Friday, 30 November 2007 17:00

Caliber Collision Opens Ontario Location

Caliber Collision Centers, an Irvine, California-based operator of collision repair facilities in California and Texas, plans to open a new 18,000 square foot facility located in Ontario, California.


The annual 911 Collision Centers Charity Invitational Golf Tournament raised over $44,500 for local children, stated golf committee chair Jordan Schacht, director of marketing for 911 Collision Centers and former board chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson. “Once again we bettered ourselves and can help more youth in Southern Arizona. We want to thank our generous sponsors and loyal participants who have made this event possible.


Collision repairers are being asked to contact their congressional representatives to support passage of House Resolution 5840, which would establish an Office of Insurance Information within the Treasury Department to address differences in insurance regulatory standards among the various states.
Monday, 03 December 2007 11:59

Employers Must Pay for Protective Equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ruled that employers must pay the cost of providing personal protective equipment needed to protect workers from job-related injuries, reports the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

The Oregon Speaker of the House has introduced legislation (H.B. 2186) to prohibit the sale and distribution of aftermarket motor vehicle parts if alternatives are available that “decrease greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.” The bill is primarily focused on aftermarket tires and would authorize the Environmental Quality Commission to implement enforcement regulations, likely based on a rolling resistance calculation. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2009 09:42

Unfair Competition Law in California

Auto Body Shop vs. Insurer

Unbeknownst to the majority of consumers, auto insurance companies are unlawfully steering them away from the repair shop of their choice and dictating where they can go and what parts can be used in the repair process. Many shops are cognizant of this anti-competitive business practice, but are reticent to act for fear of Insurer retribution. Unfortunately, the law has also made it difficult for auto body repair shops to do anything about unlawful steering. The solution lies in the missing link—consumers.

For those of you out there that haven’t heard, I have been elected president of the Collision Repair Association of California (CRA). I am proud to serve with a board that consists of all collision shop owners— Kim Andreatta, vice president; Blake Andros, treasurer; John Tyczki, secretary, Roy Carnevale, board member, Jim Boyle, board member, and Nathan Simmons, board member (see September Autobody News or website for photo.)

Thursday, 30 April 2009 17:00

Esperson --- New Pressures, New Solutions

Written by Dan Esperson

Folks in the collision industry are universally known for their savvy, determination and creativity—it’s a common thread that unites those that have chosen a career repairing collision-damaged vehicles. We enjoy doing what we do; we even revel in it at times. But no one has ever been able to turn sheet metal into gold. Barring some totally unforeseen discovery, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

Monday, 06 July 2009 17:54

Esperson --- Old Ways or New Habits---Choose One!

Written by Dan Esperson

Pronunciation: \ˈha-bət\
Function: noun
A behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance
A way of acting fixed through repetition. HABIT implies a doing unconsciously and often compulsively.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 13:44

Esperson --- Accurate Information from One Source

Written by Dan Esperson

With a large amount of questionable information circulating within the collision industry, it is surprising that damaged vehicles can be repaired to a consistent standard. Accurate information is the key to providing excellence in service to our customers.

Friday, 27 February 2009 14:57

Esperson --- Tools of the Trade

Written by Dan Esperson

Often during the week I take at least part of a day to visit collision shops in my neck of the woods. I guess I just get homesick, so to speak. I like to keep my hand on the pulse and observe the many innovative ways in which collision shops have adapted to the changing times… the technologies and processes within their respective environments.

Monday, 30 November 2009 13:56

Causey --- The Hartford Guilty of Suppressing Labor Rates in Connecticut

Written by Mike Causey

Filing a series of class action lawsuits has paid off for the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC). A Superior Court in Stamford, CT, ordered The Hartford Insurance Company to pay $15 million for using “unfair business practices to suppress labor rates.”

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 09:31

Causey --- Body Shop Alert: Scam Artists Still Want to Steal Your Money!

