Friday, June 16, 2006

Feeling Like a Confused Cat in the Hat

Being an insurance agent, even if it is only to earn money while I continue my vocation as an ordained minister, has created some real quandaries. When I meet with potential insurance clients, I find myself listening to their stories, not as an insurance agent, but as a minister or, perhaps even more problematical, as a social worker. I hear about their problems and challenges and a red light flashes in my mind and I hear the words “There is a solution and you can assist them”

The primary glitch with that is, if I assist everyone I meet in the role of insurance agent, I’ll never sell any insurance. And if I don’t sell any insurance, I’ll not be able to make my mortgage payments and the mortgage company will foreclose on my home!

There is also a second problem with my trying to serve people as a minister or counselor when I am also an insurance agent: I have several “freebees” that I can give away. I know which of these are useful to people and I know of people who can use them. However, since the source of these freebees is me—an insurance agent—some people are distrustful of accepting the free gifts. Those people even include my family.

For example, a freebee that I think every elderly person really needs—not too mention dudes and dudettes like myself who live alone (except for Alex, who would be no help)—is the free MediFacts kit I can give away.

The MediFacts kit is simply a tri-fold brochure-like, heavy paper on which people can list medical information about themselves. This information is made available for emergency medical personnel just in case the person is injured or becomes ill in their home. It can also provide information to emergency room staff if the person is transported to hospital. And most importantly, it provides that information even if the person is unconscious or otherwise unable to speak. The individual simply answers questions such as persons to contact in case of an emergency; physicians' names and telephone numbers; medical conditions; and a list of current medications.

The MediFacts information in the placed in a clear, plastic covered to which a magnet is fixed and is a stuck by means of the magnet to the front of the person’s refrigerator. The kit also includes two stickers, one for the front door and one for the back door of the person’s house, which alert emergency medical personnel that the MediFacts are on the refrigerator.

Simple! And, from some of the stories I have heard from people and from EMS employees, very beneficial to the point that the MediFacts information has—and can—save a person’s life.

I have been giving MediFacts kits to everyone I know—everyone I encounter. I have given them to all of the "senior" citizens I know, even though I realize I really can’t sell these people any insurance—the cut off age for most of the polices I can sell is 59, which even eliminates me!

The problem is: some of the people refuse to accept these MediFacts kits simply because they are provided by an insurance company. Last night I thought about my uncle, who recently had surgery. I realized that the odds are relatively high that, not only because of his surgery but also because he is in his mid-eighties, the time may come when he or his wife dial 911 and call for an EMS ambulance. So I telephoned him and offered to bring two kits—one for my uncle and one for my aunt—to their house. He rejected my offer and seemed convinced that I was going to try to sell him insurance, even though I began the conversation by (jokingly) telling him that we (he and I) are both too old to purchase the insurance I sell.

My uncle ended the conversation by apologizing for “hurting” my feelings. I refrained from responding that “my feelings” belong to me and he has the power to “hurt” them. I did say that I believe it important that he at least look at the MediFacts kits—that they could save his life. If he wouldn’t let me drop them by the house, I said I’d mail them to him. That’s exactly what I did.

So I have two distinct predicaments: (1) I have difficulty not switching hats from insurance agent to social worker or ordained minister and (2) there are people who distrust my compassion and generosity because I wear the hat of an insurance agent.

I assume that, as time goes by and if I continue being an insurance agent (which I realized is not my true vocation), I learn not to feel like The Cat in the Hat.


  1. See Nick, you are way too nice. You are going to have to become emotionless to work in insurance. Good luck with that!

  2. ohhh thats got to be tough. I can only imagine your quandry. Your heart will guide you!! Good luck!!

  3. I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive. Even people with a very good pastor need insurance, don't they?

  4. Oh boy. I have to agree with JD. I just see insurance people like used car salesmen! Maybe it's different in America, perhaps insurance agents are thought highly of there.

    i'm willing to predict you'll go back to your true vocation eventually :o)

  5. JD’s ROSE: I fear you are right. Thus far I have sold 4 policies and given away 19 free policies.

    KYLEE: Thanks. I am letting my heart and my sense of ethics guide me. Of course, I may never make a living that way.

    THOMAS: I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but I have some real ethical questions. For example, my team leader suggested that we set up a table at a walk that was held this morning to promote cancer awareness. He wanted us to sell critical illness—i.e., cancer—policies at the table. I informed him that that could be considered exploitive and disrespectful. We didn’t set up the table.

    MICHELLE: In the U.S.A. insurance salesmen are seen the same way. I see them as the same as used car salesmen. I am also learning that the insurance company is more dastardly than its agents. I really need a church to pastor!

  6. Nick, I know you too well to believe you can be happy selling insurance. If you can't find a church to pastor, strat a new one. I am sure people would folk to it because of who you are.

  7. I see the problem a little more clearly now, but people do need insurance, and an ethical agent would be providing a valuable service.

    I think you can do this, that you can find a way that is both honest and successful, if that's what you really want to do.

    But it isn't, is it?

  8. Can a truly ethical agent really make it in the insurance business?

    I'm a little behind here and just read the poem in your next post. It does explain a lot of this one.

    My word ver. is msryj Something to do with misery? I hope you get a church soon.

  9. AZSONOFAGUN: Thanks for your kind words and confidence in me, Rex.

    THOMAS: I agree that people need insurance and saw no ethical problem with the job. Otherwise, I would not have spent the $800.00 to take courses, examinations, and the like to become a licensed agent.

    The issue is that all of the agents in this company work exclusively for commission. There is no salary or benefits. That has led the majority—there are only 4 of us left; 7 have resigned since the company opened last November—to use te4chniques that I find ethically questionable.

    Last week I sold a whole life policy to a woman who wanted enough insurance to bury her. She could have gotten that, I believe, with a $10.000.00 policy. However, my supervisor was with me and kept telling the woman that “for a few dollars more…” So she purchased the $25K policy with child riders on the 7 of her 13 children who are under the age of 18. The cost of that policy is about 20% of her disability income. Too me that is too much for her to afford. It gave me a much larger commission, but I do not feel OK about selling her more than she needs or can manage to pay for.

    SQUIRL: I think an ethical agent can make it in insurance; however, I am unsure if that is possible with a company such as the one I tom which I am tied.

    I continue to seek a church. One of the issues I have faced all along is that the ones I can have now would require me to relocate far from here. With, as of last Thursday, both of my sons now living in Louisville and me looking at retirement in just a few years, the idea of moving many hundreds of miles away is disheartening.