TALES FROM BEHIND THE PARTS COUNTER

(September 1997 to December 1999)


The Smartest Customer In The World ... did *NOT* call AutoZone today during my shift. No. The DUMBEST customer in the world did and if you can top this, please let me know!

Busy day, working the 10am to 9pm shift at AutoZone. The phone rings, customers everywhere in front of the counter, I'm the only one with a chance to answer it, all other lines are busy with other red shirts talking to customers and on the phone at the same time.

It's selling hell. I pick up the phone, use the 'just one minute and I'll be right with you' silent hand sign to the customer in front of me, she nods, and I take the call.

"Thank you for calling AutoZone, this is Christopher, how may I help you."

"Uh, yeah, Christopher. See I was just in there this morning and I bought some motor oil and a filter for my truck ..." this old man says. "About five hours ago..."

I think back... Yeah. I remember him. Cheap old tight wad bastich. Complained of all the prices being so high ($0.99 for a quart of oil, $1.10 for a filter) and generally made an ass out of himself in front of several customers of mine. Not easy to forget. I remember his raspy old voice, like he's been gargling with glass shards.

"Yes sir." I reply, thinking 'what does this guy want now?'.

"Yes, well, Christopher, I don't like the oil. Could I bring it back and get a refund?"

An unusual request, but not an invalid one. That means I have to deal with this guy again. What? Did he find cheaper oil somewhere? The stuff he bought was basically black colored water, like zero W five consistency or something. I think that Mrs. Buttersworth produced it... and he wants a refund on this cheap stuff?

Oh well, first rule of a business is be nice to all the customers, even the mean dumb ones.

"That won't be a problem, sir. Just bring your receipt with you when you bring the oil back and we'll get you taken care of." I reply cheerfully.

"OK, I appreciate it. How late are you open?" the customer asks.

"We're open until 9:00 tonight." I tell him. Five more hours, plenty of time to make sure that this customer is happy. Maybe something will make him happy today!

"Fine. Fine. Just let me drain the oil back out of my truck and I'll be right back up there with it."

And like that, the world comes to a screaming, instantaneous halt. Time is suspended. I had been flexing my Bic pen on the counter in a lazy motion and as what the customer said sank in, my fingers just went numb and the pen fell to the counter. My mouth almost fell open. It seemed to take forever for my next words to form and travel from my brain to my mouth and finally to the receiver on the phone.

"Sir?" I say, putting my elbow on the counter, turning away from the other customers to hear him better, thinking that surely I misunderstood this man.

"Did you say you had to drain the oil out of your truck before you brought it back...?"

"Yes. I just don't like the oil. I'll put it back in the little bottles and bring it all back with the filter as well. I want my money back."

Incredible. This is the BEST example of total ignorance I have ever experienced in my life. What a TIGHT WAD!!!

"Sir, I can't take the oil or the filter back if you've put either in your truck and then used your truck to drive around in!" I say calmly, not believing what I am hearing.

I am NOT believing what I am hearing!

"But I bought a new filter!" the man says. "It's still clean oil, I just went to Monticello and back in the truck, less than a hundred miles. The filter is brand new."

And at this time, the thought of starting to sell 'used' oil to customers really makes me want to bust out laughing, but I control myself and remain the professional. The thought of me telling a customer that the oil still has some good miles in it flashes across my mind and I rest my head on the counter and giggle.

"I'm sorry, sir." I say emphatically, losing the giggle and the smile and putting on my best professional face and voice. "But if you've poured the oil into your motor, installed the new filter, fired up your engine, driven your vehicle for 100 miles, then I simply cannot take the oil back and give you a refund. I can only take the oil back if you return it in unopened containers and if it or the filter has never been used or installed."

The man is starting to get really angry now.

I spend the next two minutes doing some type of damage control, and finally tell him again I can't take the oil back once it's used, and that I would be glad to sell him some more oil. We have lots of better oil, but it's more expensive...

I guess that was the wrong thing to say. 

If you've never heard a crotchety old codger go from absolute simple misunderstanding and imagined victimism, to outright four letter profanity shouting hostility, I suggest you experience it once in your life. Just for the comic relief it can bring to the soul. The words he used in his conversation with me would have made Jesus cry.

He says a few more choice words, most of them physically and sexually impossible given my understanding of the known arrangement of the human anatomy, and hangs up on me with a slam.

Dial tone.

Stupid tight wad.

I smile, then start to chuckle, then just bust out laughing. My manager looks back from the counter and down my way as I let out a good loud laugh. He asks me what the heck is going on. I explain the whole situation to him, in between fits of uncontrollable laughter. As the story unfolds, I see his brow and cheeks start to twitch. Then he just kind of leans over on the counter and collapses laughing. Everyone is looking at us like we have lost our minds! We both regain our composure and go on to tell our own respective customers what just happened and soon the whole store is busting out laughing. Customers are talking about it for the next twenty minutes...

What a total tight wad retard! I mean, how can you not like oil? What, does it make your engine smell different? Does it make your engine sound different? What is there not to like about oil?! I can't figure it out.

Oh, and I remember selling this retard his stuff. He bought the cheapest filter he could buy, so there was no way I would even WANT his oil back. You don't buy cheap oil, you don't buy cheap filters. I mean, how would you sell oil with a 100 miles on it? Where can you find ads for 'low mileage, one owner' oil? How about 'like new!' oil, or 'oil owned by a little old lady who only used it in her car to drive to church and back every Sunday... well maintained'

Laughing my ass off!

That had to be the STUPIDEST customer I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I love my jobs. Both of them! And I get paid for this as well. You can't beat THAT with a dipstick, nope, you just can't!

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I go into work today at 3pm until close (6pm). My store manager and assistant manager are there, in their T-shirts, stripping and waxing the floor. Thank GOD they didn't schedule me for THAT! I hate riding a buffer or following behind someone with the wet vac. That wax gets all over your shirt, black pants, etc.  Oh, and I picked up my schedule yesterday, and notice that we are getting a truck in on Monday, not the regular Tuesday. Then I notice that my boss has scheduled me to come in and work at 3pm in the afternoon. That would be OK, if I didn't have a full time job elsewhere where I didn't get off until 4pm and it took me an hour to get home and change and get to AutoZone which meant that the minimum time I could get there was 5pm.

