When I called Don Boudreaux yesterday, he was awaiting a call from his insurance company after the condo above him had leaked water into his condo. We got talking about insurance and I remembered my first interaction with my auto insurer, State Farm.

I was a fairly safe driver, so even though I had driven from age 16 on, I had my first fender bender when I was 31 or 32. I was crossing a bridge from Washington, D.C. to Arlington, VA and I crashed into a trailer being hauled by a truck. The other driver and I agreed that I had not damaged his trailer but I had damaged mine, and it was entirely my fault. My mind had wandered back to this or that work issue.

With a lot of trepidation, I called up my insurer, State Farm. I talked to the person as if I were talking to my father and expecting to get yelled at. He or she didn’t. The claims person calmly took my information and told me how to go about getting a repair estimate.

This response by the insurance company representative may not surprise you and it would no longer surprise me. That’s the point. Sometimes we bring into the bigger world our mindset from growing up in a family and expect the people in that bigger world to react the way family members might.

But State Farm was providing a service that it was charging for. The company had a strong incentive to tell its employees to treat their customers professionally.

What I remember still is how good I felt from that interaction compared to how I had expected to feel.

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