April 2, 2007 at 8:07 PMMy car insurance is with one of those small insurance companies which you can't contact directly---you have to go through a broker---and we recently moved our homeowner's policy there as well. Their rates are unbeatable and in the 10+ years we've been working with them, we've had nothing but good experiences with the customer service.
Until now. While trying to add my recently-purchased instrument to the policy, I was told I needed an appraisal, which is fair enough and standard procedure.
"I actually have a document from the maker certifying the value and that it belongs to me. Is that good enough?"
"Yes, that's fine."
"Oh, and it's in Italian. Is that all right?"
"Sure, as long as the dollar amount is clear."
The form gets faxed; several days later I get a call back.
"Sorry, the insurance company won't accept a document in Italian, but they'll reconsider if you can provide a translation."
"Does it have to be an official, certified translation, or can I just do it myself?"
"Let me check and get back to you."
Several days later:
"Never mind, the Italian document is okay, if you can provide a price list from the merchant's website or something." What do they think this is, Amazon.com? I get a price list from the dealer and fax it back.
Today, I call back to see if they now have all the necessary documents.
"So, the price list you provided...it's in Italian, and they won't accept that."
"No, the appraisal is in Italian, and they said that was okay since the amount is pretty obvious, as long as I provided a price list."
"Yes, but the price list has to be in English."
"It IS in English!"
"No, it's in Italian."
"That's impossible. I don't have a price list in Italian."
"But I'm looking at it right now, and it's in Italian..."
"It says, 'End user prices for Claudio Rampini's stringed instruments year 2007'. Do you see that?"
"Are you talking about the words 'Stradivari' and 'Guarneri'? Those are names. Those are the names of the violin models."
"Well, they have to have a document in English."
"This document IS IN ENGLISH!!!!!"
"Well, they won't accept it..."
"Is it because the prices are listed in euros?"
Long pause...it really seems to me like the representative is trying to figure out what a euro is.
"Yeah, they need to have a price list in English with the value of the violin in English."
"It IS in English!!! It's just that the currency is in euros. Do you want me to look up the current euro-dollar exchange rate?"
"No, they need a document in English. With English currency. Err, American currency. Can't you just go to a website and print out a new price list?"
"It's not like that. The maker works out of Italy. He doesn't sell his violins off a website."
"Oh, you bought the violin in Italy?"
"No, I bought it in the U.S., through a dealer, but the price list is in euros because the maker is in Italy. Has [company name] really never insured property whose value is stated in foreign currency?"
"Well, we've never encountered this before."
"I can try to get a new price list, but I'm pretty sure the dealer or maker is just going to take the document and multiply the numbers by the euro-dollar exchange rate. I really don't see why this is a problem."
"Hold on, let me call them back."
Long pause while I'm put on hold. It's a good thing this is my last day at work and I don't have anything better to do than argue about the meaning of the word "English".
"Okay, they're reviewing the document again. I'll get back to you."
To be continued...
Alternately ask the dealer about companies that specialize in insuring instruments. They have done this a million times and they can probably handle your documents fine. (They'll probably pay off on claims better than your homeowners policy.)
I suggest investigating one of the specialized instrument insurance companies. Perhaps more expensive, but worth the peace of mind and lack of hassle in my opinion.
If this is the grief you get when the want money out of you (i.e. insuring it), imagine the grief they'll give you if you want money out of them.
A violinist once called an insurance company and said he had just bought a very expensive brand new violin and wanted to insure it... The representative gave him the quote, which seemed high to the violinist. He asked if there was another plan or a different price available.
The representative replied: "Well, have you considered buying a used violin?"......
Igor, this kind of stuff doesn't happen back in Slobovia does it?
This is just to comfort anybody having small instrument insurance problems.
They are playing games with you.
I don't mean to be preachy or condescending or overly defensive here, but I do not like hearing broad swaths of people insulted on the basis of what country they happen to live in. That goes for Americans, French, Iraqis - whoever.
Now that I have that off my chest, go through an instrument insurer; don't bother with this company any more. They may be great for everything else, but instruments are such a specific niche. Instrument insurers have experience with the oddness of music. They don't mind euros or Italian. Good luck.
Good luck with insuring your instrument!
In no way was my comment meant to insult Americans. If you as an American feel insulted, my apologies - you are obviously not an ignorant person.
However - Having been fortunate enough to travel around the world quite a bit, I have - unfortunately - found an underlying sense of "ignorance is bliss" to be more prevalent here in America.
This is not to say America is a bad country - heck, I live here. Obviously if I didn't like it I wouldn't be here. But, there are certainly issues that need to be dealt with. Many Americans feel that they are above everyone else in the world. That feeling is accompanied by a sense that everyone else must conform to THEIR rules, and live their lives according to THEIR notions. I personally do not believe that that is the way to earn respect from people.
