State Farm: Dumbing Down and Embracing the Lowest Common Denominator

February 12, 2007 by
Filed under: Collision Repair Industry 

It arrived by special delivery the other day, like it was of vital importance to the health and survival of my shop. After all of the talk I’ve heard and read over the past several months, I finally have my very own copy of State Farm’s new “Select Service Program” agreement. It looks like it is time for a divorce.

Yeah, I know, it’s old news. State Farm’s new contract has been discussed, debated, deconstructed and discarded by many already. I’m going to do something different. I’m going to dissect this disgusting document. I’m going to look deep into its soul and discover its true meaning.

Before I get started I need to be forthcoming and honest. At this very moment, and for the past few years I have been a Service First shop. I know it sounds hypocritical, but as I have explained in the past, State Farm impressed me, and it stood out as one of the only insurance companies that did things right. They did annual surveys to determine labor rates. They did not engage in steering (which probably explains the tiny amount of State Farm work I do). They actually cared about the quality of the repairs and inspected every vehicle we repaired. They paid the highest labor rate and didn’t want me to use aftermarket parts. I respected their way of doing business and considered their program just a Direct Billing agreement. Though, philosophically, I am opposed to DRP schemes, I felt comfortable being part of the State Farm program.

Like a pre-colonoscopy cocktail, the new Select Service agreement has flushed those feelings from my system. After reading this directive I have a sudden dirty feeling. Like the wife whose long and happy marriage suddenly ends when her husband develops an interest in sex with prepubescent boys, a divorce is in order.

First, this seven pages of nonsense is not an agreement. An agreement satisfies two or more parties. No, this is more akin to document of indentured servitude. I am an antiques collector and have several original, 18th century indentured service documents. I’d prefer being bound by one of those than this Select Service agreement.

No where in this agreement does it declare what you, the “Provider” will get in return for selling yourself into virtual slavery. And this is smart. The promise to send you customers could be construed by some of the more wiser State Governments as illegal steering. State Farm’s obligations are not even implied. There are no winks. There are no “between the lines” writing. In fact it is just the opposite. State Farm is explicit in its position as ultimate master. The language is clear and direct, yet taken as a whole, the “agreement” leaves one looking for more; where are the pages explaining what State Farm agrees to?

Is a contract this one sided even legal? Doesn’t a contract need consideration from both parties to be valid? No where does this document even explain what the Select Service program is. One sentence, just one sentence in seven pages of directives mentions State Farm’s obligations. Section 5, item k. Payment. State Farm agrees to issue payment directly to the provider pursuant to the provisions set forth in this Agreement.”

Payment for what?

Here’s a highlight of some of the more insane demands.

  • Guaranteed Completion Date: Miss it without good reason and pay for the rental charges.
  • If State Farm wants you to use a certain estimate system, you better be ready to buy it, even if it means having more than one.
  • Performance Reporting: Should State Farm want more detailed data about what you are doing with the money they “give” you, and hire some company to collect that data, you are to cooperate fully, and pay for the service, but you do not own the data and can not disclose it to anyone.
  • If State Farm enters into an agreement with a parts supplier–Keystone, junkyards, dealerships, etc.–to fix prices below list, you can only charge those prices. You think markups are slim now? Tighten your butt cheeks.
  • If State Farm gets in bed with some automated parts sourcing service, guess who pays? State Farm uses its power to convince a recycled parts consolidator to give them deep discounts but tells the consolidator they can make up part of that discount by charging the shop a fee for the service. Duct tape your butt cheeks shut.
  • If you try to help someone out by working with them to get their vehicle fixed cheap just to keep it on the road, like a contract repair, or partial repair to prevent a total loss, the “pricing for the repair shall constitute ‘a price offered to and agreed to’ between the other insurer and Provider” and you have to now offer those prices to State Farm.
  • If you do any paintless dent repair you have to follow their pricing “matrix,” which essentially means you will be paying State Farm for the privilege of practicing PDR. Perhaps a colostomy would ease the pain?
  • “Provider agrees not to disclose, distribute, or reproduce any part or section of the Agreement to any other person or organization, unless required by law.” Oops!
  • If State Farm feels there are too many shops on their program you will be dropped….after spending money for new estimating system, performance and CSI  reporting.
  • Indemnification: You take 100% of the liability if one of those CAPA parts specified by State Farm fails and injures, maims or kills one of your customers. State Farm takes 0% responsibility for anything. They save money, you go bankrupt or to jail.
  • If State Farm fails to enforce any of the provisions of the agreement you can’t use it against them, but they can use it against you.
  • State Farm can use the name of your shop in any promotions, advertising, swindles, etc, but you can’t use State Farm’s name in any promotions, advertising, swindles, etc.
  • Oh yeah, and if after you’ve given State Farm your soul for the opportunity to fix their vehicles, they decide they don’t want you on their program any more, you have to maintain any warranty on any vehicle you repaired while under their control.

Needless to say, if you sign this contract of indentured servitude, you are, without a doubt, mentally challenged, dumb, a moron, an idiot.

I know, I should learn to share my feelings better.

At the core of the new State Farm Select Service Agreement is the understanding that you are a whore with absolutely no self esteem whatsoever. No self esteem, no education, no intelligence, no common sense, no self respect, no brain, no pulse, no hope. You will give up the fight for self control and independence for the ill perceived profits reaped by making a deal with the devil. And you emphatically deserve your fate.

I have not derided State Farm’s competitive pricing schemes that make up a good part of this agreement because I believe it is only fair. They have been paying you more than you think you’re worth. Why should they pay you $50 per hour when you happily prostituted yourself at $45 per hour? Can you really blame them for wanting the same deal? Why should they give money away unnecessarily? Now it’s pay back time. You sold your soul to the devil and the devil is here to collect.

By fighting for a spot in line to join Progressive’s Concierge program and hack cars for near nothing, you have given the one decent insurance company the incentive to copy its sleazy competitor. And not just State Farm. Appraisers from numerous different insurance companies are telling me about all the new Progressive employees now in management positions at their companies. Progressive has created itself a little problem by being such successful schmucks. Every other company wants to be like them now, and they are hiring Progressive employees away from Progressive to try and capture the magic.

