Take a Stand and End the Abuse

February 11, 2004 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Have you ever been picked on by a bully? If you haven?t, consider yourself lucky. If you have, you know that helpless feeling. But the interesting thing about most bullies is that they usually aren?t as tough as you or the bully thinks. A good effort at fighting back usually sends a bully running, and very often, creates a situation of mutual respect.

I think everyone has been told that the best way to deal with a bully is to call his bluff and fight back. Why then do so many body shop owners and managers find it so hard to stand up to the insurance industry?

We?ve heard all the excuses. ?They?ll blackball my shop.? ?They?ll tell my customers lies and steer work away.? ?We?ll lose a lot of business.? ?It will cost me money.? These are all very good arguments, but, in fact, the opposite is more likely what will happen. Some insurance companies are simply bullies. An insurance company is nothing more than a group of people. Some of these people have egos, psychological problems, Napoleonic complexes, the desire to have their heads firmly implanted in their bosses backside, or are just plain mean?.you know like us mean Republicans.

Unlike being at school where tattling on a bully could amplify his wrath, we are now adults, and we now can use the law to stifle a bad guy. Businesses rely on reputation and good will for their success. Being known as a bully can harm that reputation. Millions of dollars in advertising and putting cereal snacks back together can help repair some of this harm, but it?s just a temporary fix.

The collision repair industry is in its current situation?insulting labor rates, aftermarket parts, materials caps, steering, etc?because we have not stood up to the insurance industry. We?ve been bullied for 40 years. We?re head shy. We?ll do whatever we can to avoid the conflict, not make waves, keep the peace. Yeah, let?s lie, cheat and steal to make a profit so we don?t have to confront the bully.

How about we grow up and put these bullies in their place.

Sometimes the advice about fighting the bully doesn?t work. Sometimes the bully really can kick your ass. If this is the case you have to get some friends together and even things up a bit. Your friends are all around you folks. The other collision repair shops in town are probably having the same problems you are. Reach out. Call the other shops. Get to know your competitors. It?s not an anti-trust violation to talk with other body shop owners as long as you don?t enter into agreements to fix prices. If your state doesn?t have an auto body association, start one. If they do, join it and make it stronger.

Information is your most potent weapon against an unsavory insurance company. Study your state insurance and motor vehicle laws. You can probably find everything online. Hold your nose and spend the time is takes to read the convoluted crap written by your state lawmakers. It can be difficult to get through. Everything is written in page long sentences with words that no one but a lawyer would ever write, let alone speak. This is by design; it keeps the lawyers in thousand dollar suits.

If you believe an insurance company has wronged you, take action. Contact your state?s insurance department and attorney general. Don?t be afraid of retribution! The law is on your side, if you understand it. Convince the other shops in your area to take on the fight also. IT DOES WORK! Insurance companies pull their crap only because they know they can get away with it.

In Connecticut we have been fighting the insurance companies and are winning many battles. The insurance companies are reluctantly learning to respect many Connecticut shops. They still walk all over those shops that let them, but they are beginning to understand that changes are on the way. The hundreds of complaints the Connecticut Department of Insurance has received this past year have forced them pay attention but they still fail to act. However, Connecticut body shops now have the attention of our attorney general, and he is not happy with what he has learned. We feel confident that he will be the catalyst for important changes in the near future.

A handful of shops in Connecticut have been challenging the insurance companies on the labor rate issue in court. Most cases have been decided in our favor; precedents are being set. The larger insurance companies are still playing the bully by moving small claims suits to superior court. They are playing the bluff. But some shops have called them on their bluff, paid an attorney and won. The problem for the insurance companies is that every judge has paid a dealership their mechanical labor rate to service his car. When the judge hears that some insurance company only wants to pay half that mechanical rate, and the shop owner produces proof that customers are willing to pay a fair rate themselves, the decision is easy??Pay up insurance company!?

Yes, it is scary to stand up for yourself. It takes guts. It takes work. It?s so much easier to just submit and keep the butterflies out of your stomach. This is why women abused by their husbands put up with it. It?s easier to take a punch once in a while than it is to leave him. But we all know that this is cowardly. We all know that this is harmful. If we all can advise an abused woman to take a stand and end the abuse, why can?t we follow our own advise? Why can?t the collision repair industry end its abusive relationship and stop living with a black eye?