Written by Mike Causey
As a follow-up to a previous article on body shop scams, a reader from Massachusetts sent me this letter:

Dear Mike,
I just came across your March article about body shop TTY scams. We are a small body shop operating in Massachusetts and we too have received these calls. The first came in spring, the same story about an Escalade that was in an accident in Arizona that the owner wanted towed to Massachusetts for repair. (Big alarms start sounding! We try hard to send out good work but come on. There has to be 5,000 body shops between here and Arizona, get real!)
Monday, 06 July 2009 17:39

Causey --- Strength in Numbers—Tying the Sticks Together

Written by Mike Causey
Consider the following Aesop’s Fable: A farmer was able to unite his bickering family despite their individual differences.  After trying in vain to reconcile his family by talking to them, he thought of an example that might work.
    The farmer called his sons together and asked them to gather a stack of sticks and bring them to him. Then he tied the sticks into one big bundle, and told the boys, one after another, to take up the bundle of sticks and break it. His sons all tried in vain to break the sticks.
While the insurance industry touts the virtues of the free-enterprise system and hails the free market as the driving force behind labor rates, behind the scenes they do just the opposite of free enterprise. It’s all about “control” of labor rates and the collision repair process.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 17:52

Causey---Legislative Collision Repair Issues in 2009

Written by Mike Causey
Many state legislatures have convened for the 2009–2010 legislative session. Top issues for body shop owners and managers are the same as they have been in past years: labor rates, insurer steering of claimants and paint capping.
    Several states have passed laws in recent legislative sessions to address issues such as steering and labor rates. Steve Regan with the Massachusetts Auto Body Association (MABA) stated, “There has been an enormous amount of success in the last three or four years on the state level with respect to collision repair legislation.”
Wednesday, 31 December 2008 13:32

Causey --- Do You Know What Your Labor Rate Should Be?

Written by Mike Causey

How many times have you heard complaints from body shop owners about “low” labor rates?

A Mississippi body shop owner said recently, “We’re losing our collective asses at the front door because we’ve quietly accepted our current situation as being beyond our control!” The main reason these labor rate complaints abound is rooted in the “arbitrary” rate setting policy of insurers. Body shop owners could clearly benefit from knowing what their labor rates SHOULD BE and posting those labor rates clearly for all to see.
    When a body shop owner KNOWS the “cost factor” in his shop, then he knows the labor rate he MUST CHARGE. If the actual cost for body shop labor is sixty-dollars per hour ($60/hr), why not POST AND CHARGE sixty dollars per hour for body shop labor?
Wednesday, 31 December 2008 13:15

Chaney --- Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

Written by Janet Chaney

Who would have ever believed that we would be watching the Government battle the financial disaster brought upon the world by a small number of amoral people with limitless greed, self absorption, and a boundless appetite for profit. The fate of our country unfolds while we battle on the homefront to keep life as we know it for ourselves and our families. It seems to me it is the time for us to all act like Americans and fight for what is right in our Homeland.  If we don’t, who will?

Tuesday, 02 September 2008 17:39

Chaney---Gary Wano Jr. is Instrumental in Leading the Industry to the Future

Written by Janet Chaney

With Executive Director Dan Risley’s departure from SCRS, one might assume that the organization is foundering. Nothing could be further from the truth! Under the chairmanship of Gary Wano, Jr., G.W. and Son Auto Body Shop, Oklahoma City, progress on critical industry issues is already being made.

Thursday, 31 August 2006 17:00

Small town shop has big city mind set

Written by Janet Chaney

Black Mountain Body Shop sits in the foothills of its namesake Black Mountain in Cave Creek, Arizona. In 1982 when this shop opened for business in a one-room building, the gold mines of Black Mountain had been closed for less than a decade. 

Monday, 31 July 2006 17:00

New Caliber Collision president works to bring company back

Written by Janet Chaney

Caliber Collision Centers may have been founded in 1997, but the concept and beginnings of Caliber started years before. Al Estorga, Jack Falluca, Randy Stabler, Dave March, Stepan Altounian and Eric Bickett were major players in the collision industry, involved in associations and active participants in the Collision Industry Conference, with two being CIC past Chairmen.