Progressive has spent many years near the bottom of most consumer and body shop surveys, despite their growth and perceived success. State Farm and other companies only see the dollar signs down there in the gutter. They don’t see the sewage that money floats on. Eventually Progressive will run out of new customers and have to find a way to retain their existing customers. Eventually, this lowest common denominator will have to be raised. Until then, with the help of those of you who think everything will be better if we just learn to work together with the insurance companies, many of the more responsible insurance companies will jump on the slide to hell, right into your waiting arms.

Your only hope is if, somehow, enough shop owners escape the devil’s grip, come to their senses and grow a set.

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Comments

46 Comments on State Farm: Dumbing Down and Embracing the Lowest Common Denominator

  1. Darin Dugan on Mon, 12th Feb 2007 3:29 pm
  2. I was also a Service First shop and liked that progam. I signed up when the new program hit here in Oct. 06. I removed myself from the program on Jan 2.07. In the three months on the program I did one repair and processed several total losses for free. In the 6 weeks being off the program I have repaired 4 vehicles insured by the Farm. And now get paid to handle the total losses.

  3. Dennis Craven on Mon, 12th Feb 2007 4:51 pm
  4. Isn’t it time we said no to all of them?

  5. JB3 on Mon, 12th Feb 2007 4:52 pm
  6. Couldn’t have said it better if I tried. I think your analysis of the situation is succinct and extremely accurate. What a shame to see a once proud company, stoop to such low position in order to compete with trash. The most fitting word to describe the current position of all the major insurance companies, is simply whores——-nothing else.

  7. George A. Moore on Mon, 12th Feb 2007 6:35 pm
  8. We were a service first shop for State Farm for nearly 10 years, and I would say it was the most reasonable and fairly compensating insurance agreement we had and, the last DRP or almost last DRP agreement we had with anybody. As soon as I read the new agreement, no, better let me say the new ultimatum from the Farm, I truely asked myself why any self respecting bodyshop owner would want to sign this piece of s__t in the fist place. There are more ultimatums and threats tendered in this one sided contract than a loan agreement from a high interest credit card company.

    Let me see, we are to lower our standards, use inferior parts from unstable vendors, place the State Farm repairs ahead of everyone else, guarantee that we will get them done in record time, warranty them forever, give unfair discounts and lower the labor rates to whatever the lowest deal we ever made with anybody and then pay for the rental car if the farm deems us tardy. Yeah, cool thats a good deal. I can`t wait to enlist. I would be safer buying tickets for Jonestown.

    After 4 months of the post service first era guess what ? We`re still in business. Yeah, thats right. There are a whole lot of other insurance companies out there who pay us to get cars fixed. We are just as busy as usual most of the time still with a two week backlog of work. There are still State Farm jobs we do too. We get paid just as much if not more than when I was writing estimates per their criteria. It does however take longer to complete a State Farm repair because now we have to stop the repair and wait for a staff appraiser to come and OK the obvious. A repair we just finished had 19, yes 19 days of delays caused by waiting for a total of three supplements to be looked at and approved.

    The down side of the post service first days for us is that as usual after being their “buddy” and an “approved” facility for all those years we are now relegated to comments like and I quote from my customers mouths, comments like “we don`t deal with them any more”
    “we can`t guarantee their work if you go there” “they`re not an approved shop” “we`ve never heard of them” and so on and so on. What
    really hurts is getting a phone call from a buddy of mine I`ve known since high school and having to spend 20 minutes with him assuring him thats its OK if he gets his truck fixed at my shop because State Farm told him he couldn`t go there. Yeah, really.

    I have literally hundreds of customers over the last 20 years that I have cultivated and served honorably and honestly with top notch repairs that will now be told that they can`t go here anymore. I can only hope that they will call me and ask why.

  9. Bob Winfrey on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 5:06 am
  10. How about the survivability clause? You are bound to a secret pact that your grandchildren could get sued for if they mention it after you drop off the agreement.
    I get this same steering tactic from almost every company in our area because I am hard to deal with. I only pray that some day I can bust a few of them for tortious interference and build up my retirement fund before I have to close the doors on my shop. I just hope I am the last one to go broke in my area!!

  11. JIM ACCHINO on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 5:33 am
  12. NONE OF THIS CRAP WOULD EXIST IF WE, THE REPAIRERS, WOULD JUST SAY NO! IN REALITY, THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM. COULD THERE BE A PROGRESSIVE CONCIERGE PROGRAM WITHOUT REPAIRERS PARTICIPATING? WOULD THERE BE ANY OF THIS NONESENSE IF OUR INDUSTRY JUST SAID NO? STATE FARM, IN MY OPNION, HAS MADE THE ULTIMATE MISTAKE. THEY ARE GOING TO LEARN THE HARD WAY THAT THIS PROGRAM IS NOT GOING TO WORK. THEY USED TO BE A GOOD COMPANY, NOW THEY ARE JUST ANOTHER MONEY HUNGRY PARISITE. JUST WATCH THEIR STAFF ADJUSTERS RUNNING AROUND LIKE CHICKENS WITH THEIR HEADS CUT OFF TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH NEW CLAIMS AND SUPPLEMENTS. AND WHAT ABOUT CUSTOMER RETENTION? THEIR OLD CUSTOMERS ARE NOT HAPPY WITH THEIR NEW CLAIMS HANDLING POLICY. WHEN THEY BEGIN TO LOOSE A PERCENTAGE OF THEIR EXISTING CUSTOMER BASE TO SOME OTHER DIRECT MARKETING WHORE, THEN LETS SEE WHAT HAPPENS. REMEMBER, ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS JUST SAY NO!!!!!!!!!

  13. Wade Ebert on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 9:06 am
  14. Nice work John.

    The operative phrase as to whether such an agreement/agreed figure/contract is “even legal” is the only question that needs to be answered. The true comedy is in the confidentiality clause. Our AG is very interested in the language of such agreements. My guess is: properly presented, your AG will be too. 😉

    Ours even asked me if these agreements had ever been litigated… I had to of course tell her that American Auto Body (when Pop owned it) litigated succesfully winning a record jury award in the county. She asked what the elements of the complaint were. I described the Tortious Interference etc. I went on to say the even the Judge in that case was surprised that NOTHING had changed given the public airing of a very dirty issue…. yet.

