Tag Archives: insurance

Ill-mannered letters and other people’s whiplash is grinding me down

Angry Bird - like wot I am

In fact, it’s not just the paperwork, it’s the tone of the paperwork.

Having recently become self employed, there is an astonishing amount of paperwork required of me on an almost continual basis, mostly because there are lots of things that I now have to pay for which I didn’t before.  I am also constantly asked to account for myself to various bodies and, whilst I understand that this needs to be done, I come close to getting upset by the hectoring tones of many of these letters.

One letter, asking me for details of the work I have been doing has the penultimate paragraph in large, bold type, some of which is underlined, threatening that if I don’t provide this information within 15 days the payment in question will stop.  This is the first letter of its kind from them and I would mind less if it hadn’t, in fact, been sent to the wrong address.

I have two other ill-mannered letters this week.  The first one regarding Council Tax which is threatening me with court action if I don’t pay £27 which is 7 days overdue.  They informed me that I was  constantly falling into arrears in this financial year and that it simply would not do.  I only received the letter confirming my Council Tax bill three weeks ago.

The second made me want to spit blood with rage at the hypocrisy of it all.  For the first time in a very long while, I was overdrawn at the bank.  Overdrawn by £8 for a grand total of 4 days.  This meant that a direct debit was not paid and for which I was charged £8.  Fair enough.

What was not fair enough was the letter that I subsequently received from my bank lecturing me on the evils of being in debt, that it was totally unacceptable to overdraw without authority and would I like to see an advisor and go on a debt management course.

Do you know what?  I would like the banks to go on a debt management course.  Added to that, I would like the writers of these letters to think twice before assuming that everyone is a work-shy, backsliding criminal.

I just get angry, but I wonder what an elderly or vulnerable person would feel like if they received letters like these.

And whilst I’m on the subject of getting angry, I would like to share with you my entire morning spent trying to get a quote on my car insurance.  My insurance has gone up by over £250 since last year and that was the cheapest quote I could get.  I was expecting it to go up a little bit because I took someone’s wing mirror off back in July and, apparently foolishly, owned up on the flimsy grounds that it was categorically my fault.

I asked each insurer (I rather quaintly get my quotes from humans on telephones) why premiums had gone up so much.  Each one told me that a large factor was the no win no fee companies urging people to claim for whiplash.  Apparently the new trick is to get your friend to bang into your car from behind, you both claim on your insurance, then get a whopping payout for whiplash – the going rate is currently £2k.

When some stupid tart ran into the side of me a year ago (still not gone to court, incidentally) I was bombarded with calls from claims companies for weeks afterwards asking whether I was getting headaches or back pain. Several of them suggested that I was foolish not to claim as whiplash was virtually impossible to gainsay.  Needless to say, I refused to play the game, again on the frail excuse that I was not actually injured.

Nonetheless, my premiums have gone up by £250.

I am very, very cross.  I probably blame Thatcher.

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Filed under Life in general, Transport

Car Insurance – don’t let them get away with it

My insurance broker

I implore you to check your insurance premiums very, very carefully when they are due for renewal.  Whatever your insurance company offers, ring a few other people and mercilessly play them off against each other until you get a sensible quote.

My car insurance is up for renewal tomorrow.  I am currently insured with the AA and I get a special deal on AA Breakdown into the bargain.  I have been insuring my car and home contents with them for years but, come renewal time,  no quarter is given.  Apart from the fact that I am sick to death of the AA apparently having a long, long checklist of reasons why they can’t come and rescue me when I break down, I considered defecting to the RAC after the fantastic service I received when I was recently involved in an accident.

I received two unsolicited quotes from the AA in the post, the first on 27th October for £533, the second on 8th November for £589, both for the same policy specifications.  When I rang them they assured me that the absolute lowest they could go was £500.  So I rang the RAC, and obtained a quote for £478.  I immediately rang the AA back and, magically, they were able to offer me £478.