As they attended industry events and gazed into the crystal ball of the collision repair industry future, they saw a better way to do business. As a group, their talent and dedication covered all points of the industry. They would consolidate their efforts. They chose the name Caliber to represent high quality and professionalism with the logo representing the high quality refinish jobs that were to become a Caliber mainstay. The original founders of Caliber Collision may never have been able to predict the outcome of their dream.

Thursday, 31 March 2005 17:00

Two techs represent the U.S. in the World Skills competition

Written by Janet Chaney

"To love what you do and feel that it matters - how could anything be more fun!"

-Katherine Graham

Saturday, 31 January 2004 17:00

Arizona collision repair groups unite to stop tied shops

Written by Janet Chaney

An Arizona group has announced plans to support legislation in that state to stop insurance companies from acquiring body shops.

Monday, 31 October 2005 17:00

NO shop owner tells harrowing tale of complete destruction

Written by Janet Chaney

On Friday, September 2, Doug Reed, Jr. locked the doors on his Chalmette, Louisiana business, Custom Body Shop, for what he could not have known would be the last time. Reed packed up his family and some personal belongings to evacuate New Orleans.

Sunday, 31 July 2005 17:00

Collision repairers: the good ole days not coming back

Written by Janet Chaney

The best of times and the worst of times. It depends on who you talk to. History repeats itself and it continues to repeat itself in the collision repair business. In fact, the only thing that collision repairers can be assured of - is change. There is no crystal ball to see the future. The collision repair shops that will prevail into the future will have to be the best at what they do.

Organizers of the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) say that even just weeks before the 26th annual event in November they were concerned that, given the economy, attendance could be down as much as 20% from last year.

Owning a collision repair business shouldn’t just be a way to provide yourself with a job. It also should be an investment—with the “dividends” of a paycheck or other benefits as you go, but with the real pay-off at the end: When you “cash out” by selling the business, whether that’s to a family member, an industry consolidator, a trusted employee or other investor.

CCC Information Services continued to come under a barrage of criticism at the most recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) for a change the company has made its Pathways estimating system.

In the last 12 months, approximately 21,500 collision repair technicians—about one in every 9 currently working in shops—left the trade. That doesn’t mean they left to go to work for another shop; that means they are no longer turning wrenches.

About 100 women representing collision repair shops, insurance companies and industry vendors gathered in Dallas, Texas, in mid-March for a 2-day Women’s Industry Network (WIN) conference that included presentations on topics ranging from conflict management to networking, employee recruiting and process improvement.

Having spent decades as a technician, claims adjuster, shop owner, I-CAR volunteer, jobber, industry trainer and consultant, Hank Nunn has a unique perspective on changes in shop management and measurement.

If there’s anything positive about an economic downturn like the country is experiencing right now, it could be that for the business owner, it certainly focuses the mind. Extraneous (even if valuable) activities often get set aside as such core fundamentals as getting work to the door take precedent.

Thursday, 29 January 2009 11:41

Yoswick --- No Overlap: Repairers and CCC

At least a handful of the nearly 200 people who showed up in Scottsdale, Ariz., in mid-January for the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) came with one primary focus: Conveying to CCC Information Services their outrage over a change the company recently made to its Pathways estimating system.
    “For repair shops, this is not acceptable,” Pat Gisler, executive director of the Automotive Service Councils of Kentucky, told representatives of CCC at the meeting. She said her group and other state associations would be urging their members to register their displeasure with CCC’s decision.
The subject of Gisler’s ire was the reinstatement of a refinish prompt in version 4.5 of CCC’s Pathways estimating system. The prompt asks the user if a plastic bumper is being refinished in a “continuous process” with other parts of the vehicle. If the estimator indicates that it is, Pathways automatically deducts overlap from the clearcoat refinish time for the bumper.
Thursday, 29 January 2009 11:39

Yoswick --- State Farm Select Service at CIC

In the same week in January the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) was held in Scottsdale, Ariz., State Farm distributed a new Select Service agreement to participating shops nationwide, and the company’s George Avery spent several minutes at CIC to discuss the new agreement.
    He described the changes as primarily “minor” or “editorial,” and that unlike the transition from State Farm’s “Service First” to “Select Service” program, the change in the agreement was not coinciding with a reduction in the number of shops participating in the program.
    “Local management may have some market areas that they want to adjust (the number of shops) but that’s not associated with this update,” Avery said.