    By the way all of those court documents are available at Mark Pierson’s Website. http://www.princetonautobody.com

  15. Jim Bills on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 2:01 pm
  16. John, Thanks for condensing 7 pages of “one sided” verbage into a two page synopsis of “The Agreement”. I think you have pretty well summed up the document in a style readable by anyone who is interested.

    Congratulations.

  17. D.J. Craven on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 3:22 pm
  18. “Select Sevice”…kind of sounds like “Selective Sevice”….at least they can’t send us to Viet Nam!

  19. Barrett Smith on Tue, 13th Feb 2007 6:06 pm
  20. Nicely done John,

    We removed ourselves from all DRP agreements over 10 years ago and although we had many insurers do their best to steer work to their so-called partner shops, and even harder to steer them away from us, we continued to develop a niche of being “The Only One” who looked out for the best interest of all interested parties, including our customers, our technicians, and the insurance industry (from scammers seeking to cover their deductibles and limiting their liabilities).
    We now do the same volume of sales in repairing one-half the number of vehicles we used to, have reduced our liabilities to nil and have doubled our gross profits. Our staff works hard, but not near as hard as we used to! We chose which data base we employ and select our rates and other charges including materials and prosesses and procedures.

    We have been able to earn the respect of our market and our business and reputation for honesty and quality workmanship and service continues to grow.
    We are now poised to do more insurance work for more and more wary consumers who are learning that the Good Neighbors and others are not what they portray in their billions of dollar marketing campaigns. People are waking up and we have positioned ourselves to be the one to turn to.

    While I freely admit it wasn’t easy, I have never regretted our decision to get off the programs and earn our customer’s confidence and trust. Now is the right time for all good repairers to seriously becoming “The Only One” in their market before someone else figures it out.

    All it takes is good sound business practices, savvy marketing and educating your community members on what goes on and knowing how to protect themselves from the harm perpetrated by the insurer’s greed driven practices.

    If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Charlie Corwith on Wed, 14th Feb 2007 9:45 am
  22. Well said John,

    The decision to drop the first DRP is the hardest. After that they go easy. SF was always the best to work for but I know we will survive without them. All DRP’s try to steer away from us but we educate the customer before hand. As long as you do quality work, the word will spread.
    Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Brad Larsen on Wed, 14th Feb 2007 9:52 pm
  24. John, I said the same basic things when I read the agreement. Here in Montana we passed a bill which has been in effect now for about a year and a half, which keeps insurance companies from limiting the amount of shops that are on their program. If one gets on they all get on providing they meet the insurance companies criteria. This made a lot of carriers close down their DRP programs, especially in rural area’s.

    Their was one clause though that was added at the last minute and it squeaked thru. That clause says that if you charge anyone a lower price than the prevailing rate, then insurance carriers are entitled to that lower rate also. Even if it was a one time deal, or something that was “as is” with no warranty. Sounds suspiciously like State Farm had something to do with that last minute amendment.

    They do not take into consideration that most shops do not do the same quality work on every job that comes down the pike. I for one do not do the same job on a horse trailer that I just did on my friends 2007 Toyota FJ. Nor did I charge the trailer owner $48 per hour and have my best man on it. Part of the reason that I went into business for myself was so that I could choose who I do business with and how much I want to charge.

    I have to agree with you. If you sign this document you have entered the wonderful world of socialism and perhaps even a step further into communism.

    State Farm, tear down this wall!

    Brad Larsen

  25. john digilio on Fri, 16th Feb 2007 7:24 am
  26. right on target!! i have been doing collision repairs for 33 years and have seen alot bulls–t. i just want to give my customer a great job. i am not worry about time because i do the job right and in a timely manner.i was a state farm idot (drp) and i was dropped off the list. all it did to me was realize i now get paid for everything i do and i dont have to stay late at night to write est or supp for free.why would i wash a car or pick up and deliver a car which would take 2 men for free???? well i hope all the shops start to realize that the insurance compainies need us we don’t need them , we have our customer’s. great article john

  27. Duster Man on Mon, 19th Feb 2007 9:55 am
  28. Guys, excellent feedback. Here is a suggestion. A boycott is only effective when you have solidarity, which we don’t. Our industry has 50% overcapacity and that overcapacity means you will always have someone prostituting themselves. With SF clearly imdemnified in Select Service, lets look at it another way. In our state ( and probably yours), the insurance language is pretty clear that insurers must process these claims in a timely manner. Its up to each one of us & our consumers to complain to your states Dept of Insurance about their stall tactics when settling outside of Select Service. We have always had the power, just not the will to use it. If & when the DOI does nothing, contact your local legislators,state organizations,& national organizations. These guys have lobbyists who can take it to your State’s Consumer Affairs Depts and the State’s Attorney Generals office. This I know with all my heart. But, its up to us to create a stink. In the meantime, keep fixing them right & getting paid for what you do.

  29. CRASHPRO on Mon, 19th Feb 2007 2:05 pm
  30. For the most part I agree with everything in the article. At the current time, I am part of the Select Service program. I can’t blame the Farm for wanting the same rate given to other companies, although they did overdo things quite a bit. No one has mentioned the benefit that the program created though. Rather than reduce rates to State Farm, the logical thing to do first was to eliminate repairs for the lower paying companies. This forced the other companies to boost their rates if they intended on getting their insureds cars repaired. When the others raised their rates, the increase was automatic for State Farm, you didn’t even have to call them. It effectively increased the rates for our entire area. That said, don’t get the wrong idea, I still belive DRP’s have ruined OUR business. Our, meaning all of us that break our balls fixing cars day after day for the same annual wage or less than we made fifteen years ago. We need to start a vigilant campaign to tie our labor rates to the cost of living and the materials rates to that letter you recieve twice a year notifying you of the 3,4,or 5% increase in the cost of what you buy. Raise the cost of the product you sell as your cost to produce increases. That’s the way it’s suppose to work in a free economy. After 40 years in this business (and still alive), I can remember the days when the job was fun and I looked forward to getting up in the morning and heading to the shop. Not any more. WE, THE OWNERS AND MANAGERS, OF OUR BUSINESS HAVE ALLOWED OUR BUSINESS TO BE RUINED. ONLY WE CAN FIX IT.

