Brand New World

Not long after I made my resume available  I received call backs from two very different companies, both with an interest in my inventory control background.  The first was a company that rebuilt diesel engines and needed someone to run their exchange program.  It was a good opportunity and right in line with my qualifications but in the end they choose to go with a gearhead instead.  Things went much better with the second company, an obscure insurance company based out of Winnipeg.  The job required me to assign values to a list of contents from an insurance claim.  They picked me because of my inventory background as there would be times when I would need to go on-site and do an inventory of contents myself.  It was for a time the best job I have ever had.

I primarily worked from home the first year having only three instances where I needed to go out into the field.   The first two I did alone as in one case the insured had died in the fire and the other was part of a fraud investigation.  The third inventory was done cooperatively with the insured as there had been significant friction with the adjuster and they wanted to introduce a neutral third party.  Working directly with the insured was a great experience, you really got the sense that you were helping someone.  It was also a much faster way to create a fair and accurate schedule of loss report.  It became the standard and the next year I did a dozen more inventories just like it.  The insureds were happy, the adjusters were happy, my bosses were happy and best of all everyone was making good money.  New business started pouring in which a included a huge new contract with the largest underwriter in the country.  What could go wrong?

There are two types of adjusters who work in the insurance industry, staff adjusters are employed directly by the underwriter and independent adjusters who work with a number of different insurance underwriters.  The staff adjusters loved us because we made their jobs easier however there was some resistance from the independent adjusters because their organizations provided similar services to what my company provided and in some ways we were in direct competition for business.  This created some awkward situations like one case where a client was obviously under insured after they suffered a total loss fire.  The adjuster wanted to declare a max claim but due to the new contract we had to sign off on it.  The adjuster sent me a list with a dozen $40,000 line items and wanted me to validate them.  My boss on the other hand, wanted to do a full inventory of the site since we billed by line item   A lengthy back & forth ensued and I didn’t have the authority to make the decision about what we should do.  A compromise of sorts was eventually reached and I did a partial inventory, enough to ensure that it would indeed be a max claim.  The adjuster wasn’t happy and he made that well known to the underwriter, the insureds weren’t happy, my bosses weren’t happy and I didn’t make any money.

The new contract changed everything, the most significant being the size of the claims themselves.  I used to be able to do all the claims from my territory but now there were so many and they were so large that I found myself repeatedly interrupting the claim I was working on to go out in the field on new business.  This was happening company wide and so they went out and hired several new people to try and get this surplus under control and bring our turnaround times back to our previous standard.  It was in the midst of all this that I came to meet Darlene and her family who sadly lost their home and everything in it on Christmas Eve.  Their adjuster told me they were having a really rough time of it and he personally asked me to do the best job I could and help them out.  I felt sorry for them so I sent away all my other work and spent an entire month of my life trying to make sense of the monstrosity that was their claim.

Typically when a restoration company does an inventory they produce three lists: what they restored, what they tried to restore but couldn’t and a list of stuff that was damaged beyond repair.  When my office got a hold of the paperwork for this claim there were over 50 lists, none were labeled, pages were missing and it was rife with duplications.  Thus what showed up on my computer when it was finally typed out was a 3000 line colossus, double the length of any report I had ever done and worse yet since I didn’t do the inventory myself I had no first hand knowledge of what exactly many of these items were.  I told my boss about it but his response was ‘just do it’.   I tried to let the adjuster know what I was up against but I was restricted in what I could actually say, and since adjusters are very busy individuals he didn’t really want to hear it.  The restoration company refused to return my calls and Darlene, while available, proved not to be all that helpful.  I don’t think it was possible to turn that abomination into a quality report and don’t know what I should have done differently.  The fallout from this and similar cases across the country was profound.

The big new contract was put on hold and worked dropped off precipitously.  A host of new rules were implemented which made processing the claims much less profitable and several cost cutting measures were introduced which also cut into my bottom line.  The owner called me and requested that I get a cell phone at my own expense.  I tried to cut a deal but they went ahead and hired a new person who already had a cell phone and while my hours were then reduced I kept on working for several months.  When I got the termination call from the owner he gave me the Darlene case, a full eight months ago, as the reason for letting me go.  He felt that if I had somehow charmed the adjuster a little more that he would have given us a pass for handing in such a poor quality report.  I informed him that I was in contact with my boss every day and I did exactly as I had been instructed to do.  That very same boss had been removed two weeks earlier.  Regardless I knew the real reason,  the company’s brand had been damaged and locally my brand had been damaged as well.  I have no hard feelings for either the owner or the company, they always treated me well and I will always appreciate the fact they gave me the chance to try something new.

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