July 23, 2009

Insuring the insurance company

(The Mainly About Boating column appears here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)

THE MARINE INSURANCE DEPARTMENT of BoatU.S. produces, from time to time, an excellent little print magazine called Seaworthy. They call it the “Damage Avoidance Newsletter.” The idea behind it is to inform their customers about the negligent and silly things people do to their boats — the fires, the sinkings, the collisions, the silly things that result in more claims and less profit for the insurance division. Because Seaworthy taught its readers valuable lessons, and because those lessons resulted in fewer claims and more profit, BoatU.S. used to send out Seaworthy free to all its insurance customers.

But now things have changed. In this difficult economy, BoatU.S. has apparently seen the need to cut costs. They want me to read Seaworthy — oh yes they want that all right, because that benefits them — but they no longer want to pay for a print copy. They want me to receive it by e-mail instead.

Well, I don’t want it by e-mail. I am a old newspaperman. I want a nice print copy that I can take out on the deck with my afternoon tea, along with Newsweek and the Seattle Times, and page through at my leisure. Staring at a computer screen is not the same. There simply isn’t the same sense of tactile pleasure.

So now BoatU.S. is sending me leaflets, begging and pleading for my e-mail address, and I’m ripping up the leaflets and cursing them. I have to add that BoatU.S. is actually still publishing a print copy of Seaworthy, and I can still get it, but now they want to charge me for the privilege of learning things that will make them bigger profits. It’s not a big charge, I admit, something like $6 a year, I believe, but it’s the principle that sticks in my craw. Why should I pay for something that benefits them? And if it’s only $6 a year, can’t they pay it, for goodness’ sake? Are they so starved of profits that 50 cents a month is going to kill them?

I now fear the inevitable result of all this. Thousands of curmudgeons like me will refuse to pay for Seaworthy. We will forget all the good lessons and safety tips we learned from that excellent magazine, and we won’t learn any new ones because we don’t read Seaworthy any more. We will have more accidents. We will have more fires. We will hit more rocks. Our bilge pumps will short-circuit. Our seacocks will rot from electrolysis and our outdrives will leak at the stern because we will forget to do the maintenance. The number of claims upon BoatU.S. insurance will rise steeply and if the company doesn’t go bust we will all have to pay higher premiums.

There is an ancient saying that claims a kingdom was lost for the want of a nail. Perhaps BoatU.S. should think about it.

Today’s Thought
What the insurance companies have done is to reverse the business so that the public at large insures the insurance companies.
—Gerry Spence, Time, 24 Mar 86

“Do you have any pit bulls going cheap?”
“No, sir, all our pit bulls go ‘Woof!’”

No comments: