ASKING FOR A DISCOUNT

My brother is quite money savvy, especially when it comes to his yearly insurance checkups. Makes sense given his background in finance and accounting. Unlike my younger sibling, I’m no financial savant. I like a bargain and saving money, but only if I don’t have to work for it. With the pandemic lockdown and becoming a single income family, my brother recommended that we review our insurance premiums. Solid advice given all our premiums has skyrocketed this year.

The only problem is I hate asking for a discount. It makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family where asking for a discount or perk was normal. Haggling for a good price was common practice within the community that I lived in. Not asking meant being ripped off and as we straddled the line of poverty, being polite or embarrassed wasn’t conducive to meeting our basic living needs. So my parents excelled at being professional negotiators of the discount variety. I guess that trait bypassed me.

Asking for a discount seems rude and makes me feel like a cheapo, especially when the savings won’t make or break the bank. Plus I despise elevator music and the awkward small talk. Have I mentioned that my children rarely give me a moment of peace and expect me to cater to their every whim? It’s virtually impossible to have a phone conversation with anyone. However, a review of our recent credit card statement showing our large contribution to Uber Eats had me feeling guilty enough to make the call.

After listening to wretched elevator music for twenty minutes, a call centre woman from our car insurance company finally took my call.

“Welcome to ***. How can I help?” The woman could barely muster any enthusiasm before heaving a great sigh of annoyance. She didn’t give me good vibes. I found myself anxious asking the question.

“Um… I’d like to… you know… see if I could possibly… maybe… like get a discount?”

An uncomfortable few seconds of silence was followed by another (involuntary?) loud exhale of air. How rude! So what if I was like every Joe Blow asking for a discount? We ARE in a pandemic and money is tight for everyone!

Ten minutes of questions and some ‘professional discretion’ later, I got my discount and it only cost me my dignity.

I decided to compare the premium with another company. I chose an insurance company known for its affordable premiums and top-notch customer service. It was towards the last page of their online quote that I realised someone from the company would call to release the quote.

I wish I hadn’t accepted the call. For an hour I was bombarded with the ‘spiel’. You know, the “How’s your day?” and “But wait, there’s more!” and “At ***, we endeavour to give our customers the best experience and support.”

To be fair, the call centre man was very pleasant and customer focused. But he gave off a used car salesperson vibe. The longer I spent on the phone with him, the more I felt like I was being sucked into a vacuum of despair. There was a litany of questions… unending, eye-stabbing, head-banging questions coupled with useless one-sided banter. I stuck to it because damn it, I wanted that quote! I had wasted so much of my time and effort.

Eventually, he gave me the quote and after learning that it was higher than my current premium, I tried ending the call. I’m a decent person, so the idea of simply hanging up on someone isn’t something that sits well with me but heck, this dude was something else. He wouldn’t take no for an answer even after I told him I had to go to cook dinner and that my children needed me. In the end I had no choice; I hung up.

The dude tried calling immediately afterwards and bombarded me with me multiple emails. Two days later, he called again and left messages to speak to me. By this point, I was kinda freaked out at the stalkerish behaviour and blocked the numbers.

I emailed to the company politely asking not to be contacted again via email or phone. I didn’t like being railroaded. The shotgun approach was disturbing. Can you imagine how many little old women and men must get harassed into accepting a shitty quote just because they can’t say no?

This experience has taught me some things.

One – If I have to speak to customer service, I’d rather deal with a rude but efficient employee to the overly pleasant but dog with a bone salesperson.

Two – Asking for discounts is not my jam.

Three – Be careful of what you wish for.


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STARING DOWN THE BARREL OF AN EMPTY NEST

A few days ago, I received a phone call from my brother, who ranted and raged for forty-five minutes over our mother. He was going to move out (for the second time) and find a rental property with his fiancée. This was met with fierce opposition, and a massive argument ensued. My brother complained that at thirty, he shouldn’t need his mother’s approval for anything and that he was a grown man. BUT, being the grown ass man that he claimed to be, he needed me to talk some sense into our mother.

I bet you’re thinking why he doesn’t just grow a pair and do it, right? ‘Cos that’s the first thing that came to mind and I was itching to blurt out. If only it was that simple. Let me back up and explain how dysfunctional my family is.

Our mother is extremely superstitious, suffers from undiagnosed anxiety and has a fragile ego that rivals Trump. Most of her “predictions” and beliefs are based on conspiracies and hearsay. Remember Y2K? Our mother fiercely believed that once the clocked ticked over to the year 2000, the world would self-combust. At her insistence, we prepped like Doomsdayers for that event. Canned corned beef was a staple in our family for years following that prediction. I can’t stand the smell of corned beef anymore.  

As for our mother’s anxiety, matters are made worse from the loss of employment due to the pandemic and excessive screen time on YouTube watching some dude spouting conspiracy theories about WW3. She admits to sleep problems, obsessive rumination and heart palpitations but won’t seek medical help. Without her coöperation, it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know it’s going to be a bloody end but are helpless to stop it.

Is it any surprise that my brother’s intention to move out has caused our mother to react so poorly? Her internal anxiety is at a constant heightened state fuelled by feelings of the lack of control and concerns for the uncertainties of world political and economic issues.

It doesn’t help that she truly believes if Trump is re-elected, the world will end as we know it. So she insists that my brother not move out until mid next year. Why then? Who really knows. And if WW3 did happen, how is living at home going to stop the bombs?

