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Trying to solve an age-old problem
OLDER people don’t like change do they? In an uncertain and fast-moving world, people of a certain generation tend to like things just as they are – or were.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that because we’ve an awful lot to learn from people who were born in the 1920s or earlier and have lived through a world war.
They’ve been there and certainly done that. Many have a thing or two to tell us about how we should be living our lives, driven as very many of them are by a moral code that’s more about we, we, we than me, me, me.
Which is why I get angry on behalf of the older generation, not just in my family but countless others, by the cynical actions of big business conglomerates that quite ruthlessly take advantage of older people’s unwillingness to take on something new and their general suspicion about change for apparent change’s sake.
I’m talking about the likes of public utilities and insurance companies who treat their ageing customers, many of them of several years, if not decades, standing with cynical contempt.
For while they’re busy conjuring up bargain basement deals to attract new customers they’re doing it at the expense – literally – of those who are already in their financial clutches. They’re funding their special introductory offers to newcomers through charges to existing customers that increase year on year.
And because the older generation tend not to question authority – because in their day those in authority actually appeared to be somewhat honourable – they carry on paying higher and higher charges, thinking it’s just the way of the world because we’re living in a recession and anyway, they’ve seen hardship before and know what it’s like.
My mother-in-law is a feisty, no-nonsense sort of person who will be 91 at the end of this month. She edits her village magazine, still drives (although it has to be said my brother-in-law discretely follows her from time to time to make sure she’s not all over the road), and is a stalwart of her local church.
Each year she breezes across the Atlantic to Atlanta to see my other brother-in-law and the only thing that will stop her next time will be the prohibitive cost of travel insurance which for her, even though she’s as fit as a fiddle, is now more expensive than the air fare.
All her marbles are very much intact and if you met her you wouldn’t be at all surprised to know that she was once a captain in the British Army and later a schoolteacher. Joyce Grenfell, eat your heart out...
For years and years she’s bought her house insurance from the same company. She’s what used to be termed a good customer when customer service actually meant just that.
She’s been loyal, and because she’s always “had my insurance with them” puts up with the fact that her charges have gone up year-on-year and puts it down to that catch-all for price hikes, the cost of living.
Except now, this company wants to charge her a whopping £800-plus a year to insure a modest house on a small plot. Not for her access to the company’s cut-throat, cut-price deals being used to entice new custom like the witch proffering a rosy red apple to Snow White.
Not for her a pensioner’s discount or anything remotely approaching a thank you rebate for all her years of custom.
No, just a bald statement of demanding fact accompanied by mealy-mouthed phrases about valued custom pulled from the customer service textbook and insincere apologetic excuses about rising premiums that are all the fault of people who have the audacity to claim for flood, fire and pestilence – the very service they’re flogging in the first place.
So now, after much reluctance on her part (‘but I've always insured with them’) and with gentle pushing from the combined efforts of her three sons, she’s finally been swept up in the breeze of change and dumped her insurance company for a new one.
Her new household insurance deal – which actually offers more protection than her old one – is almost a staggering £600 a year cheaper.
That’s £50 a month that’s better off in her pensioner’s purse than the thieving coffers of others with their shady pricing morals.
And we haven’t even started on the gas companies yet...