Doing Someone Else’s Job

File this one under things that really bug me. Or things I hate. Not sure if it’s technology, business, or laziness. You decide. What thing has become common for you that drives you batty?

I bought a cheap old truck over one Christmas holiday and called my insurance company to add it to my policy.

“Just give it the same coverage as the Saab,” I said.

When I got my first bill, I couldn’t figure out why the cost was twice that of my car when neither included car replacement. I called the local office.

“Well, Mr. Mitton, it looks like your Saab is a 1990 model, and the truck is a 2003. That’s the difference.”

“But, the coverage is the same,” I said, reading the costs off to her, wondering if she hadn’t noticed. “And the cost is double. I don’t get it.”

white and brown city buildings during daytime
I have no idea who I was really talking to…

“We don’t do cost here,” she said. “We send the VIN number back to corporate, and they apply the rate.”

“I get all that,” I said, “but it’s the same coverage, and I don’t have comprehensive.”

“Uh-huh. No comprehensive,” she said, reading my policy. “And you’re right. Cost is about double.” It was like talking into an echo chamber.

Clearly, we’re not on the same page. Like Jesus, I love a story that illustrates a point. “So…let’s say I hit a building with the Saab. I pay for any damages to the car, and you guys pay for damage to the building. Right?”

“Exactly right,” she said.

“But,” I went on, “let’s say I have the exact same accident in the truck. Same damage, same everything. I pay for the truck, and you guys pay for the damage to the building.”

“Right,” she says, without a clue where I’m going with this.

“But, it’s the same accident,” I say. “The same damage. Everything is exactly the same except for the car. I pay for that and you pay for the damage to the building. It makes no sense to me. It’s the same scenario but I’m being charged more.”

She is still reading. “Right. I get it. Here’s what we do. When you applied, we sent the VIN number to corporate, and they gave us a price.”

“I get that. I really get that. What I don’t get is why insurance for the twenty-year-old truck is twice as much as it is for my thirty-year-old Saab. And I don’t have comprehensive.”

“That is weird,” she said, “but we just send the VIN to corporate, and they give us a price.”

And so on. I have no beef with this woman. She’s doing her job with mind-numbing efficiency. And, I can’t argue with corporate. And I won’t switch companies. But, the entire phone call is a Seinfeld episode. We talk about a couple other policy items, and I ask to have them removed.

“No problem, Mr. Mitton. If you can just send me an email letting me know what to remove, I’ll forward it to corporate, and they’ll give me a new cost.”

I’m bewildered. “But we’re having this phone conversation right now? I just told you what I’d like to remove. Are you looking for written permission?”

“No, I just need to know what you want, then I can send it to corporate.”

“Well, you know what I want. We’re talking about it now.”

Non-plussed, she says, “And if you’ll just send that to me in an email, I’ll forward it to corporate, and they’ll calculate a price…”


Then it hits me. This isn’t about permission, or understanding the policy, or anything else. This is about shaving two minutes from the admin’s workday. Instead of writing an email with my info, she simply takes mine and clicks forward. The company uses my efforts to reduce hers. She doesn’t have to explain it in insurance-talk or even think about it. If she can forward forty emails a day, she’s saved an hour or more. If 100 admins can do that every day, then the company can get by with 97 admins instead of a hundred. It’s all about salary, benefits, and profits. It’s profits before people.

This is the exact reason I refuse to use self-check at the grocery store. I know that selling food is a tough business with vaporous profits, but I can’t be party to reducing corporate overhead by doing employee’s work. In both cases, with the insurance company and in the grocery store, the company is having me do its work to reduce load and personnel. No thanks.

My wife had the opposite experience two years ago. I was a patient at Atlanta’s Shepherd Brain and Spine Center, and my wife and two youngest girls went with me. When we arrived, a woman met my wife for a meet-and-greet. In her introduction, she said her job was to make my wife’s and daughter’s stay as enjoyable – or at least as bearable – as possible.  If we needed anything, or if the hospital needed anything, or if we needed to make an appointment at home, we only had to mention it to this woman and we could scratch it off our list. This wasn’t just a television commercial: we put the customer first! This was her job and she excelled at it. In today’s world, it was a truly unique experience.

Maybe I’m an old guy ranting about the good old days, but I’m partial to the model where I pay someone to do something and they do it. This new model of me paying for something that I have to do is backward to me. 

On a final note, I got my insurance sorted out by kowtowing to the man and calling corporate.