Chris and Carol Ferrante, the former owners of Gilbert Collision Center in Gilbert, Arizona, have had their lives turned upside down since May from a lawsuit brought against them by Infinity Insurance. (See Autobodynews,com for a profile on the collision repair shop when the Ferrante's owned it in 2002).
A friend who once drove a bread-route told of a true incident involving one of his customers of former days who was the proprietor of an old country store with the typical outhouse alongside. One day, as the storekeeper sat in his privy leisurely finishing a cigar while reading a newspaper, he dropped the cigar butt into the depths below. In an explosive flash, he was propelled through the privy's wall and deposited on the nearby road, black and blue and, shall we say, exposed. Seems a backyard mechanic, employing disposal methods common to that era, had dumped several gallons of stale gasoline down this outhouse. In addition to public exposure, today the consequences of waste disposal impropriety often include serious fines, restitution and even imprisonment.
I just had my yearly physical. One reason I rely heavily on the advice of the doctor I've chosen is that he takes good care of himself, and emphasizes preventative medicine. Since I turned 50, physicals have taken on a new character - sinister-appearing devices for early detection of prostate and colon cancer have been added to the regular regimen. Although the procedures involved are sometimes uncomfortable, the temporary inconveniences far outweigh the risk of physical molehills turning into mountains. We want to spend our days on this earth as free of undue pain and illness as possible so as to be active participants, rather than faded memories, in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Electronic communication and commerce developments of the past decade have created some exciting and strange bedfellows in our industry. Used wisely, and not abused, some of these can help us put out a better product in a shorter time frame. But the dot-coms that have sprung up faster than hallucinatory fungi on horse pucky threaten to dot-decimate many smaller players, especially those unable or unwilling to conform to the control of those bent on pulling the cyber-strings. As with everything else in this life, "following the money trail" always leads us to realize someone else's desire to control and profit from us - or eliminate us.
"Take it off, Honey!" I pleaded with my wife as we ended an early-morning walk. My request concerned the doubt she'd just voiced that she could afford to take off just six workdays from her extensive office duties at our shop. It's a phobia common enough among business owners - the fear of who knows what awaits their return from enjoying the fruits of their labors: The fear of loss of control!
The October, 2001 issue of Autobody News front-lined an article, "Dealer Parts Managers Complain that Body Shops Return Excessive Number of Parts," voicing the opinions of parts managers interviewed. Three factors are pinpointed as contributing to an excessive number of returned parts - outright fraud, cycle time pressures that encourage ordering parts "just in case we need them," and parts orders based on estimates written by inexperienced insurance adjusters. It seems that the parts managers are sweating - and speaking out - about these issues.
Someone has said that you know you're getting older when your hair migrates from the top of your head to take up residence in your ears and nose. Age does have a funny way of sneaking up on us.
Recently, my wife Bobbbi's newer model Volvo was rear-ended. Although damages amounted to only $400, a GEICO representative remained unwavering in her efforts to try to force Bobbi to drive the 50 mile round trip to their nearest drive-in claim center. Speaking to her immediate superior got the same reaction. Even reminding these representatives that we own a collision shop and know our insured motorist's rights didn't dissuade these robots from their rote statements.
It's time for the third installment to Barons In The Buff, a collage of candid quotes from the mind-trust of insurer and associates wit and wisdom. Barons In The Buff simply re-quotes some of their stand-alone statements, untouched except for occasional clarification or comment. Want to contribute?… Send your gems to my address listed at the end of this article - no fabricated or embellished quips, please: What men say is often stranger than fiction. So sit back and have a good laugh, remembering that "A merry heart does good like medicine."
I believe the following quotes, all drawn from notes sent to me regarding articles I've written, are indicative of deep-seated convictions held by a growing number of collision repairers. Many repairers, especially DRP shops, are fearful of retribution by their insurance customers and won't speak their minds publicly (but they'll write to me). Here then, are their thoughts from my correspondence and other sources as noted.