Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Down But Not Out

Yet again we have been quiet for a week or two, but in the background things have been happening. I didn’t have to complain to the highest level of Direct Line, in fact once they pulled their finger out they actually move very quickly. That isn’t to say that it’s good news, the motor home has been written off, as we suspected it would. There were a number of deciding factors: the age of the vehicle, the fact that the chassis is ladder format means that any twisting would require the entire body to be removed, and it couldn’t be assured of being jigged back to form (of course this in itself  would be massively expensive). The damage to the front near side suspension turret was a good indicator that the chassis had moved from square to a parallelogram (for those that may not know that shape). The ding in the front of the chassis only compounded the issue of the chassis being true, as the front damage is on the opposite corner of the motorhome.

The deal we’ve struck is a compromise, as things always are. We’ve been paid out £500 less than the insured value. We have to buy back the carcass to extract our brand new equipment. Had we removed it prior to the assessment as everyone said we should do, to protect our investment and to re-use it we would have lost all the value, but it does sting that we have to buy back that which we paid over £2000 pounds for less than a year ago. Insurance companies don’t like paying out.
What do we do now? Well I started scheming the very next day after the accident. I was up at our local petrol station, and happened to espy a 13 year old Vauxhall Movano 3500 PTS Ambulance (Passenger Transport Service) in a small commercial van sellers yard. It’s long, very long, It’s white, it’s got 300000 miles on the clock ... that’s a lot of miles, a really huge amount of miles. However research says that a new engine complete would cost £1500 and about the same to fit it. The clutch, Alternator, Starter Motor, Disks and Pads are all under £200, as are the piston rings, shell bearings etc, so a re-build while a big job, isn’t in itself hugely expensive ... he says while remembering he’s skint from last year and all the work on the previous motorhome ... and he wants to start from scratch again ... you’d have thought he’d learned his lesson?

So there’s this ambulance, it’s 50cm longer than the Elddis, though not as wide. It is panelled and insulated, it has a blown air central heating system (they cost between £500 and £1300), It has tinted windows down both sides. It’s a semi high top with double rear doors and side access.
I’m under no illusion that it is a project. However I have already reserved the services of Blackdown conversions for the end of May. Paul was as sick as a parrot on our behalf for the loss of the Elddis, but on the Brightside he says the Movano is a great base to convert from. Our usual mechanic has said don’t touch it with a barge pole because of the mileage. My mate Rob he knows a thing or two about vans took it for a test drive a few hours after I had driven it myself, and said it felt very good for its age and mileage; I to was very pleasantly surprised when I drove it (after speaking to the guy who reconditioned the Elddis, I was ready to give up on the Movano).

The advantage to the Movano is that it has a service history as long as your arm, every A or B service, tyre change, replaced light bulb, brake pad and even the loss of an offside mirror have been recorded. Though this pales into insignificance against the critical service parts “Timing Belt and Cam Belt”, both are recorded as changed ... don’t care ... still going to get them replaced again. Did you see the hint there? The decision has been made, this Friday I’ll haggle over the asking price after taking one last look over the potential new wagon, I want to check the roof rails for rust and I want another drive from cold; that means turning up unannounced which only new car dealers are happy about. I’ll post again when I know more.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Insurance companies, call centres, accountability.

It’s sixteen whole English days and a bit since our motorhome was rear ended. In that sixteen days I’ve called Direct Line seven times that I’ve recorded, and they have called me twice. The initial call was to tell them what had happened. They were incredibly busy because of the snow so wouldn’t take the call properly. They just took basic details with a view to calling us back once they had gotten over their bump.

