Monday 11 March 2013

What must you have yet can never use?

 In a (happily) very rare and extremely unwelcome act of censorship, the incredibly innocuous first paragraphs of this week’s Double Vision were cut from the newspaper.

And there was me thinking this country’s attitude to the Church has changed in the last 10 years.
Anyway, here it is in full, and I very much doubt any one of you will feel the slightest bit offended

Insurance: what is it good for? You have to have it, but can never use it. I’ve searched the cosmoverse for anything else that fits the paradigm of insurance, and sadly the only equally vital and simultaneously useless things I can find are the Pope’s plums. 

Usually when people say “With the greatest respect…” they mean the exact opposite, so I hope my devout Catholic colyoomistas will truly believe me when I say that I mean no disrespect to their faith by resorting to such base comparison.

It’s just that when you’re trying to make a point, it helps to illustrate, but insurance dwells in a rare and lonely land.

Without his plums the Pontiff could not be considered a man and therefore could not do his job. But if he ever used them, he’d not be allowed to do his job.

If I don’t have insurance I’m not allowed to drive, yet if I ever use my insurance, my premium goes through the roof, and I can’t afford to drive.

A few years ago a good friend of mine lost all his possessions in a house fire. I was extremely impressed that even as a tenant, he’d insured all the contents of his house.

Inspired, I decided to display some adult behaviour, found a company that would offer me a contents-only policy, and sat back feeling all safe and secure.

During one of the storms a few weeks ago we lost all power to the house for 18 hours. After a sleepless night of torches, rattling roof tiles and crashing hail stones, I felt and looked a lot like the contents of my freezer: mushy and well dodgy, respectively.

Hauling all the spoiled food into a bin bag, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was insured. I’d been a grown-up and paid good money, so that a minor inconvenience like this needn’t turn into a disaster.

There was about €140 worth of grub in there, so we’re not talking about economic ruin, but doubtless like many of you, these days I’m not in a position to add that figure to any week’s budget without hurting a fair bit.

Tired and grumpy, I knew I needed to call the insurance company pronto, but suspected the whole thing might turn into a hassle. I wobbled off to read the policy manual and felt calmer. Freezer contents were covered to an unlimited amount, and there was no excess to pay.

Exhausted, I tried to put on my happy smiley face and called the insurance company.
After explaining the situation to a woman in the claims department, I asked two questions:

Is claiming for my freezer contents going to be a major hassle?
And if I claim, will that affect my premium?

She told me that no, it shouldn’t be a hassle at all. She didn’t suppose I’d taken photos of the freezer contents?

Forcing down my exhausted emotions as one would if resisting projectile vomit, I told her that no, ha ha, as it happens, ha ha, when I finally abandoned trying to sleep last night, and then found my food all soggy and stinky, it didn’t cross my mind that this squidgy mess of rotting ready meals might look rather natty in the family photo album.

Instead I suggested I’d keep the receipts of all the shopping I’d do, to replace the lost items. How about that, eh? Then there’d be proof that I was out of pocket.

Fine, said she, giving me the Dublin phone number of a claims handler and a claim number. Apparently the claims handler would be the one to advise me as to whether my premium would go up or not.

“Oh and could you please send me a claims form?”
“Of course. It’ll be in the post to you today.”

Thinking it very strange that the insurance company didn’t know about the workings of their own policy, I called the claims handler who said no, he couldn’t help me, because he was a claims handler and didn’t actually work for the insurance company directly. All he could do was look at my claim form, when I’d filled it in.

I could feel his impatient restraint, having to explain the bleedin’ obvious to someone he suspected of being an imbecile.

“Now, what you need to do, Mr Adley,” said he, as if to a 4 year-old child, “is to call the insurance company, do you see? It’s their policy, do you see, so they’re the ones who can advise you about your premium.”

“You’d think so, wouldn't you!” I replied, putting the phone down before bellowing a crude and impressive stream of Germanic expletives into my living room.

Then I called the insurance brokers, from whom I’d actually bought the policy.  At last, a helpful person on the other end of the phone, telling me that yes, unfortunately, if I claimed I’d lose my No Claims Bonus, and my premium would go up. And I’d be back to Year 1 on my No Claims Bonus.

Bloody Nora! I didn’t even know there was a No Claims Bonus on contents insurance. But seeing as how we’re applying the same rules as car insurance, aren’t there certain small claims - like windscreen replacement - that don’t affect the price of the policy?

“No, Mr. Adley. No there aren't. All claims affect the price of the policy.”

“So what you’re saying is that, in effect, by claiming this €140 I’ll make a net loss over the next three years, due to the increases in my premium.”

“Well, Mr. Adley, we’re only the brokers. I suggest you call the insurance company and take that up with them.”

“No, no, I’ll not be calling them again. I’ll wait until the claim forms arrive and then, most probably, just abandon the idea altogether.”

At that point I’d pretty much already decided to drop the matter, a decision that proved wise, as the supposedly-mailed claims forms never even arrived!

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