  31. Mrs. Collision on Tue, 20th Feb 2007 11:31 am
  32. JUST A REMINDER….. DON’T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR ESTIMATING SOFTWARE.

    IF YOU HAVE CCC YOU WERE PAYING EXTRA TO BE WITH ST. FARM.
    WE TALKED TO “OUR” SALES REP. AND CHANGED TO PATHWAYS BASIC PLUS. IT’S ALMOST $135.00 LESS A MONTH. BUT WHEN I CALLED CCC AND JUST TALKED TO A REGULAR SALES REP IT IT WAS ONLY $93.00 LESS.

    THAT’S A HUGE SAVING A MONTH. JUST MORE MONEY ST. FARM CAN’T TAKE

  33. JLD on Wed, 7th Mar 2007 10:26 am
  34. I agree with all that is said here that the Direct Repair status needs to go. The people who own these vehicles have the right to bring their vehicle to any lisenced collision center. The insurance should not delegate where or who to use to buy your parts from ar regulate your labor rates. All shops need to stand together for each state and Stop the Insurance from steering away cutomers from the shop they are comfortable to deal with. State Farm was a compay that I thought were a ok company to deal with until this new contract that they expect shops to sign. The consumer needs to educated that THEY have the right not the insurance to who ultimately repairs their vehicle. STEERING IS AGAINST THE LAW SO LET BAND TOGETHER AND FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS

  35. Robert on Tue, 27th Mar 2007 9:47 pm
  36. everything in this article just happened to me.Ive been in this DRP with state farm for 6 years, after reading the new contract like a dumb ass I signed it and returned it, So I just recieved a letter stating I’ve beed droped witch is a blessing in disquise. But now I have this estimating system I’m paying 500. a month that i use only for State Farm. A lot of things are going to change we have to educate our customers to keep them from being steered.

  37. TODD on Tue, 3rd Jul 2007 3:48 pm
  38. It’s sad but AAA Towing is the same way and there will always be some sleaze ball that will do the work to undercut everyones effort to get paid a fair rate.My father worked for State Farm for 35 years died in 98 the wouldnt even help my mom find the life insurance he had on a timely basis . I am not in the body shop business but was in the towing business for 12 years . I was just reading this article about the DRP program because my car was hit. After reading this I am dumping there company in support of good shops. Good luck guys until everyone stands together they will continue to screw you. But all of you I am sure know a shop that will take the business just to get it !!!

  39. KMA on Thu, 5th Jul 2007 4:40 pm
  40. Couldn’t have said it better myself !!!

  41. rich on Thu, 11th Oct 2007 5:43 pm
  42. anybody please ,that statefarm is fair. thats why the bodyshops are going out of work and closeing. Because shop owners sold out to the ins, comps. The shops have no BALLS Anyone that is a drp shop. Will go under. YOUR drp will make sure of that.

  43. D.J. Craven on Fri, 12th Oct 2007 1:11 pm
  44. ‘cuse Me, Sir! Who Do I Need to Pay Off to Get On Your DRP? (revised)
    October 3rd, 2007
    by Scott Biggs

    Even after 30 years of evolution, the only thing that has changed in the game of insurer bribes and body shop payoffs is apparently the price tag! One might think that with the invention of the DRP, all of the technology reporting, and the monitoring and measurement of key performance Indicators (KPIs), the good ole boy network would have been replaced with a legitimate system whereby shop earned their way onto a referral list. However, it would appear that the only thing that has really changed from past decades of a few unethical shop owners “greasing” some insurance guy is the price they have to pay for the referral work today!

    Gil Palmer, a senior manager of Auto Club of Southern California and the principal in charge of their IRP, direct referral program was terminated following an investigation that could reach dozens or more shops in Southern California. Potentially implicated in the ongoing investigation are numerous shop owners, some with high profiles and numerous locations that dominate the southern California marketplace. Rumors allege that Palmer took payoffs in the form of consulting agreements through a sideline business he created. The rumors also suggest he received gifts in the form of cash, paint jobs on hot rod cars (you might see it on-line!), leather jackets, Rolex watches, lavish vacation accommodations, and much more. While official sources at Auto Club remain silent, the investigation continues today. Charges and lawsuits are pending and are expected to be filed within days and weeks.

    In decades past, a shop might fix a car for an adjuster’s family or even buy a round of golf. Perhaps it was the influence of the wild Christmas parties or a special favor a shop might give that won them consideration with the insurance guys on their local level. Big fun in the strip clubs was also a favorite way a shop owner might get close to an insurer. Whatever the method, a few hundred bucks invested in the right way might generate good relations with the right people at one insurance company or another. The clique and close-knit bonds that gave some shops a preferred position with insurers became known as “the good ole boy network!” The decade has changed, but as the stories emerge surrounding the Gil Palmer case, the methodology seems to be alive and well, but far more expensive – perhaps involving millions.

    It would seem that payoffs and scams riddle the existing DRP programs as much today as in the old days, but the cost is far higher, now! Everyone knows, there have become more and more “pay to play requirements,” to participate on insurance referral programs including products and services the shops must buy, even software and CSI they must use, but in this story the money allegedly went right into the insurance managers pocket! While there are many stories around the country reported daily about a local area manager, this one seem to revolve around a insurance company employee that was high up the corporate ladder and wielded a great deal of power and influence.

    This story could be right out of a movie following a plot where shop owners must pay the insurance manager or their shop is off the program, and his buddy’s will be on instead!!! Or maybe it would follow the other plot line where a shop owner must pay off the insurance managers and in turn they are awarded the insurance DRP account! According to the most recent allegations and many behind the scene rumors, getting a DRP might cost a shop hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to fictitious consulting companies, free cars, and special paint jobs on the side, or even hidden partnerships, direct cash pay offs, Rolex watches, and much, much more. The scam in this most recent saga may even end up implicating employees of other insurance companies that are suspected of driving free cars and receiving big screen TVs.

