Friday, November 18, 2011
Although I’ve actually worked in the insurance industry, I don’t recall agents flocking so madly on prospects. I do recall words of warning from my insurance agent boss who always said insurance agents were only about a half-rung higher than used car salesmen on the food chain. Since he was the coolest boss I ever had, although I think he’s still irked over how I fled to New Mexico to pursue journalism, I never believed him.
Now I just might.
My first mistake in the insurance seeking process was believing one of those websites that said they could get me a handful of competitive quotes in about 10 minutes. I needed competitive since my existing policy was up for renewal — at about triple the rate with which I started.
The carrier had pulled the same stunt with my car insurance, slowly snaking up the rates until I was paying enough to insure a fleet of school buses rather than a single vehicle that pretty much does nothing but sit in the garage. I switched car insurance companies and cut my rate by about one-third. I figured I’d do the same for my house.
So I merrily went to my new car insurance carrier and asked for a home insurance quote. They wanted nearly double the amount of my existing carrier’s renewal rate. That’s when I was sucked into the competitive website thing.
Rather than offering me a host of competitive quotes after filling out several pages of info about my home’s size, type and any killer dogs I have lurking around the bushes, I didn’t get a single quote. I instead got a “Thank you. We will be forwarding your information to prospective agencies.”
The calls began at 7:30 the next morning.
I received at least five within the first hour, in addition to at least two emails telling me to give the agents a call. All of the representatives needed to talk to me in person, of course, to ask me the same information I had spent the prior evening filling out online. Square footage, concrete slab, no killer dogs in the bushes. No, I don’t have a pool or trampoline.
None were coming through with anything as low as my renewal rate, which one man told me, “to be honest” that’s the best rate I’ll probably get. This is after he double-checked I lived in a house and not a shoe box or someone’s garage. “I don’t understand how the initial rate could have been that cheap.”
One carrier finally did come through with a quote of $100 less than the renewal rate. Hallelujah, rejoice and let’s get moving. The really cheap rate was due, in part, for not keeping killer dogs in the bushes and, in the other part, for signing up online. I logged in to complete my application.
“Due to the responses you gave, we cannot complete this process online,” read the message at my application’s completion. I called and emailed the vulture, but she suddenly was not so hungry. Her callback came hours later in the form of a very curt message. They could not insure me because I selected “journalist” as my occupation. It was too high risk. Click.
It’s not like I’m heading off to war zones every other week — or even going further than my kitchen. I work from home all day, which explains why the car just sits in the garage. The only danger I encounter, if any, is when one of my non-killer dogs paws at the inflatable exercise ball I use for a chair, often sending me sideways to the carpet. But I still land on carpet.
Confused and annoyed, I called back, left another message, and emailed the company for an explanation. A higher-up finally called the next morning, leaving a message that explained sports, media, entertainment personalities and journalists are not insured by their company because of the risk of being sued. “We don’t want to have to pay out for a liability lawsuit,” she said.
I have since researched these “high risk” occupations and did not find journalists — although I found lawyers and insurance agents on the list. I also quickly mailed in my check for the inflated renewal rate to my existing carrier it, too, came up with some ridiculous excuse to deny coverage.
Wouldn’t want them to find out about my getting knocked sideways on my exercise ball, after all.
Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her column runs in the “Tucson Weekly” print edition monthly and weekly on Friday on “The Range.” See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.