Ooops!

He said. Come in when you can... Smurfy.  He couldn't figure the eff-up out either.

It starts to get time to close, I've planned a date with Cindy for the night, and I'm starting to get ready to go. I notice that they are about halfway through with the floors, are they going to stay...?  My mistake. Should have seen it coming! Where there's one scheduling mistake, there's bound to be two. Guess what...  I thought I worked 3pm until 6pm.

Nope.

Schedule got changed (without telling me), so now, after 6pm, I'm riding a buffer or a wet vac and stripping floors. It wasn't as bad as I remember, three of us doing it, we took turns riding the buffer across the super slick floor (Olympic style) and shooting talk about cars, etc.  Took a break about 7:30pm when Cindy brought us two Dominos pizzas and we all had a lot of fun taking a dinner break long after all the customers were gone (the best time to work for a parts store when you can say what you want, as loud as you want, and not have to worry about ANYONE).

My assistant manager said he was going to order some parts for the strip car he and his friend are building. When asked WHERE he was going to order the parts from by my store manager, my AM said ... "Uh, from here?"  My boss did the victory sign and nodded then looked at me."  And you're going to get your Accel computer and that B&M transmission from ..." and he cued me for my line.

"Here." I said.

Another victory sign, a arm pulled down hard and fast, and a resounding "Yes!"

Hey, discounts are a fringe benefit. Why pay MSRP? Just another reason to work at a parts house!

So I got my date with Cindy after all, but work definitely sucked, especially since I was riding a wet vac going behind my boss. Riding a buffer is one thing, walking on the same material with a wet vac is entirely different. Bust ass city if you are not careful. The "suck up" jokes grew really old after a while of walking behind my store manager.

The fun thing was, with the floors having almost zero friction, you could start on one end of the store, and let the buffer just pull you along, in a slow twirl, to the other end of the store, with one person making sure you had enough slack in the electrical cord. It became a contest to see who could keep from slipping down and busting their ass the whole way across the store.

I remember one of my ex-bosses, Ed, decided he would sit on the buffer and hit the switch. It spun him around five times and then a little fact of nature called centrifugal force threw him completely off into the shop manuals rack and he almost dislocated his shoulder. I wouldn't have been able to help him if he had been seriously hurt because I was laughing my ass off! I knew better than that. Guess that's why he's an EX-boss and no longer employed by AZ...

You have to have SOME brains to work there.  I forgot how MUCH I hate stripping and finishing floors. But I also forgot how much FUN it could be, if you have the right crew to do it. My boss busted his ass twice last night, once he almost got 2 feet of mop handle up a space that I'm sure his doctor would never recommend putting a mop handle! It was that close!  If you've never stripped floors and had the whole thing covered in stuff slicker than ANY oil, well, you just can't fully appreciate being able to take two steps and with the proper balance, slide / surf from the front door of the store, all the way to the back oil rack, on your two feet, while the other people hold up little signs with numbers like 2 and 7 and etc. It's like ice skating, only better, and a lot warmer and you don't have to worry about falling through the ice. You can even get artistic, which can be hilarious, like taking an arm load of parts and as you're sliding along, trying to put them on the shelf as you go by... Not all the time successful, but funny to watch.  My boss's slow ride on the buffer, spinning slowly around and around while he held on like the bull at Gilley's was something that I wish I could have made a *.MPG of!

I guess I had a better time than I let on. : )

SO much better when customers are NOT around, you can do some seriously crazy stuff and THAT'S when it's really fun to work at a parts store.

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Late Tuesday night.

Working truck, restocking the store. I'm the hard parts specialist, I guess because I'm so good at putting up the heavy stuff and getting it done so quickly... and no one else wants to do it so it's mine by default, even after a year of being away and coming back to work, they knew that I always did hard parts on truck night, so I just moved back into my old truck slot and NO ONE objected. Figures. It sucks because you are dealing with heavy parts; carbs, alternators, starters, brake shoes, master cylinders, calipers, rotors, shocks, struts, etc. while other people are putting up air fresheners, little tiny packs of nuts and bolts, chemicals like WD-40 and STP Fuel Treatment... Real hard stuff.

I'm behind the parts counter, it's 8:45pm, 45mins after closing, it's just Janelle, Eric (one of my bosses, a 'white' shirt, heck, Janelle is a white shirt also, so I'm the only red shirt working truck!) and I, three people where normally there are five or six working a huge 18 wheeler full of restock.

We've got our work cut out for us!

8:45pm. The front door gets snatched like there is no tomorrow. Door snatcher! Guy yanks on the door and starts shouting like we're open or something. My boss yells back that we're closed. He motions toward the door. My boss yells we're closed.  Guy motions for my boss to come to the door. My boss does one of those little kids moves like "I don't wanna do it" and goes "Jeezzz!" and heads off to the door, stomping. We've got to much work to worry about selling a guy a bottle of the cheapest oil when the registers have already been pulled down and counted for the night.

Janelle says don't open the door.

I tell Eric don't open the door.

Eric opens the door.  And talks to this guy while he's halfway out the front door. Guy wanted directions to Lafayette, LA. Eric comes back in, Janelle and I chastise him for opening the door after hours. One of the guy's friends could have been right around the corner (the door is on the corner, the VERY corner) and could have snatched Eric out while the first guy comes on into the store). I think evil, because I know evil.

It's when people do something good or say kind words that REALLY surprises me...

Eric gets through with the guy and then locks the door back. He's getting stared at pretty hard by Janelle and I.

"See? Guy just wanted directions to get to Lafayette! I was just doing my WITTDTJR" Eric says, locking the door behind him.

"Another SATISFIED customer!" he shouts, putting the emphasis on 'satisfied' followed by a long 'yoo hoo'.

(For those who don't know, "WITTDTJR" is AutoZone's little acronym for "What It Takes To Do The Job Right". AutoZone has lots of silly acronyms.   You could almost explain everything and every operation at AutoZone through using a set of linked acronyms.  It's just some more corporate life at it's best! (finger slowly twirled in abject delight).)

