A Guilty Party.


Most people whine about corporate greed. And, with good reason.
It isn’t just the money grubbing. It’s the God forsaken inconvenience.
Really?
Yes. I’m talking about outsourcing.
Are most of you picturing the tech support call centers in Bangalore? Or, the Philippines? I’m not. I’m talking about regular, everyday life in middle America. Here’s the story.

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In 1989, I bought my house. It’s an old farmhouse on the corner, right in the heart of town, built in 1895 by the Hogans who worked for landowner Catherine Berst. That’s neither here nor there, by now. Mostly, it’s got a rock solid stone foundation, one and one half inch oak floors, a real coal cellar, and two chimneys.

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This past winter in our region was life-threateningly, frigidly cold. Mountains of oppressive snow and ice. We were house bound for weeks. Right before Christmas, a bird died in a nest built in the back chimney, blocking the water heater flue and causing a massive CO leak that could have killed a person. In this case, the sole occupant: me. This led to repairs on the water tank, the flue, and the addition of a chimney “cap” to prevent any more hapless fledglings from being drawn in by the deadly warmth.

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Most recently, in anticipation of a large acquisition in the form of a Steinway M – a lifelong dream, requiring an equally long period of saving up funds – I had the floor refinished in the room where the piano was to live upon its arrival. In the process, a soaking smelling leak was discovered at the base of the plaster enclosed chimney. Again, I called a plumber, who looked at the damage and asked about potential sources; when I told him of the Carbon Monoxide problem, he declared the damage to be caused by condensation resulting from that newly-repaired leak. He told me to spray it with bleach, and went on his way.

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After I had the chimney replastered, the floor was refinished and an air cleaner plugged in to ameliorate the fumes. However, the chimney base still smelled of mildew, even with the air cleaner running. And, when it rained, water spotting through the new plaster told the tale; this problem was bigger, and possibly more widespread, than I ever could have known.

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On advisement, I called a real estate agent to obtain the name of a mason to inspect the entire chimney. He clambered across the peak and found it: a leak, in the chimney, from the top down. This would cost upwards of $900 – just for one of the two chimneys.

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On Tuesday, my tax preparer told me to call my homeowner’s insurance company.
And, here’s where it gets really intricate. Stay with me. So far, we’ve had a National Fuel inspector; a plumber; and, a chimney contractor. Keep tabs.

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Tuesday night, I called the insurance company’s 1-800 “24 hour Claims Hotline”, silently marveling at this wonderful “convenience.” But, like every day of my life, I ate those words later for dinner.

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Speaking with a live representative, I outlined in detail the entire episode from December to the present. He took down all my information and said that someone would be in touch with me the very next day.

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Again, more marveling, and, more words to eat for breakfast. The phone call came in alright, early the next morning. Her name was Susan, and she worked in “Claims”. She took down all my information, and told me she would be forwarding all this on to a “field property specialist.” He would call me. The next day.

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That was today.
I just got off the phone with Orlando, the field property specialist. He lives just south of Cleveland, almost three hours distance from my home. He took down all my information, warned me that this damage might not be covered by my policy, and said that he would be forwarding everything to one of several available companies which would schedule a time to come and actually look at my home. He wasn’t sure who would be “in my area” in the coming days, but he would do his best to send someone to contact me “within the next 48 business hours.”

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Today is Thursday.  Now, we’re talking Monday.
The one saving grace is that both the chimney repair man and the biochemist also being hired to inspect for mold are to communicate directly with the insurance adjuster, Orlando. At least I can call that a mild “convenience.” But, can anybody remember when the claims adjuster lived a half mile away, and drove in his own car to the site of the damage within 24 hours?

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This is the new face of “service.” It now takes a week from the first contact to the on site visit, and the cause? Out sourcing. We no longer live in cities, or even towns; we live in “regions”, and customer service cuts a very wide swath, indeed. We must wait until somebody who can schedule a three hour drive, just to see us, decides to make the trip. This is true for telecommunications, for home security, and for all insurance claims. For any company that has expanded its borders in the name of, you said it, corporate monopoly.

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Gone are “appointments”. Nobody promises to come at 4:00 pm anymore. Now, we must pick a given day of a given week and hope, rather than expect, to see someone at our door between the hours of 8:00 am and noon. Or, noon and 6pm. And, God forbid we aren’t home when that moment arrives.

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This isn’t service. This is house arrest. And, we aren’t the guilty party. We just live here.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

4/2/15  all rights the author’s. Thank you for your service.

littlebarefeetblog.com

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