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Comments

6 Comments on Take a Stand and End the Abuse

  1. Ignorance is a prison on Wed, 11th Feb 2004 7:58 pm
  2. Ignorance is a prison and some people never come up for parole. I don’t recall who said it, but it’s true. Our industry is inundated by ignorant self serving people. Flooded with High School drop outs it’s no wonder we are treated the way we are. In my area, Rochester New York, shop owners and area dealers alike would rather back stab each other before they would attempt to grow a brain cell between them and make the situation better. I don’t blame the insurance industries for taking advantage of their (our) stupidity.

  3. Tim Benham on Sun, 15th Feb 2004 4:45 pm
  4. Thanks for the article, I’m in the small claims court alot with the Insurance companies that refuse to pay. They have tried to black ball my shop, but we’re hanging in there. I had a ASA meeting last week and one shop showed up. You are right if the collision repair industry would stand up to the Insurance bullies they would have to get thier act together. We alow them to run all over the Industry. Hang n there and let me know if I can ever do anything to help, I will contiue to fight the battle in Lubbock, Texas because right is right and wrong is wrong.

  5. Tony Stubblefield on Thu, 4th Mar 2004 5:28 pm
  6. We need to clean up our own houses and make sure that we are doing the job exactly as it should be done. We need to work off our own estimates versus just being lazy and working off the insurance companies. We need to hold the insurance companies accountable and demand fair wages for our workmanship. If it is mechanical, then we should be reimbursed at the same rate as any mechanical shop would charge. Our technicians and investments demand fair compensation.

  7. plan of action on Fri, 5th Mar 2004 9:31 am
  8. I here on a regular basis to fight back, don’t take their abuse, sue them, etc. But I found there is no easy way, no set plan to counter their abuses. I have yet to find a customer who would accompany me in court and testify against their insurance company on steering and other legal issues. I believe there is only one way to approach this problem is to hit them in the pocketbook. It is easier to go around the mountain then it is to go thru it. What if all auto body associations, collision shops pooled together and started an insurance company sold stocks to raise the funds in one state and then proceed to open up in each state as time went on, I think it would be the cure for the cancer that’s been eating away at our industry. What do you think?

  9. BC on Mon, 12th Apr 2004 6:31 pm
  10. The reason we are attracting these high school dropouts is because of the BIG shops that like to screw the employees.They cant or wont pay them any money so the techs go to higher paying fields.I turn in my final bills only to find the ins company uses Mitchell not adp and I lose 190.00 on one job last week.I buff complete hoods for free,some dont need a lot but it is still free.Yet I ask my bookeeper a simple question and get charged 25.00 for a should i lease or buy .We have a mega shop in champaign Ill and his goal has been to put all other shops out of buisness.Nice guy huh?Now he ticked a guy off and he is opening a 33,000 sq ft mega shop to compete in a area that has limited work to start with.Who wins? The Insurance company! We will be cutthroat like crazy now.No unity No leaders just greedy Morons that enter the buisness to skim profit for themselves off the backs of the workers.Dying industry

  11. Dave Keena on Thu, 10th Sep 2015 7:14 pm
  12. I’ve been in this business for 40 years now and it’s steadily slid downhill, I have educated myself in the ways of the insurance industry by getting my adjusters and producers license and believe me the education has helped me and my customers tremendously. but doing this on my own only helps on a 1 claim at a time basis and doesn’t even put a dent into the atrocities that are inflicted upon us by the insurance industry I suggest that the non DRP shops converge into an association create a ethics handbook that we and the insurance companies have to follow. Advertise it collectively and educate the general public and when we start getting the consumers on our side the insurers will have to listen. and if they don’t as a licensed agent, I will sell the insurance that will follow the code. I have investigated the option to start an insurance company of our own and it’s not that difficult just need funding…..who’s in, send me an email? or you can keep bitching and never do anything about it as the industry has been doing for decades

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