"Yeah" I reply. "And if he had tried to rob us and bust on in here, I would have had to show him my WITTKHA."

Eric looked at me strange.

"Wittika?" he asks, Janelle is looking too.

Being managers, it's not a term they are familiar with. Do I know something about corporate life they don't?  I grab two huge boxes of rear brake shoes and head down the isle, shouting over my shoulder so the isles of parts echo my reply throughout the whole store.

"WITTKHA! What It Takes To Kick His Ass."

My two bosses couldn't stop laughing about that. The rest of the night, "WITTKHA" became the hot word of our conversations and how we could apply it to various customers we both loved and hated.

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Same night, the discussion turned to actually getting robbed. Now, if someone wants the money at AutoZone, they can have it, if they can get it. We all agreed that the company did NOT pay us to protect ITS money with OUR lives. Our discussion went back to the previous customer and example. Eric asked what would happen if he had opened the door and a man had pulled a gun on him.

"What would you two do if I told you both that we were getting robbed?"

Janelle looked at me and I merely shrugged and started slinging a Duralast Gold alternator to the top shelf, 15' up, which means I have to spider up between two isles like some circus daredevil. I hate Duralast Gold alternators on truck night, always on the TOP shelf.

"Well for one thing, you've got your sentence structure wrong." I said, working my way up to twice my height off the floor with a 10 pound alternator tucked under one arm.

"Huh?" Eric asks.

"Well, the correct subject verb combination of your sentence would be 'I am getting robbed.' I don't see any "WE" being part of it because as soon as you would have said that, Janelle and I would have been out the back door."

I thought Eric was going to split his side he was laughing so hard.

"Yeah, the correct sentence and structure you should use is "I am getting robbed." because by the time that you had finished saying that, all you would be hearing would be the back door alarm going off because the only real fight in the store would be between Janelle and I to see who got out first..."

Janelle started laughing.

"Ladies first." she said.

"I don't see any ladies here." I replied.

"Go to hell!" she said.

"Ladies first." I replied.

It took about a good 2 minutes for us to stop laughing at that exchange then Eric got semi-serious.

"For real? You would run out on me...?" he asked.

I grabbed another Duralast Gold alternator and started my ascent up Mount Parts again.

"You know me, Eric. I'd be out the back door on the way to my car..."

"So you would leave me?"

"Hell no!" I replied. "I was just going to grab my piece so I could come back in through the front and show our 'customer' some in-depth WITTKHA, John Woo style."  And I pantomimed running and dodging, firing two automatics one to each side, each one laying flat so the shells could fly backwards behind me in a never ending shower all the while doing some Karate Kid stance.

You really had to see it, it was priceless.

Janelle was laughing so hard she was crying. Eric wasn't too far behind, he had to sit down to catch his breath.

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My assistant manager has been big into racing Mustangs and GMs. He had a Chevy LUV truck when I last worked at AutoZone, with a very hot 350 in it! He sold that, and his teal green LX 5.0 (also a hot car) and bought a Blazer (305 dropped into it) and a '80 white with tan interior Corvette. The Corvette is full of Edelbrock parts on the 350 and just got repainted (white). I told him that I wanted to look at the motor.

His Vette and SUMNBAD are kind of good natured rivals.  He wants to line them up, I've got no problem with that at all. Just as soon as I get a trans in the IROC (that won't slip at 4000 plus RPM) and we're there.

So, he's leaving the store, and asks me if I want to look at the motor. Sure! I follow him out and look at the car, good paint work, nice interior, brings back memories of my '79 with the LT1 in it ('70 vintage LT1, out of a '70 Corvette, not the new type LT1).

The motor is chromed out and covered in paint shop residue dust. He fires it up, it purrs like a kitten, not loud or rude at all. He revs it a few times, very subtle, I know that SUMNBAD will take him down hard. His carb and my EFI views also clash, but in a good natured way, we're always trying to get each other to switch to the other's brand of induction.I look down at this ultra-sweet Vette, and a thought crosses my mind.

"I wonder what this thing would be if you put the Lingenfelter 406 in it with the super ram?"

My boss looked at me, poker straight face and said one word.

"Slower."

We both had to laugh at that! He got me there! I had ZERO room for a comeback on that one.

He's been out riding in SUMNBAD and the one time that I goosed it down the main drag and the trans didn't slip, the look on his face was easily translated into the words "I have GOT to get me one of these!"

He won't admit it ...

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Really busy day Saturday, it was a MADHOUSE of customers. I'm on the register fighting for my life, I see some others on the sales counter, Gary has TWO phones, one to each ear, and the lines of customers don't seem to be moving much, we're not making a dent.

My boss finishes one of his sales and brings the part over to the register, the customer is moving through the crowd toward the register. I have a customer in front of me, an older gentleman, buying a quart of oil. He looks at my manager and asks the question of the week:

"If I buy this oil and it drains out of my truck before I get to the next stop light, can I get my money back?"

My manager, Eric, looks at the guy with the most incredulous look I've ever seen.

"Sir." Eric says. "If your truck drops that quart of oil between my parking lot and that stop light, you've got a far more serious problem than just oil."

I thought I was going to blow a gasket right there. It was like holding a sneeze in, everything I could do not to bust out laughing.

God, I love my job at AutoZone!  Wait.  No I don't, because customers are idiots.

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I was behind the counter and saw Misty talking to an older gentleman. The debate was kind of heated. He was asking for some choke cleaner, she wasn't understanding him correctly.

"Carb and choke spray is what I have here." Misty said, pointing to a bottle on the shelf.

"No, you squirt it down the choke..." the man said. "Makes your car run better. Especially when it's cold..."

"Starter fluid!" Misty exclaims.

So, Misty tries to read between the lines and points to the starter fluid. She gets a bottle down and hands this to the guy.

He shakes his head.

"No, the stuff I want is Mercon."

Misty gets a perplexed look on her face. Mercon is a type / grade of transmission fluid... So, Misty takes him back to the transmission fluid, pulls a bottle of Coastal Mercon trans fluid off the rack, and hands it to the guy.

