Tag Archives: ethics

BIG BROTHER’S NOSE: IN WAY TOO FAR

It’s that time of year again.  In December the mailbox gets a lot more interesting, and you never know what the mail lady will bring.  Almost every day, there’s a Christmas card or two.   The normal bills arrive at their usual time; and more frequently than I’d like, a notification arrives telling us that the cost of something is going up the first of the year.  The cost of health insurance will be adjusted January 1,  utility prices rise about this time, and the MasterCard statement will reflect some extra gift giving for Christmas.  All of this seems unsurprising.   I really don’t mind.

What I do mind is finding evidence that companies I shower with money have secret connections.  Apparently, they’re gathering and sharing information  without letting me know.

Shar and I were out of town for several days last week.  When we returned home Sunday,  one of the letters waiting for us was from our auto insurance company, State Farm.  This time of year, I’m used to letters announcing a price hike, and that was the idea.  But this was little different.  It didn’t say how much the increase would be,  but it did explain the reason.

Apparently, we have been enjoying a “low mileage” discount for some time.  We have three cars and only two drivers, so all three would be considered low mileage.  A 2013 Hyundai Sonata has under 43,000 miles. That’s approximately 8,500 miles a year.  The 2013 Hyundai Accent has less than 13,000 miles total (2,500/year). The last car, a 2008 Mazda Miata, has about 40,000 miles total(4,500/year).  I hadn’t realized that we were getting a discount for low mileage, but I’m pleased.

What I’m not pleased about is the additional information contained in the letter. “We recently requested an odometer reading for your vehicle from a third party provider, and have determined this reading is relevant for verifying and calculating your expected annual mileage.” THIRD PARTY PROVIDER???

Who is this third party provider you speak of?  And who gave them permission to send State Farm information about my car?  And where have they been skulking around to read my odometer?  Do they sneak into my garage at night if I forget to close the door?  Do they follow me to Walmart,  peeking in the window while I’m off searching for an open checkout line?

I asked the nice lady at the insurance agency, but she couldn’t help.  And I couldn’t think of anyone who’s had access to the car.  In the last three months, we have driven it to Lincoln, Nebraska, twice.  Otherwise, it sits in the garage waiting for a road trip.

Then it occurred to me.  I had the oil changed on December 6.  The tattle tale letter was dated five days later on December 11.  Could the Hyundai dealership be sending information to State Farm?   Why would they do that?  As somebody said in “All the President’s Men,” “follow the money.”  Wherever he learns this stuff, I can’t imagine that the mysterious third party provider sends his information for free.  Is there really enough money in covert odometer reading to make the sharing worthwhile?

On the other hand, I find this hard to believe.  The rational side of me wants to reject the whole proposition.  Couldn’t they just ask me to bring the car to the insurance agency if I want the discount?  I would have been happy to do that.  Isn’t there a process that would appear less sleazy?

Maybe not. The only other answer I can come up with involves surveillance through the Hyundai Sonata GPS.  Somehow that’s even scarier.