Monday, March 10, 2008


Progressive Direct issued a news release earlier this month touting the fact that it was lowering auto insurance rates in Colorado for the seventh time since 2003. Of course not every Colorado driver will see a decrease in their premiums — including me. Imagine my surprise when after reading the news release I realized that the company had increased my premium by more than $100 from what it was six months ago. I haven't had any wrecks. I haven't made any claims. I haven't received any moving violations. So why the out-of-the-blue rate increase? I called Progressive's customer service number to find out. The first person I talked with was very pleasant, but readily admitted that he couldn't answer my question. The woman I spoke with next responded to my questions, but didn't really have any good answers (at least in my opinion). My premium had increased, I was told, because my credit report was showing that in 2004 I was more than 30 days late (one time) in making a payment to some company that I've never even heard of. Heck, even if I had heard of it, I can't remember whether I was late paying a bill three years ago. My revolving credit balance also was "too high" on the day that Progressive decided to do the calculation and jack up my rate. When I mentioned my FICO score, I was told that it didn't matter because Progressive doesn't care about it when setting (jacking up) premiums. I was told that because of my 3-year-old late payment and my "too high" revolving credit balance (which often fluctuates depending on whether I'm waiting for an expense reimbursement check from work) I was a greater risk for missing a payment or making a claim and thus deserved a higher premium. I asked whether I had ever been late making a payment to Progressive (who I've had insurance with since 2004). The answer was no. I asked if I had had any claims or any moving violations. Again, the answer was no. I asked why my premium wasn't based on actual empirical data and my history with the company instead of on some screwed up algorithm. The answer was that's the way Progressive does business. Well, that's not the way that the right reverend's No. 2 son does business. And to say that I was overflowing with righteous indignation at that point would be an understatement. So, I asked to talk with someone who could actually resolve my problem and was told that there was nothing I could do, that I would have to live with the consequences of my less-than-stellar creditworthiness and that the company had every right to lump me into any category it wanted. To be really honest, I've never much liked insurance companies. They seem to love taking in premiums, but you'd better never ask for any of that money back in the form of a claim or they scream bloody murder, cancel your policy or cry that they aren't making enough profit. I still can't figure out how I suddenly became such an increased risk. But I am hopeful that there's another insurance company out there that will happily take my money every month without feeling the need to gouge me because some algorithm tells it to. Good deeds unrewarded Some of the latest news from Office Team was titled, "Don't let good deeds go unrewarded" (somehow I'm thinking Progressive is probably one of these companies, but maybe they do pass out bonuses and atta-boys to employers who stringently follow their silly edicts and run off paying customers). The gist of the OT survey was that more than a third (35 percent) of professionals polled said that businesses are ineffective at rewarding their employees' strong performance and that 30 percent of managers agreed. Diane Domeyer, executive director of Office Team said that businesses need to make retention a priority. "Rewarding employees for their accomplishments enhances productivity, reinforces positive behavior and builds staff morale and loyalty," she said. "Firms that fail to reward great work risk losing employees to businesses that do invest in recognition programs." And those rewards don't necessarily have to be monetary. Here a few other meaningful ways that OT says you can recognize good work: *Say thanks. Don't underestimate the power of saying "thank you," either in writing or in person. *Celebrate achievements. Honor employees' accomplishments in front of their peers. Staff events recognizing individuals or groups can enhance morale while highlighting exemplary behavior. *Give the gift of time. Reward staff accomplishments with extra days off or extended lunch breaks. Time away from the office allows staff members to recharge after major projects. *Provide plum assignments. Give strong performers the option of working on desirable projects. Doing so improves their motivation and enthusiasm for their work and encourages others to excel in their positions. Of course not having to jack up the employee portion of health care premiums also might be nice, but I'd be foolish to think that I was the only victim of the out-of-control insurance industry.

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