Time is money, and so are all these damn receipts we have to collate and send in to Allstate

The pic above shows all the receipts we’ve saved so far. These essentially equate to money for us, since we’ll be sending them in to Allstate for reimbursement. This is just the stuff we’ve needed to buy in the last 9 months like clothes and household items. So it’s actually a fraction of the total receipt pile we’ll end up processing. The pile above does not include our big things like camping gear, ski gear, travel gear, jewelry, craft supplies, fabric, my tech studio, and of course art and amenities.

I’ve been going on about our “dreaded” contents list for a while now. Actually, we’ve been working on it since August ’09. In case you haven’t read the prior post, it is essentially a list of all our possessions destroyed by the fire.

Here’s the way the contents portion of our insurance policy works:

  1. We were told to make a list of everything. Allstate sent us some forms to fill out for this. The forms are designed to be filled out by hand. By hand! I actually asked our contents adjuster if people submit handwritten lists and he said “oh yea”. Not us. We’ve reimplemented their format in a spreadsheet to make our lives easier.
  2. Allstate spends a couple months with the list, depreciating everything on it, then sends us a check for the depreciated amount. We’re expecting this first check to be tiny since Allstate’s depreciation tables are fairly ruthless.
  3. To recover the rest of our “contents” money up to our policy limit, we must send in actual physical receipts for items we replace. The items on the receipts must cross reference the unique line numbers of items on the contents list.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. Turns out most store receipts aren’t very friendly. Take our friendly neighborhood organic grocer for example. This is where we buy some rather expensive vitamins, spices, produce and other items. The receipt the store gives doesn’t use specific names, but instead categories. So a $15 pack of organic cinnamon sticks shows on the receipt as simply “Grocery, $14.99”.

The insurance company, of course, loves this. They’ll reply to our receipt with a note that it doesn’t say what the item is and that we need to go back to the store and get a detailed receipt. When you consider we’ve spent 9 months accumulating receipts for items we’ll want to get reimbursed for, it’s a huge ordeal.

So, for those of you going through this, a word to the wise. Pay attention to the level of detail on your receipts and if possible save yourself some hassle by using stores that provide good receipts.

The other mountain we have to climb, now that our list is nearly done, is to begin matching up the items on the receipts with the items on the list. As you can see from the picture above, it’s a lot of receipts. 10 months worth to be exact. Our list currently has over 5000 items on it. If it takes one minute to find and notate the item on a receipt, that comes out to 5,000 minutes, or about 80 hours. In other words, ten 8-hour work days. And that’s not including the receipts that don’t list clearly what the item is and will require calling stores and asking for better detail.

Anyone want an unpaid clerical job?

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