With the election and economy first and foremost on many people’s minds this fall and winter, it’s almost hard to remember how many other topics and news items the industry talked about this past year: Changes in some insurer’s repair policies. Changes in some shops’ relationships with insurers. Changes in the leadership of some associations. Changes in gas prices and consumer driving patterns. Changes brought about by laws and lawsuits.
    Here is an annual review of the past year’s news as viewed through a collection of some of the most memorable, important, interesting or enlightening quotes heard around the industry during 2008.
“We have heard how complex we have made it to do business with I-CAR. We have to go after that with a vengeance.”
    – I-CAR CEO John Edelen, speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in July, about the training organization’s internal restructuring following several significant financial losses.

“I believe this isn’t going to be popular, but my opinion is that it is our business and I don’t think we should be dictated to as to how we should operate.”
    – Michael Lloyd of California Casualty, when asked if an insurer’s decisions about which shops are selected or removed from its DRP in any market should be made by a “board of independent individuals that cannot have a close enough relationship with a shop to gain any …gratuity.”

“They’re not opening their arms and saying welcome to the fold. It still takes some effort.”
    – Bruce Halcro, a shop owner in Helena, Montana, and president of the Montana Collision Repair Specialists, saying insurers are, if only reluctantly, abiding by a 3-year-old law that the association backed which requires any shop meeting the requirements of a direct repair program to be allowed to participate.

“We’re going to see the current model for quite a while. Entrepreneurs owning one, two, three, six or eight shops will continue to dominate this business. Multi-state, 100-shop networks? Hard to do.”
    – Brian Sullivan, editor of the weekly “Auto Insurance Report,” saying he no longer believes as he did a decade ago that the collision repair industry

“We still get just as many wrong parts and double orders. It didn’t fix anything.”

    – Crystal Abele, assistant manager of Collision Repair Specialists in El Cajon, California, speaking about State Farm’s required use of an electronic parts ordering program for its Select Service shops in some markets.

“I see this an inevitable part of progress. And I do believe at some point it will work. (And) when it comes to the extra time it takes to deal with aftermarket parts, and the reduced quality of repairs with aftermarket parts, a little bit of extra time dealing with an (OEM) parts system so that State Farm can get their discount is something I’m willing to put up with.”
    – Brian Orr, second-generation owner of Jack Orr’s Autobody in La Mesa, California, also speaking about the State Farm parts ordering program.


“We believe now is the time to address this issue for the long run. We are encouraging other states to pursue this type of legislation.”
    – Bob Redding, national lobbyist for the Automotive Service Association (ASA), following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February not to hear Allstate’s appeal of a Texas law banning insurers from owning collision repair shops.

“We believe this bill represents a substantial threat to the way in which we currently do business.”
    – from an unsigned letter that California-based Mercury Insurance sent last March to shops in that state, urging them to contact state lawmakers to oppose an anti-steering bill that was eventually amended to only require the formation of a task force to look into issues arising from possible changes to existing California anti-steering laws.

“The consumer may be under the impression that he or she has no real choice. We want to make clear: Your car, your choice.”
    – Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, voicing support for a proposed anti-steering regulation in that state.

“It’s outrageous that legislation is necessary to protect consumers from their own insurance companies, but that is exactly the problem that this bill addresses.”
    – California Sen. Carole Migden of San Francisco on proposed legislation in that state that, had it not lost by one vote, would have prohibited insurers from requiring the use of non-OEM parts on vehicles three years old or newer.

