting those grease seals and bearing packer "after-hours" at "Rock Otto"
PS ... there is also a rumor that most counterman are allowed a little bit of discretion in regards to prices quoted to customers. Prices which may or may not be influenced by how much he (or she) likes you.
I'm just sayin' ... LOL