This type of scenario would be comical if it were happening to your worst enemy or perhaps if it were the basis for an episode of “The Simpsons,” but the sad truth is, these are common situations in most body shops today.
Saturday, Dec. 4, 2004:
The story begins when Leanne Wheeler hit a deer with her ’96 GMC pickup. Leanne and her husband are longtime friends of mine and high school classmates, so she instructed the tow truck driver to drop her vehicle off at my shop for an estimate and repairs.
Monday, Dec. 6th:
Leanne notified her insurance company, Nationwide, about the claim and location of the vehicle. Despite some forceful steering efforts on the part of Nationwide to re-locate her vehicle to a “Blue Ribbon” shop, we retained the job.
Dave Lester, the Nationwide adjuster, stopped by briefly that week to ask us to do a minor teardown so he could complete his estimate. He returned the following week, took photos, made some notes and said he would fax us his estimate.
We received Dave Lester’s estimate at 11:18 a.m. on Dec. 20 – 14 DAYS after Leanne had turned in her claim! You know how sometimes you get a premonition that a situation is about to become insanely chaotic? That’s the feeling I was getting, so I decided it’d be a good idea to document everything carefully from this point on. We re-keyed the Nationwide estimate to our system and ordered the parts that afternoon.
Dec. 21st – Dec. 30th:
We received all of our GM parts from our local dealer and all of the MQVP aftermarket parts from a supplier who’ll remain nameless. We made three attempts to get the correct grille from this supplier, but the third was found to be unusable because it didn’t have the correct embossments for the “GMC” emblems. We then reordered the grille from our OEM supplier. (Fourth time’s a charm.)
Next we noticed that all of the other parts ordered from this supplier were incorrect. All of the RH lamps and reflectors had come in as left side even though the invoice indicated right! These parts were reordered the next day, Dec. 30th.
Strangely enough, we received the correct parts the second time even though the invoice indicated that they were for the LEFT side!
Now that we had all the correct parts, we soon realized that some of the MQVP parts didn’t fit properly. I notified Dave Lester, and he authorized the use of OE but stated that he couldn’t pay the price difference unless I obtained the “GO-CERT’ numbers from the supplier. At this point, I was getting real fed-up with Nationwide and their MQVP program. Leanne has been without her truck some 35 days and didn’t have rental coverage!
Friday, Jan. 7th, 2005:
I called the supplier and told them I had MQVP parts to return. I also told them that I needed the “GO-CERT” numbers immediately since they were a major key to completing this job.
That weekend I decided to adopt a new policy. Simply stated and effective immediately, there would be an administrative fee charged to the insurer if the MQVP parts that THEY specify do not meet LKQ criteria. The fee may vary depending on down time and the number of parts returned. If the insurance company didn’t pay us, the fee would be charged to the customer.
Monday, Jan. 10th:
I faxed this new policy statement to both Dave Lester and Steve Hornick at Nationwide. Each of them replied that they wouldn’t pay the fee. I also called the supplier’s manager to see if he would pay. Although I had collected fitting fees from this supplier in the past, he declined and said my administrative fee was “ludicrous.” In addition, he told Dave Lester and me that I had not ordered MQVP parts as specified by Nationwide. I produced my invoice and sure enough, on the bottom of the last page it read “NW Nationwide group: MQVP” (and the claim number).
Tuesday, Jan. 11th:
I called my supplier to see when they were picking up their parts. They said the regular driver was off all week with back problems, the replacement driver was unfamiliar and unless they were delivering a new parts order, they didn’t know when they’d be in Marion again. A subsequent call to Dave Lester about this situation produced no results either. Later that afternoon I received his final supplement.
Wednesday, Jan. 12th:
My supplier picked up the parts and provided the GO-CERT numbers, but wouldn’t give me any confirmation as to whether or not they were going to pay the administration fee. I called Leanne and told her to come pick up her truck and to bring a check for $50 to cover the fee. I hated to do that to a friend, but I assured her that she’d be reimbursed once someone paid me.
Wednesday, Jan. 26th:
I received a faxed credit memo from the supplier for the fitting charges amounting to $64.20.
Thursday, Jan. 27th:
I received a phone call from Dave Lester. He told me Nationwide would pay my administrative fee this one time and one time only! He said he was in total disagreement with the company on this issue and felt they shouldn’t have paid. However he did say that this decision was made primarily because of the three-hour meeting I had with his boss, Steve Hornick, the previous week concerning this supplier and the MQVP program. Apparently I had brought up some areas of concern that Nationwide hadn’t been previously aware.
The Moral of This Story
This whole process took 39 days from the day Leanne hit the deer to the day she picked up her truck. Her original estimate from Nationwide was $2,452.19 and supplements one and two brought it to $3,471.19. The total hours on the job were 27.8. Most shops could complete this job in five to seven working days once parts are on hand.
I get the feeling that Nationwide purposely drags their feet when dealing with a non-Blue Ribbon shop. Perhaps this is an attempt to give the customer a bad feeling for the independent shop, making it easier to steer that customer to a Blue Ribbon shop the next time.
Is there a moral to this story? You bet. Document everything when dealing with aftermarket parts and charge for any problems or inconveniences. I’m also wondering how many others have had a similar experience.
Writer Herb Graham is the owner of Herb’s Body Shop Inc. in Marion, Ohio.
Got something to say? E-mail your opinion on an industry issue to BSB editor Georgina K. Carson at [email protected]