Monday

The White Mercedes

When I was first starting out as a church insurance agent and doing renewals on my own, one of the first churches I went to was an African-American church in San Diego. It was kind of a run down building in a run down neighborhood, and the church had a history of claims for all kinds of issues, some of which the company probably shouldn't have paid because they were caused by lack of maintenance. Because of the claims history the company had decided to raise the church's deductible from $250 to $2,500 to try and stop the pattern of church repairs paid at insurance company expense.

I met the pastor in his office and for the next hour he gave me one sob story after another about how poor the church was, how he needed a break on his premium, and how they'd try not to file any more claims. I told him that the higher deductible would lower his premium somewhat, but if he had another claim, the church would end up paying a lot more of the costs and could possibly lose their coverage.

He then took me on a tour of the church, the whole time regaling me with more sob stories about the financial condition of the church. The building was insurable, but not by much, but I figured the company would be protected by the higher deductible if anything else happened.

At the conclusion of the meeting I was sitting in my car in front of the building filling in some paperwork, and in my mirror, I saw a nearly new white Mercedes sedan pull out from behind the church. The driver: Mr. "Poor, Poor Me" Pastor. The church couldn't pay their insurance bill, but they had enough money to buy the pastor a new Mercedes.

Some months later there was another claim for something else that shouldn't have been covered. When told that he had to pay the first $2,500, the pastor freaked and immediately starting making racial threats against the company. If the company didn't reduce his deductible AND his premium AND pay the claim as he demanded, he would go to other churches in his association and tell them that the company was racist against black churches. The company folded like a cheap suit.

Sure enough, other claims followed and somebody in the company finally had the guts to cancel the guy. He screamed at me on the phone and in nine years was the only client I ever hung up on. We refused to take him back then, and in later years when he came back begging for reinstatement because nobody else would touch him.

I politely suggested he take his Mercedes and drive it somewhere where they cared.

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