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Use Your Head: A/M and OEM Parts

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Pappy O’Brien needs a brain transplant. The good news: His insurance company is willing to pay for a new brain. “Yippee!” Pappy hoots. “That’s the luck o’ the Irish!”

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The bad news: His replacement brain is coming from Taiwan, not Ireland. “Well that’s a bunch of Blarney!” exclaims Pappy. “Nobody in the O’Brien clan has anything but 100% Irish parts.”

The doctor tells Pappy that an Irish brain is more expensive, so his insurer won’t pay for it. If Pappy wants an Irish brain, he’ll have to pay for it himself.

The doctor then briefly explains some of the differences between authentic Irish brains and Taiwanese brains. For example, if Pappy gets a Taiwanese brain, he may experience occasional discomfort and headaches since it may not fit in his head as well as his original brain did. Another side effect: He’ll likely no longer crave Guinness but may find himself strangely attracted to Asian women.

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At this point, the doctor asks, “So Pappy, what do you want to me to do?”

Is Pappy – after a five-minute education on brains – informed enough to decide which brain is best for him? Should he, rather than the brain surgeon, be the one to make the final decision?

I sure hope not.

I’m all for educating consumers about their parts choices – whether it be body parts or car parts – but a quick lesson from a brain surgeon or a collision repairer doesn’t make a consumer an expert. What it does is give him some insight.

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But this insight doesn’t relieve you of your professional duty to him.

Some shop owners, however, are under the impression that it does. They seem to think that disclosing to the consumer that an insurer wants aftermarket parts to be used gets the shop off the hook. After all, if the shop gave the consumer the chance to opt for OEM parts and he didn’t take it, then that’s his choice, right?

Well … sort of. Everything the consumer “knows” about A/M and OEM parts likely came from you. What he does know is that he doesn’t want to pay for anything out of pocket. Why should he? He paid insurance premiums for seven accident-free years. Now this one incident. Odds are, he feels it’s his insurer’s turn to pay up.

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The odds are also good that he doesn’t particularly care whether you give him A/M parts or OEM parts – as long as it results in a quality repair. But only you – the repair expert – can determine what a quality repair is.

That’s not to say that you can’t sometimes use A/M parts. But don’t use them just because it’s the easy way out. And don’t justify your use of them by pawning off the decision on the consumer.

Case in point (literally): In the case of Gurman v. Center Auto Body and Liberty Mutual Insurance, Jeep owner John Gurman was informed of the problems sometimes associated with A/M parts and knew the shop was using A/M parts. Gurman, however, didn’t feel it was his duty to determine parts usage. He simply wanted the shop to do its job and his insurer to uphold its contract with him. Not wanting to make waves, the shop owner took what he perceived as the easy way out – he did the best he could with what he had to work with. Thing is, it wasn’t good enough. The final repairs were deemed unacceptable.

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But who was responsible? After all, Gurman had been “educated.”

You be the judge …

Said the judge: “There is no question as to the right of the Plaintiff to recover in this matter. Although both [the shop] and Liberty Mutual seek to blame each other, the court finds that both are liable to the Plaintiff.”

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure it out: You’re the expert, so regardless of what you disclose before, during or after repairs, you’re going to be held responsible for your decisions. And you should be held responsible. If you think otherwise, then maybe it’s you, not Pappy, who needs that brain transplant.

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Georgina K. Carson

Editor

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