Computer says no



“Hallo, my name is Michelle.  How can I help you today?”

“I’m heading off to Barbados next month with Mrs. Blog for some well earned R&R. I understand that I need to take out some additional travel insurance to supplement my basic cover. I do this each year. Something to do with having had the odd operation in the past.”

“Right, we’ll need to go through a few questions, if that’s alright? Will you be taking part in any winter sports activities during your trip?”

“The Barbadian ski slopes have not previously had the benefit of my presence, so probably not.”


Planning my usual relaxing holiday in the Caribbean…



“Have you ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure?”


“Have you ever been diagnosed with high cholesterol?”


“Have you ever been prescribed medication to lower your cholesterol level?”

“I take a statin each day, like many men of my age.”

“The computer says that’s the same as being diagnosed with high cholesterol. I’ll put you down as ‘Yes’.”

“I haven’t been diagnosed with high cholesterol. I’ve never had a high cholesterol reading in my life. The doctor says it’s sensible to take statins to be on the safe side.  Is there a doctor there that I can talk to?”

“Do you weigh less than 17.5 stones?”

“Much less.”

“Can you walk for 200 yards unaided?”

“I can run up and down mountains if that helps.”

“Please just answer the question. Have you ever suffered with a back problem?”

“A few years ago I woke with a stiff back and thought my holiday flight a few weeks later might be a problem, so I went to see a physio for a massage. But not a medical problem, no. It’s just that I understand I’m supposed to tell you everything.”

“The computer says you’ve got a medical condition. We’ll need to investigate further. Has this condition necessitated an unplanned hospital admission within the past five years?”

“I don’t have a back condition. It was stiff one morning. Of course it hasn’t required a hospital admission.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we do have to work through the questions. Would you describe your back condition as chronic?”

“No, but I’m starting to experience some tightening in my chest. I think it’s called stress. Or exasperation. Are you sure there’s nobody else there I can talk to?”

“Do you still take medication for your back condition?”


“Shall I put that down as ‘no’? Do you have any other conditions that you need to declare? You see, if you don’t, it could in the event of a claim make the whole policy void. So, is there anything else?”

“I had a hip replacement last autumn.”

“Has it dislocated since it was carried out?”


“Are you awaiting further surgery on the hip?”


“Are you receiving medication arising from the surgery?”


“Do you have any other conditions that you need to disclose?”


I suppose I should mention that I tripped over the kerb… 



“I thought I had dandruff once when I was at school but it turned out to be ash from a bonfire in the grounds. Don’t put that down for goodness’ sake! It was a joke.”

“I’m sorry, sir, the computer doesn’t let me delete information once it’s in there. Have you ever had surgery, or are you on a waiting list for surgery, arising from your dandruff condition?”


“If that’s all then, sir, let’s run this through and get you a quote. Let me see, ah, here we go. It appears that we can’t provide you with the cover you’re seeking. But if you wanted to go to Spain, the computer says that would be ok.”

“I don’t want to go to Spain. I’ve booked flights to Barbados. Why can’t you cover me? You managed alright last year and the year before that. What’s changed, apart from you not wanting to provide a useful service?”

“The computer won’t tell me. But it’s possibly down to the hip surgery you’ve told me about.”

“So, let me get this clear. By seeking medical intervention, having a successful operation and being now pain free and more mobile, I’ve succeeded in making myself uninsurable?”

“I can see where you’re coming from there.”

“Can you? Are you telling me that I’d be better off – from your point of view – by ignoring any illness and struggling on with incapacitating health problems, rather than seeing a doctor and having it sorted? Is that your official position? Perhaps you should give that greater publicity?”

“These questions are carefully designed by health experts to accommodate the necessary risk factors so we can offer an optimum level of cover to all of our valued customers, it says here.”

“It’s been a great way to while away the last hour. Thank you for your time. I’ll just have to hope that I don’t suddenly feel the need for an emergency foot massage on holiday.”

“Will there be anything else I can help you with today?”


Mrs. Blog faces up to the disappointment that I may not be able to accompany her on holiday this year…


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5 thoughts on “Computer says no

  1. HFPGWiles says:

    Absolutely brilliant! Sadly computers can only follow scripts…anything complicated or unusual (like dandruff!) and you need to speak to a real underwriter in person.

    Sent from my iPad


    • Hi Phil! I’ve recently adopted the approach, at the start of any conversation with a call centre, of saying, “Can you assure me that this conversation is being recorded?” I feel it puts me on the front foot…

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