AGRR Magazine

Insight Into a Typical Consumer's Thought Process

Working for AGRR magazine, the newsletter, and Key Communications Inc. in general, has afforded me the luxury of learning about the auto glass industry with many knowledgeable people to guide me along the way. From writing for and about the industry, I am familiar with the problems inherent to the industry and I get to hear both sides to every argument.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Recently, I received an email from my best friend. I'll call her "Renee" (not her real name). After responding to a question I had asked her and a continued conversation about Christmas presents, she mentioned that her windshield had gotten cracked while driving recently and asked for advice on what to do. I responded via email, but called her that night as well, to advise her to the best of my ability for handling the situation. I started by trying to get a feel for the kind of break she had.

I asked if the break was longer than a dollar bill, where it was in relation to her rearview mirror. I even asked when the break had occurred and what the weather had been since then (the day prior to our conversation, and overcast but no substantial precipitation, if you care to know). I told her it might be repairable and suggested she make some phone calls to see if she could have someone let her know. I walked her through what happens with a repair, the removal of any contaminants and the injection of resin into the break. I explained what would prevent the break from being repairable. When I got done with all of that, she said with a smile in her voice, "Brigid, you just made my day. I thought my only option was to have it replaced."

To help Renee along, I told her to visit the NWRA website and see if there were any NWRA members in her area and to include them in her phone calls. The next morning, when I got to work, I hopped online and looked up the site myself. I found five NWRA members in her state but only one that I knew was in the same town (I don't know much about the geography of her state). I emailed her the link to the member list.

A few hours later I received the following response:

"I was also told to try the guys at the mall who are repairing window chips for free. Someone told me that they deal with the insurance company over the cost and that most insurance companies would [rather] have you go through one of them than pay for a total window replacement later. So, I figured I would drive up the mall and see what the guy in the tent has to say, as well."

Now, I don't know who told her to try the guys at the mall. I didn't get that far in asking. Without hesitation, I wrote back in all caps, "DON'T GO THERE (to the guy at the mall)!" because I didn't know anything about who they were or the quality of their work.

With equal swiftness came her response.

Why ever not?

I think I told everyone in my office about her emails. Everyone had the same reaction. One person asked if maybe she was kidding, but I elected to err on the side of caution and, once my heart stopped its freefall, I wrote her back to explain that, at the very least, a guy at the mall could pack up and leave the state without ever leaving proof that he'd ever done business with her. What would happen if the repair failed?

I also pointed out that if her insurance covers windshield repair, they'd cover it no matter who did the repair-and if the insurance didn't cover it, the guy at the mall wouldn't be able to get them to pay any more than a legitimate windshield repair company would. Telling Renee that she was scaring me, I told her that even if she didn't use an NWRA member shop, she could at least humor me and call several glass shops, as many do both repair and replacement. I gave her the website address, explained how to use the shop finder feature to look up companies by zip code and told her that shops listed there AGRSS registered for replacement but might also do repair. I also found the story my boss, Deb Levy, wrote about her experience at the "free windshield repair" tent over Labor Day weekend and emailed that link to her, too.

Luckily, by bombarding Renee with information, I either changed her mind or at least made her want to get me off her back; that afternoon I receive an email from her telling me not to panic and that wouldn't go to the guy at the mall. The next morning I had an email from her saying she had spoken with one of the NWRA member companies-who was also on her insurance company's "preferred vendor" list-and had an appointment for the tech to come look at her car that day.

Renee's been my best friend for nearly 10 years now and I have the utmost respect for her. She's college educated with a Masters' Degree and served in the U.S. Army for five years, including a tour of Iraq. She's not some 16-year-old kid who just got her license and knows nothing about the world. She's not one who can be duped or scammed by fast-talkers; but she is the average consumer. And that's exactly why I'm relating this story to you.

This is what the industry is up against-the need to educate the average consumer, to inform them of what they should look for, and more importantly, what they should look out for, when having any sort of work done on their windshield or any auto glass.

- By Brigid O'Leary

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