July 10, 2007

Our Car Insurance Debacle (a.k.a. Online Billing, Please)

Over the years, I've made a whole-hearted effort to avoid paper as much as manageably possible. 95% of all postal mail to our address is for my wife, with the exception of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Newsweek and Business 2.0 magazines, and all bills I can move online I do. For the most part, any mail that comes to the house with my name on it is junk, to be ignored. But this last month, I realized I hadn't moved exactly everything over, and as a result, we've been on the shady side of the law for about six weeks. Oops.

In late June, my wife said she needed to register her car, but upon readying to do so, she said her car insurance had expired. As we are jointly registered on one account, that of course meant that mine too would have been past due.

Scrambling through the condo, I found the reminder from our insurance agency, from May, stating the expiry was upcoming if we didn't pay immediately. As of May 23rd, it turned out we were driving uninsured, a big no-no, for obvious reasons.

Calling the 1-800 line to pay via credit card also failed, as we were just over 30 days late, and I would have to go through a broker to reestablish our insurance. This later led to calling the agency during work hours, getting more than 20 pages in PDF to add dozens of signatures, and faxes to and from our insurance carrier just to get our status back in good graces. And, even after all this, plus paying a small penalty for turning our insurance back on, I don't yet have new insurance cards for my wife or me, so if anything were to happen between now and when they arrive, it will require a little bit of explanation.

While there's clearly egg on my face for the oversight and ignorance of standard billing, I'm a bit annoyed that there was no other warning of my impending illegality. I pay all my credit cards online, the phone bill and even old world tech like our gas and electricity from PG&E is paid online, and I receive a monthly e-mail from them, instead of snail mail, reminding me gently to log in and pay up.

Had I received a single e-mail, I would have logged in, posted my credit card data, and we'd be good to go. Instead, I'm an outlaw, and menace to society. As a side benefit, my wife is ticked off and can't figure out how she married such a dolt. The good news there is nobody else can figure it out either, so she's in good company.