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a blog by Chris Barrow

An open letter of gratitude to Direct Line Insurance

James Payne

South West Sales & Service Cluster Director

Direct Line Insurance

37 Broad Street



1st May 2017

Dear James

I wanted to write back and thank you on behalf of my wife for the letter of condolence following the recent death of our cat Maisie.

We have struggled with the loss – Maisie was 16-years old when she took that last journey into a quiet oblivion at the local vets. For the last few years she actually was just part of the furniture, rarely venturing past her food bowl and litter tray and very infrequently out of the cat flap to stare angrily at the neighbours and passing birds.

In fact, I have to say I was completely bowled over by the fact that no less than THREE identical letters arrived in the same post, your own and two further copies from unnamed business support consultants who were motivated by our sad loss to press the “dead cat” button on their keyboards.

You have proudly earned the 5-star Defaqto rating for your Advanced Pet Insurance mentioned on your web site, simply by demonstrating your obvious distress at Maisie’s departure.

I can picture the scene now – a busy call centre full of enthusiastic Millennials, eagerly answering calls from pet owners who want the best cover for their furry friends.

Some perhaps crowding around the coffee machines and open-plan meeting areas, gossiping about internal love affairs and undeserved promotions.

Then, a hush falling over the proceedings as news of Maisie begins to spread virally around the Cluster. Three people (including your good self) racing back to their workstations.

It’s been a very long time since I worked in an office – back in the 70’s as a keen school-leaver, I was employed by a Manchester insurance company and used to take letters into the typing pool so that middle-aged ladies could produce communications in triplicate. Isn’t it amazing to see how far we have come from those days?

Your offer of pet bereavement counselling is very kind and thank you for including the helpline number in all of your letters. As you say, grief is indeed the normal response to loss but in this case it was tinged with a sense of relief that we will no longer have to clear up Maisie’s frequent vomits over the dining room table or mis-cued toilet visits in front of the tumble dryer.

I know it happens to all of us and, frankly, it won’t be that many years until I’m bed-ridden and rolling poo balls – I hope my wife will still be around to look after me then the way she looked after Maisie in her final years.

Confidentially, I won’t miss paying the premiums, even though it will mean losing touch with you all down there in Bristol.

No James – it’s no more pussy for me for the foreseeable future – I’ll have to find other ways to lighten my mood when I feel the urge to stroke something.

It was so kind and selfless of you to offer to insure a replacement animal though – I really appreciate that and will bear you all in mind.

In conclusion, can I make a suggestion? I’m not telling you how to run your business but I know that companies sometimes have one of those internal competitions where they ask for money-saving ideas? The winners usually get something like a contribution to their party pig for Christmas. Well here’s an idea from a grateful former customer.

Perhaps when so many of you are deeply moved to write letters to the survivors of pet bereavement, you could pop them all in the same envelope and save on a bit of postage?

Given that all three letters had the same signature (was that yours James?) it strikes me that this system would be easy to set up – the Cluster letter signing person merely keeping an eye out for multiple address usage.

I have no idea how many deaths you deal with every week – one imagines it could run into the hundreds, knowing what a pet-loving nation we Brits are – so think of all the money a wee bit of co-ordination could achieve?

Anyway – that’s it for now – I need to get back to my Bank Holiday weekend, out in the garden helping Mrs Barrow as she trims her bush – thanks again – you really touched our hearts.

Chris Barrow

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