I can go on and on about instances, examples, and circumstances, but I think and hope that you and everyone else reading this gets the idea which I am trying to get across.
Another interesting feature of countries that respect the rule of law (like England, Australia, America etc.) is that you can get clear title to your instrument. That is a lot harder to do in some countries. You don't have to pay some gangster protection money so you can keep your instrument safe.
Best of all is that we Americans have the highest standard of living in the developed world so we can have the economic wherewithal to have an instrument worth insuring.
Sophisticated, self-assured and talented people come here so they can enjoy that economic freedom.
God bless America!
That said, I certainly did not intend to set off the beginnings of WWIII! Certainly one person should not be considered to represent the intelligence of an entire country.
I do appreciate people's suggestions about looking into independent instrument insurance, and will start a thread about that in the discussion section.
Ah well, at least my friends Sydney and Linda got my point. :)
I've seen this a hundred times and been on both sides of it. What's happening is there at least three levels of beaurocracy happening. They don't have a procedure, and they're doing the best they can. That's why there are procedures. You follow procedures yourself. Even non-provincials at NASA get thrown by something new. That's the way organizations work. Not knowing that shows that there are lots of flavors of provinciality and ignorance.
You messed up by not giving them what they asked for. I'd have had the insurance the same day. Maybe the provincial people you're dealing with would have too, by simply following requests. It's possible your problem with them is compounded by them sensing your attitude toward them.
JIM - I read your first sentence and could not stop myself from replying right away. Your first sentence is EXACTLY the reason many people in America are considered ignorant. If knowing what a Euro is is not part of people's values - it is exactly the definition of ignorance. Close mindedness. Self absorption. Call it what you will. Just because you live in a "great" country like America, (notice the quotation marks) doesn't mean you should be oblivious to the rest of the world. Knowing what a Euro is is as important as knowing where on the map is Poland, Iraq, Russia, or any other country. Just today, I had a conversation with an American who did not know where Prague was. I'm sorry, but if you want to be considered an intelligent person, you HAVE to know basic things like that.
Values - these are personal things. What's important to you. But not knowing what a Euro is is Ignorance.
End of WWIII..... or IV... Whichever one we're at at this point. Sorry... it's not a part of my values.
I could pick something just as arbitrary and call you ignorant because you didn't know about it. Who came after australopithecus? What is Marylin Monroe's real name? How do you put a saddle on a horse? What is the name of largest crater on the Moon? You see, it's truly about your values and interests. I know approximately what a Euro is. I know a tiny bit about its history. I don't know what its fractional parts are called, or even if it has any, for that matter. I don't think I really qualify as ignorant because of that. I think it bugs Europeans when Americans are unconcerned about European things, maybe.
Hmmm. What's a riel? ;)
I'm still disgusted about that off billet. I paid at least 14 euros for it. For 14 euros, you'd think it would work. Next time, I'm buying American.
Bet you're glad I noticed that one.
Unfortunately, MANY Americans will never see a Euro, because they are stuck in their own ways - thinking they don't need to broaden their horizons by stepping outside of their country.
Unlike a Riel, which is the currency for Cambodia, a relatively small country, the Euro is WIDELY used all across Europe - an area quite a bit larger than Cambodia. I would also go on to speculate that a few more people find use for the Euro, than for the Riel.
Trust me, there is a slight difference in knowing Marilyn Monroe's real name (Norma Jeane Mortenson) and knowing what Euro is. One is trivial knowledge, the other is something people SHOULD be aware of.
One of the definitions of ignorance is the choice to not act or behave in accordance with regard to certain information in order to suit ones own needs or beliefs.
I may have not known what Marilyn Monroe's real name was, or what came before australopithecus, because that type of information is very specific to a profession or theater history. What I do try to learn about, are things that will affect me as a human on this planet, not just things that affect me in my backyard.
Ignorance is only bliss in your own backyard.
In the end I stuck with State Farm, just to keep all my insurance in one place. They did have some interesting exclusions though. My favorite being that the instruments are NOT covered for nuclear events. Now I know some very very smart actuaries somewhere came up with justifications to exclude nuclear explosions or leaks, whatever, but the odds must be REALLY low (too low to bother excluding them). So I asked the agent how much it would cost to get nuclear events covered too. ;-) His response was that those would be acts of government so I'd pursue them for compensation. Well, I figure if the instruments get irradiated then I probably have bigger worries than getting my money back for them. Oh, but the good news is that there's an exception to the exclusion. If the nuclear event results in a fire that burns the instruments THEN they're covered.
