An Open Letter to USAA

Dear USAA,

It’s not me, it’s you.

I know, you “know what it means to serve.” You tell us that all the time on your advertisements, on which I’m certain you spend a lot of money to ensure you’re corporate sponsors of the worst professional sports league on the planet. I bought in for a long time, especially given how your advertising capitalizes on how generations benefit from the service of their forefathers.

My mom, who earned her membership because her father fought in World War II and Korea, talked to me about USAA insurance pretty much as long as I knew how to turn a steering wheel. I mostly ignored her, because my stepmom and dad took care of my insurance when I was young. When I joined the Army, I did what all good junior enlisted Soldiers do and bought a new car ( don’t get excited; it was a 2002 Dodge Neon, soon to be dubbed “the Fratmobile”).  I called my current insurance – Allstate – for a quote. They wanted me to pay about $350 a month.

I was an E4. That was about a quarter of what I made after taxes. I panicked. Mom said, “Call USAA.”

You saved me. You got me down to about $100 a month. I survived and thrived over 17 years. I added my wife to my policy. For all of those 17 years, we got one ticket. I performed a really bad rolling stop and was properly ticketed by the police officer on enhanced patrol. What are you going to do? I paid it.

But that wasn’t the problem. Last fall, my wife got inadvertently winged by an ambulance. Not her fault – they had an unsecured equipment door that swung open as she got out of the way, and it put a nasty gash in the side of her brand-new van. We waited months for you to work it out so we could get the van fixed. Your best answer was, “get it fixed, pay the deductible, and we’ll figure it out.”

Those months got us to the holidays, and I had time to do some research. I ran a quote on GEICO, and they could save us a lot of money – hundreds of dollars every six months. But I still held on and gave you a chance. Then I had to practically yell at someone, “I WILL SWITCH TO GEICO IF YOU DON’T FIX OUR VAN!” in order for you to make the phone calls to get the ambulance’s insurance company to pay its share.

That was a pain in my butt, but I stayed on. A month later, I bought a new truck, and watched as our insurance went up again, to almost $1,200 every six months. I thought, “What the actual hell?” And I decided I’d see what’s out there after talking to a lot of GEICO members.

What was out there, according to the web estimate, was about $800 a year for the same policy; GEICO’s quote was $400 less every six months than the “We know what it means to serve” charlatans I’d been throwing money at for 17 years.

How could this be? I compared the two policies several times. I called you, and the best you could do was, “Well, you had that one ticket, and sometimes GEICO raises their rates after you start paying.”

Which, honestly, smelled like bullshit. So I hung up politely and called them. They underwrote the policy on the phone. The savings went down to $350 ever six months, which still comes out to about what I pay for water every year. We locked it in, and I’m done.

Which leaves me a little sad. Even though I didn’t activate my policy until after I’d enlisted, I’m one of those “legacy” types that all your ads brag about. I didn’t earn my membership invading Iraq in 2003; my grandfather earned it fighting in Europe and Korea long before my mother was born.

So shut up and stop with that crap. Because it’s fake, and it’s you spending money you don’t have to on advertising in a pathetic attempt to drive up revenue that you’re already stealing from your members. I was one of your biggest advocates. I told every Soldier I could how great you were, and now I intend to do the opposite.

Think about all that money you’re spending; then think about all the senior personnel (yeah, I’m one of those) who’ve had experiences similar to mine. Think about what they’re telling their Soldier, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Think about it. Now ask yourself, “what’s more important, and ad on Sunday, or the good word of mouth we get from people who have real influence.” Because I’ll tell you the truth – which feels sacrilegious to a guy who grew up thinking USAA was a weird bumper stick on Grandpa’s car – you get a lot more done not alienating your core audience.

I’m a 17-year member, and the fact that GEICO can save me more than twice what it advertises for no reason at all – on a family with one moving violation in two decades – makes me think I need a homeowners insurance quote as well.

And maybe a new bank.

P.S.: I don’t care who’s in charge; when you’re draping yourself in the flag while carrying the NFL’s water, just stop.

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About Jake Boyer

Hi, I’m Jake. Here are some descriptors that apply to me: writer, photographer, soldier, husband, son, brother, sergeant first class, geek, father, runner, reader, Hawkeye fan, lover of LOST, fan of Elmore Leonard, Sports Illustrated subscriber. I like a lot of things and want to start writing about them again. I used to blog a lot, but now I do all my writing for the Department of Defense, either at my day job with the Defense Logistics Agency, where I edit Loglines, or when I moonlight as a sergeant first class with the Army Reserve’s 200th Military Police Command. I hope you like what I’m trying to crank out here! You can follow me at Twitter through my handle @jakeboyer.
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2 Responses to An Open Letter to USAA

  1. Gary Ouzts says:

    Great letter. Too bad it had to be written. I eventually had to switch from them for car/house insurance because of dramatically escalating premium costs.

    Gary Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Mason Lowery says:

    Whoa! That was really good. I wanted to hate it (because Iraq … ), but I LOVE it. And … WE’RE switching to Geicko!

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