Friday, January 30, 2009

Know When to Say Obnoxious

Because of a delayed flight, I spent a lot of time in an airport bar the other day, but not nearly as much time as the guy on the stool next to me.

In fact, this guy had so much to drink that the bartender finally had to cut him off. Then he got angry. His slightly less inebriated friend tried to soothe things over by explaining that the bartender was only trying to keep him from becoming “obnoxious.”

“I’m not obobob --,” he said.

“I’m not obobobnoxxx --,” he said, giving it second chance.

“I’m not like that,” he concluded, apparently realizing that three syllables were at least one too many for him.

It was like a combination of Jeff Conaway from Celebrity Rehab and Porky Pig.

I was so entertained that I shared this story during my presentation in Orlando as an example of how not to communicate. It seemed to go over pretty well.

As for the guy, he got on the same plane as me, but I never heard a peep out of him ... obnoxious or otherwise. He must have been sleeping it off.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Editor Scissorhands

The New Albany Tribune ran my letter to the editor about State Farm today. They only edited out two words: State Farm. Guess they didn't want to tick off an advertiser.

You can read the letter here. It is the second one on the page.

Right after the letter ran, a woman called my home. She said her son is having exactly the same problem as me. His insurer? State Farm.

I appreciate The Tribune carrying my letter. As a former reporter, I'm a big fan of community newspapers. I only wish they would've told me they were uncomfortable publishing State Farm's name. As for me, I'm not afraid. The truth is unassailable.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So in the interest of resting my fingertips, here's what my roof looks like now. Notice the shingles are coming up all over the place. They weren't like this before that blowhard Hurricane Ike visited. Granted, I was only educated at a public university, but seems like simple cause and effect reasoning to me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another County Heard From

I recently heard from my friend, Jim Montgomery, regarding my blog entry about cheapskate behavior. Jim is generous to a fault, but apparently has been exhibiting some early warning signs. He wrote the following:

  • You buy generic ketchup (done it but switched back)
  • You tell the waiter it's your birthday ... just to get the free cake. (done it ... but this is usually after several refreshments)
  • You cut your own hair. (haven't paid for a hair cut since probably 1989)
  • You listened to a daylong sales pitch for a free night's stay. (have done the "60 minute" two-hour timeshare thing several times for free Disney tickets)
  • You’re keeping your skinny '80s ties ... just in case they make a comeback. (did they go out of style???)
  • Your precious childhood memories became a little less precious when you discovered ebay. (you can get a lot for comic books and Star Wars figures!!)

FYI ... Jen (Jim's wife) LOVES her Snuggie!!!

Hey Jim, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't think I've ever paid for a haircut. Of course, my mom is a beautician. Also, my superhero action figures have definitely padded my PayPal account. That snuggie, however, is unforgivable.

Jim is not only a funny guy, but a top-rate designer. You can find his Web site here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

State Farm Presents CSI -- Roofing

In the latest roofing news, State Farm has presented me with a list of seven “independent” engineers to choose from to examine my roof for evidence of wind damage. After checking out their Web sites, I don’t think there’s an independent one in the group.

It appears to me that most, if not all, of these companies are “forensic” engineering firms. In other words, they are the CSI of roofing. Something tells me David Caruso isn’t being summoned to my house to conclude that the roof died of natural causes. Instead, he will be peering into his microscope, looking for the smoking gun of racking.

One of the companies says this on its Web site: “In the realm of asphalt shingles, habits of the installer are perhaps the single greatest asset or shortcoming to a shingle roof’s wind resistance. Therefore, we place great emphasis on how the roofing contractor performed his work from the early stages of preparation through the finished roof installation with respect to published manufacturer and code requirements.”

Does this sound like an independent company or one that is predisposed to blame installers instead of 80 mph winds?

Another company brags of its “litigation support.” Whose litigation are they supporting? Mine? I don’t think so.

By the way, forensic engineers don’t come cheap. I'm told they cost $500 to $700. I'd rather that money be applied to my roof. Unfortunately, as it turns out, my premiums cover roof autopsies, not roof repairs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

State Farm Update

It's Tuesday. That means another roofer has spent the day on top of my house. Like the three before him, he says I have extensive wind damage.

