Down the Rabbit Hole: Should Dive Insurance be Easy?

By Ryan Meyer

I was answering client emails on a Sunday morning.  When you work as a dive insurance underwriter, May, June and July are always hectic.

My girlfriend was still lounging in bed, watching an episode of The Office.  She’s just embarked on a career in insurance herself and likes to compare Steve Carell’s managerial style to that of her current boss.  The show is a great example of what not to do.

As for my daughter, well, last year, we bought a pop-up tent that was meant to be for four people but only really fits two.  The unit looked really great in the Instagram ad but showed up a micro version of what we thought we were buying.  Coincidentally, it fits really well onto my daughter’s twin mattress and that’s where it was set up.  She was inside the tent, on her bed, reading the book ‘Matilda’ in a sea of stuffed animals with only the bug screen closed so she could still spell out certain words which proved difficult: “C. A. T. A. S. T…” and I would yell out from my desk: ‘Catastrophe, kiddo’ so she could keep moving down the page.

Sunday morning is always a good time to pick up a few emails that didn’t get finished because most people are doing other things.  Instructors that needed coverage in the week are now instructing.  Vessels that needed certificates are now exploring.

I clicked on the next email in line in Outlook.  The correspondence was an individual who had set up a new scuba diving facility, alongside the two he already had.  We’d been going back and forth on how all of the operations would work in tandem (which companies are going to do what, and if they all do the same thing for the same people, why have separate companies?) and the comment made was something along the lines of “I have operational things to take care of, how come buying this insurance isn’t easy?”

It was actually the third comment I’d had about a complex operational setup that week.  Business owners were wanting to insure themselves as individuals to save money; businesses were not insuring their professional staff to save money.  It had been 7 long days of asking the hard question ‘why?’ in relation to scuba businesses.  There just didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in how our customers were trying to set up their insurance packages.  It was slowing me down, dragging me down and leading to a lot of dreaded questions.

It got me thinking.  Why wasn’t I making the process of buying dive insurance easy?

What is easy?

What does easy accomplish?

Why should things be easy?

I was hoping the answer would lead to a simplified insurance process.  Maybe something to help the customer enjoy applying for insurance, if such a thing is indeed possible.

After taking about 45 minutes to carefully answer my responding email as I sipped on my second cup of coffee, I punched something really simple into Google.  ‘Definition of easy’ and with that, I went down the rabbit hole.

The answer given:

  • Achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties
  • (of a period of time or way of life) free from worries or problems

Referring back to the email my client had sent, I could determine he wanted the insurance process to be completed without great effort so that he could be free from worries or problems.  Get me the paperwork that gets me diving; there are no devils lurking in these details!!!

This definition seemed fair enough and I presumed I understood what is easy so I could move onto ‘What does easy accomplish?’ So, I googled it.

‘What does easy accomplish’

I didn’t get any hits.

What I did get was a lot of writing on how to make difficult things appear easy.  The first article listed was about a juggling beatboxer.  Literally, an article about an individual who juggles in rhythm of the beats he produces with his own mouth.  One man band complete with stage show.  Cool!

What Google showed me was that difficult things can appear to be simple, but the process of making these difficult things appear simple requires a tremendous amount of work.  Walking is easy when you are an adult, but one shouldn’t forget the amount of practice (and falling) it took to get those two stems working in tandem.

I realized that asking ‘What does easy accomplish?’ is an unfair question.  ‘Easy’ is an adjective.  It is a word or phrase naming an attribute which modifies or describes a person, place of thing.  ‘Easy’ cannot grammatically accomplish anything but practice can make difficult tasks appear easy.

So then I googled ‘Why should things be easy?’

Strangely, the first thing Google gave me was a quote by American writer Thomas Pynchon.  Pynchon is notorious for writing long novels which are terrifically difficult to understand.  I have two of his books on my bookshelf.  One, simply titled ‘V,’ which I read in entirety about 10 years ago, I couldn’t tell you what it was about after 3 pages; the second and possibly his most famous work ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ was even harder.  I read 100 pages of that one, then consulted some Coles notes online and realized my understanding of what was going on was not at all what was actually going on, so I scrapped the book and it’s only purpose is to now make me look smart because it sits on my bookshelf.