    For some time, complaints about abuses by Gil Palmer have been reported, but no one took it further than whining privately. Shop owners cried, but quietly hoping to avoid further abuse or retribution by Gil or others in the insurance community. Gil has been accused of arbitrarily turning shops on and off the Auto Club’s IRP program according to his demands. Alleged abuses even went so far to include attempts to drive out shop owners, and even drive down the value of target shops that some of the “insider shop operators” wanted to buy. Key characters involved in the investigation even bragged that they would be exclusive providers in the territory and drive out all others. For years, multiple shop operators in the region (MSO) have been alleged to unfairly leverage their insurer relationships and used their special relationship to aggressively enter markets and force shops out of business or into compromising positions. Even the measurement of KPIs may have been abused and distorted since bonuses and participation is predicated on this. At this point, who knows otherwise?

    A shop owner and manager at the center of the investigation and the catalyst that brought the whole issue to a head, bragged recently that all he had to do is snap his finger and he could get any shop on or off the DRP because he was that well connected with key insurance management! Until the abuse went too far for one shop owner, the complaints and corruption continued to go unchecked and unheard. Finally, a shop owner took matters into his own hands when he alleged his manager turned on him and threatended to use his tight relationship with Gil Palmer and the “Club” to get them kicked off! Allegedly, the shop manager used the leverage of being able to turn off the DRP work-flow to threaten the shop owner. Unknown to the rouge shop manager, the owner prepared his case. Finally he sprung the trap and suspended the rouge manager on September 10th.

    True to their threat, within hours following his termination, Gil Palmer and his team at the club struck and turned off the body shop from any further referrals. Safeco did just hours later than that. What they didn’t know was that the owner had gathered evidence, and got investigative officials involved. They exposed the scam and another Auto Club employee reported the situation up the ladder. An investigation started within days, and less than 20 days later, internal investigations at Auto Club took decisive action. Gil Palmer was escorted out of the building! After years of alleged abuse, finally something was done, but not before other shops were afflicted, too.

    Allegedly, Palmer and the shop manager, along with a multi-shop owner were attempting to use their leverage to force another shop in the region to sell out and sell for less or else! According to the accusation, Palmer with help from his staff shut off the shop that was targeted for purchase by the shop manager and his partners. The shop instantly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in DRP work each month driving down the shop’s value. The shop nearly went out of business in their attempts at forcing the shop to sell out to them!

    While no one has been arrested yet and no official charges filed, Palmer and numerous others are all now facing serious consequences for their actions – if the rumors and allegation are true. And, if the Department of Insurance actually takes action. Law enforcement authorities have been reluctant to take action until a lawsuit is filed and the internal investigation is complete. There are also now questions of jurisdiction and which and what laws have been broken. The internal investigation lacks the teeth of law enforcement, but law enforcement seems to have had little motivation to take action up to this point. Pressure from all sides is forcing action and not allowing the issue to be swept under the rug.

    But the story is far from over and so too is the investigation into wrong doing by dozens of shops, several insurance companies, and numerous staff in the area. Within weeks charges and lawsuits are expected to be filed detailing the charges and implicating many on both the shop and insurer side. Between now and then, rumors will fly and many allegations will be levied at all insurers, DRP repair businesses and nearly everyone and everything else – rightfully or wrongfully!

    When asked about the story, an Auto Club Officer, objected to any inquiry saying, “You are crossing the line! You are getting dangerously close to an area you don’t want to go. What business is this of yours? You had better watch yourself!” He apparently felt the threatening tactics the “Club” may have used on shops should apply to free press as well. Unfortunately for him, he would not be able to remove this news from his all powerful IRP program. He also failed to realize that the actions of his IRP staff have had enormous consequences and negative impact on shops throughout the regions. They have ruined lives, destroyed businesses and cost consumers millions of dollars. While most shops and the staff at Auto Club are innocent, the wide brush of rumor alone seems to paint everyone with suspicion.

    Unfortunately, this story only isolates the actions of one high-level manager from one insurance company, but reports have run rampant about abuse at numerous other insurance companies for years. There could be dozens or more implicated in this regional DRP scam. And, there could be even hundreds of shops and insurance personnel implicated if this epidemic of abuse exists and is exposed in other insurance company referral programs across the country. This could easily evolve into class action lawsuits and hundreds of civil actions.

    The most ironic part of the larger story is that some insurers have been pushing shops to pass background checks while apparently some insurance company staff members and management are able to evade detection for theft, fraud, and other legal violations. It seems to be a matter of the wrong kind of checks being run. Perhaps before any more checks are written by shops that want to be on an insurers direct repair program, the insurers should run background checks on all of their own staff and management! Unlike legal rebates or when a shop pays a dealer for their referral, it is illegal for a shop to pay an insurer and an insurer to accept any form of payment.

    The worst part of this story is that this type of insurance corruption and fraud could be rampant throughout the entire DRP system in every part of the country and with nearly all of the major insurance companies. But who really knows? Regardless of the potential pervasive nature of these violations and the overwhelming number of complaints, there is never any official acknowledgement of wrong-doing by the home offices and senior management seems to turn a blind eye. Adding insult to injury, complaints have fallen on def ears and insurance companies have ignored the need to establish an anonymous grievance and abuse reporting system for years. Perhaps they are all complicit by their inaction. Perhaps now, they will do something!

    The potential upside of this story, no matter how it turns out in the end, is that perhaps this incident and all of its implications will serve as a wake-up call to all insurers about the potential abuse of their DRPs by their unregulated employees and a current system that is ripe for extortion and distortion. It has been said, power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts! Such seems to be the case where mid-level managers without any controls, checks and balances are in charge of allocating nearly $14 billion through DRPs. Shops can be added, subtracted, knocked off, and suspended for any interpretation of a violation – real or made up! Shops have no recourse, but the cost can be devastating to the shop and potentially cost them their entire business! And, it should be noted that there is not a safe and easy process for shops to report abuses further creating a fertile garden of opportunity for corruption.