In our mother’s mind, controlling her surrounding situation and son are her attempts to simply elevate some anxiety. It doesn’t matter that her reasons are ludicrous.

Threats of no-show to weddings and disowning, tears and tantrums were unleashed.

In fairness, my brother hasn’t helped the situation either. Instead of moving out like I did at eighteen and paving his own path, he stayed at home and let his mother baby him. It has been too easy for him.

At the ripe old age of thirty, his mother still clears the dirty dishes from his bedroom without any prompting. His clothes are washed, dry cleaned and folded away. Food is readily available with his mother only barely refraining from trying to spoon feed him. Is it any wonder that she sees him as a kid?   

“You want to be treated like an adult? Act like one! Do your own damn laundry! Cook your own meals! Clean your dishes! Stop acting like a lazy teenager and pick up after yourself. You want some respect? Grow up and stop relying on mum for everything.”

That was the gist of my advice to him. Was I too harsh? Probably, but I was sick of everyone complaining to me. I have two unruly kids to deal with and don’t need two unruly adults added to my heap of responsibilities.

I did offer some further advice. 

“You have one mum, and this problem is a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Think of the ramifications of both parties cutting ties. Do you want that for you and your future children? Calm down and go speak to her like an adult.”

I told him to consider things from our mother’s point of view and understand her fears of being an empty nester – the loss of her identity and purpose and anxiety for his safety. I explained to him how a person suffering anxiety could feel increased stress from lack of control and how they might react. I pleaded with him to find a better way to respond to our mother instead of lashing out. Fighting fire with fire wasn’t going to help anyone and someone needed to be the bigger person. Sometimes it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

My brother wasn’t the only person to bear the brunt of my brutal honesty. 

“You are stifling him with your mothering. Don’t you want him to grow into an independent man capable of caring for himself and his family? How is you waiting on him hand and foot helping? Think back to when you were a newly wed, did you appreciate living under the same roof as your overbearing mother-in-law?”

As anticipated, our mother didn’t appreciate my blunt assessment and likened it to character assassination. Hurt and offended, our mother suggested that I wouldn’t understand her feelings until my children wanted to move out. Why do parents do that? It’s so bloody patronising. 

Maybe I don’t completely understand the depth of her feelings but I highly doubt I’ll react the same way. Aren’t you supposed to be happy when you’re children become independent and capable adults? Isn’t the end goal of parenting to have them move out so you can rent out their rooms and supplement your retirement? Kidding.

Anyway, the phone calls have ceased. My brother finally grew a pair and sat our parents down for a serious adult conversation. They’ve come to terms with it, and he’s moving out by the end of the year. 

If my thirty-year-old kid had a decent paying job, a fiancée and could finance multiple investment properties, I would be shoving them out of my door. 

Can you imagine anything worse than walking through your door and accidentally coming upon your kid and his/her partner ‘aggressively snuggling’? Actually, there is something more traumatising than that – them walking in on you…

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LEAKY ROOF

Have you ever spoken to an insurance call centre person at 5:30 AM? Think monotone, monosyllabic and monochrome. A whole lot of mono and I don’t mean the virus. But who could really blame anyone for sounding like they need a caffeine injection or a bowel evacuation at such a preposterous hour?! I sounded like a woman with a husky voice offering rumpy pumpy support services and I felt like crap on toast myself. I can’t imagine working that early and having to deal with people. The chap on the phone entered my claim and organised for an emergency man to secure our house. He did it as cheerfully as one would expect.

A dripping noise jolted me wide awake at 4:30 AM, the rhythmic tapping noise jarring to my senses to the point of distraction. Naturally, I shook my husband awake and temporarily blinded us by turning on the bedroom light in search of the disruptive noise. Luckily (or not so luckily), the dripping noise was located inside of the room and was not a figment of my imagination. Strong winds and heavy rain caused a leak in the corner of our bedroom ceiling.

An emergency man came inspecting the roof at 8:00 AM and informed us that we had a broken roof tile, clogged gutters and damaged insulation batts due to nesting roof rats. The man secured the area with the broken tile to prevent any further damage and left.

Bloody rats. Did you know that one female roof rat can produce up to 40 new rats a year? And that it only takes about 2 months for a rat to reach sexual maturity? Do the maths. It’s frightening the number of unwanted squatters we could possible house. We decided to add a few more boxes of rat poison to the existing lot in the roof cavity for good measure. Let’s hope they don’t drop between the wall cavities. The lingering smell of death is disgusting.

A few days later, the insurance assessor came to inspect and photograph the damage and recorded my statement. He recommended we cleaned our roof tiles and have our gutters cleaned, an expense that the insurer wouldn’t cover as it was unrelated to the storm damage. He said the insurer may compensate for the roof tile, insulation batts and any cosmetic damage but the cost of repair would likely be less than the excess we’d have to pay.

With our insurance excess being excessive and future premium likely to skyrocket, it made financial sense to fix the problems ourselves instead of through our insurer. As my husband works full-time and hates bargaining, it made sense to hand the job over to someone who loves to haggle and has the time to ring around for quotes.

The first roofer I rang came yesterday and quoted me $1,320 for the job. I wonder how many quotes I’ll need before making a decision? And whether cheaper is better? I’ve been burnt a few times being a cheap ass. Remember the cortisone injections?

There is rain predicted for the upcoming week. It might be prudent to just get the job done and not waste time trying to save a couple of hundred. What do you think?

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