Volume 10, Issue 3 - May/June 2008

Expert Advice
pros who know

All the Hoopla
by Kerry Wanstrath

Recently I was driving home from doing my least favorite thing in life—shopping. (Only a punch to the stomach and a poke in the eye is less appealing to me.) Anyway, we were on the way home when I noticed a crack coming up from underneath my wiper blade. At that moment, I realized I was going to have to inform my insurance agent that I had another claim. This time I was sure my rate would go up. Instead, I thought: I’ll just fix it myself and that will be that. Then I wondered what all the recent discussion about repairing longer cracks was all about (see related story on page 50).

Weekend Work
This prompted me to bring my wife into my daydreaming—something I don’t normally do. (I also really don’t like talking about work on a weekend.) Anyway, I asked her if she noticed the crack in the windshield. After directing her to its whereabouts, I asked, “Would you have any concerns about repairing that crack?” 

Keep in mind, she is not in the business and knows little more than the average person about the auto glass industry. Her first concern was “visual impairment.” She explained that her ability to see clearly through the glass without adversely affecting her driving was her main concern. After I asked if she had any other concerns, she said safety. Asking for more clarification she again said she didn’t want any glare to affect her ability to see other vehicles or people, which could cause an accident. 

“Exactly,” I thought, “why would anyone say something different?” 

She didn’t say, “Would the windshield be strong enough in the event of a rollover?” or “Would the glass hold me inside the vehicle in the event of a head on collision?” I believe these are questions the industry asks and mostly are economically motivated. 

The Right Questions?
Consumers don’t know enough about repair and replacement to ask the right questions. Some think it is the industry’s responsibility to ask them on behalf of the consumer and perhaps that is appropriate. I’ll save that for another article. Back to my initial question, though: why is there all this hoopla over long-crack repair? Who is it that is asking the questions and trying to create the impression that long-crack repair is not good for consumers? 

It certainly isn’t those who make their money from repair. It is from companies that still feel repair is a nuisance compared to replacement and those that have the most to gain from a replaced windshield. It struck me as I was driving what a waste of money and energy it is to remove a windshield and throw the glass out because of a single crack that was repairable—yet that is the general feeling within the auto glass industry.

I find that feelings and emotions run high among the different fragments and associations in our industry. However, I doubt that more than a small fraction of one percent of all windshields repaired or replaced involved a long-crack repair. Yet there is all of this discussion—why? We are arguing over pennies, yet we have come to accept the fact that insurers and networks collaborating together tell you what to charge for your work. As an industry, we have worked very hard for the past few years to elevate the quality of our work with standards, tests, certifications and so on. None of this has put money in anyone’s pocket yet, though (at least not that I am aware of). I say that because networks continue to negotiate lower prices with their insurance partners, and then serve them up for you to swallow. 

The Two-Headed Monster
Less than 50 percent of glass damage is being covered by insurance, yet the two-headed monster now controls even uninsured claims, sending the customer to a network to be manipulated. Who believes this is done for the consumer’s benefit? 

I believe we should let the consumer decide if he wants to repair something or replace it. Just because we either can’t or don’t want to repair a crack in a windshield doesn’t mean we should restrict those who do. 

Oh, by the way, I repaired my 8-inch crack myself and didn’t bother informing my insurance company—I didn’t want my rate to go up. 

Kerry Wanstrath is president of Glass Technology in Durango, Colo. Mr. Wanstrath’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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