The Power of Video: Pre-exisiting Damage? - BodyShop Business
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The Power of Video: Pre-exisiting Damage?

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Writer Paul Bailey, a contributing editor to BodyShop Business, has been a collision repairman for more than 20 years and is an avid photographer, writer and artist. Currently at work on what he expects to be his first book, Bailey resides in Florida with his wife, Cathy.

After the repairs to the left door and left quarter panel of Lisa Harrington’s 1997 Honda Accord were completed, the vehicle was detailed and parked near the front of the office for delivery. When the customer arrived that afternoon, she seemed quite pleased with the repairs, until she noticed a rather sizable dent in the right quarter panel of her car. "That wasn’t there when I brought the car in to you," she impatiently explained. After several apologies, the shop manager agreed to pay for the rental car while the shop repaired the "newly found" dent.

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Though the technicians agreed the damage was pre-existing, the manager decided to repair the dent and paint the quarter panel at the expense of the shop. "What’s a few hundred bucks in the interest of a satisfied customer?" the manager asked himself sarcastically as he walked back to the office.

This scenario is quite common in the collision repair industry, and while every body shop manager encounters similar situations from time to time, few seem to take preventive measures.

Frank Champaglia, of Mitchell’s Automotive in Tampa, Fla., has a simple solution to this common problem. When customers drop off their cars at Mitchell’s, they sign the necessary authorization forms, arrange for a rental car, etc. But before they leave, Champaglia asks them to walk around the car with him while they discuss the condition of the area of the vehicle that is not to be repaired. While they talk, Champaglia uses a video camera to create a thorough and indisputable record of the vehicle’s condition. He zooms in on dents and scratches or imperfections from previous repairs. He also opens the doors to record the condition of the interior, where he zooms in on any cigarette burns or rips in the upholstery – imperfections that may potentially be blamed on the technicians.

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Champaglia stresses that videotaping vehicles is for the protection and benefit of the customer as well as the shop. "Since I started videotaping, my guys are much more careful with the cars," Champaglia says. "The videotape seems to keep everybody in line."

Video to the Rescue
Since each recording is only a few minutes long, dozens of vehicle segments can be stored on one videotape. When each tape is full, it can then be assigned a number and stored until the warranties of all the jobs on that tape have expired. The repair order number of each vehicle on the tape should be printed on the tape’s label. To simplify searches, keep a database or a notebook, listing repair orders in numerical order with customer names, vehicle make and model, and the videotape number so you can easily find a particular segment.

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Most of our customers aren’t out to take advantage of us, and we certainly don’t want to damage vehicles they’ve left in our care. Still, sometimes the best way to avoid misunderstandings is to take Champaglia’s advice: "Get it on video."

Writer Paul Bailey, a contributing editor to BodyShop Business, has been a collision repairman for 16 years and is an avid photographer and writer who maintains a consumer-awareness Web page in his spare time. He resides in Florida with his wife, Cathy.

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