His eyes get wide.

"Yeah, this is it. Do you have the kind you spray on?"

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Misty was talking to a customer at the counter, I overheard most of this, the rest was related to me by Misty and Eric. The customer had a 307 or a 305 or a 302 motor. Didn't know what year it was, what it really was, what it came out of, etc. He needs a thermostat, gasket and a set of valve cover gaskets. Misty says she needs to know the year, make, and model. Guy doesn't know.

"They are different for different years..." she explains.

Guy looks around, sees Eric.

"Why don't you let me talk to that boy over there. He probably knows more about it..." the guy says.

Misty turns blood red with anger. Now, NOTHING infuriates Misty more than someone thinking that because she is a woman that she doesn't know about auto parts! I feel her anger, I understand it. So, Eric has been eavesdropping on the conversation. Misty asks him to help the guy, Eric walks over, and the guy gets all bright and cheery. Here is a guy, he'll know more about the engine than some little girl does!

Eric listens to the guy, and says "Well, sir, let me see if I can help you. If you'll just follow me this way, I think we can find what you need."

The guy gets this "See, I knew the man would know more about it than some little girl would' look on his face, all smug and stuff.

Eric leads him back to our racks and shelves that hold the gaskets. It takes up almost a whole isle, both sides, end to end.

"This is all of the gaskets that AutoZone carries..." Eric says. "If you don't know the year, make, and model, I'll be glad to let you look through them all until you find what you're looking for."

Guy gets this defeated look on his face.

"I'll go find out the year..." he says and leaves.

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A customer approached Eric yesterday and asked him:

"Do you have any headers for a 1986 Mazda 323? It's got a 350 in it, I believe."

Eric has to hang his head, he's about to bust out laughing. After being told the sad truth, the guy says he needs a few more parts. He turns to his wife behind him and asks:

"What kind of truck is that we drive...?"

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A customer came in and asked Eric what the cheapest oil we had was. Eric said we had Exxon Superflow for $0.89 cents a bottle. The customer said "Got any cheaper than that?"

"Try Hudsons." Eric said.

(For those who don't know, Hudsons is a big salvage store chain. They sell stuff from store fires and floods that insurance has written off. It's where you find JUNK.)

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A guy bought some oil, and a filter. He leaves the store. Five minutes later, someone comes in and tells us that a guy is out there in the middle of the parking lot, draining his oil into the sewer grate / storm drain.

The managers call the cops and I go out and tell the man he has to stop what he's doing, he can't drain the oil there! A local PD unit arrives and gives the guy a ticket for littering and some other charges.

"Well, you had a drain there in the parking lot..." the old geezer says. "I thought it was for draining your oil into..."

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A woman came in last night, brought back a set of brakes. Unused. She got back her money and her core charge. She asked if we bought back brakes... I said just the core charge on the brakes that they had bought, and only one time per purchase.

"Oh..." she said, looking kind of dismayed.

"My husband changes brakes for a living. I figured we could make some extra money if we brought in all the old pads we had laying around out back and you gave us $5 back for each one."

I kind of snickered.

"No, maam. That would be nice but I'm afraid that life just doesn't work that way..."

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A customer walked into AutoZone, asked Eric for a application for employment. Eric went back to the office to get an application and when he came back, the guy was loading small items into a Adidas bag, just stuffing them in, at the front register. Eric asked the guy if he was going to pay for the merchandise.

"Just take it out of my first check when you hire me." he says.

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You have to know this guy that I work with, Ed Corker. He looks like Chef on South Park.  Ed owns a '67 GTO (400cid/THM400), black, it's a beauty! Ed will give you the shirt off of his back if you need it. Ed has never gotten angry (a little miffed) that I ever saw, and he's just mellow all the time. Even when he's excited or mad, his voice doesn't go up or down very noticeable. He's got ice water flowing in his veins, he's that cool.

Case in point.

A guy pulls up in front of AutoZone, too fast, slams up on the curb and takes out the front window of the store, his car is actually in the store, bumper and part of the front cap.

By the time that the glass has finished falling, everyone in the store, managers and customers alike, are high tailing it for the rear of the store and the exit there.

Not Ed.

He just stands there next to the counter, watching as this guy backs up some...

The guy puts it in drive, and comes forward again. It's evident he has serious brake problems. Slams into the front of the store again, knocking one of the doors right off the hinges. It falls down with a huge crash, busting glass everywhere.

Ed just stands there, watching the guy. The guy throws his car into park, walks into the store, stepping over the twisted metal frames, the glass, and the debris from the front of the store, and looks at Ed.

"I think I need to buy some brake fluid..." he says casually.

"You can't buy nothing till the cops come." Ed replies, reaching for the phone to call the cops.

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Guy came in, bought a bunch of stuff; head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, intake gaskets, 'glue' for the gaskets, air freshener, etc. Rang up about $80 worth of stuff real quick. When I gave him the total, $85.67, he looked down at all he had bought, then placed an old Duralast Gold alternator up on the counter.

I gently touched the alternator, making sure it was one of our lifetime warranty models, it was caked in oil and grease, but it was unmistakably one of our top of the line models. After turning it this way and that just out of curiosity, I wiped my fingers on a paper towel at the counter, and looked back up at the customer, who I noticed had made no move to produce currency of any form. Maybe he hadn't heard me.

"Your total is $85.67." I told him.

He nodded, and pushed the alternator closer to me. I asked him how he wanted to pay, cash, check, or charge.

"I want to trade this in, I paid $90 for it. I've got some change coming..."

WTF?!

I looked at the guy with the "Uh Oh" look I reserve for when I have to deal with truly stupid people.

"Are you bringing this back?" I asked him, looking at the alternator.

He nodded, and glanced around really quickly like someone was sneaking up on him.

"Is there anything wrong with it?" I asked, testing the waters.

"No! No! It work fine! It be just fine! I just need to return it and get my money back..." he said.

Uh huh.

I directed him that all returns had to go through the parts counter. He took the alternator, and went to the parts counter. Since I only had one more customer at the register, and Melinda got her, I sighed and stepped 5 feet over to the parts counter.

