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Does Your Shop Measure Up?

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Your article was incredible [“Does Your Shop Measure Up?” March 2002, pg. 40]! I found (literally) my first UMS the same way your picture showed it in early 1980 in a Toyota dealership in upstate Vermont. I had just closed my small shop because of the recession and was amazed that a piece of equipment I couldn’t afford was stuffed into a corner. I hauled it out, cleaned it up, learned it by using it and was amazed that such a tool was available.

Now, the same tool (newer model with software updates) is in use almost every day at my new shop. If a new tech applies here, one of the first questions I ask is, “Are you trained on the UMS?” If his answer is, “I don’t need one,” he doesn’t work for me.

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I fight for my techs all the time with adjusters for set-up and measure, telling them 1.5 hours doesn’t cut it. Nine times out of 10, I find somewhere in their estimate to “move” three or four hours to pay the tech what he’s due. …

Once familiar with the UMS, the time saved by setting it up and using it correctly creates such assurance of quality, not to mention the pride a tech and shop owner have when they build a car on the rack – whether firewall to radiator support, package tray to rear body panel, “A” pillar to quarter panel (including roof) – take it down, bolt the sheet metal on, send it to paint, and spend 10 to 15 minutes after paint to line up all bolted-on sheet metal and adjoining lamps and bumpers to exact fit!

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Every adjuster who comes in now will have a copy of your article, if he chooses to read it. … Again, my hat’s off to you for a great article. Pride in this industry is what we’re all about. Craftsmen, not parts changers. Fitters, not slotters. Quality along with quanity.

Mike Johnson, owner
Johnson Auto Body, Inc.
Knightdale, N.C.


It’s Not a Toy
Hi Georgina!

Hahaha!! I read your editorial [Editor’s Notes, March 2002, pg. 4] and just had a root canal and cap. Wow! Two-thousand dollars, and I get to pay 35 percent. I’m excited! Oh if we could get away with that. Sure would be nice to bill the customers what they really owe us. … Keep up the good work.

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Tony Bairos, owner
Dan & Tony’s Uptown Paint & Body
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Your article really hit home with me. I read it and then looked for your number to talk with you about it. As I continued to read your magazine, I [ran] across the article “Every Claim Is Not the Same.” That article was FANTASTIC! Please tell Mr. McGuire that I, as a body shop owner, really appreciated his article and will archive it for future reference. I always look forward to receiving your magazine each month. Keep up the great work and keep them coming!

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Rodney Sustiata, owner
Metro Body and Paint
Austin, Texas


Every Claim Is Not the Same

I read with great interest your article “Every Claim Is Not the Same” [March 2002, pg. 9]. Even though I’m not a lawyer, it’s always been my position that a claimant has more rights than an insured. However, a couple of years ago, I was involved in a discussion with an adjuster and was told that, to hell with the claimant, they weren’t his customer and he had no obligation to them.

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Needless to say, it made me scratch my head and think. Your article, I must say, did too. I know laws vary from state to state and I know I need to consult with a local attorney regarding my obligations to the claimant here in Texas, but I thought it might be interesting for your magazine at some point in time to publish a state-by-state synopsis of the variations. My customers will believe it more if they see it in print.

Great article.

John H. Carre, owner
Longhorn Collision
Austin, Texas

Thank you for the “Every Claim Is Not the Same” article. The collision industry needs more information like this. I got involved in the collision repair industry after spending over 10 years in the automotive repair side. Now with more than 10 years in the collision side, I thirst for knowledge. I participate in I-CAR, SCRS, AMI, NACE, paint supplier and particular automotive-make classes and training. The dealership I work for is very progressive and aggressive, recognized by the automotive manufacturer as a nationally elite dealership three of the last four years. Even with all the options of knowledge in front of me, I find that I don’t feel comfortable knowing “enough.”

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I didn’t “cut” my teeth in the collision industry behind a father, uncle or through a family member. I didn’t learn from a mentor or relieve a retiring manager or owner. I jumped into an opportunity. I filled a “vacancy.” I know many managers in other collision shops that entered through the “back door.” Add the complexity of a car dealership to the mix of collision repair and, many times, issues like what was discussed in this article never make it to our desks unless it happens to us. …

I feel fortunate, at times, to know so many people who are active and share. Then there are the times when I fear what I don’t know. … I applaud the article and hope to see more from everyone – magazines, shops and from the people in and out of the industry.

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Tom, shop owner

I’m writing to respond to an article titled “Every Claim Is Not the Same.” I’m very glad this article caught my eye and even more thankful I read it. It’s very insightful. … I’m just at awe with how much insurance companies get away with. I’m not only a consumer, but my fiancŽ owns an autobody shop in Massachusetts. I watch him and his business. …. He loves what he does, but there’s much aggravation and 50 percent of it is due to the fact that many autobody shop owners don’t know the law. He’s forever taking losses.

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After reading this article, I have feelings of astonishment and disgust. I’m grateful that I read this article.

