Tuesday, 13 May 2008

What is it with travel agents, estate agents and insurance salespeople?

Before all you travel agents, estate agents and insurance hawkers out there get your knickers in a knot, I just want to ask you this: how is it possible that in the 44 years I’ve been alive, I’ve had (this is a rough estimate) one good experience with a travel agent and six bad; one good experience with an estate agent and 12 bad; and no good experience ever with an insurance salesperson? (I’m talking business experiences here, obviously.)

It just seems to me to fly in the face of the law of averages.

I wish I were making this up but I’m not: an estate agent once ‘sold’ my house, only to discover months later that she’d actually sold the house next door – she’d requested and been given the wrong deed documents by the deeds office, and never noticed. Worse, she actually had the temerity to phone me (but not before banking her big fat commission, of course) and ask me to sort out the mess. (I told her no.)

I can’t tell you how many times insurance salespeople have schnaaied me. I’ve spent fantastically enormous sums of money on short-term insurance and have never – NOT ONCE – put in a claim, genuine and honest in all respects, that didn’t turn into a nightmare of red tape, backpedalling, excuses and the like. NOT ONCE.

I was also once pressured into buying a life insurance policy by a ‘financial adviser’ on behalf of a huge bank that turned out to have been sold to me under entirely false pretences. The salesperson disappeared off the face of the earth; the bank continued accepting my premiums; and when I finally queried the policy, they denied all knowledge of it. It was only when I threatened to take the case to the Ombudsman that they relented – and then all they were prepared to do was refund my premiums, no interest added. By then I was just too bloody tired to fight any more.

As for travel agents: sheesh. If you read about my disastrous attempts to get a US visa for my daughter, you will know that I had truck with a travel agent in securing her air ticket. This same travel agent sold me a travel insurance policy that, she assured me, would cover the cost of a ticket cancellation. FULL STOP.

She now INSISTS she told me that the policy would only cover the cost of ticket cancellation in the case of illness or death. ‘Really?’ I said. ‘But why would I buy such a policy for my hale-and-hearty teenage daughter? If you think about it, you’ll see that it just doesn’t make sense.’

Down to the wire, I asked her to email me a copy of the policy document I’d supposedly signed (I signed at least a dozen bits of paper that day in her office; I assumed the policy was among them). Waddaya know, she couldn’t find it. And when she emailed me a clean copy, I realised why: I’d never seen it; I’d certainly never signed it.

When I pointed that if I hadn’t seen the policy document, I could hardly be expected to know what was contained in it, she informed me (and I am quoting directly from her email here), ‘I recall giving you a brochure when you were here in the office after you had filled in our booking form and terms and conditions. It had the phone number and the web address of the insurance company on there if you had any questions or wanted advice, so you were given the tools to get information from the insurer, as well.’ (‘As well’? As well as what?)

Now, isn’t that alarming: she gets to flog the insurance policy to me (and, I assume, take a commission on it – if not her, her company), but she doesn’t have to tell me what’s in it? Isn’t that like, say, selling someone a mulberry tart (one not made by you), and handing them a brochure at the same time. The brochure has a website address on it. And if you care to go to that website, you may find the following: ‘You are strongly advised not to eat this mulberry tart. It is loaded with arsenic.’

Okay, that’s an extreme example, but you get my drift? It just isn’t right that these middlemen earn bucks off your business (bucks that, make no mistake, YOU pay in the end), and then don’t do their jobs right. And then, when the kakka hits the wookah-wookah-wookah, they turn around and tell you it’s YOUR FAULT!

It just makes me so damned angry.

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4 comments:

Tati Capelli said...

Dear Juno and Muriel,
Just to let you know I've posted a comment on your robery post (don't know if you keep track on your older posts)... still hoping I get to live in Joburg someday soon.. hehe!
I'll be waiting for your reply about Johannesburg pros and cons... oh! And I was doing a little research and read that Houghton could be a nice place to live. Is that true?
Looking forward for your answer...
xoxo

Juno said...

Tati, thank you for your comment. You have really made my day with your lovely and positive comments.

I don't think you should live in Houghton (although it's a very nice suburb); I think you should live right next to me, hehe!

meggie said...

Love this post Muriel.Of course, I also wish it hadn't been true or necessary to write!
I know just what you mean. How do these wretched bastards get away with what they do? How can the perfect the art of lying so convincingly? I suppose it is a job requiesite, before they get employed.

settledowndude said...

Muriel Your daughter is wise behond her years in NOT going to that deppresing septic city New York. I,ve done 9 days stranded in a monsoon in Mumbai, in an industrial slum, and thats better than new york. Benoni city centre on a sunday in better. And thats the "reward" for all the crap one has to put up with at the Embassy. AND you get to park at Killarney Mall which should cheer Juno up. Fortunately we are South African, so you get to expklain through gritted teethto the idiots at the embassy what to do (they dont know themselves.) Oh and they will DHL your visa even if its next door, for FOUR TIMES the standard rate. No you cant collect it yourselve silly. and you ALL arrive at 7.30 so you can wait 4 hours. New york is just as crap as the Visa procedure ann beurocracy and no clue , and some winey brat will cough on you once you get there. Go to Kazakstan its nicer.