For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
GET A CLUE
by Nancy Rechtman
Do you know the feeling of being wrapped up in a warm blanket? Protected from the bruises and scars of life’s daily ping-pong game with your nerves? Take a deep breath and soak in the memory of that comfort and protection. OK, now open your eyes and face the real world. We’re about to have a little lesson on homeowner’s insurance.
Let’s start by stating the painful fact that you pay, oh, let's say a bazillion dollars annually to protect your home from mishaps and damage. Every six months you watch a giant chunk of your income disappear into that black hole known as insurance premiums. But heaven forbid you actually make a claim with your insurance company for water stains on your ceiling due to an ice storm (not that I'm talking from personal experience here). Sure, they might pay it the first time. Let's say several years later you have another claim for your roof leaking into your dining room. They tell you it's weather damage and not covered. But there is damage inside your home since your dining room light fixture is gushing water all over your dining room table every time there is a cloud in the sky (once again, please don't assume I'm talking from personal experience). The insurance company is starting to get annoyed with you, but they do pay up. Of course only for the inside damage since nature caused the damage to the roof. Nature, so they tell me, is not insurable. So you take out a second mortgage to pay the roofer yourself.
Let's say about five years have passed with no further problems and you've been going without food, heat and water in order to pay these bi-annual insurance bills as they escalate like a tidal wave each year. One day there is a huge rainstorm of Biblical proportion, turning your kitchen into an outlet for Niagara Falls. You call the insurance company and again they tell you they won't cover the roof. They come to inspect your now-warping and suspicious-smelling cabinets and tell you that your cabinets are just fine. You once again hire a roofer to fix this new damage and you pawn any valuables you might still have left in order to pay him. You pay him, remember that is what I‘m saying here - not the insurance company. Then one day, months later, you get a letter from the insurance company telling you that they are raising your deductible to pretty much the value of your house due to all of your claims. But, you sputter in amazement, the insurance company didn't pay for this last call and there have only been two claims that they have actually paid in ten years! And they barely paid anything for them once you have paid your deductible! No matter, they say. Just be grateful we aren't dropping you completely. Because we like you. And what would happen if they didn't like you?
Let me educate you about a little known secret of the insurance industry - CLUE. Sounds like a covert spy agency, doesn’t it? I am not making this up, however. CLUE stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. Actually, maybe this is a covert spy organization since it is a centralized database where insurance companies can file information on losses whether they have paid them or not. This information stays on record for 5 years. Five years! I read this in a reprint of an article originally in The Wall Street Journal and we all know that The Wall Street Journal never lies. I think.
Anyway, what this article said was that an insurance company can drop you just for making phone calls to inquire if certain problems you’re having are covered. Just for a phone call! Talk about don’t call us, we’ll call you! Don’t we have the phone company for that already? (OK, one rant at a time.) Insurance companies count these calls as losses. They feel it indicates a pattern that you’re not maintaining your house if you have to ask them questions. Oh sure, that makes sense. And if you move and want to get a policy, they will check your CLUE report and if there has been any covert spy activity (which means phone calls I suppose), they will either charge you an amount equal to the National Debt or drop you like a hot potato.
So beware, my friends. Do not pick up that phone under any circumstances. Let your house fall down around you like a stack of tumbleweeds. You are better off that way. Wait a second - I just got a letter from my insurance company asking me if I want one of their credit cards. They have their own credit card? Maybe I’ll give them a call….uh, maybe not.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.