While traveling through Texas last week, I stopped in El Campo to visit Shoppas’ Farm Supply to check in and see how hurricane recovery was coming along. Driving from Houston to El Campo, I didn’t see any signs of damage and any water out in the fields was from the rain that was currently falling. In the 2 hours or so I was in the dealership one thing was abundantly clear, the employees of Shoppa’s care deeply for their community and their customers. While the floodwaters have receded, there’s still much to do to get back to normal. And the management team at the dealership truly cares about its employees. In the week following Hurricane Harvey, all of Shoppa’s employees were paid their regular wage, whether they could make it into work or not, Eric Burrow, general manager, says. Since El Campo, Texas, was spared much of the rain and flooding that hit the dealership’s other stores, it was hard to tell that anything had happened at all other than a section in the showroom promoting hurricane recovery supplies.
Throughout the visit though, our conversation kept coming back to the storm — how one employee basically lost his entire home and how another employee jumped to action to help deliver generators to other stores that were getting hit harder than El Campo.
Burrow says about 20% of Shoppa’s employees had some sort of damage and some did apply for assistance through the Equipment Dealers Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund. As of last week, their employees had received $7,500. The biggest challenge in moving forward — both for employees whose homes were damaged and for the dealership’s two stores that had damage — is waiting on insurance companies to assess their claims and see what is covered and what’s not. Burrow and Stephanie Schulz, aftermarket manager, shared a picture with me of a tractor out in the field in what looked like easily 4 feet of water. The insurance company won’t cover the damage because the tractor was out in the field when the flood happened. But, if it had been driven into the water, it would have been covered. Situations and example like these are plentiful in disasters like this and along with causing lots of frustration, also slow down the process of picking up the pieces.
There’s a lot of gray area in situations like these. For instance, who’s responsible for equipment that was in the shop when the floods hit? The customer will argue it’s the dealer’s responsibility to cover the damage because it was in their possession. But, that unit was going to get damaged regardless of where it was when the hurricane hit. Burrow says it’s basically a lose-lose situation and they’ll likely be eating the cost. The good news is, unlike an earthquake or tornado Burrow says you know a hurricane is coming. The dealership was able to move as much as they could to higher ground to help prevent its damage.
Between covering the dealership’s own losses — severe damage to the Liberty store — eating the cost of some customers’ damaged equipment and helping employees get back on their feet, it will take years to fully be back to normal, Burrow says.
Does your dealership have a plan in place for how it handles situations like these, not the disaster itself but the problems that pop up as a result of it — covering damage to a customer’s machine, whether employees will get paid, etc.?