As publishers of this industry’s leading trade magazine, we’re often used as a sounding board for various opinions, thoughts and editorials on a variety of subjects by industry participants at every level. We’re always respectful to keep these commentaries in confidence when that is the intent of the sender, and we’re careful never to compromise the trust and credibility we’ve earned over the years.
Lately, we’ve been included on many e-mail chains and various other forms of communication at a much brisker pace and with an elevating tone of discontent. It’s what prompted us to investigate further the motivations behind all of the rhetoric and commentaries and emotional pleas for action and help via our Industry Unity series, part three of which can be found on pg. 44 of this month’s issue.
Even with all the banter and frustration, though, there remains this underlying level of expectation and hope that various entities/people will change their practices, behaviors, processes and whatnot for the betterment of the industry at large. Rarely have I ever seen this to be the case, especially in a free market society where profit motives rule. But this “hope” exists nonetheless, and I admire it. Unfortunately, my admiration and approximately $1.00 will get you only a 16 oz. cup of premium coffee at your nearby gas station convenience store!
So, not long ago, we were made aware of the “hope” that many shop owners, association types, suppliers, jobbers and media people had when it was announced that no less than three insurance companies would be participating in a panel discussion at an upcoming Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA) meeting in Columbia, Md. Faster than you can say “roaming gnome,” BodyShop Business Editor Jason Stahl had his plane ticket in hand! Off he went to attend the event, when upon arrival he learned, along with everyone else, that two of the three insurance companies had cancelled their commitment to participate at the last minute, leaving WMABA no time to effectively build an alternative program. The meeting took place as scheduled, due in large part to the one insurance company that fulfilled its commitment State Farm. But what’s a panel discussion without a panel? Kudos to State Farm for fulfilling its commitment, but shame on the others for the last-second ditch.
It should have shocked no one that this panel discussion fell apart. In this “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” world we live in, none of us are expected to carry an ounce of naivete thinking such rare feats just might occur. But, is it really that naive to expect someone (even an insurance company) to fulfill a simple commitment?
Look, if you don’t want to say or reveal your practices and methods, don’t. If you don’t like the questions or don’t feel comfortable answering them, don’t. But to just blatantly not show up and cancel your commitment at the last possible moment, leaving a group of well-intended people no recourse…well, that’s just bush league. No excuse works here, either, because if personal circumstances kept one or the other representatives away, then a replacement or fill-in should have been found and offered. That wasn’t the case.
This is a simple matter of ethical and responsible behavior, and it cuts across all industries and all professionals (insurance companies notwithstanding). As I said in an article I wrote late last year on Fox Collision Centers, do what’s right. Be a “stand-up” individual in an ethically challenged world. You insurance companies that failed to show up for this particular event should be ashamed of yourselves.