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Just Say “No”

Will shop owners tolerate a reduction of paint-time allowances?

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“You get what you tolerate,” says a Massachusetts shop owner. “Perhaps the insurance people are just doing to you what you’ve demonstrated that you’ll put up with.

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“Of course, human nature being what it is, they keep ‘experimenting’ on you to find out where your real boundaries are – or if you even have any at all.”

The insurance industry’s latest “experiment” is to see if shop owners – some on DRPs and some not – will tolerate a reduction of paint-times allowances.

Says one shop owner: “I’ve experienced Allstate and Progressive practicing the blend within panel override on their databases. I had a discussion with a Progressive adjuster regarding a Nissan left rear bed-side panel that had been dented (5.0 units) at the rear of the panel, around the taillamp opening. He wrote to blend within the panel – 50 percent of single-stage refinishing time and full clearcoat. Since Progressive uses a multiplier to calculate paint/materials, materials are reduced by the overridden refinish labor.”

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Another shop owner – who’s on Farmers DRP – received the following directive from Farmers corporate:

To all COD shops: During the recent audit, they found that the shops who have Pathways are answering the bumper refinishing question wrong. It reads “refinish bumper off the vehicle or flex additive required?” The question needs to be answered “No.” Please respond to this e-mail that this is what you are doing and if not, why not.

Says the shop owner who received this directive: “When ‘no’ is picked, then when you paint the fender, it takes another -0.4 overlap off.”
Says yet another shop owner: “We’re a DRP shop for Nationwide, and they call us on every estimate about cutting paint time on repair panels.”

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Call me the devil’s advocate, but isn’t that the insurance company’s job? To squeeze as much potential profit out of a repair as you’ll allow?

Says one repairer: “The adjusters methodology is a distortion of how the labor guides are supposed to work. Nevertheless, they’re obviously doing their job – give up as little money as possible. Now the shop owner has to do his job: Charge as much as he can.

“This isn’t about how to paint a car, but how to price one’s labor in so doing.”

And it doesn’t matter what the adjuster says other shops are willing to accept. What matters is what you are willing to accept. “Shop owners,” he says, “have forgotten how to say ‘no.’ ”

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There are no laws anywhere that give labor guides authority over prices. Yet many repairers don’t see it that way.

An industry friend once heard a shop owner say he was certain he’d be charged with fraud if he overrode the labor database on one of his estimates. He thought he was breaking the law if he priced his work himself.

Says one repairer: “As long as shop owners believe the labor guides and third-party payers are holding them back, they’ll miss the obvious: It is they who have done themselves in.

“Insurers see to it that body shop owners cannibalize one another. If one digs in and says no to a low bid by an insurer, there’s surely another shop owner willing to dive at that low ball.”

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Quit diving.

Each individual shop owner’s reluctance to stand up for himself is the reason insurers appear to be in control of the entire industry. In reality, however, insurers behave toward you the way you’ve allowed them to behave.

“I have seen the enemy,” says one shop owner, “and he is us.”

Georgina K. Carson

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