In This Issue

Sense & Sensibility

Having an Agent Keeps your Head from Hurting

July 1, 2008
By Kathleen Felong

Kathy Felong
Kathy Felong

I think about insurance every day. I have to.

As a writer and editor at an insurance company, it’s my job. I think about how to help people stay safe in their home or car, how to get the word out about new products or services, how to translate insurance lingo into everyday English.

But I don’t think about my own insurance every day—the insurance my family and I have. That’s not my job.

It’s the job of the people at the S.P. Black & Associates agency in Erie.

When I have a question about coverage, I call them. When something unexpected and bad happens to my home or auto, I call them. (Luckily, that’s only been once.) And a few times a year, they contact me (which seems just about right for me and my needs.)

Last year, they sent me a checklist to review my coverages, and they sent an auto safety kit for my glove compartment. It had a disposable camera in it and an accident checklist, among other things. I thought that was nice. I put it in the car.

Recently, they sent a letter inviting my two “youthful drivers” to stop by the agency. (“Youthful drivers” is an insurance term for “God help us, the kids are behind the wheel.”) The people at S.P. Black wanted to let us know we could get a discount if the kids came in for a brief discussion and video on safe driving. It’s part of ERIE’s Gotcha Covered teen driving program.

As you might imagine, the kids were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get down there. Actually, it was only with the firm prodding of the money master in the house that they went. The motivator: If they chose not to go, we’d withdraw our parental subsidy. They’d have to pay all of their insurance, not just half.

But this is not their story. The point is, the good people at the Black agency alerted us to an opportunity to use our insurance wisely. That’s why we have an independent insurance agent rather than a lizard with an 800 number. (Not that I don’t like lizards with Australian accents and a good sense of humor.)

But when it comes to my insurance, I prefer a real person. I prefer someone who lives in my town, knows my needs and looks out for them. It’s how I want to do business.

As part of my job, I’ve gotten to sit in on focus groups with insurance customers. In one of the sessions, the customers were asked whether they would like their agent to offer insurance seminars. Some would, some wouldn’t.

As for me?

I want to know enough to make good choices but not so much that it makes my head hurt. This is one area of my life where I don’t need to be an expert. That’s why I have an agent.

Kathy Felong is a former award-winning reporter and columnist, and one of the editors of Eriesense. She lives in Erie, Pa., with her husband and college-age kids. E-mail her at

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