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Karin Lin

Insuring my violin....argh.

April 2, 2007 at 8:07 PM

My 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, 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'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?"
"Yes, but..."
"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 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...

From Jay Azneer
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:10 PM
If you were trying to prove that America is provincial and frequently bone crushingly stupid--you just did.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:14 PM
I hate to say it, but this is the kind of response I would expect from Italian or French bureaucracy, not from an American company. This seems very close to some of the experiences my family and our friends had in living in France.
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:13 PM
Gsh, sounds like your having fun! lol. All insurance companies are difficult! It must be some oath they sign when they become their own company...
GOOD LUCK.! I hope they insure it.. and FAST!
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:16 PM
Stand down Jaybird. The only problem is they wanted dollars and she gave them Euros.
From Karin Lin
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:36 PM
Well, Jim, I'm not actually sure about that, because the problem as it was stated was that the document was in Italian, which it most definitely is not. It's only my guess that they want American currency, and even if that proves true, I'm not sure why. Like I said, the story is to be continued.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:44 PM
They said fine if it's dollars but you gave them euros. The problems, including their statement of what it currently is, is from confusion from trying to accommodate you :) I might say throw all that stuff away and let's start over and I'll send you dollars. You know they aren't going to look up the dollar amount for you even if it's a simple conversion. That's information they need completely from you because there might be some dispute in the future.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 9:53 PM
There is an easier way. It will cost a few dollars but it will sve you a loit of grief. Take the violin and your documents to a reputable violin dealer and ask him for a written appraisal. Send that to the insurance company and your problems are over.

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.)

From Armand Allégre
Posted on April 2, 2007 at 10:45 PM
Trust me, I feel your pain.
Who's the maker of your violin, out of curiosity?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 12:42 AM
OMG! What grief. Are you a member of the Musicians' Union? You can insure through them. I actually have insurance through Travelers, and it's separate insurance.
From Eric Godfrey
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 12:43 AM
I once cancelled a pending policy when I hit a problem like this. My reasoning: if they are this way when you are trying to give them your money, what will they be like if you ever actually have a claim?!!!

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.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 12:58 AM
Wot Eric sed!!

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.


From Michael Darnton
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 1:02 AM
Sorry, Jim, Jay is right: they're idiots. People who aren't idiots know the difference between English, which is a language, and Euros which is a currency. They're definitely idiots--that much is totally clear.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 2:24 AM
Beautiful... Typical American ignorance....

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?"......

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 2:32 AM
Michael, do you think anybody in the world doesn't know the difference between English and currency? If you think that...don't throw stones.

Igor, this kind of stuff doesn't happen back in Slobovia does it?

From Frank-Michael Fischer
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 3:36 AM
In the 80ties my US friend Paul moved back from Europe to a little town in Colorado. In one of his bags he found quite a bit of European currencies (Swiss, German, French and British). So he called his little bank in his little town whether hw could come around "for change". The answer was positive so he drove over with his bills and ... the bank staff actually called the guards to arrest him "for trying to bring fake money into circulation".

This is just to comfort anybody having small instrument insurance problems.


From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 4:42 AM
You try to be nice to those Euro people by buying a violin from them instead of a real American violin, and they spend the rest of the day smacking you down for it. Right, Darnton?
From Robert Berentz
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 12:34 PM
Ask your insurance company if they would like for you to call the head of your State Insurance Board and ask them to explain it to them.

They are playing games with you.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 2:30 PM
The problems you are having suggest to me that if anything ever happens to your violin and you have to collect on the policy, you will be in for a rough ride. Time to find a new insurer.
From Emily Liz
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 3:41 PM
Before I make my comment, I'd like to address those who scoff at "typical American ignorance" and the like. I, for one, would really appreciate it if you would refrain from calling Americans ignorant or even insinuating it. I would hope that the world has matured enough to come to the realization that stupidity and bureaucracy are not unique to an individual country. It seems to me that this case could easily have occurred in most other parts of the world. Surely Americans have some idiots in their midst but, in my experience, they do not constitute the whole or even a majority of our population.

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.

Thank you.

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.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 4:13 PM
Karin, this is terrible. What is this insurance company? I have used the same insurance company for years. They specialize in instrument insurance. The one time I had a minor claim (I dropped my violin in Grad School...oops) there was no hassle at all. Maybe it is time for some shopping around for a new company?
From enion pelta
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 5:57 PM
Seems like it's best to insure an instrument with a company that specializes...I've had good experiences with Clarion.
From Michael Avagliano
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 6:03 PM
I've run into this type of problem more times than I care to admit with friends and customers. If you got it from a dealer in the US, they should give you an appraisal in English so you can get it done.
Personally, though, I'd recommend you go to a company like Heritage or Clarion who deal specifically with musical instruments. 90% of the time you end up with a better rate and better protection (fewer exclusions).
From Sydney M.
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 8:17 PM
That's so hilarious, but frustrating. Anyway, I loved the conversation ;)
From Bruce Berg
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 9:31 PM
Get in touch with Clarion insurance. They have good rates, are totally reputable, and specialize in musical instrument insurance.
From Linda Lerskier
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 9:59 PM
Ditto to that Sydney. As frustrating as it sounded, I'm glad you shared it with us Karin!

