How come, every year at around this time, I wake up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat in the realisation that my home insurance has lapsed. Short of sticking pins in my eyes, how will I ever remember? No reminder has been forthcoming from the insurers by either sms, letter or email – and so the policy has just been allowed to lapse (it expired in early April). This time around, it was only when a friend was recounting the incident of a neighbourhood break-in, that the penny dropped (the friend said ‘thank goodness they had household insurance‘).
I worked as an insurance broker in my younger days and this lack of communication definitely wasn’t how we did business then. Even way back in 1997/1998 we managed to send emails and made phone calls to make sure everyone renewed on time. Getting through those renewal lists was the bane of my life. However, when I called the local insurer here to follow up and get cover put in place asap, they said, ‘Oh, we sent you a letter a few months ago. Did you not get it?‘. The letter evidently did not arrive and who on earth relies on snail-mail these days anyway? I must admit that I got a little mad. Not helped by the fact that the lady on the phone kept saying that she couldn’t hear me due to the bad phone line, even though I could hear her perfectly, and when I asked her to phone me back she just didn’t. So I call again (a couple of times) and each time the insurance lady puts on this whole charade, pretending that she is another operator and has never spoken to me before- until, she realises she is busted because I obviously recognise her voice and I start speaking my crappy swahili and she puts her hand over the phone when I ask her to confirm her name and I hear her saying, ‘Ndiyo ni huyu..’ (ie it’s her again) before, without explanation, transferring me to someone else, obviously with the preamble that I am her most troublesome customer ever. And in the background I say, exasperated, – ‘Okay, so your name is ‘ndiyo ni huyu is it?!’ but she doesn’t hear me.
When I spoke to the supervisor, who admittedly was great, I could not help but exclaim ‘you let policy holders know that their insurance is about to expire by one letter sent via physical mail only – but this is 2015!‘ And don’t start me on the motivation required and process necessary to get the insurance cover arranged in the first place. I am sprouting grey hairs just thinking about it!
Which leads me to vehicle insurance. Again, the initiative to renew apparently has to come from the insured. And how come the police always know on which exact day to peer into your windscreen, to discover that your car insurance has expired? 🙁 It happens. Happens a lot.
It happened to me when I had a full car load of overseas visitors with children (groan). The policeman couldn’t believe his luck when he pulled me over randomly to ask questions about fire extinguishers, high visability vests and inspect my driving licence, when he noticed that I was driving illegally. He told me to wait on a roadside verge along with a clutch of other guilty looking drivers and there I sat, making frantic phone calls in a cold sweat to my husband. Arrest and a visit to the local police station were threatened but I begged for a little time. Luckily the visitors who were with me also live in East Africa, so were pretty familiar with this type of scenario, walked to the nearest shopping centre to grab some lunch. My husband, on receiving my call whilst in the office, sprang into action, heading directly into the town centre to collect the new tax disc from a member of the insurance company staff, whom he asked to stand outside on the road, circle of paper in hand, to save time. (The insurers admitted that they had failed to send any reminder about the insurance expiring, so they were pretty much on the back foot so happy to comply).
My husband then followed this speedy interception with a high speed drive to my location some kilometers away. As he approached my car, my husband subtly placed his hand through the open passenger window, pressing it onto the inside of my windscreen, thus affixing said new tax disc in one smooth movement, then he purposefully asked the officer, ‘what seems to be the problem?’ Some sweet talking ensued and I was miraculously let off the charge. That was 10 years ago. Not sure that such a crazy mission would work nowadays, largely because the dreadful traffic jams would foil any quick-thinking plan.
And when it comes to random police checks, keeping tabs on the expiry date of your driving licence is another thing to bear in mind. Again, a friend told me that she was stopped by police and arrested when the traffic policeman found that her driving licence had expired. As we chatted over coffee, I covertly pulled mine out of my bag and unraveled the paper pages to see that mine to see that it was months out of date. Oh dear…