Hurricane Sandy: The Insurance Aftermath

Pata Negra opens at five pm every day.  Logistically, all deliveries to the restaurant occur between one and four pm.  I have spent years trying to narrow the delivery time window to two hours, but invariably, no one can dictate the schedule of the truck driver, no matter what it says on the preferred delivery times notes, or trying to play phone tag by cell phone to vector within a half hour radius.  But my attempt at controlling delivery window yields the same results as waiting at home for the cable or phone company to arrive to your apartment within a four hour window.  Futility and frustration is the likely outcome. So I try to arrange all deliveries for the week for one solid afternoon, and pick up odds and ends as needed throughout the week.

I recount this to complain, I guess, to illustrate that restaurant ownership is not all glamour and glitz.  I certainly don’t expect any sympathy, as every job has parts that are tedious and time consuming.  This is certainly one my least favorite chores my number one bugaboo.

What really gets my pig (not my goat as I am in the jamon biz), is when I receive certified mail slips.  It requires a planned, separate trip to the post office, the charming municipality complete with the dreaded lines, and all the bells and whistles it takes to pick up a letter with that green card affixed to it.

Now if I were due to receive something yummy, or good news, I’d be at the post office every day.  But it always brings bad news.  The IRS stating that back taxes are due, or late fees and interest charges.  The landlord sending a five day rent demand letter because the rent is one day late in being received or processed.  Worker’s Compensation Board demanding yet another audit, or processing some fictitious worker’s comp. claim.  That green card is a harbinger of doom, bad news, and most definitely some bill to pay.  The anxiety leading up to opening those letters, the relief when the bill is not too high, all of this is part of restaurant ownership.  The special trip in the afternoon to the post office,  a painful sojourn with questions like “why am I doing this?” and “here we go again.”

My most recent retrieval is a letter I have been expecting from the RCA insurance group stating that my claim for any damages or business interruption stemming for Hurricane Sandy is denied.  They were sweet enough to send me two letters simultaneously, saving me an extra trip.  As if to make sure I understood the first letter’s message, and identical duplicate was sent along to fortify the news.

The following is an excerpt of their “conclusions”.

“Our investigation, conducted by A.C, of Vericlaim, determined although you have sustained damages, unfortunately, your policy does not provide coverage for this loss.

B. Exclusions

  1. We will not pay for loss or damage caused directly or indirectly by any of the following…

e.  Utility Services

The failure of power, communication, water or other utility service supplied to the described premises, however caused, if the failure:

1)   Originates away from the described premises; or

2)   Originates at the described premises, but only if such failure involves equipment used to supply the utility service to the described premises from a source away from the described premises.

Failure of any utility service includes lack of sufficient capacity and reduction in supply  Loss or damage caused by a surge of power is also excluded, if the surge would not have occurred but for an event causing a failure of power.

IN OTHER WORDS, IT IS CON EDISON’S FAULT.  WE ARE PASSING THE BUCK. NEXT QUESTION.

In addition to your claim for physical damages we regret to inform you that there is no coverage for your loss of business income as well.  Your business income coverage is contingent upon you having sustained direct physical loss or damage due to a Covered Cause of Loss.

There is an additional section on Coverage for Business Income which I will spare you.

IN OTHER WORDS, BECAUSE THE LOSS OF BUSINESS INCOME STEMS FROM SECTION B, YOU ARE *&&^%)$# OUT OF LUCK, BUDDY.

Oh and by the way, if you wish to appeal or bring legal action, better make sure you are all paid up and have been in good standing for the last couple of years.

I have been in good standing for the last five years.  I have never filed a claim, even when hooligans broke my front window, or when the basement got broken into and a thief made off with several cases of wine, or the time a thief broke into the backyard, used a ladder to climb through the back window, broke it, and took money from the register, also rendering the register inoperable in the process.  In all cases, the damages were under $500.00 and I did not want my insurance premiums to go up, so I did not file a claim.

There is a multitude of businesses who have lost everything, have been trying to rebuild, and are awaiting insurance checks.  My business suffered no structural damages, just a loss of product and business interruption.  Compared to the businesses that were decimated, I have nothing to complain about.  I get that.  But what is the purpose of having insurance if after any occurrence when you have a legitimate claim, the language of the contract prevents you from actually collecting?

How many other businesses are getting the shaft when they really need to be compensated?  I have insurance so that someone does not trip and fall, or chip a tooth on a wine glass, security against accidents.  I get that.  But if I have a business interruption clause and I am paying for that too, why structure a contract so the fine print gets them off?  Greed and false claims is probably the answer.  The insurance companies cannot sustain paying all of those claims, and the cost of paying out false claims have to be offset by denying legitimate ones.

I am still waiting for leadership from our elected officials.  How about a real estate tax break?  Or subsidies for those who cannot get their claims fulfilled?  Oh, and I need a zero interest FEMA loan like I need another real estate tax increase.  Perhaps the government will bail out the banks and the large corporations again instead of helping the homeowners and small businesses, because I am sure Duane Reade and 7-11 will find a way to lobby for and get tax breaks.

I sincerely pray for no accidents in the future, and hope that those affected by Sandy have better contracts and luck than I do.  They really need all the help they can get.  For me, life goes on, and I chalk this experience up to what I like to call “the cost of doing business.”

Once again, my prayers to all of those still waiting for their homes to be restored, and those business trying to get back on their feet.