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A friend of his regularly phones the customer service department of a certain company to complain, because she knows that she will get a 15 per cent discount coupon every time she does this.
In many levels, I felt that it was wrong but couldn’t exactly point out to her at the time why I felt that way because she did get bad service. Was it because of her motivation for the call or was it more because it’s not the first time she’s done this?
I know what he means. When you’re paying down debts or piling up nest eggs, it gives you a great buzz and it’s very tempting to get carried away…
I like to stretch the boundaries, but I’m really careful not to cross the line. This is because I have learned that when you grub around for money like that, other people usually suffer. Karma is a bitch, huh?
Here’s an example:
As many of you know, I am the proud owner of the much-loved Thriftymobile. Last year I was driving to work along the backroads, and pulled up at a queue for a roundabout, behind a big shiny SUV. A few seconds later there was a deafening THWACK, the sickening sound of crunching metal and my car jolted forward, bumping the car in front. Fortunately I had the handbrake on and it was only a light bump; the vehicle in front wasn’t even scratched.
I got out of my car, and found that I was sandwiched in the middle of a four car pile-up! The two vehicle behind me were little old bangers too. They were both crumpled write-offs. (Hurrah for the Thriftymobile, which escaped with a cracked rear light and a modest car-shaped dent in its backside. Seriously: this car is the auto equivalent of Mumm-Ra, The Ever Living.) Two girls climbed out of the two written-off cars and burst into tears. An impeccably groomed woman and her impeccably groomed daughter climbed out of the SUV at the front, surveyed the scene, said that everyone was fine and that was what mattered, then hopped back into their monster truck and drove off.
I waited with the girls until their dads showed up. One told me that she worked as a shop assistant; the other worked in a local call centre. When I finally got to work, my co-workers told me to put in a claim for whiplash, quick sharp. I phoned my husband; one of his co-workers came on the phone, telling me to put in a whiplash claim and get some cash. I phoned my mother to let her know what had happened; she pretty much demanded that I put in a whiplash claim.
“Everyone does it”, they said. “The doctors can’t disprove it. It’s what you do. You get money!”
But I didn’t have whiplash. I was fine. What’s more, I knew that if I did put in a fake claim then the girl whose car had bumped into mine, who was no more at fault than I had been, would have to pay a raised insurance premium. She wasn’t rich. And anyway, it would have been wrong.
The next day, I had a call from the police. The impeccably groomed daughter from the fancy SUV, whose mother had driven off with nary a pause, had – you guessed it – filed a personal injury claim. For whiplash.
At the time I was really angry. Because my car was the one that had collided with theirs, I had to take unpaid time off work to go to the police station and give a full statement. My insurance company’s solicitors had to get involved, if only to prove that I wasn’t the driver at fault (as you can probably guess, the culprit was the girl at the back). I had to fill in several ten-page forms for various parties’ insurance companies and solicitors. It dragged on for the next eight months. And after I was finally exonerated, the poor girl in the car behind mine had to go through exactly the same drawn out process. When I came to renew my car insurance, the premium had jumped because a personal injury claim had been made against me. (And before you ask: yes, I did shop around! Got a great deal in the end, but finding it took time.)
So a scrappy little whiplash claim may have turned a fast buck – or in this case, which dragged on forever, a very slow buck – but it went on to cause an awful lot of time, money and trouble for the innocent people who were (literally) caught in the middle. I wonder if the SUV duo knew that when they filed their claim?
I don’t regret not filing though. It might have boosted my finances but overall, I would have lost more than I gained.