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Tuesday, November 30

Like a Good Neighbor?
I got an email through the Stanford Alumni mailing list about one
alum's experiences with State Farm Insurance. I checked on the
Stanford online directory and she's a friend-of-a- friend and works
for Disney. Interesting:

-- beginning of email --
On the topic of auto insurance, i feel the need and responsibility to
get on my soapbox for the first and hopefully last time in front of the
stanford network audience.

For those of you not planning to read the text below, let me summarize.
My experience with State Farm was ridiculously painful. They wouldn't
return calls, would make me repeat all my information every time I
called, would give me inconsistent quotes on different days, and would
schedule me repeatedly in fictitious appointment slots. Finally, my
interactions ended when, after two months of trying on my end to make
it work, the agent got on the phone and basically rudely yelled at me.
Complaints to the supervisor yielded nothing either. So all I can do
is urge each of you to strongly consider whether it's worth the almost
unbearable aggravation of dealing with State Farm. It's not like their
quotes are that competitive anyway.

More details:
1. The first agent I tried to contact did not return my messages.

2. When I finally got ahold of a live voice, I managed to get an
insurance quote out of the receptionist and set up an appointment after
she insisted that their office wouldn't issue insurance without seeing
the car first (which many other companies don't require). I thought the
appointment time was a bit odd--it was for 9PM on a weekday--but she
insisted that was legit. I called day of to confirm, but no one picked
up all day and the office was very closed at 9PM.

3. I called a week later and the lady who answered that time assured me
that there was no way I could have gotten a 9PM appointment because
the office is closed at that time. plus, she didn't have any record of
my previous quote in the system. I asked to speak to the agent but was
told the agent was busy. messages went unanswered.

4. Only moderately deterred, I tried another agent. this agent's
receptionist was unhelpful and rude, but I was able to get the agent
herself on the line. she sounded competent so I figured I would finally
get this ordeal over with. the quote she gave me over the phone was a
LOT more expensive than the one that the first office gave, so she said
she would check with the first office to see why they differed. sounds
good. she said she would get back to me in the next couple of days.

5. a week goes by and no response so I call her. turns out I can't
even leave her a message because the answer machine's broken or full.

6. I finally got ahold of her the following week. her excuse: she went
on vacation last week and no one knew the codes to the office alarm so
no one could get into the office all week long. plus apparently no one
knew how to reach her on her vacation to get the codes so they just
took the week off and let the messages pile up on her machine. is this
even a business or a bunch of middle-schoolers running a bake sale?

7. more painful interactions ensue, fueled on my end solely by the
amount of sunk costs (energy, emotion, time) already invested. finally,
we settle on a Saturday apptmt. I stressed to her that I could only do
Saturdays because I work long weekdays, and she's more than

8. I call on the Friday before to confirm my appointment. the new
receptionist (she fired the old one a few days ago for negligence)
tells me that I'm not on the agent's calendar for Saturday. in fact,
the agent is busy on Saturday. okay, I tell her, then give me her
availability next Saturday. nope, the agent's busy next Saturday too.
fine, then let me know which is the first Saturday she does have a spot
free. keep in mind that after each exchange she puts me on hold to do
god knows what. finally, this last time she comes back with the
incredible answer of: the agent is never free on Saturdays; she is no
longer working on Saturdays. never mind the fact that her website
publicizes Saturday hours or that I HAD JUST SPOKEN TO THE
AGENT ABOUT SATURDAYS. at this point I am testy and she is
downright rude. downright rude. she finally gets sick of answering
my questions, sighs rudely, and puts me on hold again. lo and
behold the agent herself picks up and, without preamble, says,
"What is your problem?" I didn't know we had arrived at the day when
a business that should pride itself on customer service could accost
a potential customer with the question, "what is your problem?" at
this point I see no reason to make an appointment with her.

9. I'm understandably outraged. my officemate, who has had to
overhear all of my frustrated phone calls over the last two months to
State Farm, agrees that this is just ridiculous. We both thought it
would be a good idea to at least try to lodge a complaint to the agents'
supervisors, understanding that it wouldn't do me any good because
there was no way in hell I would do any business with State Farm
again, but it would at least help them run their operations better
with outside feedback. I spoke to the supervisor's receptionist who
assured me that that supervisor had jurisdiction over both of the
agents I had had bad experiences with and then left a message.
predictably, I was never shown the courtesy of a return call.

now you could dismiss this as isolated bad incidents, but I would argue
that two bad agents and a bad supervisor might be a little more than
'isolated'. If it was truly this hard for me to get a quote and sign
a policy, think about how painful it must be to make an accident claim
after they're no longer trying to 'court' me as a customer.

I'd be more than happy to provide anyone who's interested with the
names of the two agents so that hopefully everyone can stay clear of
them. I hope anyone who's gotten to the bottom of this email can at
least sympathize with the mind-numbing aggravation of having to deal
with truly idiotic and offensive customer service.
-- end of email --