All insurers are thieving scumbags who take your money and make every excuse in the book not to pay out when you need them.  In the unlikely event that they do pay out, you are required to meet them at a crossroads in a lonely spot, where you both play the banjo and your soul is handed over to the devil.

I am a great believer in haggling, ducking and diving.  I bob and weave.  I lift and separate.  I haggle at book fairs, antique fairs and market stalls and I even attempt it in ordinary shops.  I managed to get a pair of shoes from Brantano  for £10 less than the sale price because it was the last pair “and you can never sell the last pair…”.  I managed to get £200 off a petrol lawnmower by playing three local companies off against one another until they broke down sobbing with tiny drops of blood oozing from their ears.  Whenever I go into the shop now, it’s like a ghost town with tiny sounds of scuffling coming from the stock room.

The insurance companies will rip you off if you don’t keep your wits about you and tradespeople will always charge the highest price they can get away with.  Just remember that insurance is  betting under another name.   Pull yourself up to your full height, take a deep breath and start haggling, do a deal, strike a pose.  You’ve nothing to lose.

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Filed under Community and shopping

Pack up your troubles: Advice on packing when you’re moving house

As you probably know, I am in the process of moving house.  I don’t have another house to go to as yet (pause for silent, anguished wailing), but the packing-up must start regardless.  I have moved house many times in recent years and it is a miserable, soul destroying business.  I am a person who has a lot of ‘stuff’.  I also have over three and a half thousand books; some of which are particularly dear to me – I even keep them hidden behind a decorative cloth in case the sun fades the spines.  I certainly don’t trust anyone else to pack them – they may not have clean hands. Or be pure of spirit. 

I digress.  My purpose in writing this article is to offer advice about packing.  I am the best packer in the known universe and my house moves have resulted in very few breakages, (those that have happened have been the result of other people’s carelessness) and the unpacking has been as swift and painless as it is possible to be.

PROFESSIONAL REMOVERS:

  • If you can possibly afford to pay professional removers, DO IT.  Why torture yourself? 
  • If you can move at the weekend, you stand more chance of getting a discount from a local firm of removers, as most house buyers move during the week due to the exchanging of contracts. You can also do deals where you do the packing and they do the moving.
  • Make sure they are properly insured and that you understand the terms of the insurance.  Some companies insist that you have to report damages within a certain period of time.  If you are unlikely to unpack some boxes for some considerable time, (eg if you are decorating or undergoing extensions or renovations) negotiate with your remover for an extension of that clause. 
  • Have a good chat with them so that they understand exactly what you want them to do.

If you can’t afford removers then the packing and logistics are down to you.  Plan it like a military operation and you’ll spare yourself a lot of anguish.

MOVING YOURSELF

STEP 1:  Assess your possessions

  • Look around your house and make notes about the type of things you have, books, glass and china, pictures, DVDs & CDs, plants, toys, soft things, electricals, kitchen equipment, collections etc.
  • Ask your friends to start saving their newspapers for wrapping.  Bubble wrap is great but newspapers are cheap and recyclable.  Have both.
  • Ask your supermarkets for their used, flattened boxes.  Also ask them for banana boxes which are incredible strong and have lids.  Keep going every few days as they use an astonishing amount of them.  Banana boxes are perfect for books or heavy things are they’re not too big.  Crisp boxes are also a very useful size.
  • Buy a stock of sellotape, parcel tape, different colour marker pens and paper for labelling.
  • Buy some large binbags for transporting soft things and smaller ones for rubbish as you will inevitably get rid of some stuff as you go along.
  • Buy a medium sized notebook just for moving.  You can keep lists, notes, packing lists, lists of helpers, details of who you have to inform about your house move and when you’ve done it.