    There are other ramifications, too. The business practices of forcing or requiring various products or particular services by an insurance company may be brought into question as well. What is the basis for the requirements and did anyone pay off an insurer to get their product or service forced into the shops participating in an insurer’s DRP? Even without payment, it is possible that there are violations of unfair trade practices, Robinson-Patman, RICO, and other laws. As with all cases of lying, cheating and stealing, now everyone and everything falls under suspicion!

    Regardless of the specific outcome, and even if time proves Gil Palmer and all of the cast of characters in this story innocent, the potential pandemic proportion of this problem will surely raise many questions about all of the insurer’s business practices by regulatory agencies and Attorney Generals. Undoubtedly it will serve as the grounds for numerous lawsuits. Perhaps with the far-reaching implications of this case, insurers of all sizes across the country will be forced to review their hiring, review and management practices. Perhaps it may even force significant reform in the direct repair program operations.

    At this point, all insurers are guilty until they prove themselves innocent since all of the programs are almost begging for abuse and nurture corruption and fraud. For the thousands of shops that have not violated any laws nor stepped over any ethical lines, unfairly, they too will be painted with the brush of suspicion. How do they keep their good name clear and their reputation intact when the insurance company for which they do direct repair work is under suspicion? Are there more NBA referees guilty just because one is discovered taking bribes for years? It may not be right, but it is the ramifications of some people’s actions and everyone’s inaction. The potential implications are far reaching and nearly mind-boggling if one considers just how far this could go. Could this be a tipping point? If nothing else, all of this should certainly make for interesting conversations at NACE and other meetings this fall and winter! Who will be the next to be discovered in the wrong bed or with their hand in the till?

    Posted in Collision Industry News | 7 Comments »

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  45. TODD CAMPBELL on Sat, 13th Oct 2007 10:41 am
  46. No one should be surprised by the the AAA of Southern California High Officials actions in Bribery the towing contracts or contract stations they like to call them were awarded like that for years kickbacks, bribes you name it . Even awarded contracts to shops where the owners had felony convictions on there record just the type of person you want helping your family in the middle of the night , some non profit organization ??? What Crock !!!! They would say it was based on experience and a shop would open and the guy had never been in the towing business in there life , and if you question them you will never get business from them. Not to sound racist but in the 80’s and 90’s middle eastern men were popping up all over with contracts that had never been in the towing business in there life , I met a guy that told me for $50g he could get me a contact I declined but it confirmed to me how corrupt the Manager and Supervisors were in the SoCal area . So dont be surprised its nice they finally fired a scumbag from AAA.

  47. D.J. Craven on Mon, 15th Oct 2007 8:57 am
  48. Sounds like AAA needs to take a hard look at itself.

  49. gsuburban on Mon, 12th Nov 2007 1:36 am
  50. Auto Club will use it’s influence to keep this all very quiet. I never heard of a company escorting a terminated person by police. Seems a little predisposed and out of scope. Whith the employee’s witnessing that I’m sure morale took a complete fall for weeks. I wouldn’t even consider doing so in front of the employee’s, maybe after or before regualr work hours but not during. It makes the innocent folks feel like they are working within a compound. Strike one regarding the innocent bystanders.

    Regarding Gil Palmer (ex Allstate 1980’s) he was hired in by another higher up also from Allstate and guess what? The other Auto Club higher up was a manager of Allstate’s material damage “DRP” dept and claimed to be the Mr DRP who invented the system. Allstate asked that guy to resign due to similar shenanigans in the ’80’s. Tom McKernan and/or his staff hired this guy. A few years of assimilation and that guy began to hire in his pals from Allstate early 1990’s. Of course they didn’t have it coming to them since there were plenty of better qualified and more company familiar employees, those guys from Allstate were brought in regardless. This process rolled many qualified folks at Auto Club and the company started their DRP called “IRP”. They entered into this slowly then purchased 30 million dollars worth of Caliber Collision (19% ownership) who then had the cash to expand and take in much of their IRP referrals. What a scam ! DRP, IRP, PRO, SSP or whatever; it’s all insurance invented so it’s all controlled and a very powerful play with any body shop or vendor. Free enterprise my tail and self employed or small business it is not in the collision industry. It reaks with fraud and loots the enitre bank accounts of insurance or any type of membership when towing, auto repair, construction or car rental etc are “partnered” with Auto Club, for example.

    Big corps like Auto Club, Farmers, State Farm etc are all used and abused by the top dogs and it trickels down, how far is unknown but year ago, it didn’t start at the top. It had started and the local low level and the greedy higher ups created DRP/IRP/Offical Tow etc. PAY TO PLAY…where are you DOI investigators, attorney general or local cops? Oh that’s right, you folks are on the receiving end of donations or “contributions” also known as “community involved” or “corporate citizen”. Who are you all kidding? You’re buying deaf and mute wintesses !

    Auto Club is ready for a complete enima and has been for 2 decades. Sorry Tom, time to resign since the overtime class actions, sexual harassments, disability and age discrimination law suits plague that Auto Club with unheard of activity. Prior to 1990, that company was employee driven, now it is employee threatening and pays for those intended activities.

  51. alan friedken on Fri, 28th Nov 2008 1:19 pm
  52. Originally Posted By gsuburbanAuto Club will use it’s influence to keep this all very quiet. I never heard of a company escorting a terminated person by police. Seems a little predisposed and out of scope. Whith the employee’s witnessing that I’m sure morale took a complete fall for weeks. I wouldn’t even consider doing so in front of the employee’s, maybe after or before regualr work hours but not during. It makes the innocent folks feel like they are working within a compound. Strike one regarding the innocent bystanders.

    Regarding Gil Palmer (ex Allstate 1980’s) he was hired in by another higher up also from Allstate and guess what? The other Auto Club higher up was a manager of Allstate’s material damage “DRP” dept and claimed to be the Mr DRP who invented the system. Allstate asked that guy to resign due to similar shenanigans in the ’80’s. Tom McKernan and/or his staff hired this guy. A few years of assimilation and that guy began to hire in his pals from Allstate early 1990’s. Of course they didn’t have it coming to them since there were plenty of better qualified and more company familiar employees, those guys from Allstate were brought in regardless. This process rolled many qualified folks at Auto Club and the company started their DRP called “IRP”. They entered into this slowly then purchased 30 million dollars worth of Caliber Collision (19% ownership) who then had the cash to expand and take in much of their IRP referrals. What a scam ! DRP, IRP, PRO, SSP or whatever; it’s all insurance invented so it’s all controlled and a very powerful play with any body shop or vendor. Free enterprise my tail and self employed or small business it is not in the collision industry. It reaks with fraud and loots the enitre bank accounts of insurance or any type of membership when towing, auto repair, construction or car rental etc are “partnered” with Auto Club, for example.

