James Walker: Don’t get fooled again with complaint woes

Insurance companies can and do check social media posts.
Insurance companies can and do check social media posts.
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Did you fall for any of the April Fools’ Day pranks that did the rounds last week? Much as I love this time of year, the laughs have been in short supply lately. So I thought we’d keep things light this week and look at some of the complaint catastrophes we’ve seen, so you can avoid situations that could leave you feeling foolish.

◆ Social media fail. Despite countless horror stories about people posting things on unlocked social media profiles and getting their comeuppance, people continue to make this basic error every year. And it’s not just people off sick from work making the mistake of gloating online. Insurance companies can and do check social media posts. So watch out if you’ve put in a claim for sickness when Instagram shows you enjoying a cocktail. Last year over a dozen holiday makers with fake stomach bugs got caught out in exactly these scenarios. If you’re posting pics after you’re genuinely sick, put a bit of context on there. Or just lock your profile.

◆ Keep it convincing. When people are making an insurance claim, they feel the need to lay it on a bit thick – as if that will make it more likely they’ll get a payout. But there’s a big difference between factual reporting and creative writing. In recent years, I’ve seen a claim where a man stated that he crashed his car after being distracted by his dog that had burst into flames (the claimant didn’t have a dog). I also saw a travel insurance claim where a woman told her insurer she had been kidnapped, forced to drink huge amounts of alcohol and then escaped by swimming to shore from a pirate ship. In reality, she was pictured by hotel guests attempting to limbo under a gate and ricocheting off an inflatable pool toy. Awkward.

◆ Don’t overshare. Customer relations teams have seen it all over the years and long-standing experts have their own favourite stories of the funniest or most random things they’ve been sent. My favourite was the man who sent in a huge bag of hair to emphasise that the stress of his complaint had resulted in premature balding. There were about seven different types of hair in the bag but it caught my attention. Keep those complaint points simple and you’ll stand the best chance of succeeding.

◆ Pets mean problems. Veterinary treatment for pets has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, which has made for some wacky complaints. I’ve seen countless tortoises on wheels after a leg went and a fair few dogs going on anti-anxiety treatment holidays that cost more than my last three trips combined. But I particularly loved the cockatoo in a body warmer (it was depressed and had plucked its feathers out) and the doggy hydrotherapy centre that turned out to be a man in Essex with a jacuzzi in a shed (£600 a pop). But my absolute favourite for sheer ridiculousness was the poor man whose shed was attacked by a particularly dedicated woodpecker. The insurance company deducted a £50 excess for each hole – there were 200 of them. He won the claim in the end.

Of course, not all comedy situations result in laughs all round and sometimes situations are only funny after the fact. So if a prank goes awry or a business leaves you unamused, get in touch.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk