Three Massachusetts glass shop owners allege to glassBYTEs that they started noticing an alarming trend in mid-April—customers who called their insurance carriers to get windshields replaced by their shops were told those companies weren’t properly licensed, when in fact they are. The problem occurred with multiple insurers, including Arbella Insurance Group in Quincy, Mass., Safety Insurance in Boston, Mass., and Commerce Insurance Co., in Webster, Mass., among others. All work for these insurers goes through Safelite Solutions.
Two of these shop owners have now resolved the issue but it took three weeks for one and close to a week for another. One is still dealing with the issue. In fact, that shop, Affordable Auto Glass, filed a complaint and is seeking a preliminary injunction in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Safelite Solutions, and five insurers. Read the original story.
“More than a month ago we noticed an instant downturn like someone shutting off the water,” said Joe Esile, president of Affordable Auto Glass in West Springfield, Mass. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I thought it was COVID, and now we were seeing a ripple, but that wasn’t the case.”
Esile said his staff noticed that jobs would come in, then a few hours later customers would cancel. When it kept happening, he decided to call those customers and ask why they canceled. Customers told Esile and his staff that they were told by their insurance providers that Esile’s shop wasn’t properly licensed.
“Safelite Solutions started telling insurance companies and agents as well as the vehicle owner that our shop is not properly licensed when we are,” said Esile. “They will then call the customer back whose claim you just called in and get them to change their preferred shop by telling the customer you are not licensed and it can cost them money to use you and they can’t guarantee their work.”
On April 19, Esile informed Arbella Insurance of the issue via email and received the following email in response from the glass department: “Today this appears to be a network-wide issue. We have heard from many shops that are having this problem today. We have reported the issue to Safelite and asked they resolve ASAP. With Arbella you can be confident that jobs assigned by us will not be steered away from your shop as we handle all calls in house here at Arbella and provide customers with several choices of shops in their area.”
Despite that reassurance, Esile continued to have issues. On April 29 he told glassBYTEs, “My attorney has been feverishly trying to contact them and no success yet. Emails are not being returned to us or him. We are getting zero referrals and are unable to even bill out jobs that we have done. We can’t get paid for those as it currently sits.”
Carmelo Figueroa, owner at National Glass Works in Worcester, Mass., tells glassBYTEs he had the same issue for about three weeks, but the issue appears to now be resolved. Part of that had to with finally getting to the correct person to help him sort out the issue, he says—finding someone willing to respond to his emails and phone calls. “For three weeks I was emailing them, and dialing every number for Safelite from the CEO on down. I used every email I had and copied everyone. I let them know step-by-step what was happening,” said Figueroa. It wasn’t until he finally reached a vice president who solved this for him. But still, the ramifications remain.
“An apology won’t fix this,” he said. “I lost business—you shut my business down–what about the stuff I don’t know about? I understand one time, but this was happening to shops across the state.”
Peter Brown, owner of Tiny and Sons Auto Glass in Pembroke, Mass., encountered the same issue as well with insurers from Arbella, Geico, Progressive, Hanover and Safety.
“Our contact at Safelite Solutions said when they updated their software package they booted us all out and they had to re-initialize everyone,” said Brown. “Our customers were being told we didn’t have a registration number in the state of Massachusetts. One Monday morning we had ten calls in a row.”
“We had to go through our contact at Safelite Solutions and take our certificate off the wall and send it to him,” said Brown. “He was able to push it through then it was good for a while then it started happening again. Every once in a while it pops up and we have to get him involved. As far as we can see now, I hope it’s over.”
The shops that appear to be up and running again agree, though, that the effects of this go beyond a temporary glitch. “For two-to-three weeks you are out in limbo and they don’t respond,” said Figueroa.
All agree they have no way of knowing how many customers were lost.
“I don’t know how much business I lost and there is no way to track it,” said Brown.
“Who knows how many jobs I am losing?” said Esile.
A representative of Safelite did not return glassBYTEs request for comment for this article.