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from Frauding

by Thomas Wolfson,
copyright 2003

To be impeccably organized, to account for every minute of the fourteen hour work day carefully logged in a Day-Timer scheduling book; to present a well-groomed image of professionalism with weekly manicures, thrice-weekly car washes, daily weightlifting sessions at the health club, frequent study and review of the contracts; to recite until flawless the sales tracks or programmed pitches so necessary for a smooth closing; to build enthusiasm by listening to the motivation tapes of the biggest winners such as Joe Gondolpho  who flew clients from around the country to his office in his own Lear jet or Joe Girard who sold the most cars in history; to never hesitate to ask for business and to always ask for referrals; these were some of the attributes which had made the Leon Perlman Insurance Agency number one.  But now it all seemed silly.

How far I had come, I thought, from those aimless hippie days, making hamburgers at Chunky’s in Westwood, driving the plumbing truck, struggling through college to sit proudly with a necktie behind the service desk at Hamilton Pipe and Supply, circling the block three times with palpitating heart before mustering the courage to make my first auto insurance sales call.  Yes, in spite of everything, 1980 would measure up as the most intensely productive year on record.  A real winner and a standard for excellence.

I gazed out the top floor office window of the Barclay’s Bank Building over Tarzana – home of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes.) from whence comes the name.  The sun was rising over a yellow haze and the traffic on the Ventura Freeway.  The phone rang on the L.A. number of the rotary system, and because neither my secretary nor the other agents sharing the suite of offices – known collectively as the Atkins, Fanning, Perlman, and Dawson Agencies – had yet come in, I answered. The L.A. number and its four hundred dollar a month display ad in the fat Yellow Pages of the central Los Angeles directory had been a lucrative source of junk business, the assigned risk liability insurance and the comprehensive and collision coverage required by banks on new vehicles. The more stable and loss-free homeowner, auto, and life policies were written on the white populace of the suburban westSan Fernando Valley .

“Hello. Is Herbert Lloyd Dawson deh?” an agitated voice barked as I switched on the tape recorder, licked the pickup suction cup and fumbled to attach it to the receiver.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Dawson isn’t in the office, yet.”

“That muthafucka, he frauded me!”

“I beg your pardon, sir – frauding?”

“That muthafucka, he frauded me!  He – fraud – me.  Less jus say, frauded me outta my money, ‘tending he’s gonna get me inshawnce.”

“Have you had a loss, sir?”

“Loss?  Yeah, man, I lost my muthafuckin’ diamonds out my glove compartment.  Now he told me I got comprehension and collusion, and shit that’s stole is covered!  And the goddamn claims man says my shit ain’t covered!”

“Well, sir, comprehensive and collision coverage pertains to the loss of or damage to the vehicle, not the contents in the automobile.  I can give you Mr. Dawson’s home phone, if you’d like to discuss the matter with him there.”

“Hey, man, I don’t want his muthafuckin’ home phone, man.  I tell you one thang, I’m not gonna’ be hasslin’ heem cuz I can win too goddamn much money in court on bo’shit fraud!  Now he got my ass on the sore spot, and I’m gonna get even one way or the other!”

“May I have your name, sir, and I’ll have Mr. Dawson give you a call when he comes in.”

“Troy Cheney.  He betta call, or somebody’s gonna be sorry.”

“Very good, Mr. Cheney, I’ll have Mr. Dawson give you a call.  Thank you for calling.”

God, I muttered to myself, rewinding the tape recorder for another listen. I leaned back in the upholstered executive chair against the wall.  The wall, covered with official looking certificates and plaques (Order of the Purple Medallion, Life Underwriters Training Council, Commercial Masters Society, District Sales Leader of the Year, Million Dollar Round Table, etc.), served to reinforce for the blank-eyed client sitting opposite you that what he or she was purchasing was more than just an insurance policy; rather it was a piece of or a step toward security and success, a responsible achievement like attaining an academic degree.  For the agent, acquiring these wall accoutrements was not difficult.  Just make your calls, look the part, ask for appointments, recite your sales tracks, and the plaques and certificates would come regularly into your office like mackerel for dolphin jumping through a hoop.  Frauding, I pondered, putting on the tape.  The central air conditioning kicked on, its white noise whoosh signaling the eight o’clock hour and the start of the business day.