April 28th, 2005


J. Catherine Newton Agency Are Weasels

A brief summary of our past dealings with the J. Catherine Newton Agency:
- We first encountered them in the summer of 2001. They gave us a decent price on car insurance with Metropolitan, so we went with them--but although our previous insurance got canceled, they did not actualy sign us up for insurance with Metropolitan. We discovered this the next summer, when Lori's car was up for inspection and we realized we'd never received an insurance card. Of course, then we couldn't get reasonably-priced insurance from anybody else, because we'd had a lapse in insurance. We called them, and they said they'd just noticed the lapse and were about to call us. We did at least successfully get insurance from them this time.

- When we bought our Accord in April 2004, they added the new car to the insurance policy twice. I called them up and asked them to remove it, and they said they would but did not. I finally got a phone number for Metropolitan and called Metropolitan to have the second Accord removed from the policy.

So, I finally got around to finding a new agent this spring. We concluded things with the Allstate agent Tom Hovanec on April 2, and he sent a cancellation letter to the J. Catherine Newton Agency. Of course, I was suspicious that they might neglect to cancel the policy. So I told Tom to save copies of the paperwork he sent to the J. Catherine Newton Agency, and I watched for the automatic withdrawal associated with that insurance. And on April 22, the withdrawal happened as usual.

So today I went down to see Tom Hovanec to get his help sorting this out. He gave the J. Catherine Newton Agency a call, and was told
- that they had no online connection with Metropolitan
- that Metropolitan required that policies be cancelled by the customer (at a phone number she gave), and prohibited insurance agents from doing so
- that Metropolitan's staffing was inept and required repeated badgering to make any such change.
And then she hung up on Tom.

I knew that they had had an online connection for getting prices when they sold us insurance, and I'd had fine service when I'd called Metropolitan directly in 2004. So when Tom suggested calling Metropolitan under my name, I suggested that he check what he'd been told by the agency, and call as an insurance agent instead.

He did, and he had no trouble whatsoever. In just a few minutes, he was given a number to fax my cancellation letter to, without any fuss. And he was also told that all Metropolitan agents had online connections--everything he'd been told by the J. Catherine Newton Agency had been untrue, except the phone number to call.

So, we're crossing our fingers that we're finally free of the J. Catherine Newton Agency's poor service and falsehoods. Or we would be, but I'm annoyed enough that I'm willing to take an afternoon's work or so to try to make the consequences of their poor treatment even worse.

I had thought of the Better Business Bureau--though the BBB's website indicates that they already have an unsatisfactory record. But Mike had a better suggestion: he suggested writing a letter to Metropolitan, the Pennsylvania attorney general, and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, CC'ing all of them visibly. I look forward to doing so, and CCing the BBB as well.

(no subject)

Yet another way I'm failing to figure out what I want: Lori is asking me where I would like to have my birthday dinner.

My criteria:
- I want a place that's quiet--most restaurants are loud enough that it's hard for me to hear people more than a few feet away.
- I'd like the food to be tasty (though I'd compromise on this for being able to hear people).
- I want the place to seat enough people. (Lori's handling the invitations; I'm not sure how many people are on her list.)
- I want the place to be cheap enough to be at a comfortable price range for everyone.
(There are probably other criteria that I'm not explicitly stating.)

And I'm not thinking clearly enough to come up with anything.

The hop garden at the Church Brew Works is really nice for a party, because it is pretty quiet--but the weather is looking somewhat cold for next week (see, more criteria!), and if we have to go inside because of rain, it's really noisy inside.

Max's Allegheny Tavern might suit, but for some reason it's not calling out to me. I can't identify what's keeping it from appealing.

I request your suggestions.