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Irritating Sales Reps


I'm thinking of buying a new car (that's right, three months later and I still haven't done it…) so I'm also thinking about auto insurance.

I'm looking at insurance incentives. I discovered a neat one for GEICO and sent them an e-mail asking for more information:

I've read that Berkshire Hathaway shareholders qualify for an 8% discount on GEICO insurance. ( page 9.) I would like more details about this benefit. What exactly are the qualifications, is it for all forms of insurance or just auto, etc.

I promptly received the following response:

Dear Kyle:

Thank you for your email.

If you are a member, then you will qualify. You may call us at (800)841-3000 to get more information. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience.

Wow, I'm confused already! What's this talk of being a "member" all about? Is that newspeak for "shareholder", or does it mean "customer", or does GEICO run a lizard porn site on the side? (Follow link at your own risk.)

And the telephone number is wrong — that's the number for auto insurance claims service. Obviously the wrong people to talk to for a question like this.

So, I wrote back, trying to be nice about their clear failure to read and/or understand my question:

I'm afraid my question was misunderstood. You've given me the telephone number for auto insurance claims service, which is quite irrelevant to my question. I do not have a GEICO auto policy (yet) — I'm asking about a discount that might make me buy one.

<sigh> …it shouldn't be this hard. It's almost as if they don't want me as a customer. And then I remember that poor customer service is easily explained by the principal-agent problem.

See, it is good to study economics. :)

Tiny Island