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The Need for Speed

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Dear Mr. Bailey:
I liked your article in the August issue of BodyShop Business [Supervising Smarts, pg. 20]. I’ve watched the industry turn in the unfortunate direction of the almighty dollar for quite awhile now, and I wish there were more techs out there like you who cared about the quality of collision repair. We don’t have any “barn burners” here for the very reasons you outlined in your article. Quality is No. 1 at our shop, and we don’t have a problem calling a customer or insurance company and telling them we aren’t happy with it and the repair will take a little longer. It makes a big difference in the end result. Our reputation means everything to us and our customers. The insurers recognize this and pay what it takes – or we don’t fix it. If you ask for it and insist someone pay for it, that’s part of the negotiation and repair process. But remember, do what you charge for and charge for what you do. If not, the customers need to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed because their vehicle is probably the second most expensive thing they’ve bought. Their investment has to be taken care of and fixed properly. Bottom line is, we get paid for it or we let someone else fix it. It doesn’t matter to me if you do DRP or not, the same rules apply: Just charge to properly repair the vehicle, or they can find someone else.

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Keep up the good work and thanks for caring about the quality of collision repair! It matters to all of us because we’re all consumers.

Kevin Caldwell,
Autobody by Caldwell Inc.
Laguna Hills, Calif.


Dear Editor,
I read with great interest the article by Paul Bailey and felt compelled to put in my two cents. I’m an ASE Master Auto Body Technician with more than 20 years experience and totally agree that this business is heading to hell in a handbasket. I also live in Florida and the situation, especially in South Florida, is total incompetence by management at dealership body shops. I cut my teeth in this industry in the Northeast at independent shops and was willing to try a dealer body shop when I moved down here 14 years ago. What I found was this business is rife with favoritism, racism, prima donnas, “gravy dogs,” total idiot writers and arrogant managers. You spend more time “chasing” the money than fixing the cars. It seems management is always messing (nice word) with your pay.

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I gave [up working at a dealership body shop] and went to independent shops for the next 12 years. In 1999, I decided to give the dealers another try. After all, the industry had made an effort to clean up its act and be more professional with the licensing of technicians, ASE certification and I-CAR training. So I tried a large … new car dealership, only to find that it was back to business as usual.

If you were conscientious and fixed cars properly, you’d work yourself right into the poorhouse. If you slammed out the work and you were on the “team” of gravy dogs (that is, in collusion with the writers and managers), you’d always have a fat paycheck. If you were outside of the “team,” you’d be given junk jobs no one else wanted (i.e. install a used quarter panel for 13 hours and trim time is included. What a joke!). Or the manager would say, “I’ll pay you guys top dollar” per hour but cut 20-30 percent off your labor time – and he’d think because he worked in an office and you worked with your hands that you’re too stupid to notice the difference!

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I sure do miss all the benefits the dealers offer, but it seems that as soon as you’re there long enough to be eligible, that’s when the BS overwhelms you. So I wheeled my toolbox out of there after six months of making less money than I did before, and I now work at a quality-minded independent shop. And I’ve noticed the estimates at the independent shop seem to be much more fair. I wonder why?

Thanks for listening.

An ex-dealer body technician
Florida


How Many People Will She Tell?

Georgina,
I’m writing in response to your August 2001 Editor’s Notes [How Many People Will She Tell? pg. 4], and I’m an independent collision repairer.

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It doesn’t matter if the repair is being paid for by the customer or the insurer. The price should be the same. To print an editorial based on hearsay isn’t a good idea. Let’s say that the shop wrote the estimate to only buff the bumper, and then Mavis comes to pick up her vehicle and there’s still a scratch. Do you think she’s willing to pay the $118 and now the $525 to paint the bumper? You see where this can go? I’m not making excuses for the repairer in your situation, but your editorial infers that we charge more for insurance jobs. Did you ask the shop that repaired your vehicle to save your deductible? Insurance is paying. It does make a difference, doesn’t it? We aren’t all just a bunch of con artists.

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… Your editorial no doubt struck a nerve. In a way, I can see the good. It all comes down to the shop asking the right questions and finding out what customers want and expect when you return their vehicle back to them, regardless of who’s paying. Hopefully there are some shop [owners] out there who’ll read your editorial, look in the mirror and realize they’re guilty of your experience – and change their ways.

Joel Lofton, manager
Barnett’s Body Shops
Jackson, Miss.


If You Build It …

Hi Georgina!
I just got the August issue of BSB and was reading the shop profile when something jumped out at me. Since you invited comments at the end of the article, I thought I’d drop you a note.

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In the feature, [shop owner] Bud Harlow makes the statement that “In two years, all New Century Collision Techs will be I-CAR certified, and the shop plans to be I-CAR Gold Class certified in three years.” Here at ASE, this ongoing misconception of the role of I-CAR is like nails on a blackboard. Once more, for the record, I-CAR doesn’t certify. They train. ASE certifies. Likewise, I don’t believe I-CAR Gold Class is a shop certification program. It merely acknowledges a level of training the staff has achieved. The closest thing I-CAR does have to certification is their welding qualification test, but even that is called a qualification, not a certification, since welders already have a certification program through the American Welding Society.

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ASE was created by the industry to provide an independent, third-party evaluation process to ensure a credible certification process. I-CAR was created to provide comprehensive, effective training for collision technicians. Both do their jobs very well. But the industry obviously needs to better understand that neither I-CAR certification nor ASE training exist. You need both training and certification to have meaningful professional credentials. Your help and that of your editorial staff in catching and correcting these misstatements will go a long way in helping achieve that industry understanding.

Thanks for listening! Stay well.

P.S. Good editorial!

Tony Molla, v.p. industry affairs
ASE
Herndon, Va.

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