Consumer Reports: My Favorite Brands … Geico! Really?

I’m upset. I’m no “whistleblower”. In fact, I have contempt for the premise around that word. It implies a fairness or equality or level playing field that does not exist in nature – or this world.

I’ve not been an easy person to nickname. Most just called me by my last name – ROACH – when I was a kid. That was enough, because it’s not the most flattering name. To allow anyone to (easily) put a label on me has not been deliberate. One kid who later found himself bending the rules to run with the affluent friends of his parents, tried calling me “Crotch” for a while, but it never stuck.

Admittedly, my quest … chasing my place in society has been a lifelong pursuit … my Holy Grail. But I do find myself repeatedly in a position advocating for honor, values and fairness for the common man. I’m fairly common in some respects, but admittedly quite extraordinary or “odd” by most standards. That’s why I have something to say of potential benefit to others and why it’s taken so long … but that’s not the point of this note – which should be brief if I’ve done my work here correctly. I’m not trying to hijack your attention for long or make a buck here.

I usually write in response to some event in my life. I rarely declare what it was, but it may be beneficial in this case.

Geico (the auto insurance company) who spends tons on advertising to help people identify the brand, their cheap rates, and approachable – girl next door play on fear and safety – sends me an email saying they’ll add a person to my auto insurance policy if I do not provide proof that another person they’ve identified at my address has insurance. Now I’m feeling ike Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate behind Consumer Reports. I don’t really care for that. But I certainly can’t afford to pay for more car insurance today.

But even if I’m coming off like good old Ralph, I need to say what I need to say. Much like when I told Robert Smith, the richest African American in the USA (or World, if it matters) that I was planning to start my own company and take a few guys with me from one of his companies. He said, “A man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.” Robert hung up then called me back to meet in Dallas to help him reverse out of a several hundred million dollar mistake in an acquisition Vista Equity had made. Well, I helped Robert out for several months until ‘Robert had to do what Robert had to do’ – which was to turn his back on me and let his investment bankers and lawyers do their thing with me. But I survived. He did too – of course he just paid the US government $130 million to stay out of prison and testify against the “angel” in Houston who gave him his start back in the 1990’s.

All that said, I’ve been at the top and in the boardroom with the branding experts and powers that hold it all together, put our world before us. Much of it is necessary in some way or form, even in its imperfection.

Who am I to say that you’re going to compromise your health and pay through the nose for medicine and insurance if you eat and drink this or that, or live some lifestyle? It’s your life and a person’s gotta do what they gotta do – right? Use that inheritance to buy that 20th Rolex or that fourth Lambo. Or, if you’re 17 and like rich guys in their 40’s, I mean – who am I to say or judge?

But here’s the skinny – the point here for the consumer, the common person – this became clear to me as I took this Gieco email seriously and is the motive behind this “brief” note aside from helping me to feel some worthiness and dignity from all my battles.

I initially thought it was a scam – not really my trusted car insurance company. Not Geico. Then I thought to open up my Geico iPhone app and send them a customer support note about the potential scam – the responsible thing to do, right?

So, thirty minutes later and three customer service representatives down, I’m learning this is not a scam. They really are going to add a person to my policy and charge me for it. I’m thinking my bill is going up a couple of hundred dollars a month. I mean, who knows this persons driving record or what kind of car Geico wants to add?

I stay on hold another ten minutes.

The Geico representative comes back demanding that I send them proof that this person has insurance. It’s policy, they say.

I respond that it’s none of their business if I even know this person and refuse.

The representative puts me on hold.

They come back to say … but I interrupt! Before allowing them to spit more marketing scripts at me, I tell them if they ask me one more time about this other person or to provide information, that they will need to cancel my policy.

They ask me to hold. I comply out of curiosity, “okay”.

They come back apologetic! They say they’d made a note in the file alongside my policy – finally trying to spin the “email campaign” as how committed Geico is to caring about my household and protecting my financial future.

I ended the chat! I know how these brands find nice people to put in customer service. It’s not their fault and I don’t need to vent on some person just “being professional”. I mean, who am I to say?

Now here’s the takeaway: The odds are high there’s some smart person with data, a slick presentation and knowledge of human behavior behind this scam at Geico – and a lot fo other major brands as well. Their smart (they’re really smart and well funded – they own platforms and their neighbors and friends own islands). They know human behavior and they’re greedy enough to cross the line. The odds that this email would even be noticed by most consumers are low – and if so, it might easily be mistaken for a scammer and ignored. Most common consumers are too busy to review their automatic billings. A high percentage won’t even challenge the insurance company over a billing. I can see the presentation in my mind – a slick presentation showing a cross-reference between a list of automatic billing customers against public database address exceptions. Bingo!

Buyer beware equates to YOUR time, effort, intelligence and insight to the larger game around your life OR your dollar. It is your choice. These guys are smarter and move faster than regulators and lawmakers. There are a lot of smart people out there looking to meet your needs and create more from that foothold in your life. They already sleep comfortably passing along 30-50% of the price you pay for most retail and consumer goods to advertise and market it to you. The percentages get even crazier for luxury goods.

Published by Mark Roach

Mark Roach is creative businessman, artist, actor, writer, producer, engineer and executive.

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