Volume 13, Issue 1 - January-February 2011

Independent’s Day
an iga viewpoint

Windshield Bullies: Just Who Are They?
by Alan Epley

Without question, we all work in an auto glass repair and replacement industry that is subject to adversity and just recently became an industry subjected to name calling. The matter to which I refer is the phrase “windshield bullies”—a reference to those individuals that are directly engaged in the marketing of windshield repair and replacement services at places such as car washes, convenience stores and gas stations (see related story on page 22). Before I proceed, let me say unequivocally that I do not condone insurance fraud, by shops, policyholders, insurers or anyone—period. And I believe that any party that is convicted of insurance fraud must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Definitions, Please?
But just what is the definition of a “windshield bully?” Is it a name that only pertains to any person who engages in the direct marketing of windshield repair and replacement at car washes, convenient stores, gas stations, etc.? In order to make certain that I understand this correctly, does this name apply to any legitimate company engaged in the practice that may be applying high-pressure sales tactics but is not committing fraud? The real question is: is the windshield in question actually in need of repair or replacement? But in a recent article written about the subject, one company was quoted as saying, “they use aggressive—and in some cases fraudulent—tactics to solicit vehicle glass claims ...” This leads me to conclude that this company believes that these folks should be labeled “bullies” whether they are committing fraud or not. Respectfully, I disagree.

“Does the name windshield bully only pertain to a person who engages in the direct marketing of windshield repair and replacement at car washes, convenient stores, gas stations, etc.?”

Therefore, it is worthy to expand this discussion by examining whether the name “bully” can be applied elsewhere in the industry. Are there other operators in the industry who use high-pressure tactics to achieve desired results? Do they use tactics that may not be fraudulent but rather “questionable?” What brought about these so-called bullies in the first place, and why is the direct marketing of windshield repair and replacement increasing in popularity?

How about if we begin by scrutinizing the operations of the third-party administrators (TPAs)? Is it possible that the companies engaging in direct marketing are trying to secure customers before policyholders report the claim through a process that is designed to steer as many claims as possible to shops owned by the TPAs or preferred by insurers? Does direct marketing of these services enable legitimate shops to service insurance claims without having the telephone hung up on them? Does direct marketing of these services enable legitimate shops to secure business that would otherwise be steered away on the basis of sales pitches of national warranties or warnings that the policyholder may incur out-of-pocket costs? Does direct marketing of these services ensure that state and local municipalities are receiving the proper sales taxes that are represented on the actual invoice amount charged by the service providers?

Breeding Windshield Bullies
You get the point. In actuality, the existing claims reporting process breeds windshield bullies and, if you were to dissect the numbers, you would find more windshield bullies in the TPA call centers than in the field.

I would like to thank Bob Sullivan of MSNBC.com for introducing the term “windshield bullies” to the auto glass industry. The Independent Glass Association has reached out to Mr. Sullivan in an effort to inform him that the term can be applied to others within the industry applying so-called bullying tactics to sell services. Any TPA that raises the issue of direct marketing should examine its internal practices, as these practices are primarily responsible for the direct marketing taking place in the field. The production of a brochure to warn the industry about this problem by a company using comparable methods to secure business is the height of hypocrisy. Isn’t there an old phrase that applies here? Something about the pot calling the kettle black?

Alan Epley is president of the Independent Glass Association (IGA). He also serves as president of Southern Glass and Plastic in Columbia, S.C. Mr. Epley’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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