On Demand Economy vs. Jeep Shop Reality

It’s no secret that Amazon has grown to be the largest company in the world for one main reason. They make it easy to shop online and with a click of a mouse, whatever it is that you’re shopping for will arrive at your door within a day or two in a brown, white or blue box truck.

Getting your goods to you in a timely manner doesn’t happen automagically, either. It’s a combined effort of nearly 1.1 million Amazon employees world-wide who are employed as software developers, datacenter engineers, logistics/shipping personnel, warehouse workers and more. Coupled with the 1M plus Amazon workforce are also many logistics companies such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, DHL and more than contribute to the effort of getting your goods delivered in a timely manner to your doorstep.

We have grown accustomed to ordering water filters on Amazon when our refrigerator tells us that we can’t have a clean glass of water on Sunday evening or when we waited until the last minute to buy those Under Armor baseball cleats for our little league-aged kids who are ready to hit their next grand slam on Tuesday night under the lights in a city or town near you. With all this technology that has been developed to make our lives easier (so we can focus more on our day-to-day tasks and less on the things we haphazardly forgot about), one thing is true... This new on-demand economy has absolutely spoiled every single one of us. One may argue that technology has made our life easier, and Amazon has set the bar high for other retailers in their retail sales processes to deliver goods and services in near real-time upon the click of a mouse.

Unfortunately, those of us whom still operate brick-and-mortar businesses (that still need to purchase goods and services from an upstream supply chain), this mindset is often damaging and difficult to overcome with our customers.

Let’s talk about this in the context of a Jeep shop, for example.

A customer comes in to have some service work performed on their Jeep or maybe have a lift kit, wheels and tires installed. Most shops will try to keep a small inventory of the most used parts on hand so when walk-in customers come through the door, the shop will have goods to offer them without having to wait. Ball joints, tie rods, track bars, brake parts, TPMS sensors, some tires (if space allows) and other parts are things that most shops use frequently and often will be kept in inventory. Now if you want a complete custom build with a lift kit designed specifically for your new 4XE Jeep, a shop may not have the resources or means to stock and store these larger components. Mostly because ordering a wide range of lift kits to keep on the shelf will hurt a small business' bottom line by depleting cash flow. These parts often need to be special ordered. When a shop orders a Jeep part from a supplier, they are in the queue with the other shops across the country that are also ordering the same thing. Production times are affected upstream by raw material availability and the ability of the supplier to be able to produce and ship goods in a timely manner.

Typically, if you place an order with a shop for Jeep parts, those parts are not produced locally unless you live in Utah or California so a shop must order and wait for the parts to arrive. Order fulfillment times can be 1-2 weeks based on how many orders an upstream supplier has in their system and then typically transit time is 5-7 days provided the products can make the trip from A to B in a safe manner. There have also been times when a package has been lost in transit or a delivery truck was in an accident which then resets the time clock for delivery which is outside the control of the shop.

Any reputable shop that works in the custom space will happily notify their customers that their parts are finally in and will look to get them scheduled at the first available appointment time. Two main goals are achieved which are that the customer finally gets their project completed and more importantly, the shop can collect the remaining balance on the invoice to get paid. After all, not getting paid doesn’t help keep the lights on and it surely doesn’t cover expenses when no money is coming in on a weekly basis. With that said, it’s advantageous for the shop to get your order placed, get your parts in and get them installed as quickly as possible.

We run a very high-volume custom Jeep shop in Virginia and fortunately for us we live in a bit of an economic bubble which helps shield us from a lot of the economic downturns that many other shops across the country are faced with now that we are post-pandemic. That doesn’t come without our own set of challenges. Because we live in the Washington D.C. metro region, nearly everyone has access to 5 bars with their cell phones and 1GB fiber Internet service, so the on-demand economy is alive and well.

We occasionally have customers who seem to be annoyed at the fact that we cannot produce products as fast as Amazon and we must constantly be on our toes, setting the correct expectations with our customers. It’s the age old saying of “under promise and over deliver” day in and day out to keep customers happy. While we do our best to please everyone, it can be quite a challenge if you have a lot of customers each week who share this same mindset or have customers who don’t understand how the world of custom Jeep shops work. It’s also difficult obtaining those 5-star reviews when customers are used to getting goods and services on their doorstep then very next day. All we can do is copy and paste the same message over and over to every customer who seems to be annoyed that our shop isn’t the Amazon of the Jeep world informing them that they will be the first person to know when their parts arrive.

As a consumer of goods and services myself, I try to separate my Amazon mindset from how the rest of the world operates. I don’t wish to develop a tainted view of the many small businesses that I tend to support (they are the backbone of America’s economy) because I can’t walk into their small corner store and place an order with 10 obscure items on my list to get immediately.

Today, I believe that our convenient, on-demand economy that we’ve all grown to love with a click of a mouse has spoiled us to the point where we cannot accept what used to be reasonable expectations as a consumer.

Support your local small business and keep an open mind. Remember, not everyone’s boss is Jeff Bezos.

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