Battling the Immoral Majority: Is It Worth It - BodyShop Business
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Battling the Immoral Majority: Is It Worth It

Recently, a husband and wife team of shop owners were caught red-handed committing fraud. As they were led away wearing handcuffs, it seemed like an ending to a movie: Bad guys do bad things, bad guys get caught, bad guys get hauled off by the authorities. The end. Roll credits. But life doesn’t always imitate art. The reality is, the husband and wife team are back … back at it again … at the same location and with all their past direct-repair programs still in place.

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How can this be … how can they still be a DRP shop? Good question. Almost as good a question as: How does Mick Jagger still manage to date such good looking women considering how butt ugly he is? Unfortunately, the answer to the DRP question isn’t a mystery.

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In September, I wrote my Editor’s Notes on repairer fraud – and on how many shop owners try to justify their illegal activities by blaming insurers for “not letting me make a decent profit.” Little did I know when I wrote this editorial that I’d soon be buried up to my eyeballs in e-mails and calls from repairers wanting me to hear the other side of the story.

“I liked your story and view regarding shop fraud,” wrote one shop owner. “Although true, it’s most unfortunate that those shop owners who are honest and ethical are getting hammered by insurers for not joining the immoral majority.”

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“There are serious consequences in store for those who stand up and speak out against these practices,” said another shop owner. “I believe that’s one reason [fraud] continues in our industry and more shop owners don’t speak out. It’s not right, but it’s very real – for many of these shop owners are fearful of insurer blacklisting and having what customer base they have left destroyed by relentless steering.”

Time after time, repairers told me a similar story: It’s hard to do the right thing and it’s even harder on those who do. One shop owner described how, since he’s “cleaned up his house,” insurers have slandered his reputation and steered business from his shop (people who attend the same church as him even believed the lies and took their cars elsewhere).

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Had I heard stories like this from only one or two shop owners, I would’ve assumed they were simply unlucky – and that the insurers they dealt with were just really unscrupulous. Unfortunately, I heard so many stories like this that I have to wonder just how many honest repairers are being punished for being honest. Over and over, repairers told me how they’ve pointed out fraudulent activities to insurers – and how that insurer continued its relationship with the shop in question. Why? Most likely, because the shop was easy to get along with. It did whatever the insurer wanted. “It’s disgusting,” said one repairer, “but could it continue without the insurance industry backing these types of shops?”

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The fact is, repairer fraud couldn’t continue without both insurers and repairers being party to it. Both are guilty. The saddest part is, honest shops – and vehicle owners – are the ones being punished. “There’s never a good reason to do the wrong thing,” said one shop owner. “However, for those of us who have our very businesses threatened because of our choice and efforts to do the right thing, there’s very little incentive to continue because the rewards are few and the risk is great.”

But don’t give up – don’t let the immoral majority rule. Instead, concentrate your efforts on educating consumers … one by one. They can bring about change, and when they do, the risk involved with being dishonest will outweigh the rewards.

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