When it comes to trying to strong-arm consumers into having their car repaired at a direct-repair shop, insurers have no shame. If you survived the accident, you’re fair game.
Forget the long arm of the law. It’s the strong arm of the insurance industry that no one can seem to outrun.
It’s no surprise that insurers try to push around grandmas, your neighbor and the general public. But you’d think they’d draw the line somewhere, right, like … say … a state senator?
I’ll give the insurance industry this: They’ve got cojones the size of their bank accounts.
"Here’s a man, a state senator, calling me because he was coerced, threatened and intimidated," says former-shop-owner-turned-Maryland-delegate Rick Impallaria, about a colleague who’d been in an accident and was being bullied by an insurer to go to a particular shop – even though he preferred another.
And because insurance companies have found something that works, they’re going to continue to push the envelope to see just how far they can go – until they meet with some resistance.
And they finally are.
It appears that many shop owners are running out of patience. The industry’s infamous indifference and incessant whining are slowly morphing into anger and attitude. Can I just say, about time?
Shop owners – through their state associations – are working harder than ever to get legislation passed that helps to, at the least, make it more difficult for insurers to steer.
I know that some of you think association membership – and anti-steering legislation – are a waste of time. To those of you I ask: Got a better idea?
Even if the legislation doesn’t pass or does pass but doesn’t get enforced, the industry banding together and getting involved are positive things. They raise this industry’s profile and draw attention to the insurance industry’s tactics.
Some shop owners are also taking action on a individual basis – in some cases, using the insurance industry’s own tactics against them. Take Mississippi shop owner Bill Fowler, who hung the above sign in his shop.
Says Fowler: "We no longer have to argue with the offending insurers and have freed up our time to pursue more profitable work. But there’s also been a couple side effects we couldn’t have predicted."
1. Many of Fowler’s customers who are insured with these companies are changing carriers.
2. Claimants with these companies are using their own coverage, paying their deductible and letting their carrier subrogate damages.
3. Some adjusters are saying they’ll do whatever it takes not to have the name of their company appear on the list. "They know we’re not bluffing and know that the first two side effects are happening," he says.
What prompted Fowler to hang the sign in the first place?
"I got sick of the ‘We’re big and you’re little’ mentality and the belligerent treatment that I was getting from some insurers," he says. "I also realized that the more reasonable insurance companies and their customers didn’t deserve for progress on their work to be impeded because of the time that was being devoted to arguing.
"My sales are steady, my margin of profit has increased and I spend considerably less time ‘spinning my wheels.’ That sign is one of the best business decisions I ever made."
This industry is a lot more powerful than it gives itself credit for. If more shop owners started turning the tables on insurers, stopped stabbing each other in the back and refused to accept any and all work no matter how insulting and unprofitable, the insurance industry would have no reason to steer – because they wouldn’t have any sucker shops to steer to.
ON AN UNRELATED SIDENOTE:
"Products that Tanked" on our "Light Hits" page is fiction people! The products are figments of contributing editor Mike Regan’s imagination. Quit asking Mike where to buy them!
> Subject: The Buffer Zone
> My name is XXXXX and I am from XXXXX in Rainier, Wash. I saw your advertisement in BodyShop Business and was curious of cost, including shipping, warranty, availability, payment options, and any other purchasing information. Thank you.
Says Mike Regan: "I should get a bonus if people try to buy my ideas. I really don’t know what to say when I’m confronted with such lunacy. Maybe I should box up a bunch of junk and send it to them. Ask them to try it out and share the results with our readers."