I heard the tone from my smartphone that I had just received an email. I tapped my index finger on the Yahoo Mail icon and my inbox popped up. It was a LinkedIn invitation to "Join My Network" from my former life insurance agent. I stared at the tiny screen in disbelief.
"You gotta be fucking kidding me!," I muttered to myself.
The last conversation I had with him was about six months ago. It ended when I hung the phone up on him while he was in mid-sentence.
Twenty years ago, my father passed away. Just after his funeral, in keeping with Jewish tradition, my family observed shiva, the ritual period of mourning for immediate family. During this time, friends and extended family gather at a designated house and offer condolences and comfort to the mourners. In this case, my brother and I were the mourners and visitors came to my house to pay respect. On Day Two of shiva, my brother introduced me to his friend Jerry. After extending his sympathy on my loss, Jerry made no hesitation in asking how I was fixed for life insurance. He peppered his pitch with the requisite "Y'know, there's no time like the present" and "You don't want to wait" and the clincher: "Think of your child." I told him I would certainly consider his suggestion.
A week or so later, I found myself filling out a lengthy application form. A few days after that, a nurse was in my dining room, jabbing me with a needle and asking me to pee in a cup. Soon, I was paying quarterly premiums at a ten-year, locked-in rate. The life insurance bills came in and I paid them along with my cable bill and Visa bill. They became regular part of the household expenses. After ten years, Jerry renegotiated my rates after only speaking to him briefly. The bills continued as usual.
In early 2012, I received a notice from my life insurance company that my locked-in rate was expiring soon and my premium was about to double. I called Jerry.
"Why are the rates going up so much?," I asked, displaying my lack of knowledge of the insurance trade.
"Well, you're 51 years old now.," he explained, "Rates go up as you get older. You're getting closer to.... well, you know." Oh, I knew, all right.
He began to break down the usual rates for a guy my age and what I should expect to pay in premiums from this point forward. For a new policy, I would be required to take another physical. Because of various circumstances, I was not able to schedule a physical for a few weeks and by that time, my policy would have expired.
I sent Jerry this email:
What if I don't pay the premium and I am without a policy for a month? If there is no financial penalty, I am willing to risk being without a policy until August. Is that okay?
His reply was:
No cause then one of you will die, and your brother will sue my ass. Please don't take that risk.
I was dumbfounded. Here was a guy that I barely knew, that I had no relationship with outside of a professional one and he was smart-assing me over something as serious as life insurance. His livelihood and my life insurance. I replied with a short and to-the-point response. I told him I would no longer be doing business with him. Period.
A day later, Jerry called me. Again, I explained that I did not like or appreciate his flippant answer to my serious question and that I didn't need to be subjected to his cavalier attitude. Then I informed him that he is not the only insurance agent on the planet. I drove my point home the way I drove the telephone receiver back into its cradle. Then, I dialed the number of my longtime homeowners insurance agent and, within minutes, I was back among the insured. Aggravation free.
Jerry's secretary called me a month later. Again, I was shocked.
"Didn't Jerry tell you about our last conversation?," I asked — then, "Jerry is no longer my insurance agent. I thought I made that clear."
And now, six months after I angrily yelled at him and cut a conversation short with the slam of a phone, he wants me to join his business network.
I feel even better about my decision to seek insurance elsewhere.