Good luck with insuring your instrument!

From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 3, 2007 at 10:42 PM
Dear Emily,

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.


From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 12:39 AM
One of the interesting things about America is that you can buy instrument insurance here. There are many places in the world where that isn't possible.

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!

From Karin Lin
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 12:40 AM
Perhaps I should have inserted more smileys into my post, but I really only had two intentions in sharing that story: 1) to invite everyone to laugh with me about it, and 2) to share a frustrating incident. I'll have to continue to disagree with Jim and say that anyone who doesn't recognize the English language on a document, or who appears not to have ever heard of a euro, is at best provincial and at worst ignorant. Whether the insurance company was reasonable in its requirements was a secondary issue.

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. :)

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 1:00 AM
Karin, so what if somebody answering a phone never heard of Euros? People have different values. Not everyone wants to be you.

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.

From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 6:02 AM
Karin - you are absolutely right - I got a nice chuckle after reading your story.

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.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 6:40 AM
Igor, the mistake you're making is you're judging people by an arbitrary thing, a thing which has meaning to you.

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.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 7:00 AM
I might call someone ignorant if they ignore things that are relevant to them. Most Americans or more will never see a Euro. Most Europeans will never see a riel.

Hmmm. What's a riel? ;)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:18 AM
Archaelogists. Archaeologists came after the australopithecus with chisels and brushes.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:28 AM
Oh, and make sure to pull up a pocket of space in the saddle blanket to keep from pinching the withers. The main pressure point of the gusset should be just behind the shoulder blades, no further (according to CHA manuals). Check both sides for folds or twists. When tightening the cinch, you should be able to barely slip three fingers between it and the horse's chest. For western, pull up on the latigo and work the slack through the knot. For English, a simple adjustment of the buckles is all you need. For both, be sure to double check the off billet (short latigo, for you western riders). I always double checked the cinch, even inspecting closely for cracked or thin leather, but it didn't occur to me to take a look at the off billet the day Brandy's saddle flopped into the dust with a camper aboard. All three of us were quite surprised by it, actually.

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.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:46 AM
Riel? You're absolutely hilarious Jim.

Bet you're glad I noticed that one.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:47 AM
Moon craters have their own names, though. Best ask the moon about that one.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:57 AM
That saddle probably come off cause you don't know what to do when you got one that puffs out when you cinch it up. You ignernt fool.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 9:02 AM
Dude, that's like the oldest trick in the book.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 9:10 AM
In that case it probably was the Eurotrash billet.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 1:49 PM
Emily - which thread are you responding to? It is definitely too early in the morning in Alaska for you to be responding.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 3:02 PM
Very droll Emily. You have horse sense.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 5:26 PM
Jim - you speak the truth.

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.

From Jeffrey Schmitt
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 5:28 PM
I hope this helps.
While in the process of insuring my daughter's violin with State Farm, I also looked at Merz-Huber and Clarion. I received some information from Merz-Huber and although there was a minimum premium charge, their rates seemed very reasonable. It also helps if you are a member of an organization like ASTA.

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.

From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 5:40 PM
Jim - you are also absolutely right when you say it bugs Europeans when Americans are not concerned about European things.

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?!

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 6:25 PM
It is true that we all bury our heads in the sand a bit. I am shocked at the number of musicians who have no understanding of western culture and its philosophies and traditions. A few days ago I posted on temperament and this crucial subject for musicians is often treated dismissively as though it were strictly a matter of personal choice and not truly a matter of acoustics and physics and indeed something of abiding interest to the great composers of the western canon.

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.

From Laura Madden
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 7:37 PM
I actually cannot believe this thread, one man out of billions "appears" to be unaware of what a Euro is and the whole country is ignorant!! We insured our violin (also Italian) with a non musical insurance company and did not have any problems. This so-called ignorant insurance company probably knows not only what a Euro is but its strength as compared to the dollar. I am including this piece of information for those of us not in the insurance business -

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...

=) hehe

(mother of laura madden)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 11:33 PM
...just 135 miles southwest of Miami.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 4, 2007 at 11:31 PM
Igor, to be frank, I've only heard your kind of thoughts coming from 20 year old foreign exchange students, directed to other equally inexperienced people. Which Americans live in a bubble, exactly? The homeless? Donald Trump? The Hell's Angels? You might be bugged that they aren't preoccupied somehow with European life, but they don't care about that either. Think about it.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 12:22 AM
Jim - you say that "I think it bugs Europeans when Americans are unconcerned about European things, maybe."

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.


From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 12:44 AM
Igor, we don't care what you don't like.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 1:08 AM
well, that's quite obvious....
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 1:28 AM
Not obvious enough apparently.

But I'd buy you a tall one anyway, and say "What the hell's a Euro, boy?" Now that's America!

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 1:19 AM
First, Laura('s mother), before you assume Igor is indicting the whole country for the ignorance of one person, let me present a counterexample. You are in Europe, having the same conversation about an American violin. Euros are now dollars. Etc. Can you seriously believe that there is a single country in Europe where someone who didn't know what a dollar was could get a job? In anything relating to finance?