"OK, sir." I said. "So, you need a replacement on this alternator? That's not a problem, let me check out this one and see if anything is wrong with it..."

"Ain't nuthin wrong with it!" the guy says. "I just want my money back."

Uh huh. AutoZone doesn't refund money on electrical parts once they've been installed, or on good alternators. I was beginning to wonder if I had one of those special customers that the others had before...

"So, the alternator works fine, why are you returning it?"

"I blew up my motor, the alternator still works. I gots a new car now, and I don't need the alternator anymore, so I want to get a refund. It's got a lifetime warranty and they tolds me that ifs I's don't needs this anymore, I's can brings it back..."

Uh huh. Right....

"Sir..." I sigh, and explain to him that he cannot buy a alternator from AutoZone, even a top of the line lifetime warranty unit, use it for two years, and when he doesn't need it anymore, bring it back for a FULL refund. Get real!

He started to get a little upset, he said he wanted to trade in the alternator for all the stuff that he was going to buy. The AutoZone in Prentiss had told him he could do that when he bought the alternator two years ago, he could bring it back in later and trade it for other parts...

Uh huh.

So, Misty (store manager) is walking by, and I grab her and have her back me up. We take the next 5 minutes to gently, courteously set this poor brain dead individual straight. He seems to understand, but he asks if all AutoZones are the same, have the same policy, etc. We assure him that anything he buys is good and warranted at any other AutoZone no matter where.

Then why are we being different than the AutoZone in Prentiss? Why won't we take back the alternator and give him a refund. Misty and I spend another 5 minutes explaining this to him, and he finally seems to understand.

Then he looks confused.

"How much will you give me for the alternator, towards the stuff I'm buying today?" he asks.

I have to turn and answer the phone, providence calls, and I can't help but almost lose it and reach across the counter and loop the phone cord around this loser's neck and reel it in real tight. But, I remain calm...

Misty finishes putting her foot down, and the guy takes the alternator back up to the register (where for the last 10 minutes, his stuff has been waiting, at the TOTAL step of the process, thereby either denying other people the use of the register, or requiring me to mid-void the entire ring up and get a manager's password to clear it out... sigh.).

I step back up to the register, give him the quote again, and he puts the alternator back up on the counter. I'm about to lose it now, my patience is at the very end, when he pulls out a WAD, I kid you not, a WAD (meaning a whole hellabunch) of money, 20's, 10's, etc. and starts peeling them off.

I take the money, clear the register, and bag up his merchandise. He walks out the door with his alternator muttering:

"I ain't never shopping at this AutoZone again. Prentiss store tells me one thing, and you won't honor it... I'm taking my business elsewhere."

Then he looks to his right, then to his left, jerks his head real fast up, and I mean this guy runs like the wind around the corner like something was after him...

Maybe next time he needs a hit, he might get lucky. His crack dealer might need a Duralast Gold alternator and he can bargain with him...

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So, tonight is a nightmare at the Zone. We get three GOOD brain dead cases, all of them, apparently suffering from the same mental disorder. I don't know what their problem was, but I'm sure it was hard to pronounce.

Woman came in with her old alternator, she bought it two years ago, she just got rid of her car. It's a lifetime warranty alternator, and she's not going to need it anymore since she just junked her car. She wants her money back on it... my manager said she didn't need another alternator in the store. Woman got mad, that we wouldn't buy back her alternator after two years of use, at full refund, because she junked her car and bought a brand new one...

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Guy bought some valve lifters. Left and put his engine back together. He lost ... something ... in his motor right after he put it back together. We didn't really understand him, but we did know he brought back a huge box of parts. Well, among other things, the lifters somehow (I didn't hear all of the story) caused his engine to grenade itself (he lost a con rod pin and all the chaos that ensues) so he brought back ALL of the AutoZone parts that his motor had, and wanted a refund. Why? He was junking his truck, his motor was blown, and he wanted the money back on the parts, they were under warranty... He had 16 lifters, a full clutch set (pressure plate, throughout bearing, etc...), a Duralast Gold starter, and a distributor cap and ignition rotor. He wanted a full refund on them all because he wasn't going to need them anymore. He got mad when my boss only gave him a refund on the lifters, and only then because he halfway convinced my manager that the lifters had caused all the problems (yeah, right...). It was unbelievable, he couldn't get over the fact that we were not going to refund him his money.

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Guy came in, really depressed. He talked real low so it was hard to understand. He had a '87 Pontiac 6000 with the Tech 4 2.5 liter TBI 4cylinder in it. He was complaining that he had bought a head gasket earlier today because his head was leaking oil (hmmmm...). He had a friend put it on for him, and coming back from a town 45mins away (Tylertown), he started to blow coolant around his motor, his warning lights came up on the dash, and his car started sputtering. He could not maintain a speed of greater than 50mph, and it was starting to overheat, etc. So, coughing, sputtering, and warning lights all over his dash, he kept driving until he reached Columbia.

"Do you think I hurt my motor...?" He asked.

I just stared at this guy! This guy NEEDED his car, he had to work, etc. and he was acting like it was MY fault that the head gasket we sold him earlier had blown. I asked him for sure if he got the head gasket at AutoZone, he said yes. OK. How did he put it on?

He got another friend to put it on. Did the head gasket (previous one) blow? Yes, it blew out. I described what a blown head gasket did, all the bad things, and he said YES to every thing that I mentioned.

OK, when your 'friend' put the new head gasket on, did he check for tolerances, did he check to see if you had cracked your head, if your head was warped, etc. Guy just looked at me. Huh?

Did he shave the head down any? Guy said no, but he used a lot of that glue stuff, so it shouldn't blow again, right? Even if it was cracked or warped, if it had lots of the glue stuff on, it wouldn't go bad on him again, would it.

Sigh.

I explained the concept of vehicular / engine heads to him, explained if the mechanic had just taken the old head, put a new gasket / sealer on, and not checked for warpage, breakage, etc., then he had thrown good money after bad. Guy was getting almost tear eyed.

I felt sorry for him... the guy couldn't buy a clue if he won the lottery.