Nakry in Massachusetts

As a long-time owner of a very busy autobody repair facility, we thought we knew most of the laws of the insurance companies. After reading the article in the March 2002 of BSB, we’re now aware that we don’t know as much as we should. We contacted our state insurance commissioners for information and were told to contact the attorney general – who said there were no guidelines for us to follow. We’re going to retain an attorney, but we’re not sure who in this area would be the best regarding autobody repair laws, etc. How do we go about getting all the information we need in this area?

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Thank you,

Sheila Tracy, owner
Gordy’s Body Shop
Malvern, Ariz.


Note from BSB editors: To answer Tracy’s question, we enlisted the advice of attorney Patrick McGuire, who wrote our March article, “Every Claim Is Not the Same.” Here’s what McGuire had to say …

“My suggestion would be to try to find an attorney who has experience representing policyholders in insurance-coverage matters. The reason is that these attorneys generally understand the laws governing the different types of insurance claims in a particular state, as well as how those laws can affect payments made by insurers to service providers, such as repair facilities.

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I’d also encourage you to try to find other shop owners in your state who’d be interested in retaining an attorney for the same reasons you are. That way, you could approach an attorney or law firm as a group. Not only would this help defray the costs of the legal research, but it would also allow the attorney to gain more experience dealing with the issues shops face. This is perhaps the best way for shops to work with an attorney to develop practical, long-term solutions to their problems.”

Play Nice?
I was perusing the March BSB and … the “Play Nice” article [MarketWatch, pg. 8] got my attention. A subject near and dear to my heart: shop/appraiser relations. One comment: “All appraisers should intern in a shop for at least one year.” Well what came immediately to my mind was the reciprocal: Every shop manager should spend some time in an appraiser’s shoes. Maybe not a year, but … I think shop managers should seriously consider talking to one of the appraisers they know to see if they can spend a few days or a week riding with them to get a flavor for what it’s really like on the other side of the fence.

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One of the other comments: “Let honest shops work off their own estimates after approval by insurers.” OK, so which ones are the honest shops?? C’mon … all you ahh … not-so-honest shops, put your hands down. You know who you are! Oh, you’re ALL honest shops? Right. If you have any doubts about that, just ask them. They’ll tell ya!

Pat, senior appraiser


Which Puppy Eats People?
Re: Jan. 2002 Editors Notes, pg. 4

Our shop opened one year ago because we had seen countless “someones” locked in a closet with the three puppies. We’re determined to change the local picture. Our volume has come from near zero when we opened to better than $50,000 a month, based almost exclusively on customer relations and information, immaculate quality and customer satisfaction. Volume comes from word-of-mouth; we advertise only in Pacific Bell.

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We appreciate your razor-sharp commentary.

Ken Olson, vice president
Kern Valley Corporation
Kern Valley Body Works
Bakersfield, Calif.

The Joker’s Wild
This letter to the editor is in rebuttal to the joke that was printed [“The Joker’s Wild,” March 2002, pg. 1] insulting all the bodymen and painters in our industry.

Painters and puppies … bodymen and lightbulbs …

I for one won’t stand in silence absorbing all this degradation. What if the shoe were on the other foot and some jokes were made about other members of this industry? Well, here’s what I came up with:

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1. How can you tell when an estimator is lying? – His lips move.

2. How many adjusters does it take to change a lightbulb? – None. It’s an included operation. Or … None. It’s written on the P-page section and they never read that part.

3. What does an estimator at a DRP shop and a prostitute have in common? – Either way, you know you’re getting screwed.

4. What do P-pages to an estimator and a weightlifter without legs mean? – It doesn’t mean squat.

5. What does a new building getting an elevator and a flat-rate tech at a DRP shop have in common? – They’re both getting the shaft.

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6. Why do estimators’ wives have caesareans? – Their husbands won’t pay for the labor.

7. Why do estimators have such small families and such frustrated wives? – They’re so busy screwing the techs all day they’re tired when they get home.

8. What do you get when you cross a pig with an adjuster? – Nothing. There’s some things even a pig won’t do.

9. Why is a DRP estimate like a blind date? – You never know what you’ll get and usually end up disappointed and frustrated.

If shop owners and managers want to write jokes about the people who fill their wallets, it’s only fair they reap what they sow. I’m sure many techs feel the same way I do. I just felt I had to speak out for that silent majority.

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Henry Netter, long-time tech and all-around nice guy
Auto Star
Warminster, Pa.

Save a Buck … Pass the Buck?
While I agree with Charlie Barone throughout the story [Save a Buck … Pass the Buck? February 2002, pg. 84] – we’re constantly trying to raise our standards of quality and service – there’s one caption I disagree with. The paint on new Corvettes and many other new vehicles quite often doesn’t match (and not just the bumpers, but other trim as well) whether or not manufacturers send them out or paint them in-house. Have you seen the new Aztek, for example? It’s a “quad tone” – bumper, clad, flares and body. Besides the too numerous paint variations and the mechanically applied paint procedures, the new composites are adding to the problem. And what about the dirt, light paint and cracking on the 2002s? That’s another story. Manufacturers, any comment?

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Elizabeth Accomando
S.E.A. Spray
Hollywood, Fla.

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