Monday, 28 February 2005 09:00

Insurers and their partners publicly expose themselves

Written by Dick Strom

It's time for another installment of Barons In The Buff, a collage of candid quotes from the mind-trust of insurance industry wisdom. Barons In The Buff simply quotes some of the stand-alone statements of present day insurers, of those who once walked in their shoes, and of those who must deal with them daily. We trust you will find these quotes entertaining and educational. Occasional clarifications are enclosed in ( ) or [ ]. Now sit back, read and enjoy… it's your turn to laugh… and consider. 

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"I think it might be a borderline total loss." [Young appraiser's comment on a vehicle described by the shop owner as "a train wreck that would have challenged even God's creative abilities."]

"I know you need to do that operation, but I can't put it on my original estimate because my boss is reviewing them. I'll put it on my supplement, though." [Comment of an insurance adjuster. Shop owner asks, "Are we to believe this appraiser's boss doesn't review his supplements?"]

"I expect my (Allstate) company will be looking at their PRO shops that have higher average tickets, plus those that have been problem shops, as the first ones to be dropped (with Sterling coming to town)." [Allstate appraiser comment to shop owner.]

"Don't pursue this supplement! You're a nice guy, and I don't want to see you get hurt. We have our ways of dealing with shops that give us a hard time!" [Appraiser's cryptic (?) warning to shop owner.]

"You're holding the car hostage!" [Comment/view of insurance appraiser who wanted shop to release a car but couldn't find time to pay for the completed $5000 repair.]

"Why do you need a 4-wheel alignment when the wheels weren't even hit?" [Asked of a shop owner by a seasoned appraiser who knew better.]

"We're asking you to donate $2000 toward our effort to hire a lobbyist to pass a law outlawing insurer-owned shops." [Comment of a DRP shop owner to an independent shop owner, expressing DRP shops' fear of losing their sweetheart DRP- deals with insurers. Many DRP shops are clueless (or they just don't care) that they've been stealing work from independent shops for years through their DRP-partnerships.]

Owner stands up for his shop

"My (insurer-boss) feels aftermarket crash parts are every bit as good if not better than OEM." [Comment of an Ohio- based appraiser concerning his estimate that included imitation parts for a late model Nissan 300ZX.] The conversation between the shop owner and appraiser continued:

Shop owner: "Well, we know differently, and won't use imitations. And the labor rate and materials rate you wrote aren't acceptable for our market area."

Appraiser: "These are the rates that my company pays."

Shop owner: "It's obvious we're NOT going to repair this vehicle for your appraisal… What I'd like to know is where do you and/or your company get the notion that we're going to repair a vehicle and take a loss on it, or work for free?"

Appraiser: "My boss said we're supposed to be 'controlling our costs.'"

Shop owner: "Well if you're supposed to be controlling your costs, that has nothing to do with your trying to control my business. So I suggest, to control your costs and make your boss happy, that you go back to your office and work with the lights off for the next month or so!" Final note: after the shop owner called the Ohio Department of Insurance, the insurer paid for OEM parts, and the correct labor and materials rate.]

Say that again!?!

"Why do you need to blend panels to match?… Ford trucks only come in one white." [Progressive adjuster comment to shop owner.]

"Probably 99% of the people I explain this to would think I was steering them, but I'm not." [Statement of local adjuster we'd leveled a 'steering' complaint against. His supervisor, standing next to him, was as shocked by the statement as we were humored.]

Take your chances

"(Our repair was) totally screwed up…(but) it's got nothing to do with Allstate, or their direction, or anything like that… We work under our own direction."Hammer & Dolly] [Admission of Michael Giarrizzo Jr., chief operating officer of Allstate-Sterling, concerning an initial repair his Glen Burnie shop performed. He continued, essentially saying, 'the layers of quality control are only as good as their people who oversee the repairs'. But doesn't quality control start with our techs? Reported in 10/03

"If the customer doesn't complain, the car goes out." [A former Glen Burnie Allstate-Sterling shop employee's opinion of quality-control at the facility. 10/03.] Hammer & Dolly


Who's nickel-diming who?

"I'm going to give you everything you're asking for on this estimate, but it's the last sheet I write in your shop. You're P-paging me to death!" [When the shop manager asked this independent appraiser what he thought the P-pages were there for, the appraiser replied, "They're for people who don't know how to fix cars and write estimates… it gives them something to read." He still shorted the shop owner, who collected from the car owner, who sued the insurer, and then dumped that insurer.]

"If you choose not to use one or more of the aftermarket/competitive outer body crash parts that may be listed on this (Allstate-generated) estimate in the repair of your vehicle, Allstate will specify the use of Original Equipment Manufacturer parts at no additional cost to you." [Allstate's Choice of Parts Policy statement on their estimates.]

"I'd pick it up and mail it to you. People do that to me all the time." [Appraiser (who closely resembles Al of 'Al's Toy Barn' in Toy Story-2) answer to our customer when he asked this appraiser what he'd do if he threw his grossly insufficient check on the ground, rather than accept it.]

"The price of auto insurance for comprehensive and collision in America would probably double." [Insurance industry rep Dan Dunmoyer, commenting on what would happen if insurers didn't send their insureds to DRP shops.]

"No one's going to sign a form stating that we won't pay for any of these items." [Insurer rep's reply after we asked him to sign a hold-harmless release form for our not performing certain necessary operations, many of them P-page 'not included' items, such as not blending above sail panels, no R&I molds, and many more.]

Instructive comments from present and past insurer representatives

"They liked it when they received complaints from the insurance commissioner because they viewed this as meaning we were doing our job to keep costs down. They reprimanded appraisers who didn't get I.C. complaints." [Adjuster comment on how his former insurer- employer viewed complaints to the insurance commissioner.]

"In my opinion, preferred shop programs started out being a good idea that went bad - bad because insurance company 'bean counters' soon began 'baiting' the shops into financing massive expansions, and then 'leveraging' their position with the shops for the exclusive benefit of improving the insurer's 'bottom line.' I was there when (the DRP system) got started and, though at the time, I was convinced it was a good idea, it sickens me to see how it has become manipulated into a contract of indentured servitude for what had been honest body shops." [comments of an insurer representative who was in on the ground floor of what we now call Direct Repair Programs.]

I encourage readers to send me any notable quotes you've received - but no fabricated or embellished quips, please.

Dick Strom, Modern Collision Rebuild, 9270 Miller Road, NE, Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110; (206) 842-3621; e-mail: moderncol@aol.com.