Volume 16, Issue 1 - January/February 2014

Guest Column
In My Opinion

Buying Blind
by Richard Campfield


WE ALL GET THAT PHONE CALL every day from the consumers saying, “I need a new windshield.” My reply to them is, “What kind of windshield would you like?” and the call goes silent.

I have a son who has been blind since the age of six from retinoblastoma. He is now 24 and on his own. The word “blind” for me is a painful word, but I could not think of any better word to describe the way consumers, and we in the automotive glass business, have to buy windshields.

Consumer Reports is one non-profit that consumers can turn to get non-biased feedback on products so they do not have to buy blind such items as cars, tires, smartphones, vacuum cleaners, ovens, TVs and computers. The Internet now has feedback and ratings on just about everything these days, except for windshields. Most people spend more time looking at their windshield every day than they do looking at their spouse and kids. You would think there would be more information out there on such an important safety device.

I have personally been involved in fracture testing windshield brands in a lab and in surveys. No two windshields had identical scores. There are differences. Many repairers and installers know this from experience, not from readily available information on the brands. An Ultra Bond customer of mine that performs repairs and replacements was approached by a windshield manufacturer sales representative. My customer told that sales rep he would never put that brand of windshield in his customer’s car. The sales representative’s reply to him was that it was smart business to install this brand because it was cheap to buy and he would get more business because he would replace it more often. That sales rep definitely knows his product.

Have you ever seen a TV commercial by a windshield manufacturer touting why their windshield is better than the others? I have not. What do you think would be the most important feature to the consumer?

Example: Now if a Harford insured consumer needs a new windshield which windshield will the glass shop install when the company will be paid the same price no matter which windshield he installs? The $45.17 or the $118.60? Do you think the shop is going to mention anything about quality, brand or features if the shop is the one that is going to have to pay for it? If the consumer has a green band, the shops pays for it. If the consumer wants a Carlite windshield, the shop pays for it. Since the alleged insurer indemnification payment for like kind and quality is the same price no matter what windshield is installed, the windshield manufacturers need to advertise to the consumer market.

Windshield manufacturers should market to the consumer, unless of course, you are all the same which is exactly what consumers think. Because windshield manufacturers have never marketed to the consumer, the consumer thinks a windshield is a windshield and only cares about price which creates a cash market.

The glass shops not only have to contend with the insurance companies steering and not paying to indemnify the consumer’s loss, but they also deal with a cash market driven by nothing but price. We cannot sell the safety aspects and benefits of your windshield in a 60 second phone call. I think windshield manufacturers had better start marketing their differences to consumers before someone else does it for them.

Richard Campfield is the founder and president of Ultra Bond Inc. in Grand Junction, Colo.

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