The Thomas Pynchon quote Google gave me was actually used in an introduction he wrote to George Orwell’s 1984.  I asked, ‘Why should things be easy?’ 

The quote said ‘Our history is an aggregate of last moments.’

And a chill went roaring up my spine as The Office went blaring on in the background because the next search item after the comment, ‘Our history is an aggregate of last moments,’ was the definition of Dunning-Kruger Effect, which I’m sure many of the experienced people in the dive industry are aware of.  The basic premise of Dunning-Kruger Effect is that the less competent an individual is at a specific task, the more likely they are to over-estimate their ability at that task.

Google didn’t say anything was easy.  To Google’s search function, ‘easy’ is associated with last moments and not understanding something.  Easy doesn’t exist.  It is a perception which perhaps belittles the complexity of everything around us.

I opened up the Quote I had offered this particular client with multiple companies.  It is 53 pages long, the exact equivalent of the policy that would be in force if he chose to bind it.  An insurance policy is a contract; this is a 53 page contract we are discussing… in other words, it is 53 pages longer than anything I can understand from Thomas Pynchon the writer.  Our history is an aggregate of last moments.

I opened another policy and it was 70 pages.  Even a simple instructor’s policy clocked in at 22 pages of legalese.

To say the process of purchasing insurance is easy may not be disingenuous.  Here is a policy, give us your money.  Easy.

Our assumption that an easy purchase makes a valuable product is where we miss the mark.

15 minutes can save me 15 percent on my car insurance.  The statement is advertising, not insurance.   Have I read the 40 page contract and compared it to what I got for the extra 15%?  Do I understand what I gave up to save 15%?  Likely not.  And if I don’t know what I gave up to save 15%, how do I know 15% was a good deal?  Maybe I gave up 75% to save 15%…

Is dive instruction from one instructor the same as the next instructor?  Are instructors a commodity with little discernable difference?  Based on my experience, talking to hundreds of instructors each year, the answer is no.  Everyone talks about what makes their shop unique, exciting, better than the rest.

That type of differentiation cannot be easy and it is not easy when you are in an underwriting roll, identifying risk amongst people who are not at all the same!

There have been court cases where the claim that scuba diving is ‘easy’ has been held against the defendant.  If scuba diving is so easy, why is your student dead?  If your student is dead, what did you do differently than everybody else, if anything?

Like the jobs our clients do, insurance is important.  It is complicated with various intricacies that should be explored thoroughly as part of your risk management plan, particularly if you are performing dangerous activities, like scuba diving.

Diving like an expert is not easy.  It requires a lot of practice which will then make it appear easy.  Buying insurance is the same.  If you understand what you are buying and how it will protect you, and how the policy works in conjunction with your dive operations, the process is quite simple.

Next time you are applying for insurance, ask yourself, why do I need this product?  What legal entity that I control actually requires this product?  Am I even insuring the right legal entity?

Maybe quick and easy isn’t really what you want.  Maybe it’s what you think you want but not what you really need.

Our goal at First Dive is to get you from step A (pplicaton) to B (ound policy), and to take as long as it needs to take.  Being more difficult today, so that tomorrow is not twice as hard may actually be ‘easier’ than the alternative.

Why accept something that is easy when you can accept something that is logically sound and as you intend it to be?

Just then, my girlfriend laughed from the other room and I heard Steve Carell’s character say ignorantly ‘I guess I’ve been working so hard, I forgot what it’s like to be hardly working.’  I was sucked out of the Google rabbit hole.

And then my daughter yelled from her tent (that tent, which had been so easily procured but did not perform as we intended) in the other room: ‘L.A.W.S.U.I…’

I yelled back ‘Lawsuit.  The word is lawsuit.’

‘What’s that?’ she asked with a giggle.

‘It’s something really bad,’ I said.  ‘It’s far worse than applying for insurance.’

And I think that’s something we can all agree.  Understanding insurance is not easy, but applying for insurance and going through the process is easier than being sued…  Especially if you are being sued and everyone ignored the process to make things ‘easy.’

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