#109 Blog Post - Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Posted by Denny Hatch
The Weirdest Letter Ever Received
Peggy handed me this thing the other day.
It was a notice that Henry—a dear friend of 25 years and one-time neighbor across the street—had failed to pay his $3294 long term care insurance premium.
The letter lede:
The above mentioned individual has provided your name and address
in order for this notice to be sent to you. The purpose is to inform or
remind you that the policy is in danger of lapsing.
I turned this bizzarro letter over to see what was on the back.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
FOR LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE POLICIES:
PLEASE RETURN THE BOTTOM PORTION OF THIS BILL WITH YOUR CHECK MADE PAYABLE TO CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY IN THE RETURN ENVELOPE PROVIDED.
THE PREMIUM DUE MUST BE PAID TO CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY OR TO THE AUTHORIZED COLLECTOR INDICATED ON THE ENCLOSED RETURN ENVELOPE. PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED WITHIN THE GRACE PERIOD PROVIDED IN THE POLICY.
IF WE DO NOT RECEIVE THE PREMIUM DUE, THE POLICY MAY LAPSE AND THE POLICY MAY BE FORFEITED AND VOID EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED IN THE POLICY.
PAYMENT MAY BE MADE BY CHECK, BANK DRAFT, OR MONEY ORDER.
YOUR AGENT DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO EXTEND THE TIME FOR PAYING ANY PREMIUM, TO WAIVE FORFEITURE, OR ALTER THE TERMS OR CONDITIONS OF ANY POLICY.
THIRD PARTY NOTICE
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO OUR POLICY HOLDERS REGARDING THIRD PARTY NOTICE:
IN ORDER TO HELP PROTECT YOUR VALUABLE LONG TERM CARE COVERAGE, WE OFFER YOU THE OPTION TO DESIGNATE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND TO BE A THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE. THIS THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE WOULD RECEIVE COPIES OF ANY LATE PAYMENT NOTICES.
THE DESIGNATED PERSON WOULD BE ABLE TO HELP YOU TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT YOUR LONG TERM CARE POLICY FROM LAPSING DUE TO NON-PAYMENT OF PREMIUM.
PLEASE FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW IF YOU DECIDE TO ADD, CHANGE, UPDATE OR REMOVE A THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE ON YOUR LTC POLICY. THE THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE MAY TERMINATE HIS OR HER RESPONSIBILITIES AT ANY TIME BY SUBMITTING A WRITTEN NOTICE TO YOU, THE POLICYHOLDER AND TO THE CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY. THE POLICY HOLDER MAY REMOVE, ADD, OR CHANGE THE THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE AT ANYTIME BY SENDING A WRITTEN REQUEST TO THE CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY, PO BOX 64912, ST. PAUL, MN 55164-0912. THE THIRD PARTY DESIGNEE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR PREMIUM PAYMENT.
□ Policyholder Address/Name Change □ Third Party to be removed □ I elect not to have a Third Party Designee □ I elect the following to be a Third Party Designee
Address: _________City: ___________State.: ____Zip:.______
Policy Number _____Policyholder's Phone Number:. ________
Policyholder's Signature:. ______________________________
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I have seen a lot of insurance offers; never one like this.
Thirty-three years ago Peggy and I started WHO'S MAILING WHAT! — a newsletter and archive service about direct mail for direct marketers. We used to receive mail from correspondents around the country
Average month's net (non-dupes): 1,800 mailings.
Multiply that out over 30 years and it's 650,000 mailings.
In all those years, the above is the weirdest, eeriest, strangest, most whacked-out letter I have ever seen.
Why would an insurance company send Peggy such a letter?
My initial opinion was the insurance industry is in crisis and desperate for loot.
• Since the beginning of the year, there have been nearly 7,900 wildfires that have burned over 3.4 million acres in California alone. Since August 15, when California's fire activity elevated, there have been at least 25 fatalities and nearly 5,400 structures destroyed. Plus thousands more in Washington and Oregon.
• As of September 19th, 6.7 million cases of Covid-19 with 384,687 hospitalizations and 191,303 deaths have been recorded.
• Shaking our heads in wonderment, Peggy emailed Henry's wife and asked if we should pay the $3294.59 premium.
From Henry's wife to Peggy:
Wow that is weird. Henry's CNA renewal was lost in the mail and
they sent us a duplicate Which I paid this week. I will have Henry
call CNA to fix this problem. Please ignore.
Still mystified, I emailed Henry's wife the text of the above CNA letter in red and black:
The above mentioned individual has provided your name and address in order for this notice to be sent to you. The purpose is to inform or remind you that their policy is in danger of lapsing. Please know that you are under no obligation to pay this amount, however this friend or family member requests that you contact them regarding the status of this overdue premium payment. In order to prevent this this policy from being lapsed, we must receive the premium no later than 30 calendar days from the date at the top of this notice. If you have questions, please call the toll free Policy Owner Services number listed above.
Quick question: The two lines in red: TRUE OR FALSE?
True. I'd forgotten that I gave them Peggy's name as backup in case I failed to pay my bill. Presumably when she got my late payment notice she would notify me to pay the bill. You notified me, and I paid, so it all works.
Okay. BUT NOBODY TOLD PEGGY!
Takeaways to Consider
•Insurance is something you spend a ton of money on and hope you never collect.
• We have bought a lot of insurance over the years—automobile, health (including long term care), homeowner's, renter's, liability, travel, etc.—as well as studying hundreds of mail order insurance promotions. I have never seen anything like this.
• My opinion: the folks at CNA are chumps. Quite simply they dropped the ball by not thinking through the offer and confusing the hell out of—and sending shock waves through—two of Henry's best friends. (Were they okay? Have they gone broke and are cutting back by cancelling their health policy?
• In short, you have to think through every possible contingency when you make an offer. In this case, either CNA or Henry should have mentioned to Peggy that she was involved in this transaction.
• Here's a true story about a marketing screw-up by the chumps in one of the major airlines—I don't remember which one.
Prior to the era of frequent-flyer miles, the airline's agency came up with the idea to take advantage of the revolutionary new techniques of (then) leading-edge computer razzle-dazzle—the ability to create personalized and signed letters—Trompe l'oeil. They looked like the real deal. These could not only include the person's name, address and personalized salutation ("Dear Mr. & Mrs. Sample"), but also adding individual information about that person in the body of the letter to show how much the airline cared.
Why not write a letter to all recent passengers thanking them for flying with the airline and include a temporary membership card for admission to the airline club lounge at the local airport? the agency reasoned. This might generate some club memberships and some travel business. The airline marketing VP loved the idea and gave the green light. The personalized letter went something like this.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Sample,
We were delighted that you chose (name of airline) for your
recent trip to Las Vegas...
One not-so-small problem surfaced.
This warm, fuzzy letter arrived in homes across the country and a lot of Mrs. Samples opened it. (It was addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Sample.)
In a number of instances, the "Mrs. Sample" who flew to Vegas with Mr. Sample was NOT the real Mrs. Sample, but rather another lady.
Instead of database wizardry, a marketing catastrophe ensued. Divorces. Lawsuits. Ugly. Ugly.
So, yes, you own your customers. But you have to be damn careful what you say to them!
Any Time I hear the word “insurance” I think
of Woody Allen in Take the Money and Run
Allen was on a chain gang with a bunch of other prisoners and incurred the wrath of the boss. As special punishment he was consigned to three days in a black hole with an insurance salesman.
Word count: 1308
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