Thursday, December 20, 2007

(219) Gabriela Gruber, the rude woman of Knights Insurance

A lorry swerved into my car as I drove to a tournament in Gibraltar in January 2003. The car was a write-off, although I, my wife and son all walked away without so much as a scratch.

Soon after began a complex insurance claim, one aspect of which involved a possible law suit against the lorry driver and his firm. Our insurers were Knights, who had an office a mile or so away from ours.

Whilst trying to understand the procedures being taken in, for me, a foreign language in a foreign country, I was admonished by the manager of that particular branch of Knights, "Malcolm", for "hassling" the young lady who was dealing with our claim.

This annoyed me greatly and I protested that I was simply trying to understand what would be likely to be coming our way and how.
He paused for a moment and said "You´ll be lucky if you get five hundred for it", and then walked out of the room.
Then the waters clouded, and subsequent calls were met with unclear responses. They failed to trace the lorry responsible, despite being handed all necessary information by us, and also did not contact a witness with whose details we had supplied them.

An Austrian woman, with whom we had dealt when we took out the original policy, responded to several of my calls with "I don´t know!" and then just hung up on me.

Then, in a classic call, Malcolm told me that they would not handle our claim. I asked how we were to pursue it. "Please yourself", came the response.

We were awkwardly placed in that we knew little Spanish and, with an old car which therefore had only third party insurance, could not really proceed from a position of strength.
Nevertheless, Fiona and I moaned by phone and e mail with various representatives and the upshot of it all was that the founder of the company, John Knight, eventually gave us a goodwill payment of 500 €s.

I was still pissed off at being treated like dirt, and some months later, poked my nose through the door as the Austrian woman was dealing with two customers and said that I had heard that the manager had been sacked for rudeness. I walked away and she shouted out something about my being mistaken.

Still unmollified, over a year later I walked into the office and asked about Malcolm. I was informed that in fact he had retired. I noted the Austrian woman was still there.

On May 21st 2005 I mentioned to my wife that I was still of a mind to go back there and publicly tell her what I thought of her putting the phone down on customers.
She said that she thought it unnecessary now, and that, anyway, through disseminating our story on internet forums she was confident that she reckoned to have taken away at least ten customers from Knights.
I was still angered.
The following afternoon I went for a run which took me some three miles into the countryside.
I paused by some drains. There was a discarded sofa there. By it was a business card for Gabriela Gruber of Knights Insurance. I assumed that this would be the very woman.

On May 24th I went into the Knights office and, having asked, in front of her colleagues, if she were Frau Gruber, handed her the card, explaining that I had found it in a field.
"It´s covered in shit", I added.
"Quite appropriate for someone who put the phone down on me twice."
Then I walked out.

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