He asked to use the phone and made a few phone calls (presumably to the mechanic who had done the work) and then got real sad. I asked him where the car was, he said at a friend's house, nearby and he had to get back to the other town again (45miles away) and could he drive it with a blown head gasket? I told him not to, it could damage his motor even more. I told him about Cindy's '91 Buick Skylark blowing the head gasket and having to have a new head installed because the old one cracked. I told him a new head gasket would cost about $19, I had two in stock, but he needed to get his mechanic to check the head. If he just put a new head gasket on and it blew within a few miles, someone had NOT done a good job of putting the gasket on (no matter how much Permatex the guy used, Permatex is not a miracle glue!!!!) and just buying head gasket after head gasket and Permatex by the case was not going to solve the problem... He convinced me that his mechanic and friend was the best in the world, and that he didn't need to work on the head if the gasket blew, they just put a new gasket on and used lots of Permatex ("glue"). He was very adamant that they had used more than enough 'glue'.

I told him to take it up with his mechanic, I explained that a warped or cracked head would not let a brand new gasket live long, if at all. He needed to get the car back to his mechanic, it wasn't AutoZone's fault, nor the fault of the gasket, the mechanic didn't do something right when he redid the head gasket and THAT was what the guy needed to take up with his mechanic ASAP!

The guy said "OK." and stepped away. I got his friend some parts, and when his friend was checking out, the guy stepped back into line and said "I'll go ahead and get that head gasket..."

Sigh.

I told Misty to pull the gasket and gave her the year, make, model, engine. She went and pulled the gasket and handed it to the guy. The guy looked at it and shook his head, looking at the head gasket, turning it this way and that...

"That's not what my head gasket looks like, it doesn't have these big holes in it."

Those were the cylinder bore holes. WTF?

I look at Misty, she looks back at me, and we both look at the guy.

"Do you have another type of head gasket?" the guy asks. "Mine is square..."

Misty looks at me, I shrug my shoulders and say "Try a valve cover gasket, see if he recognizes that..."

So, Misty goes and pulls a VALVE COVER GASKET and brings it up. Guy looks at the valve cover gasket and goes "Yeah, that's the head gasket that I have! That's the one that I bought earlier today..."

We just shake our heads. Un-frigging believable.

"Sir! That's a valve cover gasket." I tell the guy, and some other customers start to kind of chuckle.

"There's a very big difference between a valve cover gasket and a head gasket..." I state rather miffed at this guys ignorance.

"Yeah, well, I think the head valve gasket is OK, do you have any Permatex?" the guy says / asks.

You said your car was overheating and all the lights were lit on the dash.

"Uh huh, my CHECK ENGINE light is coming on..." he says.

"Is your coolant light coming on?"

"No, that's OK."

ArrrrggghhhhH! I grip the counter and almost peel the top off I'm so angry at this retard. Misty is starting to giggle, she knows that I've gone through with this guy for the last 15 minutes.

"Here... I don't need these." The guy says. "I needs some Permatex. Where it at?"

I point him over to the Permatex isle, he comes back with two tubes and puts them on the counter at the register. He's bought the cheapest Permatex we have, and it's not even for valve covers or proof against high heat and oil. But it is the cheapest, so it will work...

"This should get me back to Tylertown..." he says.

"Yeah, just squeeze them both into your gas tank, that way, the stuff will work it's way into your engine and fill the cracks from the inside out..." I muttered as I reached down to get a fresh set of plastic bags for the holder.

"Huh?" the guy asked, looking up from counting out several dollars worth of nickles, dimes, and pennies in his pocket.

"Nothing." I said, smiling.

"Do you think this will fix my problem?" the guy asked me as I bagged up the Permatex.

I nodded.

"Yeah, that should do the trick."

"I hope so!" the guy said. "I really need that car for work tomorrow..."

I gave him back his change and his receipt.

"You have a good night, sir." I said. "And GOOD luck with that!"

"Thank you! I sho needs my car tomorrows." He says again, heading out the door and starting to open one of the Permatex packages. "I sho needs it to be right fixed..."

As soon as he was outside and around the corner of the building, I threw my fists in the air, looked up to God in heaven and shouted out loud enough for the whole store to hear:

"Crack does NOT smoke itself!"

Misty was helping two other older women on the counter as I pulled out the black book and started penning these three stories in, shaking my head and whistling.

A lot of customers started laughing and asking for the whole story again. I must have told it three times in quick succession, no one could believe the guy and how he planned on fixing his problem.

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I had a bad experience in front of the counter one time, doing stock cleanup, only it was with this retarded kid. I don't know what kind of home life this kid had, but you might be able to read something of it in between the lines here.

I'm doing stock at AutoZone, walking the isles, and this retard (a real retarded kid, like 20 or something) is just wandering around and touching things. Great, I think.

"Heeeeey." he says to me, swaying from side to side.

"Hi." I say, instantly regretting it.

"My name's Bobby. What's yours?"

"Christopher" I say, meaning to tell him "SATAN, DARK LORD AND MASTER OF THE FIERY HELL" just to watch him wet his pants and run away, but for some reason, I just don't.

"Will you be my friend, Christopher?"

What the HELL? Maybe I should have told him I was Satan... Well, I feel sorry for this poor kid, I've known kids who were retarded before. They can't help it. You've got to feel sorry for that kind of situation.

"Sure." I say calmly. "We can be friends."

I go to arrange some product on the shelf and the kid brightens up. He takes two steps closer to me, opening his arms wide.

"Friends ... hug!" the kid says, approaching me in this mongo lope with his arms wide.

I back up so fast I forget there is a utility pole right behind me and I wrack my head and spine against it hard enough to make me see stars. Hard enough to resonate the pole so that everyone else in the store can hear my head hit it.

Gong! Yeeeouch! WTF?! No way I'm hugging this mongo.

"THIS friend doesn't hug, Bobby." I tell him, rubbing the back of my head which is hurting like hell. "I'm not like your other friends. I'm a special friend. Special friends don't hug."

There, that should take care of that. You have to approach this from their level of logic. The kid looks real dejected, like I've just yanked his world out from under him. Part of me feels real bad, like I've just broken into the Special Olympics wearing shorts and track shoes and won all the events hands down by myself.

