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Road America: The desperate glory of the mega-chain parts store

4 months ago

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Sam Smith | Journalist


27 December 2023

They do business under brightly lit signs. They sit in every town in America, selling the same products in mostly the same way. The goods they sell are mostly unhealthy but occasionally necessary.

Fast food? No. This is the American mega-chain auto-parts store, a nationwide blight with so many names – Autozone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Advance Auto Parts, McDonald’s…

Wait, no, got carried away there – that last one sells mostly hamburgers and desperate compromise. The others sell only the latter. For sometimes, you see, it is 7.30pm on a Saturday, and I simply need a pack of cheap and disposable microfibre towels. Or three quarts of gear oil. Or just a simple five-pin electrical relay that will probably crap out six months from now even though I chose, albeit reluctantly, to buy the most expensive no-name brand on the shelf.

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