Corporations Are People Too

To those uninitiated in the vagaries of medical care for pets, suffice it to say that veterinarians’ bills can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. So for years I’ve paid for a pet medical insurance policy for my dog, Mister President. It sounds a little silly, I know, but it’s been worth the money.

After my dog, Mister President, passed away last month, and after I picked myself up off the floor, I somehow found the wherewithal to submit insurance claims for all of the bills we incurred in diagnosing and treating his cancer, and for the euthanasia and cremation processes too.

Pet Insurance Benefits Schedule

This week I got the benefits check back in the mail. On one of the schedules, there was a line item with a diagnosis code of 1090, described as “Miscellaneous: with deepest sympathy.” It also had a “Reason Code” of 173, and an explanation that reads:

“We’re very sorry for your loss. Everyone at — understands the special human-animal bond and knows how difficult it is to lose a cherished pet. Please accept our sympathy on your loss.”

Actually, I’m not even particularly offended by this nondescript handling of this emotionally delicate matter. (On the whole, I’ve been pretty pleased by the insurance carrier for this policy — I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to other pet owners.) But I wonder why they even bothered? This seems about as unhelpful a condolence message as anyone could ever receive. Oh well, corporations will be corporations, I guess.



  1. that’s strange..

    after i zoomed on the scanned picture, and read the text, i got a little emotional (i’m going through some personal issues myself), and was sure you are going to praise the insurance company for a small act of kindness they added to the bill.

    guess i was wrong. guess it’s a matter of perspective..

    at least, you can be sure my sympathy is honest.

  2. Questioning the ‘helpfulness’ of a condolence, even when from a corporation, is a bit strange.

    Would you rather not see the message at all?

  3. I think this is a great idea — to share sympathy for the passing of your pet — ruined by bad design and execution. A very appropriate topic for this site.

    Instead of approaching this with a goal of adding the message in a more appropriate manner, the good idea was shoehorned into existing technology. “We can’t get a new display field built here, but we could hack a billing code to display a sympathy message.”

    Good idea. Bad design.

  4. Michael: I would rather not have seen the message at all. And I don’t think it’s strange at all to question an automated condolence that was probably triggered by a cost code of some sort.

    Tim Windsor puts it much more elegantly than I did, so I think him for the clarity I couldn’t muster. It’s a commendable idea executed with little thought, emotion or even competence. If they can automate a line item on a schedule, they can automate a presentable card or even have someone write a note by hand.

  5. There’s a whole potential world of meaning around such a sentiment represented as a line item on a bill.

    I’m sure it’s turned up in a Philip K Dick novel.

  6. I work as a designer at a large health insurer, and we’ve been struggling to help our members see us as more human, less like a corporation. While this message would be a horrible thing to put on one of our bills if someone in your family died, I think this company gets a point in my book for trying to show you that they’re more than just a monthly bill. I could see a message like that after having shoulder surgery that syas “We at __ hope you’re recovering from your procedure”. Better than just a bill.

    PS. I wouldn’t mind if you could share the name of the company, I’ve been thinking of getting pet insurance for my dog.

  7. I think execution (classiness) has to be any note of condolence. While its clever that someone there thought to have a little line item there, the clinical nature of its delivery is what you notice first, and what is ultimately felt. Even a plain-text email with the same message would have done a better job in my opinion and cost the company less.

  8. Sorry for the loss of your furry friend. I lost my buddy of 12 years, Buck, in November. I’m still missing him. The insurance thing is a good idea, I just paid as we went and it started adding up quick when he got sick. If I get another dog I might give that a go. It’s too soon for me.

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