STEP 2:  Start Packing

  • Start well in advance with the things you do not need on a daily basis.
  • If anyone offers to help, take them up on it – a job can be found for absolutely anyone, even if it’s only keeping everyone fed and watered.
  • Put a layer of crumpled newspaper on the bottom of the box to reduce impact when packing fragile things.
  • Work on one area at a time so that items will come out of the box in a logical order.  For example, start in the Sitting Room and pack your ornaments, well wrapped in newspaper.
  • Clean or dust items thoroughly before packing – you don’t want to start in a new house with dirty stuff.
  • Put  the heavier things at the bottom.
  • LABEL THE BOXES.  This is so important.  You don’t have to list every item, but write on the label “Dining Room: Glass and China from Dresser” or “Sitting Room: Family photos & vases from Mantelpiece”.  This will make finding things and deciding in what order to unpack ten times easier.  Put a label on two sides of the box – Never on the top as the label will not be seen in a stack.  May seem obvious, but you’d be amazed what people do!  I do labels on the PC as it also provides an accessible record of what you’ve packed. 
  • If you need to spread a collection of things over several boxes, eg. a dinner service, add at the end of the label Box 1 of 2, Box 2 of 2 etc , this way it’s easier to establish if something’s missing.
  • Finish the box with a layer of crumpled newspaper to protect from impact damage.
  • Tape the box up firmly and stack it with the label showing.
  • Make sure that a box with basic kitchen equipment is moved into the kitchen early on, including a kettle, milk, tea/coffee, biscuits, a saucepan, mugs, a few plates etc to keep you going on the day
  • Put a set of bed linen, inc the favourite toy, for everyone into clearly labelled bin bags
  • Make sure that wash things and medicines are put into clearly labelled and secure bags to stay wherever you are sleeping. Include an alarm clock.
  • If anything is going to have to be stored in a garage or loft for a while, pop a couple of dessicant sachets or mothballs in the boxes or bags, just to be on the safe side.  A drop of peppermint on the cardboard of a box helps to deter mice.

STEP 3:   The Actual Move

  • If you can get a friend to take your young children for a few hours, do it. There will be plenty of time for them to get involved later.
  • If at all possible, try to have someone supervising at both ends, to direct the people actually moving the boxes.
  • Where appropriate, mark the boxes in red or a different colour to show which room they are destined for.  This will save time later.
  • Put labels on the doors of the rooms of the house you’re moving to.  Your helpers won’t know which is The Sitting Room etc or particular people’s bedrooms.
  • Ensure you have plenty of tea breaks. Moving is exhausting and you will easily get dehydrated and low in energy and spirits if you’re not sensible.  This is an ideal job for the older or not so strong helpers. Also have a radio or CD player going with light, cheerful music. 
  • Try to get as much cleaning done before the move as you can.  If you are cleaning the house you’re moving out of yourself, try to move boxes from one room at a time and have someone on final cleaning detail as each room empties.  This is an ideal job for clumsy people who can’t be trusted with boxes.
  • Make sure that the beds get in as early as possible and that you have put bed linen into marked bin liners so that beds can be made up quickly for your first night. Or sleeping bags.
  • Don’t attempt to empty the contents of drawers from chests – take the drawers out and move them as they are, taping some paper or plastic over them if necessary.
  • Have some spare lightbulbs to hand.  Some scummy people even take those with them when they move.  Also, have a first aid kit to hand; I know from bitter experience that injuries happen during house moves.
  • Buy some microwaveable meals or be prepared to get a takeaway for your first night. Cooking is not an option!
  • Leave a folder in the house for the new incumbents with information about how things like the boiler work.  In rented places it’s a nice courtesy and good karma.

STEP 4:  Settling In

  • Be realistic.  Only unpack the things you need immediately at first. If you’re planning to stay in the new house for a while, it’s worth taking the time to think about where things go.
  • Label the kitchen cupboards with their contents – just a Post It note – or the kitchen will be a bewildering place.
  • If you have decided to store some things in the loft, an outbuilding or a friend’s house, make a note of what has gone where. This saves time when you’re looking for things.
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbours, if appropriate.  Not only is it courteous and friendly, they can be a great help if you’ve moved to a new area.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll add it in.
I’ve tried to put spaces in between the bullet points but it just won’t let me – I hope it’s not too hard to read.

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Filed under Household Hints