Book Review: Sidewalk Oracles
A story cube milestone

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.


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