Playing It Safe: Shopping Small for Insurance

Vespa: Fun to drive. Fun to insure. Photo by Morgan Trinker

Every time I call my insurance company, I hang up with a smile on my face.* I found them a few years ago after an awful experience with my former insurance company — without naming any names, let’s just say it rhymed with “great harm.” Okay, okay … it was State Farm. They were awful! Seriously, seriously awful. My car was hit by an undocumented worker who fled the scene. Even though State Farm admitted I wasn’t at fault, they made me suffer through weeks of red tape, then valued my car $1,500 under Blue Book so they could declare it totaled. I was left with no car, and not enough money to invest in something new. I guess by “good neighbor,” State Farm means “that crappy neighbor who plays music way to loud and ends up stealing your potted plants.”

Anyway, I cold-called an agent out of the phone book (Who am I kidding? I found them on the Internet.), and found Seguro, an independent broker that contracts out to several different insurance companies. Basically, you call them and they find the vendor with the best fit for you — mine happens to be Progressive.

Visiting Seguro’s office for the first time was a little … unusual. First of all, there were several puppies wandering around.** Second, every available seat was filled with people speaking Spanish (“seguro” is Spanish for “insurance,” in case you took French like I did). See, this shop actually works with immigrants,*** helping them get insurance to prevent situations like mine from happening in the first place. In the middle of all this craziness sat Johnny Creel — the owner of the company, who feels he should be right in the thick of his business interacting with clients instead of hiding away in an office.

From that first day, all the way through earlier this week, when Johnny refunded me $50 for a mistake that was totally my fault, I’ve been impressed with every interaction I’ve had with Seguro … and insuring me can be kind of a rollercoaster, as I can’t seem to make up my mind about whether I want a car, a scooter, or neither:

  • When I gave up owning a vehicle of any kind for a couple of years, I wanted to switch to an inexpensive policy that just covered me when I drove other peoples’ cars. I though Johnny would try to talk me out of giving up my car — almost everyone else did, and he had a financial reason for wanting me to keep my Saturn. Instead, he just asked how I’d gotten to his office without driving. When I told him I walked, he just laughed, and announced to the whole office, “Carrie just walked here! From Mountain Brook! That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard!”
  • When I bought my first Vespa a couple of years later, Seguro insured it. When it was stolen, Johnny and Seguro gave me fantastic service. Less than a week after my bike was stolen, I had a check in my hands — for the full amount I’d paid for the scooter in the first place, over two years before. That’s right, instead of undervaluing my vehicle like State Farm had done, they didn’t even depreciate it.
  • When I called recently to tell Johnny I’d be getting rid of either my car or my scooter, he said, “Oh, I hope it’s not the Vespa — that’s so you.” That’s true, but it’s pretty amazing that he’d say it, since he makes far less money off my scooter than my car.

Basically, every interaction I have with Seguro ends in a kind word and with my getting exactly what I need insurance-wise. I recently asked Johnny about the way he runs his business, and it boiled down to this: “I try to solve problems for people. And when I can’t solve them, I throw money at them.” If you think about it, that’s what insurance companies are supposed to do, right? Only most of them don’t. Seguro is one that, in my years with the company, always does.

If you’re looking for insurance, advice on life, or constant encouragement about your life direction, I’d give Johnny a call at 205-870-8100, or stop by his shop on Broadway in Edgewood.

* I don’t get this expression. Where else would a smile be?

** I think it was actually two very well-behaved dogs. But it seemed like more … it’s a small office.

*** Our state legislature could probably learn a lot from Seguro.

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