How to lose a customer the Physician’s Mutual Insurance way

I was sitting in my dentist’s waiting room, waiting for a follow-up visit after a pricey root canal, when the Hallmark Channel played a commercial for Physician’s Mutual Dental Insurance. That’s how they got me.

Admittedly, I was an easy mark, both situationally and financially. My dental coverage from Aetna had barely paid anything for my procedure, and given my age, I anticipate more work in the future.

I visited the Physicians Mutual Insurance website and requested an information packet. When it arrived, it seemed like much better coverage than Aetna, although I wouldn’t be eligible for any big-ticket reimbursements during the first year. I decided to bite anyway (see what I did there?) and enrolled online.

Oddly, while setting up my account, I was unable to elect spousal coverage. I assumed I could add that later. (If you’re keeping track, this is my third mistake of the story.)

Immediately upon signing up, my credit card app pinged. They had already charged my card, but they gave me an empty promise (spoiler alert) to send me the policy and membership information via snail mail.

Nearly every day after I signed up, I received spam email from them, asking me to sign up. At my post office box, I received at least 10 mailings also asking me to sign up, but no policy or membership card. The policy and membership card, in fact, never arrived.

I emailed their customer service to add spousal coverage. I received an email response with an encrypted message. To read the message, they wanted me to install some shady-looking app on my computer. Unless, the message said, I was using a “mobile device,” in which case I needed to forward the message to a third party who would decrypt it and send it back to me. (I am not making this up!)

I replied to the message, telling them I could not read the encrypted message. They replied with another encrypted message. This exchange was repeated twice more until I finally had enough. I called them to cancel my policy.

The customer service person asked for my membership number. (Which I didn’t have because it’s only provided in the membership packet, which I hadn’t received, despite it being nearly 30 days after I enrolled.)

I explained all the problems. I could hear the representative shrug their shoulders on the other end of the line. I asked that my policy be cancelled. The only way to do that, I was coldly told, is via mail. Snail mail. He gave me the info to do so. I asked for a refund for the first monthly payment that they had taken within minutes of my enrollment. He said, “put that request in writing, too.”

One month after I mailed the cancellation and refund request, I received a paper check (hello, 1995 called) refunding my payment and confirming my “disappointing decision to end coverage.” (I would use a different adjective.)

Two weeks after receiving the refund, my policy and membership card finally arrived, which I happily dropped in the shredder.



Book Review: Sidewalk Oracles

This 2015 book by Robert Moss is subtitled “Playing With Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life.” It’s an easy, first-person read built upon the premise that “the world speaks to us through coincidence and chance encounters.” But only if we are listening.

gordon meyer holding book

I’m not typically hooked by a book’s title, but this one grabbed my attention. Largely because I once bought the charming “Professor Pam’s Urban Divination Deck” from an Etsy shop, and one of its archetypes is “the mysterious puddle” — a phenomenon that happens on our front sidewalk. Furthermore, a life-changing book I’ve read is Coincidance: A Head Test, written by personal saint Robert Anton Wilson. Given these two signs from the universe, how could I resist this book? After all, there’s the old saying that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Clearly, this book had something to teach me.

The book includes many of the author’s personal stories of synchronicity, which I wasn’t so fond of, as it’s often like reading someone else’s overnight dreams. But he made them as interesting as possible and justified their inclusion by quoting Mark Twain — “I do not wish to hear about the moon from someone who has not been there.”

Thankfully, the bulk of the book is not about the author’s experiences with synchronicity. It’s about recognizing and discovering your own meaningful coincidences. And the book is filled with interesting exercises you can use to tune in to "messages from the universe.” One of these is bibliomancy, or “book-dipping,” which is a basic way to put this whole bit of nonsense to a test. But, fair warning, sometimes you learn what you need, not what you want.

Just a few of the many snippets that caught my attention:

  • The term synchronicity is a modern invention of Jung’s. He coined it because people have a hard time talking about coincidence.
  • The term kledon refers to something you hear, such as a snippet of conversation. Or, I suppose, from a spirit radio. See wikipedia for more.
  • The term kairomancy is the author’s coined word that refers to divination by recognition of meaningful moments.
  • Every so often a synchronistic event is simply a rhyme, rather than an obvious coincidence.
  • The term weird has a fascinating etymology.
  • If you’re of a scientific mind, consider that synchronistic events (and déjà vu) may be related to happenings in parallel dimensions. (See time-reversed interference, which is an actual subject of study.)

If you’re going to read a book like this, I highly recommend that you give yourself permission to imagine — a sadly repressed trait among contemporary adults. (See another review I wrote for more on this.)