This happens only because Europeans, living in countries which border each other and are surrounded by many different cultures, histories, ideas, you name it... choose to be aware of each other's history, and current events. Some Americans, however choose to live their lives in a bubble, thinking that only their life matters and only their current events have any effect on the rest of the world... Oh, wait, there are other countries out there?!
By the same token most musicians are painfully ignorant of the Bible. At one level or another this has had a profound influence on western art, culture and music and some knowledge of this (both theologically and culturally) is quite indispensible to understanding the tradition we all aim to carry on.
I could go on and on but this cultural ignorance is a problem all over the world and even in the countries and cultures where it originated.
My teacher during my teenage years was a very fine violinist but he was totally unaware of the history of music and art and if he had ever studied theory or harmony beyond the basics it wasn't apparent to me. Even today I know many musicians who have very fine chops but they are pretty much wind-up toys when it comes to understanding what they are up to in relation to western culture.
I would have to plead guilty myself on some of my own indictments.
Flexible exchange rates
The ECB targets interest rates rather than exchange rates and in general does not intervene on the foreign exchange rate markets, because of the implications of the Mundell-Fleming Model which suggest that a central bank cannot maintain interest rate and exchange rate targets simultaneously because increasing the money supply results in a depreciation of the currency. In the years following the Single European Act, the EU has liberalized its capital markets, and as the ECB has chosen monetary autonomy, the exchange rate regime of the euro is flexible, or floating. This explains why the exchange rate of the euro vis-à-vis other currencies is characterized by strong fluctuations. Most notable are the fluctuations of the euro vs. the U.S. dollar, another free-floating currency. However this focus on the dollar-euro parity is partly subjective. It is taken as a reference because the European authorities expect the euro to compete with the dollar.
(ECB by the way, stands for European Central Bank). I think the above somewhat exonerates your insurance company, and no doubt the rep, having not studied global economics in college, does not understand the full reason his company is asking for American dollars.
There are 2 kinds of people in this world, the first are the ones who call you names if you do not know something and the second are the people who take the opportunity to expand a persons knowledge. The ignorance certain people are attributing to Americans can be easily rectified, it's the more profound stupidity like grouping and labeling an entire nation based on a few bad experiences. Happily though I am not ignorant I know where Prague is - Oklahoma...
(mother of laura madden)
How can you seriously say that and not expect to be seen as ignorant? How can anyone not be concerned with what is going on in the rest of the world?! I am not talking about a burglary in Romania, I am talking about world events, knowing at least approximately where major countries are in the world, at least knowing the major currencies of the world! And how can that NOT bug someone from a different country when they see a "self-proclaimed" superpower not show any interest in finding out about other cultures, countries, etc...
Can you imagine someone in Europe, Asia, or Africa not knowing what a dollar is? Come ON!
I repeat again and again: Being ignorant is NOT simply not knowing something - it's not WANTING or having any INTEREST in enriching one's knowledge.
And NO - I am not calling the entire country of America ignorant. In fact - I would invite people to read the posts a bit more carefully before jumping to conclusions.
And lastly, if you are comparing me to a 20 year old inexperienced student, then sadly you are dead wrong. I have heard the same arguments that I raise from my colleagues in the professional music world who have traveled around the world even more than me, from people much MUCH older than me in other professional fields, from both Americans AND foreigners.
So... it seems to me we are both going to be stuck with our points, and unless you are beginning to see what my point really is, I suggest we leave this topic alone before more "PC" people get offended.
But I'd buy you a tall one anyway, and say "What the hell's a Euro, boy?" Now that's America!
Jim, you're talking about something akin to being a savant, or a collector of trivia. Such information may or may not be essential, depending on the field in which you work and so forth. However, it is certainly impossible to comprehensivelyl absorb ALL trivia in the world, or even in a given profession. It is therefore not evidence of overall ignorance to not know one end of a saddle from another. It is specialized knowledge. I doubt Igor or anyone else, for that matter, would excoriate an insurance broker for not knowing violinmaker names, even ones as seemingly iconic and universal as Stradivari. They don't NEED to know about Strads to not be thought ignorant: it's specialized knowledge.
But what Igor objects to - what I object to no less - is self-satisfied, smug provincialness. I've met people who place France somewhere to the East of 9th Avenue in New York. I've jumped through ludicrous bureaucratic hoops at my bank to make (or receive) bank transfers to foreign countries, something that's a five minute affair in Genoa. I've had conversations with phone operators about difficulties with placing international calls where it becomes rapidly apparent that someone WORKING WITH international matters has no clue where "Europe" or "UK" or "London" might be; to the operator in question, these were familiar-sounding combinations of syllables without ANY notion of what they stand for. Forget finding London on a map. This was someone who couldn't grasp the concept of "Europe" as NOT a country but a continent, one CONTAINING the UK which, in turn, CONTAINS London.
