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Sandy and the Silver Lining

February 12, 2013
Cindy Donaldson, Director of Marketing &  Sales - Founders Insurance Group

Cindy Donaldson, Director of Marketing & Sales – Founders Insurance Group




In my book there is a silver lining to just about everything if you are willing to look for it.  Hurricane Sandy produced many – communities rallying to help one another, neighbors stepping in and even strangers offering food, water and shelter.  I was inspired to write this post after I received this letter from one of our clients, Monica Bay.  Here is her “Sandy Experience” and her “Silver Lining Story”.

Thank you Monica for sharing and thank you Garma Waldron for taking care of our clients.

Garma Waldron

Garma Waldron

Here is Monica’s letter…I want to thank Travelers for your fast, thorough, and above-the-call-of-duty service when my car was totaled during Hurricane Sandy, on Oct. 29, when my parking lot

at 97th & First Ave. merged with the East River in New York City. First and foremost to my agent Garma Waldron who oversaw every nuance of the transactions, giving me prompt, accurate guidance.

I had a hunch that my car might be doomed when NBC’s Chuck Scarborough said on Tues. 10/30 there was some flooding on the FDR. Wednesday, 10/31 I decided to walk over and check out my car — at first glance, the car looked fine. Then I opened the door. (The rest, as they say, is history). It was full of water. I loved that car, I had just put in a “moon roof,” but I realized that others faced heartbreaking tragedies; it was, after all, just a car. I pulled a few items out, walked back home and called Garma.

That set the wheels in motion. Saturday, Nov. 3, Bill Thomas met me at the car, did a thorough inspection, and helped me gather the few remaining salvageable items in the car. He showed me the engine, explained why the car was totaled, and even found my favorite pair of sunglasses that I forgot to retrieve. On top of everything else, and definitely above-and-beyond the call of duty, he drove me (and my soggy parka, dog barrier, and license plates) back to my apartment.

Bill Thomas from Travelers

Bill Thomas from Travelers

Thomas promptly called with follow-up info, and my case was transferred to Stephanie Holland in Travelers’ “totals” dept., after arrangements were made to tow away the car.

Garma monitored everything. Stephanie returned all my calls faster than my mom does. She clearly and capably described processes, what to expect, and never seemed rushed or in a hurry to get to the next call (and I knew she had to be flooded with calls). Barry Weiss, my Ford salesperson, was already scouring for a replacement car, and helping me understand how Travelers’ would be evaluating the worth of the car. (I had a brief panic attack when I was worried that I might be — ironically — “under water” on the loan, but he quickly assured me that was not the case.)

Meanwhile, I had another problem. My mother was coming for Thanksgiving week, on the 18th, and I needed a rental car that would get me up to my Lakeville CT cottage with my dog and cat, and be able to drive to Bradley to pick up mom.

Garma and Stephanie told me that I could get a car with no out-of-pocket costs, and verified that it was fine to upgrade and pay a modest difference fee. That’s when Brian Gumpel and Nuno Marques stepped in. Of course, even without a hurricane, rental cars are hard to find when 80% of the Upper East Side deserts the city the Friday before Thanksgiving. When I first called Enterprise, Nuno apologized, and said he had no cars at all. I started to panic, and dove into my sob story about how I absolutely needed an SUV, and he stopped me — “Hey, you are with Travelers. Don’t worry, I’ll make this happen.” And he and Brian did so.

So Friday morning 10/16 I headed north and went right over to meet Barry. Three hours later, I had a replacement car that met all of my wish list items (except the color, but I can live with that), thanks to Barry Weiss’ wizard skills and Garma’s quick paperwork.  (He’s now at Rhinebeck Ford, should any of you need the world’s best car sales person.) So I called Brian, (from Barry’s desk) and said, “Hey, I know you are sold out of cars in Manhattan — and I just bought a car — would you like me to drive the rental back to the city so you can rent it?  Or alternatively, I can leave it at Torrington or Kingston.” I will never forget his cheerful reply:  “Monica, you can drop it off at either Torrington or Kingston, with no drop off fee, because you are with Travelers.”

So Saturday, (10/17) we drove to Kingston, handed over the keys, and the entire cost was about $57.

Meanwhile, Stephanie had been working on paying off the loan. When I arrived back from Kingston, there was a FedEx envelope carefully secured at my door — with my check. Eighteen days  from claim to check — when you were dealing with no doubt thousands and thousands of claims — and every single person was superb, from start to finish.  You can’t beat that.

The only tiny glitch in the process was that it took Citizens Bank several months to finally send me the “you are paid in full” letter, but they were helpful. It took just one phone call, where they said, “Yes, we’ve received our guarantee letter from Travelers,” and they told me to ignore the computer-generated letters and phone calls I would (and did) receive, and promised me it would not affect my credit rankings.  Last week I got a $68 check from them, so I’m officially done.

Meanwhile, there are still cars without license plates at my parking lot. The next time a hurricane is on the agenda, I’m driving the car up to Lakeville and parking it somewhere with no trees or nearby water! 🙂

Again, I can’t thank everyone heartily enough. You made what could easily have been an impossible, slow, difficult, contentious situation into a fast, competent, compassionate, helpful, positive experience. I tell everyone I know about Travelers’ fabulous customer service. Thanks so very much to Garma and the national team. And to Enterprise and Barry Weiss. You all were an amazing safety net for me, and I am so very grateful.

And yes, Barry got me a Mariner with a moon roof. I’m learning to tolerate the color silver 🙂

With gratitude,

Monica Bay

NYC & Lakeville, Ct.

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