From Jim Harbaugh:“I recently encountered another postal nightmare. On 11/3/97 I shipped a one-pound parcel priority mail and insured it for $100.00. The total distance to the addressee was 225 miles. After 3 weeks I called the addressee and they said it had not been received. I took my insured receipt and went to the post office. They won’t talk to you if the interim time is less than 30 days. So on 12/3/97 I went back to the USPS. They wanted me to provide ‘proof’ of what was in the box. That’s a real joke, huh!!! I had to get a picture from a catalog and give it to them. (This really proves something??) They filled out some stupid bureaucratic govt. form and sent it to the addressee, who was supposed to respond. Another 2 1/2 weeks went by. (They didn’t respond). The USPS was asking me to place long distance calls and try to get the addressee to send me a letter or FAX stating they had not received the shipment. I refused to waste my money chasing their problem. They were telling me they would not search their records for a delivery signature until they received something or another 2 or 3 weeks went by. After a little ‘foot stomping,’ they finally sent ‘another govt. form,’ this time for me to send to San Antonio (District Office for the area) asking for them to search their records for signature. That was 1/02/98. This is now 1/13/98 and I have not heard a thing. I have more than $100.00 worth of my time in this, plus postage and insurance costs. If they finally come up with a signature, then I will be in a battle with the addressee. More wasted time and expense. I WILL NEVER SEND ANOTHER INSURED PARCEL VIA THE USPS and I think your audience should be made aware of what they are ‘getting’ if they insure and send via USPS. I have never had anything like this when dealing with Fed-Ex or UPS.”

Well, collecting from UPS ain’t easy either (I tried once) — and of course if word got around that collecting were easy, then up would go the incidence of fraud. So while you are perfectly justified in your frustration — and conclusion — I’d encourage you to consider an even broader rule of personal finance: never buy insurance for a risk you can afford yourself; e.g., a $100 risk.

Far better to set up, in your mind if not in actual fact at the bank, a separate “self-insurance account.” Pay the premiums to yourself. That way, you avoid subsidizing your share of fraudulent claims, your share of administrative costs and overhead (and your share of the insurer’s profit, in the case of a private insurer). Best of all, the adjuster always instantly approves your claim without the slightest hassle — because you’rethe adjuster. You never have to worry that making a claim will make your blood pressure — or your insurance rates — go up.



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