What Happened to Freedom of Choice? - BodyShop Business

What Happened to Freedom of Choice?

Customers are being bullied and manipulated into taking their vehicles to insurers' preferred shops. I know this because my customers are telling me.

Direct repair program. Monopoly. Same thing.

The men and women of this field will never be paid what they’re worth. Bodymen are a dying breed, thanks to the insurance industry.

We’ve been in business for 20 years, and we run an honest business that we take pride in. We’re not on a DRP list, other than State Farm – which any auto collision business can sign up for, as long as you have the computer, digital camera, certified technicians and proper equipment. In my view, this is the way all insurance companies should run their business, instead of picking only a few companies that they can work out deals with.

Five percent discounts and labor discounts, etc. This money goes from the DRP shop pocket back into the insurance company’s pocket, which in a sense, is a kickback for doing business.

DRPs aren’t a bad idea. It’s the bonuses the adjusters are enticed with that cause the steering. Adjusters have told us that they receive bonuses for using aftermarket parts and used parts instead of factory parts – even if the vehicle is only a year old or less.

Just the other day, a customer of ours had his 2003 Volvo SUV in for collision repairs. He told us the adjuster called him and offered him $100 to take it to another facility. I wonder what the adjuster would’ve gotten out of it?

The customers out there are confused by what insurance adjusters are telling them. They’re being told their vehicle won’t be guaranteed if they go to a shop that isn’t on their list – even though our company guarantees all the work we perform for as long as they own the vehicle.

Customers call us after they’ve discussed their accident with an adjuster. They’re being informed that they “should” take it to this shop or that shop because the claim will be handled quickly. If they go to a shop that isn’t on “the list,” they’re being told it could be weeks before the claim is handled.

That’s ridiculous.

We’re constantly hearing from customers who feel they’re being bullied into taking the vehicles to insurers’ preferred shops. Luckily, we have a very good reputation and an excellent relationship with prior customers – who call us to find out if it’s true that they have to take their vehicle to a preferred shop.

We’ve had customers tell us that such-and-such insurance told them that we’ll bill them (the consumers) for any additionals and that we’re a hard company to work with, which is a lie. When there’s additional or hidden damage, we contact the adjuster and receive approval to continue. It may take us one to six months to collect the money from the insurance company after the vehicle is released, but we can’t hold the vehicle for ransom. That would be our demise.

We’ll write a letter to inform the customer of non-payment and ask him to contact the insurance company to ask why they haven’t paid it. The insurance company hates that. But we’ve never billed the customer for work that the insurance company approved of in the first place.

I’m fed up with the insurance industry trying to control how to repair a vehicle back to pre-accident condition, plus taking so long to pay a bill that they approved. Luckily, we’ve been in business for 20 years, and the people in this area know our work and trust us to do the job correctly.

Even these same adjusters who try to tell us how to repair vehicles tell us that if they were in an accident, they’d bring their vehicle to us for repairs because we fight for the consumer and do the job right. In fact, several adjusters have brought their cars to us.

Adjusters have also told us that because we’re not a DRP shop for Farmers, GEICO, Progressive, Allstate, etc., that payment and even reinspections are put on the back burner. They take care of their list of shops first.

Is this free enterprise?

We want to be treated the same as any other business. Equal opportunity. Let the consumer decide, and then let us work and negotiate on behalf of the consumer. I do not believe in dictatorship.

We’re not living in a third-world country. We live in America – and the American people have freedom of choice.

Pat,* shop owner, Washington State

*Pat preferred not to print her full name or her shop’s name to avoid, as she said, “being further blackballed” by the insurance industry.

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