"Then you're my special friend?" the mongo asks.

"I'm your special friend, Bobby." I say, my head throbbing, as I move some spark plug wires from one shelf to another.

"That's good because special friends like to touch each other!" the mongo says.

Every bad spirit in my body screams at me to run as fast as I can away from this retard.

"What!?" I ask the kid a little too loudly. The words 'touch each other' don't sound ... right ... the way this kid is using them.

"Friends touch each other! Here, you can touch me! I like touching my friends."

The bad spirits took over then, thank God, and I reacted on total automatic. I turned around so fast that my shoes made a loud squeak on the waxed floor and I ran back to the parts counter. Ran. I kid you not, I jumped over the front of the parts counter, slid over the top, and landed on the other side, bounced once, and came up gripping the counter for dear life looking back to see if the mongo-tard was right behind me. My manager and the assistant manager who were, in a word, dismayed at my acrobatics to say the least turned to me for an explanation.

When I hastily explained the situation, the three of us just sat there and kind of collectively shook making little "Eeewwww!" and "Noooooooo." noises. We didn't leave the back of the parts counter until the mongo retard and his elderly mother had left. I felt like I needed to take a steaming hot shower with lots of lye. Man, that encounter just spooked me. I mean, what kind of perverted home life did this poor mongo have?

I saw the two again in a store 30 miles away. I avoided the kid like the plague because he was going up to every stranger he saw and asking them "Would you like to be my friend...?"

Scary! So, if some retard walks up to you and wants to be your friend, JUST SAY NO!

Then run like hell!

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Guy stepped up to the counter and asked for a pressure plate for a '87 Ford Explorer. I told him that Ford did not build an Explorer until the early '90's.  He stood there, staring off into the distance, chewing on a tooth pick, trying to act so very cool.  He told me the computer was wrong, check it again in a 'boy' type attitude that instantly soured me to his personality.

I asked him again, "pressure plate for a Ford Explorer truck."

He said yes.

Two wheel drive?

No.  Four wheel drive.

OK.  I go to the computer, hit PRESSURE PLATE, 1987, FORD TRUCK.   Nothing but Broncos and Bronco IIs, Rangers, half tons, etc.  I turn to Ricky who has a half ton Ford truck and is a Ford owner by nature.  I ask him that were not some early Ford half tons called 'Explorers' and 'Couriers' and he said yes.  OK.   I turn back to the guy at the counter, and suggest maybe it's a '77 Explorer or Courier truck, starting to look at the computer.

He tells me "It's a car, not a truck.  Ford Explorer car."

Uh huh.  Right.  Guy looks at the screen and starts to get angry.

"Ford doesn't make an Explorer car." I said flatly.

He looks at the screen, takes the toothpick out of his mouth and points at the FORD ESCORT, jabbing the screen with the wet soggy toothpick.  "Its an eXcort." he says.  "Foh wheel drive."

Maybe I could understand your too smoove cool ass if you looked at me when you were talking and took the toothpick out of your mouth.  Dumbass!  But I'm nice.   It would be too easy to just go over the counter and slap this guy silly four times over ...

"FRONT wheel drive." I say quietly, "Ford ESCORT with FRONT wheel drive." So I bring up the list of engines, it has two 1.9 liter fours offered, one is TBI, one is HPFI, and one 2.0 liter diesel.  I ask him what motor it has in it.

He says 1.3 liter carb.

I give him a pressure plate for a 1.9 TBI and send him packing.

You have to be smarter than what you are working with.  Let him figure out what he has and how the part I sold him fits.

NEXT!

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Woman called, said she wanted to check the price on a '87 Chevy Van, one ton, 305 V8...

Pause.  No more information is given.  So I take what she has told me and run with it for all it is worth.

What was the mileage?  Huh?  She asks.  Then tells me it's got 98,000 miles.  I ask her some more basic questions about the condition of the van, etc. just bored and stringing her along for all I can get from her.  I told her the market price was about $6500, based on mileage, wear and tear, condition and prevous owner's treatment of the vehicle, but that was just me.  She might could get a better price elsewhere.  Then I told her that we currently didn't have any '87 one ton Chevy Vans for sale in the parking lot.  She wasn't amused, but everyone else in the store on both sides of the counter was busting out laughing.   She then said that she needed a ... (pause while she asks her husband somewhere in the background, I hate people who act as the middlemen for the 'family' mechanic, put your damn husband on the phone, and have him get off his lazy ass and talk to me in person about the parts he needs...) ... water pump.

I sighed and looked it up while my coworkers are recovering from laughing so hard.  I put the woman on the speaker phone so they can enjoy the conversation as well.  I told her a lifetime warranty pump would cost her $39.99 and I had three in stock.  She asked for the cheapest pump we had.  I looked down and gave her the price for a one year warranty pump for $19.99.  She shouted the numbers back to her husband (who was probably sitting on the couch drinking a beer and watching TV).  She then asked if I knew of anything cheaper.

I hung up on her saying "Only you, maam."

THAT story got repeated about ten times that day...

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Man asked for some hand cleaner. I showed him the $0.99 stuff and the Permatex Fast Orange (GOOD STUFF!!!!) for $1.99.  I told him that I personally didn't use anything other than the Fast Orange when I worked on cars.  He said "Give me the cheap stuff, I don't wash my hands that often..."

Yearrrghh! 

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A little black girl came into the store and while her mother was getting some parts, she reached up and picked up one of the extendable pocket magnets that you use to retrieve fallen screws, etc. from tight places or deep down in the engine compartment.  She extended it, and tried to stick it to a plastic ice scraper.  When it wouldn't work, she looked up at me and said:

"Hey, Mister.  Your magnets are broken.  They won't pick up this thing..."

I just didn't ... just couldn't say anything.  Hell, I like kids.  We were all dumb at one time...  all of us.

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Guy bought a oil filter, a transmission filter ("Is that the cheapest transmission filter you got?"), and 5 quarts of the cheapest oil we sell.  He then asked how many quarts the transmission took.  I looked up a filter change, read six quarts.  He went back and got six MORE quarts of the cheap oil and put them on the counter.  I told him that he needed transmission fluid.  He said that stuff was too expensive, he was just going to use oil instead.  I let him, people that stupid deserve all the bad things that happen to them in life.