Where Laura's mom is right is that this flaw is by no means limited to Americans. Some of my worst enemies are Euro-provincials. But even they at least are aware of America's existence, of who our president is and even our vice-president. This, mind you, is information some of my own high-school aged students occasionally stun me by not knowing. Euro-provincialness is reflected in a smug ethnocentrism, not illiteracy or oblivion.
And it is this nation, the nation Igor and I both love, that depends on such oblivious dodos to choose not just the American president, but the most powerful man in the WORLD. We presume to dictate to the world, we presume to hold a moral compass to the rest of the planet. How can we do any of that if the system is set up to allow people spectacularly unqualified to do the choosing choose someone to voice such leadership?
It's been said that America is the new Rome. We would do well to remember that the old one was brought low by a psychotic ruling class. So the least we - and the rest of the planet - can hope for is not to elect mad Caesars ourselves. And to do that, it'd be a good idea if the people doing the electing were marginally qualified, intellectually and educationally speaking, to do so. And if the rulers of our country, in turn, didn't see it as a mere foible, a tiny innocent oversight to have an electorate that is culturally illiterate, politically oblivious, historically uninformed and proud of it.
Regarding the rest of it, there are equal numbers of true intellectuals and idiots I'd like to see denied a vote. Who should vote? Nice, honest, fair-minded people who present fair-minded arguments I guess.
But I will still disagree with you in saying that Americans know what only what they need to know. I think therein lies the root of the problem. Many people (Disclaimer - NOT ALL AMERICANS!) unfortunately feel that they don't need to know MUCH - and therefore are happy with the limited knowledge they do possess. Those exact people are the people that I would consider ignorant. Do you see my point now?
Substitute any word you want to. Many Americans, many Russians, many Germans, Many French, many violinists, many musicians, many liberals, many conservatives..... etc.
In this case, however, we are talking about an insurance company IN America...
But perhaps it was just me...
I went to State Farm and had a receipt in dollars and an appraisal in dollars. I suppose if I go to Europe to get insured to pay my premium in Euros, and assessed in Euros, and damages paid in Euros, I would peg a date of conversion and include that in the paperwork with my signature of the date of conversion.
P.S. Claire, I agree 110% that she needs to provide dollars, for the reason you stated. Ultimately they aren't going to accept it in Euros, rightly so, for just the reason you stated, - unless they have some kind of special provision, which I doubt they have.
1) They told me I needed an appraisal and I provided one. In that document, the value of the violin is stated IN DOLLARS. Maybe that wasn't clear from my original post. The stuff about the description of the instrument, etc. is in Italian, and I had specifically checked to make sure that was okay. They said yes, so I faxed it. Then they said, no it wasn't, I had to provide a translation, but they couldn't tell me whether it had to be a translation by some sort of certified agency...
2) Then they told me I needed a price list. I don't know why, but I assume it's to give some authenticity to the single price that's on the receipt. The price list was in English, but the prices were stated in euros.
3) It was NEVER explained to me that there was a problem with the value being stated in euros on the price list. If you go back and read (what IMHO is the most hilarious part of) the conversation, the representative insisted that the price list was in Italian, which it most definitely wasn't. It was---and still is---my guess that the euros are what the insurance company objects to; the rep went along with it, but I think she had no idea what she was talking about at that point.
4) I agree that it's reasonable for the company to require that the value of MY violin is stated in dollars, but I don't necessarily see why a supporting document (which they didn't even ask for the first time) has to be in dollars or even in English.
As for my problems being compounded by my "attitude", I think if you go back and read the conversation, I was quite reasonable and polite through all the original back-and-forth (need this, no you need that, no never mind, we need this instead). The only time I started expressing irritation was after I'd spent far more time than warranted arguing with a rep over whether the document was in English or Italian. Whether the insurance company's requirements are reasonable is certainly worthy of debate, but let's be clear on what they asked for---which is what I provided---before you start claiming that I brought this on myself.
Yeah, it would probably be better if all that stuff was all in English and all in dollars, and if they'd told me up front that this was what was necessary, I'd probably have gone to some effort and expense to acquire it...or have decided immediately not to use this company. What's frustrating is that I had to get on the phone about four times to figure out what exactly they wanted---and that's not counting the three times my husband tried to get the information before---and after ending up talking to someone who didn't recognize the English language and probably had never heard of a euro, I'm STILL not sure what they need. Sure, there's more I could do to "help them along", but as the consumer, I really think it's the company's responsibility to help ME along.
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