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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

As an editor of a trade magazine, you do more than just write articles and edit copy. You also serve as a sympathetic ear to readers who call in and want to discuss problems they’re having with their businesses. But hopefully you’re not just offering emotional support but rather, coming up with real solutions that your readers can use to turn things around.

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I’ve been with BodyShop Business for a little over a year now, and within the first couple weeks I started asking myself why anyone would want to get into the collision repair business. From what readers were telling me, dealing with insurers was something akin to undergoing a root canal. Whereas at one time running a body shop was a profitable venture, it lately had turned into an exercise in futility as far as the bottom line was concerned.

Very quickly, I inherited your headaches. I went home disturbed by the problems facing the industry. I couldn’t help but sympathize with the hard-working men and women I talked with on the phone every day who worked their whole lives to build businesses they could be proud of and had little to show for it. Surely I could do something to make their lives easier.

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And then it hit me what the sole purpose of BodyShop Business is. It’s to help body shop owners and managers run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. The best I could do is put out the best magazine possible. And the only way I could do that was to encourage more readers to call in and tell me their stories. After all, we’re here to be used and abused, and that’s the truth. We’re located in Akron, Ohio, but think of that as a star on the map with tendrils reaching out all across the country. We link the shop in California to the shop in Maine. We can expose insurer tactics in one state so shops in other states can head them off at the pass. We are a powerful voice, but it’s your voice, so staying in touch with us on a regular basis is as important as fixing that next car. I encourage everyone to keep me in the loop on your daily goings-on because it’s the only way I can best serve you.

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One reader wrote in recently about some trouble she was having with Progressive. A repeat customer brought his car in to be fixed, and she warned him that Progressive might try to coerce him into taking it to one of their shops. But he assured her that she would get the job.

As she predicted, Progressive tried to talk her customer into going to one of their shops, saying that her shop “was higher than the other shops.” The adjuster told the customer he was going to meet him and give him a check for the repairs minus the deductible. Progressive’s estimate was $1,700, and hers was $2,593. Two other shops in Progressive’s program had estimates of $2,668 and $3,013, despite the fact that Progressive had said that her shop charged the most.

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John Shortell, a longtime body shop manager and one of our contributors, gave her this advice: Get the car in the shop with all the signed paperwork. Tear down the vehicle and then call in the supplement. When the appraiser shows up, have a prepared supplement ready for him/her. If the appraiser has a problem with the supplement, present the other two estimates. If the appraiser still refuses the supplement, call for a supervisor to inspect the vehicle. If that still doesn’t work, charge Progressive for teardown labor at your shop’s posted rate, administrative labor (writing estimate, writing supplement, phone calls, time spent negotiating and arguing with appraisers, etc.) and inside storage. Then, have them tow the car to one of their shops. Costs will be so high that they’ll probably pay the supplement amount.

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That’s something I hear time and time again – that shops don’t have to lose out just because an insurance company tows a car away. There are fees you can recover; you can make money on tow-aways. You’re entitled to be compensated for your time and administrative tasks at a fair profit margin when a vehicle is removed from your lot.

There’s nothing I like better than helping you out. It may sound corny, but it helps me sleep better at night! So call me, e-mail me or stop by the office if you’re in the area. I’ll continue to do my best to serve you.

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Jason Stahl, Managing Editor
E-mail comments to [email protected]

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