I bought my copy from the Amazon. Your local woo-woo shop will likely have it, if not another half-dozen books by this prolific author.


Resolving the HomeKit can’t find accessory error

I’m adding a new camera system to my automated home. I chose the EufyCam 2C Pro system, partially because it’s made by Anker, but mostly because it supports HomeKit Secure Video.

However, it was a major headache getting the system configured to use HomeKit. The issue is that the process of adding the HomeBase2 as a HomeKit accessory would fail. I tried doing it in HomeKit directly, and I tried doing it through the Eufy Security app. Adding the HomeBase2 would always fail.

Making it even more frustrating, each attempt took several minutes, and seemed to work until the final step. HomeKit found the HomeBase, it asked for its location and camera names, and so on. It wasn’t until the final step when it would eventually timeout with a frustrating “Accessory not found” error. Well, FU HomeKit, you found it just fine five minutes ago when I started this process!

How did I finally resolve it? By (inconveniently) connecting the HomeBase directly to the router. (I previously had it, like everything else in my home, connected to a switch. A professional-grade switch, I might add, not some cheap Amazon Basics crap.) Once I moved the connection, adding the accessory was fast and smooth. Apparently, the HomeBase (or maybe HomeKit) doesn’t like being behind a switch. Word to the wise.


How to lose a customer the CenturyLink way

If a company can’t provide at least minimally competent customer service before delivering the product, take that as a sign that you should bail on the deal. I did.

Here are the highlights of how CenturyLink makes it hard to be their customer:

  1. Require a long lead-time to install residential fiber Internet service. Your competitor, Cox, says they offer next day installation. But screw that, make people wait nearly a week.
  2. During that week of waiting, pester the customer with multiple email and text messages, insisting they need to come to a website for the latest installation updates.
  3. When the customer comes to the website, give them a garbled summary, so they won’t know what time to expect the installer.
  4. centurlink buggy scheduling
  5. On the day of install, have your tech entirely ignore the instructions they were given by the community’s security guard so that the tech will be unable to access the customer’s neighborhood.
  6. Have the tech call the customer, seemingly to obtain the instructions already given, but when the call drops before either party can utter a word, turn around and leave the area. IMPORTANT: When the customer calls you back, don’t answer. And never, ever respond to the voice mail left by the customer.
  7. Mark the installation order as ‘location unavailable,’ and reschedule it for more than 40 days in the future. But do not tell the customer you’ve done so. Let them call dispatch and ask WTF is going on.

Book Review: Who in Hell

Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers are the authors of “A Guide to the Whole Damned Bunch,” which is probably the most unique book on my reference shelf. (Where it stands between the Oxford dictionaries of Superstitions and Euphemisms.)

gordon meyer holding book

The best way to describe this book is that it’s a “Who’s Who in Hell,” but I’m guessing the publishers couldn’t use that analogy for trademark reasons. Not only does the book list countless known and identified demons, but it also lists people infamous for their mortal sins, all of whom surely now reside in the fiery pits. Politicians, popes, actors, murderers, and all walks of life are represented. Each with a discussion of the actions that damned their souls.

Interspersed throughout are pithy and memorable quotes, such as “Hell is a pocket edition of Chicago” — a quip from antisemite, prohibitionist, and Englishman, John Burns.

Like all good reference books, every time I look up something, I experience serendipitous delight. For example:

  • As of 1996, 85% of Americans believe Hell exists
  • According to Papal decree, unbaptized babies and Protestants go to Limbo, not Hell. This implies that hell is populated with Catholics.
  • Iya is a Sioux malevolent spirit whose foul breath spreads illness
  • Divel was the common spelling of devil in the 1600s.
  • Adrian IV, the first and only English-born Pope, ceded Ireland to the English, causing no end of trouble.
  • While looking up John Dee (whose mortal sin was sorcery) I noticed the listing for Pierre David. David was a mid-1600s priest who committed blasphemy by issuing dildos to the nuns of his parish and insisting that they attend mass in the nude, à la the Garden of Eden.
  • The demon Hael causes gossip, and is known for teaching the art of writing letters.

Another interesting discovery was Belphagor. He’s an Old Testament devil, known for sloth and carnality, who was worshiped by the Moabites. This entry caught my eye because, while I knew the name of the imp guarding my book cabinet, I knew nothing of his story.

statue in gordon meyer book shelf

I bought my copy of “Who in Hell…” second-hand at a local Half Price Books (a great place to find reference books), but if you would rather not depend on happenstance, you can find it via the Amazon too.