This process led to our initial claim having a tic box ticked somewhere saying it was an enquiry. This generated an auto mail from some faceless person thanking us for our enquiry and that if a third party claimed via our insurance and we hadn’t notified them we could be liable for costs, loss of cover and we may even be killed and eaten.
That prompted my second call to Direct Line to say, we had made a claim already and that we needed to know what the letter was about. We were duly told it was an error and not to worry our claim was being processed. All good.
We received a note telling us that we needed to take our vehicle to a local Vauxhall dealership and crash repairers to be assessed, however I pointed out that their website stated that they looked after panel vans and cars, and that we would need secondary fixing around the habitation area where the aluminium skin has been damaged. They agreed, but realised very quickly that despite taking on the premium, that they (Direct Line) had no one on their books with the necessary skills to do the repairs, and we should endeavour to find our own repairer, which I did. Phone call three, gave them the details of the specialist repairer, the police incident No and a few more details of the vehicle our vehicle was shoved into. I asked the question: when can we expect and assessor to call us?
This has taken from Sunday 20th January until the 25th of January and I’m starting to wonder how busy the assessors are, that we haven’t even had a call?
I’m assured by the call centre agent that the assessors are very busy and know all about our case and will contact us within 48 hours of this call (25th January).  If I haven’t heard a from them after close of business on the 26th of January I should phone back on Monday the  28th of January ... you know what’s coming next. On Monday 28th of January I called to say the assessors hadn’t called the previous week. I was told by the call centre person that the case was with the Assessors, and they would mail the assessors dept to remind them to call us urgently.
I was advised that “if” I hadn’t heard from the assessors by close of business on the 30th of January, I should call back on the morning of the 31st of January. So on the 31st of January I called back to say that the assessors hadn’t called, I was told that the assessors knew about the case and that if I hadn’t heard from them by Friday 1st of February, call back at any time that was convenient. So on Friday at midday I called back and said I was a bit worried and starting to get just a bit irritated by what was coming across to me as; either lies being told, or a fuck up somewhere in the faceless, nameless, process and script driven systems that companies employ today ... there is a cost to cheap car insurance, cheap telephone bills, and twenty four hour access, and the cost is quality, if you don’t manage your affairs then don’t expect these people to, because they aren’t paid enough to give shit.
The chap at the end of the phone checked out what was going wrong because I said the only thing I was calling for was to check why the assessors hadn’t called me, and that I had no other information to add. Effectively I gave him one task that was a good win for him and a good win for me. He quickly discovered that way back on the 19th Of January when the initial enquiry was made, a box had been ticked and had never been un-ticked, and in addition to that, because the call had been pushed to the assessors so many times it was now stuffed in the way that only computers know how to stuff things.
At some point on Wednesday 6th of February (I’m giving until lunchtime). If I haven’t received a phone call from the assessors I’m going into complaint mode. This will entail typing up a diarised timeline, recorded from the moment the second call was made to Direct Line and they “ummed and ahhed” and didn’t inspire any confidence (Time, Date, name of call centre agent and preferably their extension No:).
As with all such letters of complaint I shall bypass all the managers at every level in the call centre and instead find the three or four most senior board members and moan direct to them. This I have found works as well as Kryptonite against Superman. It worked when the Woolwich building society lost some property deeds they had to send two hundred yards to my solicitors. It worked with CountryWide Property Lawyers who really do put the count in country (did you see what I did there?). To be fair to Countrywide they waved their fees for our last house sale ... but by god they took us to the wire with our buyers patience.
So here we are; I have to deal with call centre people every day; in India, in Manila somewhere up North, somewhere in France and somewhere in Poland. The staff aren’t accountable and there is often very little they can, or want to do (other than call another call centre somewhere). The managers may have a pop at an individual over a particular error, but from bitter experience all they are interested in is ensuring that the error that propagated from their subordinate doesn’t head upwards to their own managers, as it just drags on and on and on, and that’s just messy.
So my top tip for kicking up a stink when you are being (for want of a better phrase) fucked around, is aim your complaint right at the very top, and then follow it up. It seems mean, but they are quick enough to take your money, they are quick enough to send you a snotagram telling you that if they can find a way not to pay you out ... they will. Another tip, do not be angry when you write to complain, no opinions, no judgements and no name calling, just the facts and as brief as possible. Remember that, have a splendid week, we’ll post again when we have some idea of WTF we are going to do next. J
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