Claim harvesters

By Jay Sampson
July 1, 2007
AUTO : WINDSHIELD REPAIR

 

Jay SampsonEditor’s note: In May, ABC15 news of Phoenix ran an investigative story on windshield repair operators at local car washes. The report led to several arrests of technicians guilty of committing insurance fraud by fudging coverage dates and charging insurance companies for more repairs than they actually performed. To view video of the story, visit www.abc15.com and enter “Window of Opportunity” in the search field. Following is National Windshield Repair Committee Chairman Jay Sampson’s response to the story.

The Arizona car wash story once again focuses our attention on an issue that will not go away: claim harvesters.

The windshield repair industry does not have a disproportionate number of these unsavory characters, but it does receive a disproportionate amount of press for it. Recent press coverage would have everyone believe that all windshield repair companies that operate at car washes are claim-harvesting scum. That is not true. However, there’s no denying windshield repair gypsies make a tantalizing target for investigators and the 5 o’clock news.

Windshield repair at car washes is a perfectly legitimate and workable business model when executed with properly trained technicians. Along with other vehicle service centers, car washes are a natural venue to promote windshield repair. Some of the National Glass Association’s National Windshield Repair Supplier Committee’s member companies recommend this business model to the individuals and companies to which they sell their products.  

Unfortunately, as the sensationalized arrests of “technicians” at car washes in Arizona demonstrate, some business owners hire people with limited skill sets and train them to defraud our insurance partners. The owners of these companies should go to jail!

Legitimate business owners and managers know quickly when they have a rogue technician who is scamming to boost commissions. Unfortunately, it does happen in the real world. Owners and managers have a responsibility to their companies, our insurance partners and their communities to get rid of these employees quickly or suffer the consequences.

Our training program has evolved over the years to include education on insurance fraud and its consequences. It’s our responsibility as owners and managers to inform and supervise employees. This is not a minor issue; people go to jail, lives are ruined.

In the past, my repair-only company was the subject of an investigation, but we were cleared of unethical or questionable business practices. According to one of the investigators, the inquiry was sparked by the fact that we promote our services at car washes. I have no problem with that. The fact that we were cleared, as others have been and will continue to be, demonstrates that this business model can be executed with integrity and professionalism.

Another company in our market wasn’t as fortunate; it was exposed during that same investigation. The owners quickly packed up and left town, as windshield repair gypsies typically do. Exposing the gypsies was a sword that cut both ways. We were glad to see them go, but the bad deeds of a few instantly became the bad acts of all in the public’s perception.

In the past, even my own colleagues and friends within the industry have derogatorily referred to my repair-only company as a “claim harvester” simply because we’ve promoted our services at car washes and quick-lubes. That is a disservice to me and to the many legitimate companies that operate ethically and professionally at these venues. Do I take offense? Not really. It is a justified perception that will persist as long as we have the kind of unethical operators we recently saw in Arizona. The sensationalized bad acts of the few do not represent the business practices of the many. By and large, windshield repair practitioners are an honest, hard-working, law-abiding lot that I am proud to be associated with.

 

The author is CEO of Safety Auto Glass and president of Ding Doctor Windshield Repair, both in San Antonio. He also is chairman of the NGA’s National Windshield Repair Committee and a member of the Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard Committee. Write him at jay.sampson@autoglasstexas.com.