In fact, contractors have spent more time on my roof this winter than Santa Claus.

Nevertheless, State Farm continues to deny my claim. I recently filed complaints with the Indiana Department of Insurance and the Indiana Attorney General in hopes that these bodies will pressure State Farm to do the right thing.

It didn't have to be this way. Some of my neighbors were cut checks right on the spot. Frankly, I've spent more time fighting this than I care to spend. But I won't give up. Just ask my cousins. They were forced to spend an entire Christmas Day with me playing Intellivision football. I'm still waiting for a rematch.

Anyway, State Farm's latest tactic is to have an "independent" engineer review my roof. Of course, this "independent" engineer must be chosen from a list supplied by State Farm. Doesn't sound too independent to me. Maybe State Farm should pick their engineer randomly from the phone book, just like I picked my roofers.

If you've had similar problems with State Farm, I'd love to hear from you. Perhaps we can form a rock group called "Doug and the Denials." We better practice at your place though. I'm not sure my roof will hold up to the angry guitar rifts.

Friday, January 9, 2009

State Farm Creates State of Confusion

According to JD Power and Associates, there are key points in a person’s interaction with a business in which they become either an advocate for that company or an assassin against that company. State Farm sure isn’t turning me into advocate.

Let me explain.

I’ve had State Farm since I was 16 years old. Every bit of my insurance is with them (for the time being), including auto, home and life, which is why this so disappointing.

The remnants of Hurricane Ike hit my area late last year with winds of more than 80 mph. Shortly thereafter, I noticed my neighbors started having their roofs replaced. I became concerned that my roof might be damaged, too.

I called State Farm. They sent an adjustor. He told me there were a few damaged spots on my roof … below my deductible, of course. Many other shingles were turned up at the edges, but this was due to an installation method called racking, he said.

Having never heard of racking, I called a roofer for a second opinion. He said 80 percent of the shingles on my roof were loose, caused by the wind. A second roofer rendered the same opinion. A second State Farm adjuster was dispatched.

“Racking,” he said, as he explained to me how wind can miss one house while hitting the next two.

Ironically, my neighbor was introduced to “racking” too, at first. Then he protested. Then the insurance company cut him a check. That insurance company was State Farm … the same State Farm that I’ve paid premiums to for nearly three decades.

In fact, State Farm is replacing roofs all over my subdivision. Why they’ve drawn the line at me is anybody’s guess. I do know this: I’m not feeling much like an advocate.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Atwater Story is Appointment Television

If I’m a little blurry-eyed today, it’s because I got drawn into a fascinating program on PBS Frontline last night about the late Lee Atwater. Atwater was the take-no-prisoners political strategist behind George Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign.

Sometime around 11:30 p.m. I realized I could have captured “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” on Tivo. By then, it was literally too late.

The program had it all: Willie Horton, Michael Dukakis in a tank and a “no new taxes” pledge. It was all orchestrated by an overly ambitious, blues-loving southerner who was willing to pay any price and burn any bridge for victory.

From a PR guy’s perspective, a few things stood out.

First, Atwater believed that the best way to keep the press from dissecting his guy was by attacking the opponent. In Atwater’s world, the press was like a dog that could chew on only one ankle at a time.

Secondly, Atwater knew the press had neither the wherewithal nor the appetite to dive into substantive issues. They preferred quick sound bites that were tailor made to his themes of justice, flag burning and gun-owner rights.

Finally, and perhaps most astounding, was the revelation from Dukakis that he knew Atwater’s issues were hurting him, but had been counseled not to respond to them. On the aforementioned Willie Horton, for example, he said none other than Ronald Regan had run a similar prison furlough program as governor of California. Certainly, the national press corps would have howled at the irony, if the story had been told.

In later years, Clinton would take the opposite approach, stamping out each allegation against him before it gained steam, like a fairgoer with a mallet whacking at mechanical moles. Of course, Clinton had his own Atwater in James Carville.

As an aside, the program also features some fascinating footage of a young George W. Bush, who was then stumping for his father, alongside Atwater.

For all these reasons, I highly recommend “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” … just set your Tivo first.