“(Although) we strongly believe that reducing refinish times on a more widespread basis is an acceptable practice and reflects operations that allow the shop to restore the vehicle to its pre-loss condition, the decision to limit the use of partial refinish was made in large part to improve our working relationships with shops, and thereby improve the customer’s experience.”
    – Chris Andreoli, corporate physical damage process manager for Progressive, announcing last May the insurer’s revised stance on partial paint / full clear.

“We are committed to strengthening Allstate’s relationship with the collision repair industry. Bringing strong leaders such as Dan into our organization will allow us to accomplish that goal much faster.”
    – Bill Daly, Allstate auto claim assistant vice president, in announcing that former SCRS executive director Dan Risley had accepted a position with the insurer.

“In other words, you choose to pay, so end of game. The judge felt she had absolutely no decision but to dismiss the case.”
    – New York shop owner Greg Coccaro explaining that the dismissal of Progressive fraud lawsuit against his shop was based in part on Progressive’s failure to indicate on its payment to the shop that it was “paying in protest, with all rights reserved,” on the $34,000 repair job that led to the lawsuit.


“As a result of this review, we have determined that this repair method is less feasible on newer model vehicles which incorporate special or alternative metals.”
    – Mike Poulard, State Farm estimatics section manager, in a June letter to Illinois shop owner Pam Pierson saying the insurer will no longer include a full rear-body sectioning procedures (or “clips”) on State Farm-prepared estimates.

“Furthermore, only when a collision repair facility is confident that a full-body section is the appropriate repair, has the proper training and equipment to facilitate a quality repair, and has the approval of the customer or claimant for such repair, will the adjuster authorize it.”
    – from an Allstate announcement in September saying that, like State Farm, it will no longer specify full-body sectioning (or “clips”) on its estimates.

“They will promise you the world in order to persuade you to go to one of their direct repair or network shops. Don’t be steered wrong.”
    – wording in an newspaper ad jointly sponsored by a handful of shops in Temple, Texas, many of whom dropped out of State Farm’s “Select Service” program this past summer.

“Progressive and Nationwide definitely got the most hands. He said, ‘Maybe I need to be looking at those companies a little harder.’”
    – Georgia shop owner Steve Peek, speaking about an association meeting with Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine at which Oxendine asked those in attendance to raise their hands to indicate with which of the insurers that he named one-by-one they are having problems.

“If everyone in our industry would utilize these charts…Wow, what a difference we could see.”
    – Mike Anderson of Wagonwork Collision Centers in Alexandria, Virginia, and a member of the ASA Collision Division Operations Committee, speaking of the association’s two “not-included operations” charts designed to assist collision repair shops in writing complete estimates.

“This transaction will be a transforming event for the insurance claims and collision repair industries. Our customers are under increasing pressure to achieve new levels of efficiency and customer satisfaction, which requires their service providers to offer new and enhanced products, services and solutions. CCC-Mitchell will be positioned to meet these needs as we bring together our two talented teams to create greater value for our customers and business partners through increased innovation and network connectivity.”
    – Githesh Ramamurthy, chairman and CEO of CCC Information Services, in announcing last April its intent to merger with Mitchell International.

“There is no doubt that this merger would reduce competition that benefits auto insurers and autobody shops and ultimately would lead to higher prices and less innovation for consumers.”
    – David Wales, acting bureau of competition director for the Federal Trade Commission, announcing in late November that it had filed suit to block the CCC-Mitchell merger.

“While we are disappointed and disagree with the FTC’s position, we intend to vigorously challenge the FTC in court.”
    – CCC’s Ramamurthy, responding to the FTC suit.

