AutoZone enacts new retail practices to keep customers and employees safe

By John Klyce – Reporter, Memphis Business Journal

Mar 25, 2020

If your engine light is on and you want to have it checked, you can still go to AutoZone — but these days, it will require a bit more work on your end.

As a cautionary measure taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Memphis-based auto parts retailer is no longer allowing employees inside customers’ cars. Now, the customer is the one using an OBD (on-board diagnostics) reader to get an engine light reading, while the employee guides them through the process.

The step is one of the many AutoZone has taken in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, as part of an effort to protect both customers and employees. Considered an essential business, its stores will stay open as other companies around the country are forced to shut their doors.

“You know, it’s an extremely difficult time for everybody,” said David McKinney, VP of government and community relations for AutoZone. “As an essential business, we understand the role we must play during these tough times.”

In addition to keeping employees outside of customer vehicles, the company has adjusted hours for most stores — with the exception of hub stores and mega hub stores. Shops will open at either 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. — depending on the location — and close at 6:30 p.m.

Comparatively, stores typically close at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

Employees must now wear gloves at all times, and disinfect the store — especially shelves, parts, counter tops, and other areas that receive a lot of contact.

Only 10 people are allowed in the store at a time.

“We are taking every precaution to help promote health and safety,” McKinney said.

For those hesitant to walk into shops, AutoZone has added a curbside pickup option, which started March 24.

Someone who needs a part can order it online and select a store for pickup. Once the person has arrived at the store, they can call, and an employee will bring out their part.

Because the option was just instituted yesterday, the company doesn’t have data available on how often it’s been used. But, McKinney said, early feedback has been positive.

AutoZone has also added a benefit for its full- and part-time hourly workers, which provides paid emergency time off. This can be used for any reason, whether its related to COVID-19 or not.

According to McKinney, taking those types of measures is a responsibility of the company.

“It’s really times like this that we all band together, and make these tough decisions and sacrifices,” McKinney said. “But, we’re confident that we’ll get through this together.”

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 25, 2020 in the Memphis Business Journal