Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cranky About Insurance

As it says on my profile, I'm usually cranky or pissed about something, and this time it's insurance. I probably know enough about insurance to be dangerous, since my dad put a lot of bread on the family table owning a sucessful independent insurance agency, and he did it well enough to leave my mom a beautiful home on the lake and enough money to live comfortably. Because we lived in a small town, my dad was essentially "on-call" 24/7/365. He represented 21 different insurance companies, but his many, many clients didn't buy insurance from a company. They bought it from Bill Morrissey, the guy with the office on Main Street. After hours problem? Dad's home number was listed, and people called him there. Kid piled up the car at midnight? Call Bill, make sure we're covered. Accidentally ran the tractor into the side of the barn just before morning milking at 5 AM? Call Bill, make sure we're covered. Better call him at home, he's probably up by now anyway. When my folks were off playing golf or on a weekend trip, all six of the Morrissey kids were taught how to respond to phone calls from dad's customers, and to take DETAILED messages, long before the advent of the "answering machine".
So I know what it's like to run your own insurance agency. It's a lot of hours and you can't really walk away at 5 PM and lock the office door and call it a day. Your business is customer service, and that doesn't mean retail hours.
I've had my car and home insurance policies with the same suburban small-town agency since I moved back to Wisconsin 21 years ago. He's not an independent agent; he represents only one company, and it's a big one. He bought the agency from his dad, when his dad retired, and like me, he grew up "in the biz". So when I got the renewal notice for my wife's car insurance policy in the mail yesterday....and it was a nearly FIFTY PERCENT increase....I called the agency. Since she bought the car a year and a half ago, the insurance cost has essentially doubled. No speeding tickets, no accidents, no claims. It's a very sporty car with a 350-horsepower engine, the bane of the insurance companies, but we've been "clean" and I've never missed or even been late on an insurance payment in 21 years. They really couldn't explain to me why the policy cost had increased so much, so fast. Every time it went up....and there's NOTHING like having not one but TWO "youthful drivers" on your car insurance policy, as we did for many years to remind you of all the hidden costs of having kids...they explained in detail why the policy was going to be so expensive. And we paid it. And now both the kids have their own policies, thank heaven.
I'm pissed not so much because the rate went up....but because it went up so much, and they really can't explain to my satisfaction why. And I'm really pissed that after 21 years with this guy and his agency, I'm going to have to shop around. I know what it's like to lose a good-paying customer.

1 comment:

  1. The insurance companies are raising premiums to make up for their losses in other investments - real estate among them.

    And why not? After all, you are REQUIRED to buy car insurance and chances are you won't go shopping around because it's probably not worth the trouble.

    You want to rein in the big insurance gougers? Make automobile insurance pay-as-you-go and include the payments - a small bit at a time - in the price of a gallon of gas. The more you drive, the more you pay. Big-I could bid to take a fee to administer, but rates would be regulated by the federal government (this would have to be a federal effort to work).