This Is Truly Stupid for a Good Neighbor

The following is a true story about an auto theft and you are going to agree with me how stupid it plays out, but not for what you think. So, let me tell the story without interruption:

Debbie is the controller at a client of mine. When I went to visit yesterday, she told me how she made the local police blotter. I should point out that she lives with her husband and dog in a pretty large, beautiful Georgian style home about four blocks from my condo.

Naturally, I asked her if she got mugged. She gave me a sheepish grin and blurted out, “my car was stolen from in front of the house.” I asked if it happened overnight. She said that it happened in the morning getting ready to go to work. She had pulled the car out of the garage onto the private driveway and stepped out for a quick moment leaving the keys in the car with the motor running while racing back into the house to grab something she left behind. When she came back outside not more than a minute later, the car was gone.

Neighbors said they saw a guy get out of a white van that someone else was driving, scrambled to get behind the wheel and flew off as if he was shot out of a cannon.

The police told Debbie that she was lucky that the car was stolen on the driveway. If it had happened at the curb, the insurance company would have denied any claim but the driveway was considered private property and no different than if parked behind a closed garage. Hearing that didn’t make me all too happy as I am insured by the same company as Debbie. I don’t like to see my rates go up because of another person’s negligence.

But, that segment of the story was not the real stupid part, believe it or not. You see, the next day Debbie got a call from the police that her car turned up in Detroit- what? a 300 mile or so drive from Chicago, the scene of the crime. And it was in good shape other than the mess the perpetrator and his van driver made inside.

It seems as if it was better to take the car to a chop shop in Detroit than to one in Chicago, for whatever reason. The alleged criminals took it to someone they thought they could trust. But, the dealer had other ideas. He suspected that the two thugs were undercover cops trying to bait him into taking the stolen car off their hands. He started to agree to a deal, stalled them, and went into his office to call the real cops. They came by in no time and arrested the thieves.

Here is where the real stupidity came to play: The insurance company told Debbie that she should come to Detroit and claim her car. She asked why they couldn’t just ship it to her. They told her that in the small print of her insurance contract, she would be obliged to help pay her portion up to the deductible to have the car delivered to her. But, if she went to Detroit, they would pay for travel and lodging 100%. Apparently, in their collective corporate mind, their portion of shipping the car back was more expensive and prohibitive than the few hundred dollars it would cost to facilitate Debbie taking the time to run to Detroit and miss work. Forget about keeping the paying customer happy. It’s not like every day they were able to recover most stolen cars intact. Imagine what it would have cost the insurer to replace the car if it had already been hacked to pieces?

So, kids- what did we learn today? If you are going to have a misfortune- make sure it happens on your property and when it does, be prepared to read the small print on your bill of rights.

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