When you manage to scrape together enough cash and responsibility to buy a house, you’re not just acquiring a place to live. You’re entering an exclusive club — one shared by those you no doubt admire and respect.
That club, though, is not so prestigious. It’s a list of people perceived by an entire industry to be easily exploitable stooges who are so paranoid they’ll give up everlasting gobtoppers of cash in exchange for weak reassurances that they’re protecting their property.
Homeowners may see themselves as pillars of society, but to businesses that offer a false sense of security in exchange for an annual fee, they also resemble bowling pins waiting to be toppled over.
Come, fellow bowling pins and prospective bowling pins, as we take a look-see at all the bowling balls looking to hammer you.
One of the first things you discover when you move into your house is that it’s filled with about 10 million things that can and will break constantly. Some will need to be fixed immediately, and some you’ll be able to try to hide and ignore until you spot looks of pity in the faces of visitors. Your closing documents usually include a warranty that lets you take care of the major fixes with a magic phone call.
In the back of your mind, you start to fear how awful it will be to have to stop calling that magic phone number and start to have to fix stuff yourself. Then come offers by email and junk mail that let you extend your warranty, along with that magic phone number, if you’ll agree to shell out more money.
Remember the companies offering you extended warranties wouldn’t make their offers unless they planned on sitting back and collecting far more money than it will cost to fix whatever breaks. You’re best off ignoring them and saving the money for repairs as needed. Your 10 million things will still certainly break, but you’ll maybe have enough money to fix them or willpower to ignore them.
Pest control subscriptions
I can’t verify this, but I’m fairly certain pest control companies have secret meetings with queen ants and termite unions, cutting secret deals that compel the bugs to attack your home and yard. You call up a pest control place, and the bugs get a cut of the payout.
Once the job is finished, the exterminators — so named not only for what they do to pests, but for what they do to your wallet — sell you subscriptions that let you call them back whenever the bugs return. It makes more sense, though, to use bug killers as hitmen rather than protection rackets. Refuse subscriptions and take advantage of special introductory offers from competitors once the annoying little guys return.
The myth is that you’ll install a bunch of surveillance equipment, attach loud alarms to your doorways, post an intimidating sign in your front yard and just wait for them to catch silly cat burglars red-handed when they try to make out with your precious collection of DVDs you liked back in 2003, back when you used to buy DVDs.
The reality is that you’ll forget your password, be the silly person caught by the system breaking into your own home an embarrassing amount of times and that nobody wants your DVDs. Save yourself the hassle by buying fake security signs to post in your yard.
Ever have a friend who sells insurance for a living? No doubt they’ve chatted you up out of the blue to “catch up,” only to inevitably steer the topic of conversation to your insurance needs. By some amazing coincidence, the evaluation of this “friend” is that you are woefully underinsured, and, luckily for you, he is just the guy to help make sure you’re covered.
Do your buddy a favor by stopping him cold mid-pitch and telling him that you will only become his client if he can save you money by selling you the absolute minimal coverage required by your lender — which is most likely just the cost to rebuild your home — and letting you get rid of all extraneous coverage. If the conversation continues past that point, he either actually is a real friend after all, or is so hard up for business that he’s willing to help bowling pins out rather than hammer them into the gutter by selling them needless policies.
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