How to Blow Five Years of Good Customer Experience in One Easy Step

About five years ago, I bought life insurance for the first time. We’d bought our house in the previous year and our son was about to be born, so it seemed like a prudent thing to do. I shopped around and got a good deal from Western Southern Life on a five-year term policy. For the next five years, they debited $19.50 a month from my checking account and, in case I died, a significant portion of our mortgage would be paid off; I thought we were both happy with this arrangement.

For reasons not related to my satisfaction with the company, I was planning on letting the policy expire. Then, earlier this week, I got a letter from Western Southern saying “The recent change in your Pre-Authorized Check payments will become effective with the next withdrawal from (my bank account).” Hmm, what’s this about? No “Would you like to renew?” note. No “Here are some policy options for you” call. Just “We’re changing your billing.” (Admittedly, we recently moved, and perhaps some mail was lost in the forwarding process? I don’t think that’s been happening, but how do I know for sure?)

But the stupid part is how much they changed: the monthly premium went up to $244.50. (More than twelve-and-a-half times more.) When I called to not-so-politely decline this coverage, I was told that, as I hadn’t called to change my policy, they just put me on one of their “standard rate” policies.

So, this company, which I’d had a good feeling about before, just became a swamp of leaches and con-artists in my mind, luring customers in with good deals and waiting for them not to notice the increased debits. How many people fall for this trick? For how long?

Why would a company that’s trying to build long-time relationships with customers do this? Don’t they see that this gives them a sleazy, fly-by-night reputation? Don’t they see that anyone they do this to will never work with them again?