09/13/10 — Parts, paint and dreams

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Parts, paint and dreams

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 13, 2010 1:46 PM

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Reporter Laura Collins, wearing a protective mask, watches as Rod Winkleblack, body shop manager for CCOG, explains how to paint a car. He would not, however, allow her to actually work on a paying customer's car, though he did find an extra bumper for her to practice on.

The Job: Auto dealership employee

The Company: Chevrolet Cadillac of Goldsboro

The Location: Goldsboro

I arrived at Chevrolet Cadillac of Goldsboro ready to make some money.

Wearing a sweater vest and dress pants, I thought I looked suitable enough to sell some cars. Unfortunately, the higher ups at CCOG had something else in mind for me at the dealership. And I can't blame them, I would have kept me as far away from the showroom as possible, too.

So when I arrived at CCOG, Sharon Thompson, business development manager, redirected me to the parts department.

There I worked with Tim Tripp, parts manager. Tripp has been in the auto parts industry since 1975, so there was definitely a learning curve I needed to overcome when I first got back there. Initially I was given the task of inspecting parts that had come in to make sure they weren't damaged. Since I don't know what the parts are supposed to look like, making sure they didn't look damaged was a bit much for me. I decided they all passed. Luckily Tripp reinspected everything I had looked at.

Next, Tripp tasked me with running inventory on the parts that had come in. This is where he lost me.

"OK, basically what you have to do is look at the order sheet and find the product number then go over to the parts and match it to the number on the part, then you come back with the part and match it to the name. You file the part depending on the last name unless it was ordered by someone here and then you file it under their name ..." There was more, but I so lost by this time ... well, you get the picture.

I've learned in these jobs that whenever someone starts a sentence with "basically, what you have to do," it's never really basic. So, I went over to the pile of incoming parts and pushed them around for a little bit in an effort to look busy.

Finally Mrs. Thompson came to save me. She took me over to the body shop where I met Rod Winkleblack, body shop manager. Two seconds after meeting me he made his decision about what I could and couldn't do.

"I'm not going to let you paint a car," he said.

"What? You didn't even think about it. What if I'm amazing at painting cars?" After all, I'd seen the commercials, I know how it's done.

Luckily he didn't have to wait long to find out if I really was amazing or not. Somehow he found an extra bumper that no one was using and agreed to let me give it a shot.

With a face mask on to block the fumes and the paint applicator in hand, I geared up to start applying a clear coat on the black bumper. At the last minute I looked out the window of the painting room and saw about four or five of the other employees standing there watching me. They are the ones who actually paint the cars for a living, so it was a little intimidating. It's like Joe Montana coming to your high school football game when you are the freshman quarterback.

Winkleblack gave me a few last minute instructions before I got started. When I finished, he gave it the once-over.

"It's good ... except for all those spots," he said.

I looked a little closer. It seems as though the paint I sprayed on was not staying put. It looked like it rained on the bumper and now all the rain was dripping off, except it wasn't rain, it was clear paint running down the bumper.

"You have to go fast enough to make sure it doesn't drip, but slow enough that it covers the bumper," he said. "There's a lot of drips, but we anticipated that. You got kind of slow there in the middle."

So I wasn't amazing at it after all, which wasn't a shock to me or Winkleblack.

I ended my time at CCOG with a tour of the building. I got to see firsthand the dedication of the parts and body shop departments, but it seemed that dedication was contagious throughout the building. The employees at CCOG create a family atmosphere that can make a potentially stressful car-buying experience more relaxing.

And in the end I found out that my dreams of making a ton of commission at CCOG wouldn't have happened anyway. The sales consultants there don't work on commission, which is just another way CCOG makes the customer comfortable.