Active Image
“If you’re not happy with the outcome you’re getting, if you’re fighting with these insurance companies about labor rates and you don’t do anything to change it, then don’t complain about it. You’ve got to be willing to go through the steps of filing Department of Insurance complaints to try to send the message to the DOI that we’re tired of being stepped on. That’s our only avenue in my opinion. I can’t guarantee that you’re not going to get backlash from it. It’s hurt us. We’re not doing the volume. But my percentage per job is better. And I can guarantee you that the only way we’re going to change things is by changing it. Going after it. Draw a line in the sand about as far as you’ll go. That’s what we’ve done.”
    – Larry Rogers, owner of Mr. Rogers Auto Body in Cathedral City, California.

More insurance companies appear to be gravitating toward the idea of reducing supplements by enabling more complete disassembly of a vehicle prior to completing an initial estimate, according to a Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committee.

Sunday, 26 October 2008 17:00

Yoswick --- What I'd Say At a NACE Podium

As the collision industry gathers in Las Vegas in November for the annual International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE), here is what some shop owners around the country said they would like to hear from industry leaders speaking at the event. It’s the message they say they’d convey if they had an opportunity to address the industry.
Efforts to curb steering of consumers by insurers has probably been the single most common focus of industry-related state legislation introduced this year, and there has been some movement in lawsuits related to steering as well.
    Here’s a wrap-up of some of the latest in the long-simmering battle over whether and how insurers are allowed to influence motorists’ choice of shops.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 17:00

Yoswick--Take Another Look at Fleet Work

Jim Salazar said fleet work may account for only 10 percent of his business—but it’s an important 10 percent.
    “There are times when the industry as a whole gets slow, so you really shouldn’t overlook the added revenue that fleet work offers,” said Salazar, who with his brother are the second-generation owners of Royal Coaches Autobody & Towing, a 23-employee company in Baldwin Park, California. “It’s a dependable source of work.”
Advertising and marketing budgets are sometimes among the first items to get the ax during economic downturns, but that’s not a good approach according to some dealership parts and service operations.
    “We’re basically holding steady with our marketing and advertising,” said Bob Himelstieb, parts manager at Stevinson Toyota East in Aurora, Colorado, saying he’s seen past downturns as an opportunity to pick up new business as competitors cut back their marketing.

Shop owners may want to view technical training as an investment in employee retention. A well-trained employee, after all, is generally a more productive employee. For technicians paid on commission or flat rate, this added productivity should have an immediate impact on their income.

When Doug Kelly stepped to the podium at a Friday afternoon session at NACE this past November, his goal was to help an audience consisting primarily of paint, body and equipment (PBE) jobbers understand how to grow their businesses. 

Very few collision repair shops have unionized workforces, but more shop owners find themselves facing union organizing efforts, according to two attorneys who spoke at a recent industry event. 

— A Ohio shop receives a $5,000 invoice for four laptops purchased using an Office Depot account established – in Alabama – using the shop’s name and federal tax ID number.
— A California shop owner receives a call from a credit card fraud department warning that the shop has processed multiple credits – but never any charges – on one credit card, subsequently tracked to the shop’s bookkeeper.
— A West Coast shop accepts payment from a customer in the form of a money order, presuming that it must be good since money orders must be paid for with cash, only to learn several days later the money order was counterfeit.
    In what is already a challenging industry, shops in recent months have found themselves the target or victim of a wide range of fraud and scams. The tough economic period the country now finds itself in is only apt to increase such illegal activity – and make it more important than ever that shops take steps to protect themselves.
    Here’s a look at some of the latest or most common ways businesses in the industry have fallen prey to the unscrupulous, and what you can do to avoid the same fate.

An Inside Job

Police last summer arrested the bookkeeper of a collision repair shop in Clovis, Calif., saying she embezzled $415,000 from the business. The shop owner said the woman worked at the shop, which has annual sales of about $3.5 million, for about four years. During that time, authorities allege, she would run credits of up to $1,000 a month on a personal credit card (a call from the bank about this activity is what alerted the shop owner). She also would indicate in the shop’s books that checks made out to herself were actually payable to shop vendors.
    “Because she balanced the checkbook, I never looked at the checks,” the shop owner said.
    He suspects the total amount he lost may be closer to $1 million.
    “It will take 10 years or more to make this back,” he said.
    One thing he now recommends: Conduct background checks before hiring. He said he had been unable to check the woman’s references because, ironically, her last two employers had gone bankrupt. But a background check would have alerted him she’d had some trouble in her past.
    Other internal fraud prevention tips: Sign checks yourself or review copies of checks each month. Make sure all checks are accounted for, including those damaged or voided. Compare accounts payable checks to vendor statements. Assign different people responsibility for writing checks and reconciling the account. Have bank statements mailed to your home.

