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Consumer Lambastes State Farm Over Repair Experience

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A Florida man, Kevin Salsbery, recently wrote a letter to Gunder’s Auto Center in Lakeland, Fla., to praise the collision repair facility for its handling of his repair experience but take his insurer, State Farm, to task.

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Salsbery was rear-ended in a parking lot and decided to take his vehicle to Gunder’s based on a recommendation from a friend. He took the vehicle there on Nov. 3, and a few days later the owner, Ray Gunder, called him to say that State Farm was refusing to pay for two procedures (raw bumper prep and replacement of inner door jamb labels) totaling $125 that Gunder felt needed to be done to return the car to pre-loss condition.

Salsbery immediately called State Farm for an explanation, and was told the decision was based on competitive pricing and the fact that Gunder’s was not one of its preferred facilities.

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According to Salsbery, State Farm also told him that other repair facilities didn’t charge for these procedures, but apparently he had two estimates from rival shops that Gunder provided him of vehicles he was currently repairing that showed those shops were charging for these procedures as well.

State Farm asked Salsbery to fax these estimates, and he obliged. Not confident that the matter would ever get resolved, he filed a formal complaint with the Florida Insurance Commission on Nov. 9. The Commission said it would send the complaint to State Farm, after which the insurer would have 20 days to respond.

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On Friday, Nov. 12, Salsbery got a call from Enterprise saying that State Farm would not cover the rental car cost after 6 p.m. that day. He called Gunder, who told him that was “absurd because the car is nearing completion and I haven’t even received payment from them for the repairs.” Gunder advised him to tell State Farm that payment hadn’t been received yet so the car could not be picked up.

“They were taking the hard line that if I had chosen one of their ‘authorized repair facilities’ that this would be a non-issue because they could transfer the money electronically, but since I had chosen Gunder’s they would no longer pay for the car, admitting they were, in fact, penalizing me because I decided to do business with Gunder’s,” said Salisbery.

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After numerous phone calls to State Farm, the insurer agreed to pay the rental cost till Monday.

On Nov. 17, Salisbery received a call from State Farm addressing his complaint to the Florida Insurance Commission. He explained everything he had gone through, and was then asked if he had spent any money out-of-pocket. He said he personally hadn’t spent any money out of his own pocket, but that Gunder’s was out $125 because it had decided to fix the car right and then go after State Farm later.

“He really just didn’t understand why I was going out of my way to collect this money when it was costing me nothing, evidence that they just didn’t get it,” Salisbery said. “As long as I wasn’t out anything, they didn’t care that Gunder’s was.”

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According to Salisbery, State Farm eventually agreed to pay him $200 to resolve the issue. He told Gunder he had achieved a small victory and would send him the $125 he was owed.

“Mr. Gunder told me to just keep it and take my wife out for dinner or get her a nice gift,” said Salisbery.

Salisbery concluded his letter to Gunder’s by saying, “I can only hope the next person who hits me doesn’t have [State Farm] for their insurance. State Farm may have 40 million drivers, but I’ll never be one of them.”

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