Like having to rebuild a transmission...

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A guy in his late teens came up to the register, looking a little nervous.   He kept looking out the front door to a old blue Impala (chrome rimpz on it) full of other kids parked out there, then back at the store, to all of the employees, etc.   Finally, as I rang up his air freshener, for like $2.11 total, he looked at the shop lifting theft alarm sensors to each side of the exit / entrance, you know, the scanners that read the little magnetic tag and sound an alarm if someone tries to walk out with something without paying for it and getting the tag deactivated.

He got a little bit more nervous, I could tell something was going on, because all the kids in the car were looking in at him, and motioning for him to hurry up.  I knew what was going on then, some type of initiation or something, steal from AutoZone to get into some type of gang or similar.  I hate amateurs, they're so easy to spot.

He looked at the door guards and asked me "Uh... What are THOSE things for?", pointing to the two guard scanners mounted to each side of the entrance.

This is when I decided to have some fun.  AutoZone doesn't pay me enough to get a cap shot in my ass over a stolen key chain, etc.  Its just not worth the trouble... but that doesn't stop me from having fun with these losers.  So I leaned over towards the guy, he was nervous, and backed up a little.  I said in my best, most confident voice

"Those are high voltage shockers... you know, like stun guns that the police carry..."

His eyes got REAL wide and he looked at the beige contraptions screwed down to the floor, with wires running to them.

"They's what?!" he asked, eyes getting big as Top Flites.

I nodded.

"Uh huh, 500,000 volts.  Light you up like a Christmas tree and lay you out flat as a board until the police come and get you.  You won't remember your name let alone what happened to you yesterday for about an hour afterwards.  Saw it happen last week, guy tried to steal some of those little dice looking valve stem caps for your tires, you know...  He thought he could just walk out of here with them, not pay for them.  Had some friends waiting on him outside, probably some kind of initiation..." I said.  "We get those a lot, that's why we installed the shockers over there."

The guy looked from me to the guards set up near the door to his friends outside.  There were more hand signals and a lot of impatience on the part of the people outside.  He threw them some more "I'm confused, hold on, damn it, this isn't how it's supposed to go" type signals.  He looked down at the air freshener, then back at the door.

"You serious.  Those things like the stun guns the cops carry?"

"Uh huh." I said, acting bored.  "Only bigger.  And they don't run off some little battery, these are hooked into the power lines, the ones that come into the building...  They go off if anyone walks out of here with anything that isn't paid for.  Here...  See, that bar code on the stuff we sell?"

I took his air freshener and pointed to the bar code.  He nodded, looking at it.  I ran my finger over it carefully, slowly.

"Well, that bar code has a special nuclear magnetic ink on it.  All of the items in this store have that nuclear magnetic ink on the bar codes.  When I ring you up here, the laser in this scanner here (and I picked up the laser reader for emphasis, firing it into my hand so he could see the flashing red line) deactivates the ink through a bi-phase thermal heating process.  I don't understand all of those big words, you know, but I do know that if the ink isn't deactivated, it triggers those shockers as soon as you walk through them...  Don't pay for something... BIZZZAAAPPP!" I said, almost shouting the last word.

Not kidding, the kid jumped when I said "BIZZZAAAAPPP!"

"Poor kid tried it last week, some dumb kid, like I said.  Just thought he was cool and stuff, shop lifting those valve stem dice caps, walked right up to the shockers and got his ass zapped flat with a quickness!  Alarms went off, sirens, and here was this kid laid out on the ground, just shaking and stuff, and then we smelled it, you know.  That smell...  Dumb kid wet his pants when he got shocked!   God!  That would be embarassing, wouldn't it?!  Cops came, and we had to give them a couple of paper towels to clean him up with before they cuffed him and took him to the station.  Everyone was laughing their asses off at him.  I think he started to cry.  Kid 19 years old, crying like a big old baby...  What a loser."

Kid was almost shaking now, staring at the bar code on the back of the air freshener.

"What if like... someone didn't pay for something by ... accident.   Would it still go off?"

I nodded.

"Yeah, we had a old man do that three days after we got the stuff installed, only it was our fault because we didn't have the warning signs up, still don't have them, company is getting some printed special order, but you know...  Well, this guy bought a battery and we didn't deactivate it.  Laid him out flat, and he had a pace maker, and it shut that thing down good!  Man, we had the police and the ambulance here, guy was dead, I mean dead!  But you know those ambulance guys, they beat him on the chest with that CPA stuff that they do and they got him revived, he's OK.   But he wet his pants... bad.  Getting shocked does that to you, you know...   or you might do the other.  You just kind of lose control.  It's pretty embarrassing."

A few other customers were coming up now, and I leaned back from the counter.

"Anything else I can get you?" I asked the kid.  "Did you get everything that you wanted to get?"

"Uh... no.  I'm going to leave this here, I want to look at something else..." he said and then took off into this goofy running lope for the far side of the store.  I laughed and checked out two more customers.  The kid came back, sheepish, and picked up the air freshener.  He carefully walked out the door, and guess what... NO ALARMS!  He went outside slowly, with his head hung low, and got in the back seat.  The other kids were all over him, and then it was evident that they were mad, but he kept pointing toward the door and the scanner guards.  The guy in the front seat threw his arms out arrogantly at me, flashed some type of sign, and they tore out of the parking lot in a hurry.  I saw them slapping at the kid in the back seat as they drove away.

I went back to what we refer to as the "Shoplifter's Paradise" isle, and there was this opened mahogany shifter handle on the bottom shelf, out of its box.   The box was a few feet away.  It looked like it had been discarded in a hurry.   Heheheheheh.

Guess he didn't pass his initiation, at least not at AutoZone.

Oh well.

God, sometimes I am just pure evil.  But BS delivered with a straight face has a powerful effect on diet minded fools.

Word.

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SHORT TAKES

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THE PRECEEDING WAS ALSO SEEN ON WWW.CUSTOMERSSUCK.COM

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THE END
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