Monday, September 30, 2013

9.30.13 Hero of the Day: Peter Lewis

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Name: Peter B. Lewis
Age: 79
Occupation: CEO, Progressive Insurance
Last Seen: Cleveland, OH
Awarded For: being one of a kind


Ahhhh, Fall. To many, it should be a wonderful time of year. The weather's cooling off and Halloween is around the corner.

But to me, it's hell. The reason: my six-month car insurance bill is due.

My father was a bus driver for 23 years in northern Michigan. Because of this, he put me on his car insurance plan. His company was an educators' co-op, MEEMIC. Because MEEMIC only serves those involved in education in Michigan, their rates are generally lower. Even after my father quit bus driving in 2000 and moved out of state, and even after I was at fault for an auto accident in 2010, and even though I'm not affiliated with any school (although I educate dozens with this site), I'm still with MEEMIC after all these years.

This past Summer was a tough one for me financially, especially with my constant trips to the chiropractor that screwed me in the wallet. When August comes around, I just want to piss my pants. Well, the bill came from MEEMIC earlier this month: $712 for six months. So, I called them up and asked if there was a way I could split the payments. They told me that there was, but there was also a discount where if I paid them in full, my bill would only be $566. Now, $566 is better than $712, but it's also nice to shop around.

I looked at several other companies: Progressive, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm and Allstate, and Progressive, Farmers and GEICO all had better rates than MEEMIC, and the lowest is with Progressive, which is ironic since the woman whose car hit me was also a Progressive customer. Since it's been over three years since the accident and my driving record has been spotless since - except when I was pulled over for a busted taillight that was "fixed" with red tape - my rates have (thankfully) been lower and I think any insurance company wouldn't mind having me on board as long as their rates are affordable. This week, I plan on calling MEEMIC to tell them that if they can't lower their rate for me, I'll be getting married to Flo next week.

(OK, so the woman who plays Flo, Stephanie Courtney is already married and at 43 is a trifle bit too old for me, but you get the picture.)

But there's another good reason why I'm starting to like Progressive: their CEO Emeritus, Peter B. Lewis, is, well, just like the name of the company founded by his father Joe in 1937: progressive.

Unlike most billionaire CEOs, Peter actually gives a lot of his fortune to good things, such as the Democratic Party, the arts, the ACLU and many pro-cannibis groups. He became a staunch supporter of dope smoking after his doctor suggested it to him in 1998 after one of his legs was partly amputated. He did pay a fine in 2002 in New Zealand for having possession of the herb. He's even pledged to give away most of his fortune to the art scene in Cleveland, where Progressive is based and where the town's baseball stadium - formerly Jacobs Field - is named after the company.

Another reason to love Progressive: they don't support right wing talkers such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Their spots, radio and TV have been heard on those shows, but the company has said that it was only an accident and pulled them off.

Oddly enough, Cleveland has their own version of our ArtPrize here in Grand Rapids that Lewis supports. Unlike Lewis, the Devos family supports the right-wing and is pretty much against everything that Lewis stands for. Even worse, the Devoses are worth $6 billion while Lewis is worth about a 1/6th of that. But that doesn't matter. I'd rather do business with a company that cares about its people instead of ripping them off. Who owns anything made by Amway anyway?

So, that's the plan: if MEEMIC won't lower their rates for me, I'm heading over to Progressive. Besides, I might get that Snapshot thingy that might lower my rates even more.

All I have to do is don't turn left when there's two SUVs making a right....

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