    Big corps like Auto Club, Farmers, State Farm etc are all used and abused by the top dogs and it trickels down, how far is unknown but year ago, it didn’t start at the top. It had started and the local low level and the greedy higher ups created DRP/IRP/Offical Tow etc. PAY TO PLAY…where are you DOI investigators, attorney general or local cops? Oh that’s right, you folks are on the receiving end of donations or “contributions” also known as “community involved” or “corporate citizen”. Who are you all kidding? You’re buying deaf and mute wintesses !

    Auto Club is ready for a complete enima and has been for 2 decades. Sorry Tom, time to resign since the overtime class actions, sexual harassments, disability and age discrimination law suits plague that Auto Club with unheard of activity. Prior to 1990, that company was employee driven, now it is employee threatening and pays for those intended activities.

    You must be one of the ones they had to remove from active duty. You are right it was employee driven. They didn’t give a damn about members, ,just their soft lifestyle. Prices were higher than any other company .. You guys had the GM syndrome. Only cared about your own little world. You pompous jerks almost drove the comapny into the ground.

  53. JD on Fri, 28th Nov 2008 6:11 pm
  54. @Dennis Craven

    I agree 100%!!!!!!! Time to get rid of the DRP system

  55. notyou2 on Sun, 8th Feb 2009 9:38 am
  56. GSUBURBAN is Garth Clark a former claims employee who had to resign

  57. Anthony on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 9:45 pm
  58. It would appear Gilmartin is a “former claims employee”, likely asked to resign. Would notyou2 from Arizona also be the same? Got any particulars as to what “had to resign” is about?

  59. CashMoney on Fri, 8th May 2009 12:35 pm
  60. If you would do the things you say you are going to do to the car in the time that you say you will do it, and the way it should be done, this would not be a problem either. State farm allows you markup just like everyone else and they get pissed when you are wrong on your time just like a normal customer. You all sound like you are just as money hungry as you are trying to say the “farm” is. Try this: Do honest work, at an honest price, and quit trying to be the next freaking millionares by screwing insurance companies.

  61. D.J. Craven on Fri, 8th May 2009 2:57 pm
  62. @CashMoney – <a href=’#comment- This guy obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about….probably works on Wall Street.

  63. Truman Fancher III on Wed, 20th May 2009 7:03 am
  64. “State Farm allows”

    I don’t work for insurance companies, I work for vehicle owners. Therefore it doesn’t matter to me what “SF” allows or doesn’t. State Farm CANNOT “allow” anything unless a shop “allows” them to have the control.

    It’s obvious who you actually work for and it ain’t Wall Street. And before I’d be harping about a shop being honest….I’d find a mirror.

  65. D.J. Craven on Wed, 20th May 2009 10:47 am
  66. R.I.P. Independent collision repair industry.

  67. Mrs. Collision on Wed, 20th May 2009 4:41 pm
  68. It seems as if CashMoney is either in deep/ brainwashed with the DRP programs or an insurance appraiser/adjuster.
    The only persons getting rich are the Ins. Co’s. by not truly indemnifying the consumer and following state laws. They think they are beyond the laws. What happened to the Concent Decree of 1963! Maybe he should look at it.
    We work for the consumer and the consumer only!!! Our FINAL BILL is what was done to repair the vehicle and just like a plumber we should get paid for what we do. NO ONE IS TRYING TO GET RICH……JUST GET PAID FOR THE SERVICES THEY PROVIDE TO A CONSUMER!
    The Ins. CO’s have suppressed the collision industry way to long. They just get upset when a shop knows how much it costs to do business and fights to get paid. IT’S CALLED COST ACCOUNTING / ACCRUAL COST OF DOING BUSINESS!!!

  69. Anthony on Thu, 4th Jun 2009 2:49 pm
  70. So true. My favorite body shop has never been able to clear a decent profit since the 1990’s. Insurance Corp’s believe their insureds and body shops are all corrupt and fradulent. The problem with that thinking is, if so, they had to learn it as a result of the insurance industry as they’re thinking “We know what it takes to paint and repair a car” and for some reason believe there’s no room for a reasonable profit.

    The true criminal is on the insurance side mostly. There’s plenty of body shops who are just as slick however, any shop that’s in it for the long haul won’t risk their reputation or future business trying to make bank on every repair job. Just look at the insurance executives bouncing from one company to another, why? They’re asked to leave or be fired so they protect their own and over time, it just gets worse. Soon, an independent shop will be something of the past when considering auto body repairs as we know it.

  71. d d collision on Sat, 30th Oct 2010 1:37 pm
  72. i was a service first shop , but when state farm went to the new program i was dropped.. i live in a very small town in Georgia. . we have three state farm agents in this very small town, most all the people in this town is insured with state farm.they are several nice shop in this town, all the shops including mine are lucky to get 3 to 4 cars a week, when i was on the state farm program we had 10 ,12 cars a week. i have been in this bissness for 29 years now,. i have many customers over the years, i get so tired of people telling me that state farm said they had to take there car to a certain shop, if they bring it to my shop then the repairs are not guaranteed or we are not on there list. State farm is very strong in this little town and its about to put us out of bissness . so tell me how do you fight it? when asking state farm about getting back on the program they say there is not enough work , but a half a mile down the road they are 25 to 30 cars. so i am asking for help. answers, how do you fight this?

  73. D.J. on Sat, 30th Oct 2010 5:12 pm
  74. In a perfect world, everyone would say no and we could all go back to making money again.

