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The Butcher, the Baker, the Body Shop Owner: When Small Businesses Get Pressured by Big Ones

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Many consumers are unwittingly cogs in the current parts controversy waging between State Farm & independent body shops.

Many consumers are unwittingly cogs in the current parts controversy waging between State Farm & independent body shops.

Body shops like Precision have been under a lot of pressure from State Farm Insurance in recent weeks. The insurer has contracted with the company PartsTrader, maker of an online parts procurement system. Now State Farm is using heavy-handed tactics to convince body shops to adopt PartsTrader, regardless of the fact shops already have their own parts procurement systems in place.

State Farm has even issued memos to body shops making it clear the ones refusing to use PartsTrader on State Farm insured claims won’t be getting any State Farm business. So, as you read the story below, know that independent body shops are currently in much the same situation as the unfortunate baker.

The Unfortunate Baker

There was a small local baker who prided himself on using only the finest quality, locally sourced ingredients in his baked goods. He had one big customer, a rich restaurant owner, who purchased large quantities of dinner rolls from the baker to supply all his restaurants. It sometimes concerned the baker to be so wholly dependent on a single customer – especially as the restaurateur was an imposing man with a reputation as a bully.

One morning at the crack of dawn, the baker was hard at work kneading dough when the jingle of the door surprised him. The rich restaurateur was there to pay him a visit, the end of a crow bar just visible beneath the corner of his trench coat. He said that lately, roll prices had been cutting into restaurant profits, and this would henceforth be unacceptable. The baker explained that the price of domestic flour had risen so sharply of late due to drought, that short of substituting inferior ingredients, there was little he could do.

The baker’s answer displeased the restaurant owner, who took him by the collar and shook him up and down, shouting, “Now you listen, and listen close, Baker. I’ve got a big container load of weevil-ridden wheat flour from China waiting out in the harbor. It happens to be even cheaper since it’s mixed with cut-rate bone meal from a rendering plant. But it looks like flour, it bakes like flour, and the customers don’t know enough to know the difference. You’re going to start baking it into our rolls and charging us lower roll prices, or else!”

When the baker failed to acquiesce, the restaurant owner lost patience. He drew the crowbar out from under his trench coat, smashed in all the glass on the bakery cases, and on his way out, smashed one of baker’s knee caps, too – just for good measure.

What’s Wrong With PartsTrader

I’m sure you don’t find it hard to identify what was wrong with the restaurant owner’s actions. He used his powerful position to tell the baker what prices to charge, and dealt with his reluctance to comply by using strong-arm tactics.

When State Farm tells body shops what parts systems to use, you may think it’s for the good of State Farm customers. But it’s not. First of all, State Farm is an insurer, not an auto body repair expert. So they shouldn’t be telling body shops how to repair cars. We already have sophisticated parts ordering processes in place through established channels. These systems help us get the best quality parts in the most effective time frame. Using a third-party system to get lower-cost, and frequently lower quality parts, slows us down, both in time spent waiting for the parts to arrive, and time spent trying to install non-OEM parts that frequently don’t fit well or are of inferior quality. Frequently, they are also of foreign manufacturing origin.

Not only do independent body shops like to do a good job, we’re liable if these cheap parts fail. Yes, it’s the body shop that has to warranty the collision repair work we perform, not the insurance company. Aftermarket parts can even compromise the resale value and safety of your vehicle. So body shops who won’t be steered to the parts procurement systems the big boys tell them to use are really in the same boat as the honorable baker, who didn’t want to bake inferior wheat into his rolls and compromise his fine product in exchange for bigger margins.

What You Can Do

Consumers, body shops like us need your help. Talk to your State Farm agent and tell him you reserve the right to have your vehicle repaired with original parts, and that you trust your local body shop to know how to repair your car the right way, without the insurance companies telling us how to do our job. Tell your family and acquaintances about what’s happening in the auto body repair industry with PartsTrader. We need your help getting the word out, so that we can stand up to these practices, and defend our right to repair in the very best way we know how.

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Author Ron Reichen is the Chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), and owner of Precision Body & Paint. Connect with him on .

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