Friday, May 22

Good Hands

"A MAN is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone" says Hank Thoreau. I've never been part of the Thoreau cult; after the enforced high school experience of Civil Disobedience, accompanied by a certain subset of my yahoo friends using it as license to egg Mr. Bower's house, I more-or-less abandoned reading him. I recall enjoying On Walking several years ago, but that's the highlight.

I was a callow youth when I ran into that quote, and it was only the second part I considered. Hey, you're rewarded for leaving things alone! Man, I was already rich and didn't know it.

The unexamined first part didn't strike me until much later--I don't think it's supposed to, anyhow--when it occurred to me, too late to make a practical difference in a life dedicated to indolence, that actual gelt could exponentially increase the number of things you could let alone. Insurance companies, for one.

This is ordinarily the sort of thing I'd at least wait for resolution before committing to the Internets, but the resolution--a foregone conclusion--is not the point. Our vehicle and homeowner's policies are with Allstate, and have been for better than a decade, maybe more than two. Never an accident claim. One weather-induced homeowner's claim which did not involve our jumping on the 2006 Hail Storm Let's Get A New Roof bandwagon like a dozen of our neighbors. All bills paid on time.

Last winter we decided it'd be a good idea to reduce our car insurance premiums. I called the agent and we worked out a new deal, but when she called back with the quote she noted that our policy was a type which was no longer being written, so she would write a new one, effective at the end of the current paid period, and we'd get the new one in the mail.

So the first thing that happens is the next billing period rolls around, and we get dunned for two separate policies. And I call her, and it's oh, sorry, I see what happened, don't worry about it. How it is that "don't worry about it" failed to serve as a klaxon for impending compound stupidity I don't know. I'm fifty-five.

So the original policy gets cancelled--I really ought to add "apparently" to any such statement at this point--and all seems right when we receive another dunning notice a few days later for some piddling amount--sixty bucks something--said to be due on the old account. And the notice has both the false ring of an account closed, business terminated, balance still owing--like they thought we might skip the country with our ill-gotten Hamiltons--and a vaguely nasty tone. My wife opened it and handed it to me. I call the agent. She seems distracted. She calls up the file, says, "Oh. Okay, I'll take care of it." I have ample reason not to believe anything this woman tells me by now, but on the other hand it seems like part of a clerical error she made, and has partly fixed already, so one imagines she'll now know how to locate the problem and get the baby hummin' again. We part, with luck never to speak again. Fade to black.

It is perhaps not vital, but certainly of interest, that all this concerns a policy which was "terminated" April first of 2009 C.E.

Yesterday was May 21, or 51 days later; roughly the time between report cards back when I was a barefoot boy in fields of dairy cows. And I get a weird prerecorded call in the afternoon, for my wife, which I chalked up to the current terrorist testing of the state's new Attorney General. Indiana has a pretty good No-Call law, and thugs, criminals, grifters, and other business types have been challenging it, in the form of flagrantly ignoring it, all year; one particular asshole with a car warranty scheme, already indicted in North Dakota, North Idaho, or South Oioway or one of those places, recently came to local prominence when his robots called the new Attorney General's cell phone, twice, thereby winning himself the indictment that had not been engendered by the hundreds of complaint calls the AG had received to that point, all of which had apparently been misfiled under L for Lanquish, instead of P for Peons. And then a couple hours later my Poor Wife mentions to me--too casually, I thought--that we'd "gotten a collection notice on that insurance thing".

I was up like a one-kneed bolt of lightning, straight to her desk to find, not just a "collection notice", but a collection notice from an actual collection of human cess known collectively as Credit Collection Services, demanding to know where The Widow Allstate's sixty bucks was. Reader, fellow or potential Allstate customer, bruder! we have barely compressed the actual timeframe. We would not leave out intervening correspondence just to make out case. Close account. Receive one erroneous notice of money owing. Contact agent. Six weeks later find professional scofflaw telephone goons on your doorstep, who, in their very first, blind groping towards the unknown you and wherever you've stashed your sixty measly fucking bucks, (which would, were it a legitimate and overlooked debt, allow them under Indiana law to charge you, currently, an additional ninety cents!) simply choose to ignore, presumably with impunity, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Upon first contact! I could be a legless Gulf War veteran, a first-responder with a pelvis crushed in the rescue of a beloved family pet, or at the bottom of the stairs surviving by drinking my own urine and feebly scratching the concrete in hopes of attracting help for all they know. Or care. And they cannot be bothered with making a recorded message that identifies themselves as the caller in accordance with Federal law. Any regulation, no matter how tiny, is unreasonable to these people. Excepting the regulations that dissuade me from going over there and kicking their miserable asses. Can't quite figure out why they aren't headquartered in Indiana. Mitch'd love 'em.

And Allstate, y'know, maybe "And we'll crush you like the fucking bug you are if we so much as suspect you're into us for a sawbuck" goes by with the rest of the boilerplate at the bottom of their ads. Or maybe you need to wait for one of their screwups to find out for yourself.


Brendan said...

Horrible story, but you tell it so well.

Mojo said...

As soon as they realize that you know what your rights are and are willing to fight, they'll back down (possibly after offering to "settle" for less than the total amount you don't owe). Companies like this buy up masses of questionable debt for pennies on the dollar and then count on the fact that most people are willing to pay money they don't owe to avoid the conflict. In this case, that might have been a mistake. Please don't let them get away with it.

StringonaStick said...

All insurance companies are evil bastards, period. I do hope you are considering taking your insurance biznezz elsewhere, and you plan to tell them exactly why you did, but of course having a "no pay" tag on your account that ALL insurance companies are privy to means of course no one else will touch you, without a significantly higher premium of course. See? Evil bastards, just like I said.

nanute said...

I don't think we've heard the end of this story. I can't wait for the next installment. Trust me.

TM said...

While it's true that all insurance companies are evil, some are more evil than others. Sadly, Allstate is eviller than most (really, Riley, get a State Farm quote).

Another sad truth of the insurance industry is that agents so often are flat out stupid and do little to actually earn their commission.

I would contact Allstate directly (your agent's a dipshit, sorry) and tell them you have two policies covering the same period, due to agent error. Since this sort of thing is illegal, both for insureds and insurers (double indemnity ain't just a movie), they should be more than happy to rectify the situation.

Then I'd rewrite that thing to a more reputable company, unless you look forward to having your first claim with Allstate be at least as fun as this adventure.