When we did our salvage emphasis article in November 2005, we heard via phone and e-mail from a number of adjusters who wanted us to address the issue of proper and ethical disposal of salvage. Although our article concentrated on the inherent value of steel salvage, respondents pointed out that there is a plethora of other salvage that companies deal with on a regular basis. And that's where the trouble begins.

Many carriers have instituted policies for "ethical disposal" of all salvage as a result of questionable practices in the past. In the good old days it was not uncommon to conduct in-house auctions of salvage for insurance company employees. What about that slightly smoke-damaged curio cabinet? Or that repairable stereo receiver?

Ah, but over time, a lot of smaller salvage items never made it to auction. "Why haul it to the office for auction when I can just drive it right over to my house? And besides, we adjusters deserve a little 'perk' for all the abuse heaped upon us." From this illogical reasoning, virtual theft rings were born. There's no way to skirt the issue. No, it is not OK to take that smoke-damaged wrench from an insured's burned-out garage and hang it in your own workshop. Of course you can clean it off, and we know you don't have one that size to begin with. But it's still stealing!

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