Monday, January 7, 2013

Pop goes the weasel

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You may ask yourself, "what does a weasel have in common with a website dedicated to western whiskey bottles?". A valid question. And the obvious comes to mind; both start with a "W".

According to the dictionary;

Weasels (pron.: /ˈwzəl/)

mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs.

But, it also has another definition;

weasel clause

(informal) An escape clause; a clause in a legal contract permitting one of the parties to escape ("weasel out of") its obligations under some circumstances.

And that's the direction we're headed; weasel clauses and how they apply to insurance.

A few years back I inquired about coverage to supplement my homeowners insurance as it related to my bottle collection. I carry an antique rider on my homeowners, but it has a huge deductable and a specific policy written by my primary carrier, just to cover the whiskies, bitters and cathedral food collections, was out of our budget. I'd spoken with a couple of friends about an insurance company that specializes in covering antique collections. Both said that I should check out "Collectibles Insurance" as their rates were impossible to beat anywhere else.
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A call to Collectibles Insurance Services LLC office confirmed that their rates were unbelievably competitive. The coverage's that they afforded seemed to be a perfect fit for me. I'm a collector, not a dealer, but do offer duplicate items and the results of upgrades for sale. I liquidate these items from both my home and at bottle shows. I don't sell through antique shops or malls. Our discussion touched on pretty much every scenario ranging from the cat knocking a bottle off the shelf to fire, and home break-ins plus theft; regardless of the location. All were supposedly covered and it sounded good; almost too good to be true. (little did I know...)

I felt comfortable that I'd covered my bases in advance and their coverage sounded like a great value. I paid the premium and a couple of weeks later, received the policy. All looked good. And so there I sat, fat, dumb and happy.

I think the operative word was dumb (or at the very least, gullible).

December 2012 saw my first "insured" loss. A rare variant of the Crown Distilleries mini disappeared from my table at a west coast show. The theft was reported to the show chairman, along with other thefts that occurred at this show and announcements were made over the PA system. We're not talking a lot of money here. Scarce, but not terribly high dollar. Still, I figured that I'd turn the claim in. After all, that's why I pay my premiums. And so I filled out the claim form and forwarded it to Collectibles Insurance for reimbursement. What happened next came out of the blue.

I received the following email from the claims department; "Please note that we have a copy of the information provided to Collectibles. We understand that you are a Collector and not a Dealer; however, once you rent a sales table at a show, the items you are selling are considered "Dealer Stock".

As a Collector, your policy will only cover and incidental sale of an unwanted item or a duplicate as the policy is not meant to assume the additional risk of a Collectibles Show."

This flew in the face of what I'd been told originally by their sales department. Pop goes the weasel!

No amount of logic or counter arguments made any difference. Collectibles Insurance refused to make good despite what I'd originally been told. They lied to drum up business and then turned down a valid claim after they banked the premium.

I would strongly suggest that fellow collectors insured by  Collectibles Insurance contact them in writing and get a written confirmation of what is and what is not covered; as well as when and where. You will not find this weasel clause in writing in any of the brochures, on their website, their policy exclusions or in their policy fine print. They seem content to make up the rules as they go...

Here's the contact information;

phone: Toll-free 888.837.9537

Trust me, it's better to find out that you're not covered before a loss than after~

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