Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just Like A Culturally Unaware Neighbor

Right now I'm on page 448 of Deathly Hallows... but I can only read so much in one day.

Anyway, I promised you a story. It's a long story -- I'm sorry. My stories tend to run long. The ridiculous stuff happens near the end, if you want to skip ahead. ^__^

Every year I have an annual meeting with my insurance agent. This meeting is theoretically to overview my policy; but, as anyone who's dealt with insurance companies knows, it's merely an excuse to get me into the office for a one-on-one sales pitch. Great.

In the office, however, I was struck by how much my insurance agent had changed since I last saw her. In a year her hair had gone from honey-bottle blonde to a tepid gray, and she had become very thin. She seemed to be moving a little too quickly, and without forethought; her head and shoulders often jerked as if they had been planning to start off in different directions.

She presented me with the option of increasing my life insurance policy, which I quickly explained I was not going to accept, as the only reason I have life insurance is to get the multi-line discount on my car insurance. Either way I have no dependents, so there's little point to paying more now for a theoretically bigger kickback.

The meeting should have "ended" in five minutes, but (having once been a telemarketer) I knew that my agent was going to take a few more shots at turning my "no" into a "yes," and I wasn't going to be allowed to leave until she did. Had this been a phone conversation, I would have hung up; but I couldn't very well just walk out of the room. (That, of course, being the "point" of the annual meeting.)

Her next gambit was the expected "well, you still don't have renter's insurance" play -- and I explained once again that the total value of my possessions was probably $700, at best, and I was uninterested. She proposed that we make a chart to determine the "true value!" of my belongings, but I didn't care to go over my thrift-store lifestyle with her and declined.

And I put my hand on my purse, hoping it would signal the end of this meeting, but my agent turned around, typed a few numbers into her computer, and whirled back, eyes gleaming.

"Have you ever considered personal liability insurance?"

"What's that?" I asked, simply because I was curious. I like to know what things are before salespeople try to convince me to buy them.

"Well..." she began, and then she affected a smile. "Suppose you... I mean, you said you were traveling to India?"

(I had told her this during the "building rapport" portion of our meeting. It did not inspire me towards any rapport.)

"So," she continued, "what if something... I mean I don't want to say that anything would happen, but suppose you were to..."

I suddenly understood what personal liability insurance was.

"Do you mean if I got drunk and punched someone in the face?" I asked, completely deadpan.

My agent was almost floored. "Well, I don't mean... yes, that's what the insurance would be for, but I don't think you're going to do a thing like that."

"Neither do I," I said. "I think we'll be all right."

Check and mate, since the agent had just told me that I didn't actually need the product she was trying to sell. But she had one more shot.

"Tutoring!" she cried. "Will you be doing any tutoring in India?"

"I'll be teaching," I said.

"That's like tutoring!"

Yes, it is, I thought wryly, but did not say anything.

"So what if... well, what if something were to happen between you and one of your students?"

"I'm sorry?" I asked, even though I knew perfectly well where she was going. I just wanted to clarify that my insurance agent was using the sales technique of proposing I might commit indiscretions with my future students.

"You know, suppose something unfortunate were to happen between you and a student! You wouldn't actually have to do it, the student could just decide to accuse you!"

I was relieved to know that she was offering me the option of not committing said indiscretions.

She continued. "Does India have insurance?"

"I... believe so," I said meekly.

"Then they must have lawsuits!"

Yes, I thought, although everyone rides to the courthouse on elephants and tigers.

"And I would hate to see you get thrown in some Indian jail! I don't know what Indian jails are like, but I'm sure they're much worse than American ones!"

That was the end of the meeting, as far as I was concerned; I declined her offer, thanked her, got up, and left. I wonder if my agent knew exactly everything she had said during that meeting. I can't help feeling sorry, a little, because she had looked so down on her luck, but all the same, her sales tactics were so... ridiculous. Ah, well. *__^


Anil P said...

Like they say 'to some giving up is not an option' unless they're made to give up :)

Daniel said...


Elephants and tigers.

My Indian physics professor back in college, when explaining to us about elastic and inelastic collisions, told us that an example of an inelastic collision was like when in India little children throw poop at passing vans and the poop sticks.

We all laughed so hard.

ctrlalteredmind said...

haha, back home in India I remember the ardent and truly innovative discussions we'd have about the lawsuits in the US. While there is the theoretical concept of 'insurance' in India, I don't think it extends much beyond auto, home (not even renter's) and life insurance. In fact, I'd guess that the local insurance salesman would drop off his chair and pinch himself if someone walked into his office asking for anything beyond these :)