Phony payment

One West Coast shop owner said an employee at one of his two locations accepted a pair of money orders, totaling nearly $2,000, from a customer for repair of a vehicle. The employee was under the impression that all money orders are good because you have to pay cash for them.
    Several days later, however, the shop’s bank returned the money orders as invalid. By calling the phone number for the business where the money orders were supposedly issued, the shop learned they were counterfeit.
     The shop owner said the fraud could have been avoided if the shop had done a better job verifying the identification of the customer and matching it to the money order and vehicle registration. Between the fake names, addresses, signatures and phone numbers given by the customer and on the money order, something should have raised a red flag, he said.
    He said his managers now know that any type of check or money order needs to be validated before a vehicle is released. Fake cashier’s checks also have been used in scams. So if something doesn’t seem right, ask the customer for cash, driving the customer to the bank, if necessary

Credit card fraud

At least two shops recently have reported receiving operator-assisted “relay calls” (designed to assist the hearing impaired) from a “Dr. Sherry Smith” who says she wants to get a vehicle painted. The caller offers to put $1,000 down on a credit card, but wants the shop to wire $820 to a shipping company that will deliver the car to the shop.
    Similarly, Alpine Autobody in Vancouver, Wash., earlier this year received a “relay call” from a would-be customer who said they were in an accident on the way to Texas and wanted to have the car towed back to the shop. The tow company didn’t take credit cards, the caller said, asking the shop to charge $3,500 to the caller’s credit card and wire the money to them near Texas.
    The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana cautions that such exchange of funds usually involves a scam using stolen credit card numbers.
    Sensing a scam when she took such a call, Muffy Revell of Sisk Auto Body in Owings, Maryland, said she contacted AT&T and the Federal Communications Commission about such a call the shop received last year and was told the calls often are placed via the Internet and thus cannot be traced.
    She did receive a packet of information from the FCC including its alert reminding businesses that they should not hang up on such callers (the Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies to make their services available to those with disabilities) but to take precautions when accepting credit card payments:
    —Be wary of cards that are not signed or lack the standard security features (hologram, 3- or 4-digit security code).
    —Consider asking for identification from anyone paying with a credit card.
    —Use the address verification service that card processors offer. This is particularly important when accepting a card payment over the phone. It allows you to enter the cardholder’s address in addition to card number to make sure it matches the account.

Nefarious vendors

It has been a few years since shops have reported this scam but in case you missed it: A bedliner company calls saying they will do the marketing and send the shop referrals if the shop buys its bedliner products from that company. The shop is soon told that a referral has come in for a fleet of trucks that will require the shop to pre-purchase a large order of material to perform the work. The fleet of trucks never show up, and the pre-purchased material ends up being not usable and/or unreturnable.
    Protect yourself by being cautious about those you choose to do business with, checking them out much as you would a new hire.

Protect your ID

Two shops in the same small town in Ohio say their companies’ federal tax ID numbers were fraudulently used last year to establish cell phone accounts or make purchases at national office supply chains.
    Dawn Hilty of Wingate Body Shop in Findlay, Ohio, said she received a call last spring from AT&T to confirm that her business was applying to purchase 25 cell phones. She received similar calls over the next week, learning someone was attempting to purchase a total of 100 cell phones.
    The following week, she received a letter from Staples saying it was denying her credit application (she had not applied) as well as an invoice from Office Depot for $5,224 for four laptop computers purchased in Montgomery, Alabama.
    Vanessa Boutwell-Dietsch at Boutwell Collision, also in Findlay, had a similar experience, getting calls about attempts to establish credit in her company’s name (using its federal tax ID number) at Home Depot and Cincinnati Bell Wireless, and receiving a Staples card showing the shop had applied for and been approved for a $5,000 credit line.
    Both women say they are out no money, but after hours spent on calls to the police, FBI, Federal Trade Commission, banks and credit bureaus, they now realize there is far less in place to protect businesses (as opposed to individuals using Social Security numbers) from such “identity theft.”
    Hilty said she eventually was able to get a fraud alert placed with Dun & Bradstreet. But she and identify theft experts caution businesses to protect their federal tax ID number by:
—not including it on estimates;
—limiting how many employees have it and ensuring they know how it is to be used or shared;
—not giving it out to callers without confirming who they are and that they have a legitimate need for it; and,
—shredding any documents to be disposed of that include it.

    There’s no way to protect your business 100 percent from a determined scam artist. But by following the advice outlined here, and helping your employees develop their own nose for deals that aren’t such deals, you can at least make sure the unscrupulous have to work as hard as you do in order to get at any of your money.


Steve Feltovich recalls some years ago walking into a large shop for which he was going to be doing some consulting work. Feltovich, who conducts estimating and other training as the manager of business consulting services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, recalls that the manager of the shop said he needed a few minutes to finish up some projects but told Feltovich to feel free to walk around and check out the shop.

Dan Bailey was facing a situation that many in the collision repair industry have: how to handle the future of the family’s business.

U.S. shop owner Jeff Beavers was at a cross-roads. His 7-year-old company, Car Crafters Collision Repair in Blue Ridge, Georgia, had grown steadily to the point of having annual sales of just over $1 million – but was somehow losing money.



State Farm’s foray into parts procurement. Growing dissatisfaction with direct repair programs. “Underwritten” initial estimates by insurers. These were among the most talked-about topics in the industry this past year. Here’s a quick review of the year through a collection of some of the most memorable, important, interesting or enlightening quotes heard around the industry during 2007.

What do you get when you ask the industry to list what they see as the key issues they’d like to see addressed?

The leaders and participants of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) conducted just that exercise in recent weeks, and ended up with a list of nearly 600 issues submitted by more than 150 representatives of the collision repair, insurance and related segments of the industry.

Saturday, 30 September 2006 17:00

CIC and I-CAR: Summer industry meetings

If you didn't attend the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) and I-CAR annual meeting, both held in San Jose, California, in August, you may have missed out on some useful news and information shared at the meetings.

Friday, 12 January 2007 17:11

Quotes of Note for 2006

State Farm's new 'Select Service' program; a Texas court's upholding of a state law banning insurer-owned shops; the increasing percentage of vehicles being declared total losses; and the ongoing battle over the "right to repair" were among the most talked-about topics in the industry this past year.

If refinish labor times on repaired panels are going to be adjusted from those in the estimating systems - something 96 percent of shops say they have seen insurers do - the printed copy of the estimate should show what the original labor time is.

A committee of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) is taking a different approach to the long-standing battle between shops and insurers over "featheredge, prime and block" by defining where body work ends and paint work begins. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2005 17:00

CIC discusses increasing number of total losses

That notation on every paint can in your shop that says, "For Professional Use Only," may soon hold some real meaning according to early indications about rule-making currently underway by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

In its second year in its new home, the 2005 International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) offered attendees about 75 classes, the return of the NACE welcome party, a keynote address by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the opportunity to attend two other larger automotive aftermarket trade shows also being held in Las Vegas.  

After last year's I-CAR 25th annual meeting, which very much focused on the training organization's successful history, this year's event focused more on the future than on the past 12 months, which one board member termed "its most challenging year ever." 

The multi-association task force created to address repairer concerns about how the estimating database companies operate reported on its early progress in April and defended its decision to include insurers in the process. 

Automaker efforts to limit repairs of some of their vehicles to shops that participate in the OEM's shop certification program drew some fire from attendees at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC).