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Victims of Our Own Stupidity

Has the United States gone from the “Land of Opportunity” and Americans from hard-working, responsible people to the “Land of You Owe Me a Living” and to people who are totally self-absorbed, don’t think for themselves and blame everyone else for their own poor judgment?

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Progressive is counting on it.

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The fourth-largest U.S. auto insurer, Progressive recently began testing a program called Concierge, which excludes direct contact between collision repairers and vehicle owners. Progressive writes the estimate, the repairer does the work based on Progressive’s estimate and the shop agrees to indemnify Progressive against any legal action relating to the repair.

"Why on earth would a shop agree to give up control of the repair process and to make itself invisible to customers?" you ask. Let’s face it. Some shops have been known to do just about anything to get jobs in the door. A better question I’ve heard is will consumers agree to be taken out of the loop — don’t they care where their cars get repaired?

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To answer that, you have to understand that this isn’t just about collision repair; it’s about giving consumers what they want. Let’s examine a few attributes of today’s consumers (this includes you and me):

  1. They’re impatient and self-absorbed.
  2. Their impatience has made them lazy — so, rather than think for themselves (which takes longer), they’re willing to allow others to do the thinking for them. It’s faster and easier.
  3. They’re lawsuit happy (made possible, in part, by ambulance-chasing lawyers and ridiculously sympathetic jurors who are quick to side with plaintiffs who’ve been "victims of their own stupidity").

Let’s take a closer look at each of these …

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  1. Consumers are impatient and self-absorbed: We love our microwaves second only to fast-food drive thrus … we diet to lose weight fast … we curse at the car that just pulled out in front of us, yet fail to use our turn signal to warn cars behind us that we’re making a left turn … we have dishwashers, snowblowers, lawnmowers, voice mail, e-mail … we pay a "service fee" for fast cash at ATM machines … we own cell phones that ring in the movie theater … we talk on cell phones in the movie theater … we buy our kids Segas so we can have more time for ourselves (and then blame "society" if our kids grow up to be antisocial, dysfunctional or criminals) …
  2. Consumers are too lazy to think for themselves: Do you know where your dictionary is? We rely on spell checks to do our spelling, calculators to do our math and the nightly news to tell us what to think … we rely on escalators and elevators to do our walking … self-sharpening pencils to do our sharpening … we wear Velcro (cause buttons are too much work?) … we’re confused by voting ballots and blame the ballot makers for their incompetence (maybe someone should just tell us who to vote for or, better yet, maybe that someone could just vote for us) … we drive smart cars to help us avoid collisions … we take Prozac to avoid dealing with the root of a problem … we settle for an unfulfilling marriage because we don’t like the "work" in "work at it" …
  3. Consumers are quick to place blame with everyone but themselves: A Florida woman sprains her shoulder hurling an AOL disk into the trash and sues AOL for medical bills … a jury awards Stella Liebeck of New Mexico nearly $2.9 million in 1994 after she spills McDonald’s coffee in her lap and gets burned … an 18-year-old murderer falls to his death during a prison escape and his parents sue the city on the grounds that officials failed to maintain "a reasonably safe facility" … a Southern Illinois woman who spills McDonald’s coffee on her ankle sues McDonald’s, Cobb Manufacturing (the maker of the cup), her mother (because she was driving her mother’s car at the time and her mother "owed a duty of care for the safety of others riding in her vehicle") and Wal-Mart, the manufacturer of the cup holder in her mother’s car …

But I digress. There’s still a question at hand. What was the question? Oh, yeah … will consumers go along with something like Progressive’s Concierge program?

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Off the top of my head, I’d have to say yes.

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