  75. gsuburban on Thu, 9th Dec 2010 1:52 pm
  76. Well, I’d contact an attorney and have him ask State Farm why their guarantee is any better than the body shops. Also, at some point, having all your eggs in one basket or more than 25% of your business from one source is a case for trouble down the road should there be a change in referrals and so forth. At that point, you feel the crunch and have cash flow problems.

    Allstate started all this in the 1970’s and many a body shop were technically working for Allstate and thus, did lousy work on the vehicles while the insurance executives played golf and traveled the globe with all their pals in corruption.

  77. TIM on Mon, 20th Dec 2010 5:52 pm
  78. Are there ANY Collision Assn’s in IN to force pressure on the State Farm Steering issues?I’ve been losing buiseness right &left …….my customers are telling me.Had a customer wanted her car fixed at our shop,sf told her she had to take it to their shop,with plenty of lines of excuses…of course.People are so easily steered because of fear that sf will raise their rates I suppose.Everyone seems so spineless anymore.There are OTHER INSURANCE CO’S OUT THERE!! I have no use for sf & their buissiness practices any longer…..George Avery can STICK IT WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE!!

  79. big ralph on Sat, 5th May 2012 6:48 pm
  80. the plain truth of the matter is that we all are whores who think we are smart businessmen. the insurance companies are just a bunch of pimps who pimp us whores off every day,if we as true busnismen were not the whores that we really are we would say no to our pimps and united we would make these pimps pay us a fair and decent wage for the dangerous and proffesional work that we do unite and become a well paid escort instead of a street walker crack head whore,the mechanical private shops get $85.00 to $95.00 all day long from all of their customers and the public has no proplem paying it because if you take your car to the dealerships you will pay $110.00 to $180.00 per hour they my friends run a real business and get paid right .who the freaking hell is any two bit punk ass insurance co.to dictate like a third world sleazy dictator or terrorist what your labor rate should be.i have had 40 years of their abuse and i am going to fight them till the day i die,fight them with me and start a revolution.remember we beat the british we can beaqt these sc—bags too.fight and unite

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  81. Jack Lasheff on Fri, 11th Mar 2016 11:34 am
  82. We have been having a hard time with State Farm Insurance field appraisers short paying our estimates.

    We take the time to prepare an accurate estimate on every customer car that we repair only to have State Farm Insurance leave off obvious damage.

    We do not participate in the State Farm Insurance repair program.
    After reviewing the last Repair agreement we decided not to participate.

    Since then State Farm will take 7-10 days just to come out and look at the car.

    We will not stand still and let this abuse continue.

    The Body Shop industry needs to come together and stop the abuse once and for all.

  83. Angie on Fri, 24th Jun 2016 9:09 am
  84. Our shop was on the State Farm DRP program. We have repaired hundreds of cars, with no bad reviews, or come backs. We had one car that came back for his car leaning a little on one side. Passed two alignments so no indication anything was wrong so we recommended he take it to his dealer. He did and they also did an alignment which passed. The dealer referred it to their preferred shop. First State farm adjuster called us and said only thing he saw wrong with the car was there was roof buckle (customer never said anything about this being related to the curb damage he had and honestly it looked like someone sat on the car) and that the strut was bent which caused the leaning. Next thing we know we get another estimate from State Farm saying we owed $3400 for “corrective repairs” to the body and paint work we did. I have photos when that car left, which I sent to State Farm, that show that car left in immaculate condition, with no scrapes, etc. Their photos the second adjuster took show scraped on the rear right door and quarter panel. So yeah, we said we are not paying for that because it did not need it. that was not what the customer took the car to the other shop for an until I called him he was not even aware they were redoing our work. So long story short, State Farm dropped us. We don’t feel it will impact us badly, we have our established customer base and that will not change. Benefit of living in a small town. I have already generated a letter to send to our State Farm customers stating that we ended our relationship and that will not change anything as far as us fixing their cars. But now they are still saying we owe them for them doing corrective repairs to that car. I call BS on that – I have photos of the car when we finished. The proof is in the photos that our repairs did not need corrected. There is something shady going on with this other shop feeling the need to fix repairs that the customer did not bring to them to fix. I am so fed up with State Farm at this moment. And wish we never would have signed that damn agreement.

  85. Kent miles on Sat, 2nd Jun 2018 8:13 am
  86. The industry is finished . Big insurance companies have won . Soon enough the Consolidators will cut prices even more and won’t care it’s all about money and it will come from the employees there will be no talent left in the industry I sold my shop because I saw this coming. There is no fix here . The only hope is the state comes in and makes a Equal opportunity for all shops. As long as insurance companies can capture the claim starting at 1-800 I crashed my car to make a claim . They have trained their employees to scare the consumer to a shop they control . It’s better than owning a shop . I had no DRP’s. It was my way or get the F out of here . Because all you clowns had DRP’s I was able to advertise educating the consumer thru tv commercials. Only competition I had was the insurance company ,because they were controlling all the shops. 2 months later after my commercial I was bought out by consolidator. The industry is very negative and unpleasant to work in anymore. I also have witnessed many of the big shops close down over the last several years all were big DRO shops . Wouldn’t believe the was another sucker owner that step in and now same think is happening to them . Don’t worry at the end The king of stock market with one sign of check and be the largest body shop owner over night to protect his Geico holdings . That’s the future people. You all gave your stores to the devil and and now you are being sucked dry by their computer programs .

  87. Ralph on Sun, 25th Nov 2018 7:37 pm
  88. State farm is a corrupt company who lost a billion dollars lawsuit back a few years ago after being tried and convicted in a court of law for defrauding consumers on the proper repairs on their cars by using aftermarket paerts.remember.then they appealed and funded an appeals judge campaign to the tune of millions of dollars and because of that he won his seat ON THE APPEALS COURT THAT SUBSEQUENTLY RULED ON STATE FARMS APPEAL.IF THIS ISNT COLLUSION AND CORRUPTION AND BRIBERY AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS THEN NOTHING IS.STATE FARM IS A MANUPILATIVE CROOKED INSURANCE COMPANY AND ALL OF YOU DUMB ASS SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE GETTING SCREWED OVER BIG NOW AND GUESS WHAT YOU DESERVE IT FOR BEING A WHORE FOR STATE FARM

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