Friday, May 30, 2008

Buying Insurance: Not a Walk in the Park

I don't know about other states, but buying insurance in New Jersey is quite a prominent, competitive, and overwhelming business for consumers. Let's consider how many layers are involved in this buying process...

First off, it really boggles my mind to think about all of the types of insurance out there. There's car insurance, homeowner's insurance, life insurance, health insurance, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. So let's say you know what type of insurance you need.

Then, each insurance product has dozens of different options that affect the size of your premium and payout. If it's car insurance, you have to determine how much deductible to pay, what bodily injury limits to choose, whether or not to get rental car reimbursement, etc.

After that, you need to weigh all of the various companies that sell insurance. If it's auto insurance you need, you've got State Farm, AllState, Geico, Safe Auto, new Jersey Manufacturer's, Esurance, Mercury, Liberty Mutual, Progressive... well, you get the point. Life, health, and other insurance providers subsequently exist to sell their specific policies, such as MetLife or MassMutual. When purchasing from any given insurance company, you must subsequently consider the reputation of the company (i.e.-- will they be there to pay up when called upon?), as well as price and the ability to build a relationship with you over time.

Finally, in many cases you need to determine which agent you want to buy from. I would wager to guess that most insurance agents are found thru referrals, be it from family members, friends, or trusted business associates. A large portion would also come from marketing efforts. Ultimately, if buying thru an agent, you have to like the person/staff and trust that he or she is on your side. Sure there's a commission to be made on every sale, but are they selling you a particular policy with particular options that are in your best interest? And are they good at explaining the policy to you? Sometimes, these factors are just a gut feeling more than anything since they are intangible qualities.

One bonus level to consider is the rule of thumb that you should compare your insurance rates every few years to make sure you're getting a good deal. Geico is betting big marketing bucks on this fact since they hammer home the notion that you can save money with their services, and do it in a brief amount of time (I'm sure you know their slogan from the thousands of commercials that air daily). But regardless of how easy it is, it adds another layer to already-complicated matchmaking game of finding insurance.

I can't think of many other fields that are this multi-leveled for a consumer to have to make a purchasing decision. Perhaps that's why nobody ever looks forward to buying insurance... True, insurance is a must-have in many aspects of life, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily enjoyable. It's certainly no walk in the park.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stumbling Over Writer's Block

It's a strange thing, that human brain.

I never ceased to be amazed about how many distinct mental states I can have. From happy to hysterical to hungover, the mind has more moods than a tie-dyed shirt has colors. Right now, for example, I feel like I'm trying to wring out my brain after dipping a plain white t-shirt in vivid-hued liquid dyes in order to get a burst of creativity in my head. The colors seem to keep fading away right after I pick my shirt up from the bucket.

Mentally, I'm stumbling over a case of writer's block, trying to regain clarity and creativity rather than listening to the buzz of a dimming light bulb in my head. Sure, I can jot some notes about the act of having writer's block, but I feel all tapped out in terms of writing fresh and original content, hence the blog post about writer's block. And while the internet has a wealth of resources for inspiration, such as The Simpsons' website, there's only so much staring at a computer monitor that I can do. I do it all day at work, now I'm doing it more at home. Looks like I'll have to kickstart my skull juices some other way.

Hopefully my next post will be full of insight like, *ahem*, usual. Till next time, if you see a guy banging his head against the wall, you'll know what's going on in his brain. Most likely nothing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Jon Corzine Might Be Right About Toll Increases

Much has been made about New Jersey Governor John Corzine's plan to raise funds by increasing tolls on roads such as the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. While it's not desirable to have to pay more to drive somewhere, he does have two things going for him in this plan:

1. Tolls are the "perfect tax" as it's said. You're only taxed if you use the road, and the funds raised go to fixing those same roads. So unlike an income tax, for example, all of your taxes go back to help you as user of the road.

2. In the next few years, cars will undoubtedly be getting more efficient as hybrids grow in popularity. This results in less gas used, and, thus, lower amounts of money spent on gas and taxes accompanied with gas. So while gas taxes go down, the tolls will help supplement them, and you'll also be paying less in gas. In theory.

So before dismissing this plan altogether it may be worth consideration if we really do want to fix the aging roadways in NJ. Otherwise there's no comfortable, fun, or magical solution for this situation. Might be time to bite the bullet.

Monday, May 5, 2008

There's Little Reason to Like this Dicks's-Reebok Commercial

Not too long ago I sounded off about a fairly new obnoxious, annoying, stupid Volkswagen commercial, and found that fellow viewers overwhelmingly agreed that this commercial was one of the worst on TV.

While I can't top that argument, since I think it still IS the most annoying commercial on television, I think I found a close runner-up. This is the one by Dick's Sporting Goods, promoting Reebok sneakers, and features Chad Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck, Tory Holt, and Stacy Keibler. Click on the following link if you really wish to view this waste of ad money, entitled "Reasons".

For those of you who haven't seen it or don't wish to see it, the formula goes something like this... three football players bragging about their skills, one attractive actress clearly demonstrating her lack of acting skills, and one of the football players trying to dance and be funny while the other two laugh at him. I mean, it's quite possibly the most stereotypically bad commercial you could make, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Why? Well for starters, it is a scientifically proven fact that athletes can't act. It's also a scientifically proven fact that white guys get laughed at when they dance, which I know all too well :-) The joke's old. And when you mix in some poor writing and subpar acting by a real actress, you've got a recipe for changing the channel.

I'd just like to point out that, honestly, I really am a positive guy and I try not to focus on the negative, but when these types of advertisers hammer you over the head with the same bad commercial over and over and over, well, sometimes I just have to snap. That's not how marketing is done.

And those are my "Reasons" why this commercial must be put out to pasture.