No one is immune to Mother Nature’s wrath. This has never been more evident with the natural disasters in Japan, New Orleans, and Haiti still fresh our minds. The advent of social media has pictures of tattered homes and displaced families reaching mass audiences with startling immediacy—forcing us to contemplate the one thing nobody wants to consider: the possibility of a natural disaster affecting us in a similar way.
Fortunately for many of us, we are comforted with the foreknowledge that in the event we do experience a natural disaster or even a surprise storm that causes unexpected chaos, we have the safety blanket of home insurance to cover the damages.
Well, that wasn’t so in Jen Tolbert’s case.
In April 2011, a hail storm caused damage to Jen’s roof. Hail, an inch in diameter damaged houses, cars, and knocked out power during a storm that reportedly lasted for four hours. In fact, the majority of the homes in her neighborhood needed replacement roofs. Homeowner’s insurance covered the neighbor’s new roofs, including Jen’s immediate neighbors whom she happens to share a townhouse and roof with, but it wouldn’t cover Jen’s.
Jen has been searching high and low for help. After a roofing contractor told Tolbert that her insurance provider Erie Insurance has a reputation for denying such claims, she began calling and writing letters. They responded by sending out a third party company to view the damage. They concluded that it did not incur enough damage to warrant a replacement roof—even though all of her surrounding neighbors were approved for a new roof without question. More letters produced a similar result: another company came out to assess the damage, but would not approve a new roof.
Frustrated by their lack of understanding, she sent a letter to the company’s president asking for fair treatment. In a return letter, their President likened her situation to those that experience a tornado; one house can be completely ruined by a tornado while nearby homes remain unharmed. But comparing a hail storm to a tornado?
If it were me, I would’ve written back with the following multiple choice question:
Hail is defined as “a showery precipitation in the form of irregular pellets or balls of ice more than 1 / 5 in. (5 mm) in diameter, falling from a cumulonimbus cloud over a geographical area.” Which of the following natural phenomena is most unlike hail?
C.) A Tornado
While a tornado may cause more damage, hail is more consistent in its destruction—affecting homes of a certain area equally.
She posted on their Facebook page and they did respond to her stating they got her letter and are not going to take care of the roof. More often than not, brand response on Facebook is extremely low. In fact, 95% of consumers who post on company Facebook pages don’t get a response. It is a staggering figure and is likely because so many people use it inappropriately which often has a negative impact on the loyal customers who use it properly, like Jen.
Despite being a model customer since 1996—always pays her bills on time, minimal claims, even goes through Erie for her family’s car insurance—her legitimate claim has been denied. When asked, she said that as a consumer and someone who has spent tens of thousands of dollars for coverage over the years to prepare for situations like this, it is disappointing. Although she vows to continue to fight for the same fair coverage all of her neighbors have received from their insurance companies, she is losing faith in the whole insurance process.