Nov. 8, 2018

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS---IN MY HOUSE.

INSURANCE….We can’t drive a car without it; we can’t buy a house without it; our Health Care depends on it….. and on and on.  I prefer to keep life “simple”. When I find an insurance agent I trust…I ask them to help me with all my insurance needs.  In past years, I trusted State Farm.

After  moving to Little Rock, I shopped around, tested-the-water with several Insurance Companies and  felt relieved to find a State Farm agent who offered a much-lower price.  But, after ten years, when I had no choice but leave Little Rock, my “trusted” State Farm agent threw me away, like yesterday’s lover.

 Desperate to find home and car insurance, I interviewed an ALLSTATE agent near my new home in Hot Springs Village.  The agent was older, only worked part-time, but seemed honest.  Too bad I didn’t interview his boss, the owner of that ALLSTATE agency.

A few months later, I woke in the middle of the night to a very-loud thunderstorm with lots of noisy activity on my roof.  I quickly realized it was a hail storm.  I turned on the outside lights and watched golf ball-sized ice-- playing, jumping, and bouncing everywhere.  The ice balls binged my windows, performed hi-flying acts off my roof, then danced and bopped around—together--on my deck. The chunks of Hail demonstrated their ice show at full-volume for more than fifteen minutes before abruptly shutting-down.

The next day, my neighbor across the street walked over to discuss the hail storm.  She advised me that everyone on the cul-de-sac had been hit by the powerful hail storm and, because of the storm’s intensity,  we probably all had roof damage.  Knowing I was new to the village, my neighbor gave me the name of the licensed inspector she had already contacted. Of course, I also needed to file a claim with my Insurance Company, ALLSTATE.  Nothing could have prepared me for the nightmarish Hell that awaited me.

As a homeowner, I had never filed an insurance claim. As someone who’d worked since I was sixteen and understood the importance of customer service….I assumed the claims process would be  easy, friendly, professional.  After all, ALLSTATE was a nationally-recognized Insurance company.  

Never assume anything. Almost immediately, I began receiving phone calls from California, Kansas, Missouri, and other calls identifying themselves as ALLSTATE agents who wanted details about my roof damage; calls from people who could barely speak English saying they were ALLSTATE Inspectors—asking the size of my home, square footage of my roof; calls from people identifying themselves as ALLSTATE Representatives in NYC-- demanding personal information… like my bank account number and cash-on-hand.

Finally, I received a local phone call from a man who seemed somewhat believable. It seems he'd been authorized by ALLSTATE to inspect my roof. He had my correct address and phone number so I set a date for the inspection. I was concerned when the “inspector” showed up driving a car without any ALLSTATE markings. But, I’d made certain that the licensed inspector-- suggested by my neighbor—would also inspect the roof at the same time as the ALLSTATE inspector.

Both inspectors agreed that my roof had been damaged by the Hail Storm. The licensed inspector left.  Minutes later, I was not prepared for the ALLSTATE inspector shoving a phone in my face with some woman staring at me. Without an introduction, the strange woman began talking:  “I’ve been on your roof with our inspector so…stick by your phone. I’ll be calling you back in the next twenty minutes or so with my determination about your roof.”  I waited for the rest of that day….and the next….and the strange woman never called me back. One week later I received an email from the strange woman…saying her phone had “messed up” and she’d had a bunch of mishaps and---anyway---she was attaching an estimate of my damages but….they weren’t from the Hail.  She stated that my damages were from age and were approximately 550 dollars and, of course, would not be covered by insurance because my deductible was almost 2000 dollars. When I tried to call the strange woman ….I got a voice message.  I left several messages over several days and she never called me back. Days later, she sent me a form letter that said "Thanks for talking with me at such great length about my visit to your roof with our inspector. Thanks also for agreeing with my assessment."

Confused and concerned, I called Alan Springer, the owner of the local ALLSTATE Agency.  We’d never met or spoken but I was his customer and  I’d seen his many TV ads….bragging about how his customers were “in good hands.” 

Ours was a one-sided conversation. Each time I tried to speak, Alan Springer interrupted-- his voice escalating to the highest pitch possible without screaming—.  He was determined to talk over me. At one point, he yelled: "I heard you were a Beauty Queen but I think you’re just a fuc### Drama Queen"!

When I called ALLSTATE’S corporate offices, a man with a very soft voice answered the phone.  He listened briefly before saying he would have someone contact me soon.   Two or three days later I received a call from Kansas.

Basically, I was back where I started. It was “The Boss” of the strange woman who’d played “cat and mouse” with me for weeks.  When I told “The Boss” I’d taken pictures of the water marks that were now appearing on my ceiling after recent rains, she said, sarcastically, “so, how deep is the water on the floor?”  Then, “The Boss” advised me she was searching around for an official inspector who would visit my home to check my roof. Two weeks later….she sent an email with the “official” inspector’s name, date, and time he would visit me.

SO….always at ALLSTATE’s convenience….the “official” inspector arrived at my house in an expensive white SUV, professionally branded with the ALLSTATE logo.  He talked with me in a very robotic-customer-service-manner, looked at the now very-apparent water stains on my living room and hall ceilings and…as a grand finale…climbed on my roof.  He was there for approximately ten minutes before returning his ladder to his vehicle and sharing his findings with me.

The “official” inspector proudly disputed the findings of the other two inspectors. In fact, he shamed them for reaching such a ridiculous conclusion.  I was forced to listen as this “official” inspector bragged about His perfect record.  I bit my tongue as I heard how…He’d been an “official” Inspector for more than 30 years….how he was licensed, certified, and authorized….and how he had found absolutely NO evidence of any Hail Damage to My Roof.

And, before leaving he suggested I should use bleach on the ceiling's watermarks----but only after they dried!

I’ve contacted other insurance companies, desperate to distance myself from ALLSTATE’s “good hands”.  Ironically, in a small community like mine, word travels super-fast.  It seems everyone knows I’m the ONLY HOUSE in my neighborhood that didn’t get a new roof after the hail storm’s damage. No insurance company will insure me until I buy myself a new roof!

So….I’m being held hostage by criminals…by an Insurance company that lies about its customers being “in good hands”. Sure, I still have  ALLSTATE home and car insurance but my current experience tells me...it's worthless. Last week I checked the BBB and found that Alan Springer and his local agencies ARE NOT MEMBERS OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU.  That speaks volumes.

In the meantime, my community continues to receive lots of rain.  Hour by hour, the wet marks on the living room and hall ceilings are expanding…growing larger.  I check them regularly, especially in the middle of the night.  I fear the leaks will suddenly turn into waterfalls and flood the floor, the walls, and the furniture!  

If I had money(I live on social security and a very small savings),  I would immediately file a lawsuit against ALLSTATE. I have evidence and documentation but... these days…few attorneys work on a contingency basis.

 The truth is blatantly obvious; I see it and experience it every day. Most companies today—like ALLSTATE-- don’t give a tinkers-damn about older people like me.  They take our money and shrug their shoulders when it’s time to provide service.

PS... Judging from his foul mouth and arrogant attitude, I'm sure Alan Springer is a lousy song and dance man!