Monday, February 20, 2006

Travelers Insurance Company SUCKS

I was in the front seat of the Chrysler 300M when my husband smashed into the back of a slick gold domestic rental car. We weren’t on our way anywhere special and no one was hurt- except the 300M- badly- and a teeny, tiny ding in the other guy’s rental car. I was, for anyone who knows me, surprisingly calm and even quiet. I said nothing other than, “What the hell?” and “Nice one.”

My husband’s red face complete with throbbing temple vein said the rest. There was no need to rub it in. And hey, what’s done is done. So, I dutifully removed the insurance card from my purse and called, as it says you should. After my cell phone went hot in my ear reminding me of all those recent brain cancer scares—someone finally picked up- a woman who probably just returned from a sugar laden snack. She should have opted for caffeine.

She spoke slow, seemed unduly cheerful given the circumstances and appeared to be stuck on the same words: “I can’t do that.” Followed by, “We don’t do that,” and “I’m sorry, I have no way of doing that.”

It might have been humorous if my questions weren’t important ones, like: “We were in an accident and are stranded by the side of a busy road, can you help?” and, “You are our carrier, I have given thousands of dollars to you, will you please call me a tow truck?” And my favorite: “Can you call the police? My phone is going to die and the man in the other car feels dizzy, you probably should call an ambulance, too.” Followed by: “May I file a claim? I happen to have a few free hours right now,” and “Can you call us a taxi? We have no way home and I think I left the stove on.”

She switched from “I can’t” to a simple, “Nope.” I got the idea she was making faces at me on her end, twirling a finger by her ear, then tipping a flask into her Dilbert coffee mug. I crumpled the EMERGENCY use insurance card and threw it out the window to land among the broken car parts and radiator fluid and watched it float with chips of glass in an antifreeze scum pond. Frankly it was doing more good on the ground absorbing goop than it ever had in my wallet. Then, I graciously thanked the woman. Not really.

I said, “Well that sucks. You suck. What the hell good are you anyway, and why does it say to call immediately if all you’re going to tell me is you can’t help me and to get to a safe place and call us when it’s convenient? You suck. You really, really, really suck.” It seems I was stuck on a word also. Note to sucky TRAVELERS insurance lady:

We just crashed our car. There won’t be a convenient time for weeks and believe me honey, if I never needed you before I need you now and how you handle me at this moment will determine whether we keep you, speak well of you or bash your name all over the place and run begging back to our old carrier.

That was 28 days ago.

I’ve been loaning my truck to my husband while his car goes through more phases than a peri-menopausal woman. We have heard more tall tales than Paul Bunyan’s wife. We have been lied to more than a teenager’s mother. You get the picture. This has not been a pretty time.

At first, I thought, “No problem. This is a great excuse to get all those nagging household tasks done. And for the first few days, I was productive. I read, I wrote, I filed and I raked. I crossed off old lists, made new ones and even found time to read that pesky DVD recorder manual. It was fine- until I realized taxes were next on the list and I ran out of bread and had to send lunch sandwiches on crumpets.

By the second week, I was into closet cleaning, boxing up donations, interior decorating, ironing and saying "No" to every volunteer opportunity that came my way, because I could. I finally had a good excuse.

Friends offered to take me places . One woman offered me her BMW Z3, but I refused. What would I say or do if some asshole were to crash into me? What if I was the jinx?

I worked around most tasks, did grocery shopping late at night, skipped the gym and ran on the treadmill in the bedroom, rescheduled haircuts and dentists and filed the dog’s nails myself. My husband came straight home after work, went in late, took my son to school and picked up my daughter when he could. We were a one car household, in a neighborhood where three is the norm and some folks, like my neighbors across the cul de sac have five. I was starting to feel economically wise, green in the best environmental way, intellectually above those gas-guzzling-tool-about-town-for-no-reason-other-than-to-speed-up-global-warming-and-increase-the-sea-level-another-foot-in-thirty- three-years type of people.

On week three, my husband started calling my truck HIS and even suggested that if his car didn’t come back to us that he would drive the truck and buy me the new car. I didn’t like this kind of talk.

The insurance company blamed the body shop on the delay, something about lost keys, our car in the rain and the manager is a putz. The body shop threw the insurance company under the bus claiming their appraiser is an idiot, that he is a pain in the ass and has no idea what he’s doing, that he suggested no work be done and instead call the car a total. WHAT? We couldn’t get an answer that didn’t sound like a presidential address.

No one seemed to be in any hurry to give me back my convenient little life, and I still had daytime things to do, so I rode along with Karen who is a very giving soul and accepted the offer of Angie to go shopping for a few hours one morning. Angie has a lovely truck with all the amenities and a baby to go with it. We parked in the parking lot, went into one store and lost her car keys forever.

The baby cried, we cursed, thought about Margaritas and called Karen to bail us out. Had my bad car mojo rubbed off on Angie?

Week four was the beginning of soccer practice and a school event that could not be pushed off. My husband was flying out of town for the day and would be leaving too early to help anyone. We debated renting a car for the day, but to let it sit in an airport lot for 12 hours while we paid the bill seemed foolish, and when Karen and her husband, Will gracefully agreed to let me borrow their Mercedes for a day, I accepted.

They dropped it off the night before, showed me what needed to be done and off they went— those kind, kind souls. I locked their nice little sports car, went inside, put the kids to bed, then realized the car was behind the truck that had to go to the airport at 5 am.

So I went out to move it. It started up like a charm, but since I am not six foot three, I needed to adjust the seat. I used the door levers like I had done in the passenger seat at least a few times before, and the seat moved forward, then I tried to make the seat back go more upright, but when I touched the lever nothing happened, so I tried pushing the lever in the other direction. The seat moved¾in seconds, I was flat on my back in the driver’s seat of a sweet Mercedes, yelling, “No, No, Stop.” Like a bad date.

Oops did not quite do it.

I went inside and asked my husband for help. He laughed and stood over me laying in the driver’s seat and said, “We’ll just tell Will we were having sex in his car. He’ll understand.” Then he walked away saying, “I’m glad it wasn’t ME behind the wheel. You never would have let me forget it.”

I made him move the car to the other side of the driveway, down then back up the sloping concrete, as I called Karen who answered the phone with, “Hello. Did you break my car?”

The next day Karen and hubby came to pick up the Mercedes, assuring me again that the seat had already been broken, that it wasn’t my fault and even that the part had been ordered and was probably sitting at the repair shop as we speak, ready for install. I continued to apologize. I felt like a jerk and still had a remnant of bad car mojo in my mouth – but I had to stifle a giggle when Will sat in the backless driver’s seat and strapped on his seatbelt. He backed carefully down to the cul de sac, death-gripping the steering wheel so he wouldn’t end up lying on the backseat. He looked funny.

I felt like a slug.

And I was stranded again. I begged rides for my kids and did a teachers conference over the phone as the teacher, it sounded like, washed dishes.

We’ve been promised the return of the car this week, though we all know what promises from a body shop and a dollar add up to. Yeah, about ninety-two cents, which once again has me coming up short.

Update as of February 22, 2006.

Three weeks into this thing I googled TRAVELERS INSURANCE CLAIMS to see if anyone else had similar difficulties. I found a site called CONCIERGE CLAIMS, where apparently if your vehicle is towed there, as the lady on the phone should tell you, then you are handled like a princess, and all is rosy in your world, including a FREE rental car, should you not ( like us) have rental car coverage on your policy. My question in the comment section of their little form was, Why wasn’t I told this? And Please reply.

See, the odd thing is that the concierge claim place is the same distance away as the body shop we went to. The body shop that was slammed with business, the body shop that has a bad, bad, bad relationship with our the dickhead week late claims adjuster.

I never heard anything from TRAVELERS about my comment section complaint, so I send one more email directly to the name on the form, Sarah Bathrick. I say, I am a writer, and I am going to publish this story, but I think you should have a chance to tell your side. Call me.

Within an hour, a man named ROB X calls me and says he read my complaint last week and wants to apologize. He says they dropped the ball on this one and they are sorry. He says I should have been told of concierge claims, that my situation should have been handled better and that, he really appreciated the details in my complaint and that actually, they are using my letter as a model in training the claims reps-- as in “This is the wrong way to handle a claim.”

Gee, that makes me feel better.

He said he was going to take this to the next level to see if something could be done for us, then proceeded with the age old, now that we know about this you can be assured it won’t happen to anyone else- which really doesn’t help the person whose dog died for science or whose kid was injured by a drunk driver, and in my case, I was only inconvenienced and lied to for 30 DAYS- which happened to me a lot when I was single and I got over it then, too.

ROB tells me he has talked to the body shop HAYES CHRYSLER, LAWRENCEVILLE and the car is ready- have they called you, he asks. No. I say. They never call. But they did send this really funny letter the other day with a check attached saying they are"desperate to acquire several pre-owned 1999 300Ms by the close of business February 28th...we have been authorized to give top dollar for your vehicle.)

Talk about bad timing and crappy marketing.

I might sell it to them with a tailpipe bomb at no extra charge.

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