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.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 2:07 AM
Emil, it's not trivia. My point was that in reqard to what we're taking about, we know what we need to know. You don't expect an Eskimo surfer. The ONLY reason Europeans know what a Euro is, is because they spend the sonofabitches. The only reason they know what a dollar is, is because it dominated the world for most of a century. The same reason they DON'T know what a riel is.

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.

From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 1:37 PM
Well Jim, there is one thing we agree on - your paragraph on who should vote.

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?

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 2:54 PM

Substitute any word you want to. Many Americans, many Russians, many Germans, Many French, many violinists, many musicians, many liberals, many conservatives..... etc.

From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 4:01 PM
Absolutely, Corwin. Ignorance is not limited to only one country, ethnic background, race, culture, etc....

In this case, however, we are talking about an insurance company IN America...

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 4:13 PM
I understand exactly how you feel Igor. I lived in Japan for a total of eight years and I just could never understand why they couldn't do things like Americans and why they were so provincial.

But perhaps it was just me...

From Clare Chu
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 4:50 PM
Okay, back to the insurance question. It's not that the insurance company doesn't know what an Euro is, although the particular agent might not know. It's that they have to calculate your premium in dollars, and the insured value in dollars, and pay out in dollars. Everyone knows that Euro/dollar exchange rate fluctuates. In the end, the quote is in dollars and they don't want you going to them later and having to argue over a date when the "conversion" was done. Since you paid in dollars, get a receipt from your dealer in dollars and be done with it.

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.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 5:57 PM
The real message of the insurance person not knowing what a Euro is isn't that the person is dumb or incompetent. The real message is that that bit of knowledge isn't especially necessary - by which I mean if Euros were frequently encountered, he would already know what he needs to know about them.

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.

From Laura Madden
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 7:11 PM
I am afraid I am still missing your point. It seems to me you have contradicted yourself many times. If you look to your middle school history books you will find that natural borders (i.e mountains, oceans etc.) have generally kept a country somewhat isolated despite trade and wars, you mentioned the fact that Europe is a collection of many countries with close proximity (whose borders are not only man-made but somewhat elastic as well). This then would bring a more everyday quality to those so-called IMPORTANT facts Americans do not know and Europeans do, an obvious train of thought that you did not catch, you started in a vein that sounded sincere yet ended with a sarcastic hyperbole ("oh, are their other countries out there") When you malign Americans you actually insult every ethnic group on this planet, since beside the Native American, this country is entirely comprised of aliens starting from the time of Columbus. Yes there has been a shift in education- dietary needs, medicine, computers and other technologies have become important factors in our lives. The sciences have also expanded, DNA testing, global warming, endangered animals and desertification impacted our everyday language as well as habits, and this (to Emil), in my opinion makes Americans free of the condemnation of illiteracy and guilty with an explanation for oblivion. In some parts of Europe rivalry in the past, or jealousy perhaps have jaundiced their view against us. One of America's past presidents Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it you surely will."

laura's mom

From Karin Lin
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 8:25 PM
This conversation has gone so far afield, yet I feel I need to clarify a few facts that seem to have been ignored. Jim, I'd appreciate it if you especially would consider these and then tell me where I "messed up by not giving them what they asked for."

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.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 5, 2007 at 11:15 PM
Ok, in that case, obviously all they need is a document that combines English and dollars :) If they can't do anything with that, then I'll worry about them. :) I understand their problem precisely. They have a dollar value but they don't know if it's your violin. They also have a description of a violin, but nothing about dollars on it... They aren't going to want to convert it to dollars for reasons stated above. They might end up converting it and getting you to sign off. I'm a little surprised they're having trouble knowing what they need from you actually. But at the same time, you see what you could do to help them along.
From Karin Lin
Posted on April 6, 2007 at 10:04 AM
They have a document saying that a Claudio Rampini "Toscano" violin was sold to Karin Lin at address blah (the same address that's on the insurance policy) for XXX dollars on date whatever; that information is obvious even though the document is in Italian. They also have a document in English saying that the Claudio Rampini "Toscano" violin sells for YYY euros, where YYY euros is very close to XXX dollars at current exchange rates.

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.

From Carolyn Shields
Posted on April 6, 2007 at 2:32 PM
On ignorance. The IRS once sent a letter to a New Mexico taxpayer that said (roughly, from 20-year-old memory): We note you are a resident of a foreign country with U.S. income. This has certain tax consequences under the U.S. tax laws (which it elaborated). The taxpayer's response: Actually New Mexico is part of the United States, having been admitted to the Union in 1912. New Mexico is a special state with many advantages, and, as a former governor of the state, I invite you to visit it.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 6, 2007 at 6:21 PM
Somebody count these up and see how we did.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on April 6, 2007 at 6:38 PM
Karin - you are right on the ball about that. Part of the problem - is the customer service at some of these places just plain sucks! Isn't it in THEIR interest to retain your as a customer?!

ARGH! :-)

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