THE MORAL HAZARD
IT WAS simply an unusual combination of chance and circumstances which first gave Louie Goldberg the impression that he could beat the game. Louie, having recently become the proud possessor of a five-hundred dollar jumble of cogs and wheels and other like mysteries, which only the radiantly optimistic would have called a motor-car, permitted himself to listen to the wiles of brother-in-law Abie Bernstein.
“You insure her, Louie, mebbe,” Abie spoke in a voice whose very tone was a suggestion of hidden thoughts. “You insure, her, Louie, like all big men does. ’Cause you don’ know mebbe vot’s gonna happen to her. ...”
Louie admitted that he had no way of reading the courses either of stars or of automobiles, so with the moral support of Abie Bernstein at his elbow he walked into a branch office of the Look-Alive Motor Insurance Company, and it was there that chance played into Louie’s hand. “Chance” took the form of a Youth so keen to write up his first insurance policy that he totally overlooked the fact that Boss McCurdy was out of town and that there are certain business formalities which must be observed in the placing of all policies.
When Louie Goldberg, sizing up Youth and inexperience as the legitimate prey of nimble wits, valued his jumble of machinery at four thousand dollars, Abie Bernstein promptly raised the bet.
“You forget, Louie, vot I just been offerin’ you, vive t’ousand dollars for that car vot you wouldn’ take. And yet you go to vant to insure her for four t’ousand. Vot ails you, Louie?”
Youth, knowing not the wiles of the world, and envisioning only the look of approbation which Boss McCurdy would beam upon him at the sight of that big premium, shortly permitted Louie Goldberg to walk forth into the cold temptation of a whispering world, with Abie Bernstein at his elbow, and with a five thousand dollar policy on a five hundred dollar remnant of some other citizen’s mis-spent days.
It was a week later when Boss McCurdy walked into his office and plunged immediately into the stack of business with which time had cluttered his desk. It was an hour later when he startled the office by a bellowing sound which resembled the pangs of some animal in distress.
Youth rushed to the rescue. Youth found him empurpled, and vigorously waving in the air a paper which looked like an insurance policy duplicate.
“Get Goldberg, quick. Get him here, anyway. . . any how. . . do it. . . ”
For Boss McCurdy had a presentiment. He was not without experience, and he knew that five-thousand dollar policies purchased over the counter were as rare and were apt to be as flavorless as winter strawberries.
Certainly We Pay—Maybe
IT WAS near the noon hour when Louie Goldberg, wearing a wan expression upon his mobile features,
slipped through the doorway from the mam office into the private den occupied by Boss McCurdy. Louie’s attitude was that of one who seeks rather than that of one who is sought.
“The Boss? You him?” Louie asked, with a quaver in his voice.
Boss McCurdy nodded, and the grimness about his lips deepened. Chance, he could see quite plainly, had played against him.
“My beautiful car. You insure her. For vive t’ou-
McCurdy’s lips lost none of their grimness “Go on,” íe begged.
“She burn. Last night she burn. She aint not’ing now but cinders. . . I come for that vive t’ousand. . . .”
“You don’t surprise me in the least, Mr. Goldberg,” McCurdy returned, with a marked flavor of bitterness. “Fires, automobiles and insurance policies have a strange way at times of getting mixed up on the pages cf Fate. . .”
“Vot’s that you mean?” Goldberg demanded, with a quiver about the nostrils, which showed anger, rssumed or otherwise.
Boss McCurdy paused to study the man before him. After a full minute of this, he decided that Goldberg was possessed of a shrewdness, and of little twinkling eyes, which could not be despised.
“I said we would have to get all the particulars of the fire, for our records,” McCurdy found himself regaining some of his calm business judgment. “Tell me all about it, how it happened, when. . . ”
“She run over a bank and burn. Vot more you want to know?”
“Everything,” McCurdy pressed with such vigor that •Goldberg told his story with a wealth of detail and lamen-
tation which might well have softened the heart of Boss McCurdy except for that five-thousand-dollar payment staring him in the face.
In the end, he learned that Goldberg, accompanied by Bernstein, had been caught at night on the River Road; the car had slipped over the bank, turned turtle, caught fire, and not even the waters of the adjoining river had been sufficient to prevent the “beautiful ear” from becoming a wreck of cinders.
“You pay?” Louie c’emandedat the end, with all eagerness. “You pay me that vive t’ousand for my beautiful car. I don’ know, but Abie he say you gotta pay. . . .”
“Certainly we pay. Drop arc und in a week for your check.”
Louie’s Claim Goes “Floo-ey”
'T'HE rest of Louie Goldberg’s story has to do with the A experience of Billy Stoutman, the insurance adjuster. Stoutman makes a comfortable living out of the doubts of the insurance agents, and in such cases as that offered by Goldberg he often acquires a certain amount of satisfaction as well. After an interview with Boss McCurdy, Stoutman took to the trail and he followed the pathway of Louie Goldberg and Abie Bernstein through a week of infinite patience. At the end of that week he made his report to McCurdy.
“The night of the fire they bought gasoline at two stations,” Stoutman’s report was a verbal one. “They filled the tank, and carried a five gallon can in the back. The fire did not take place at the bottom of the bank, as Goldberg claimed, but on top. There are marks of the fire on the grass and on the trees, and no marks of fire on the bank below. There were marks on the ground which showed
that after the car had been burned on the bank above, it was pried over the edge with poles. It was a 1909 model instead of a 1919, as the pulley states, and there were no headlights, or tools in the tool box. . . ” “What does that mean?” McCurdy demanded, as Stoutman paused significantly.
“It means that Goldberg is a cautious soul. I found where he disposed of the tools and headlights in a second-hand store on the afternoon of the fire. Goldberg believes in economy. . . .”
“He is outside now, waiting for his check,” McCurdy had not lost any of his grimness. “We will have him in.”
Louie Goldberg sidled through the door, and his twinkling eyes grew smaller still as he noted the presence of Billy Stoutman. In this moment he sorely missed the guiding mind of Abie Bernstein, for it was Abie who had first tormented him with those whispering wiles.
“This is Mr. Stoutman, who has just told me all the particulars of your fire,” McCurdy decided to hit hard in the moment of Goldberg’s weakness. “Would you like to go to jail for fraud or for arson, Mr. Goldberg?” Goldberg’s eyes blinked in their restlessness. But he did not answer. He was fighting for time, fighting for that nimbleness of wit which would tell him what Abie would do under such a sudden strain.
“Show him the sales tickets for the headlights and tools, and the five hundred dollar receipt for the car,” Mcpurdy spoke crisply, hitting hard while the other wavered. Stoutman shuffled some papers.
“Oh, my God, no. Don’t send me to jail,” Goldberg broke down abruptly. “My vife, she is sick. Two wee little babies. . . ”
Like many another man, Louie Goldberg was saved because of the possession of helpless humanity. He escaped by merely signing off all claim against the insurance company, and he did not even ask for the refund of his premium. At the same time he learned the lesson that when ofte goes out to beat the game, there are always just as keen brains on the side of the law as there are against it.
Where the “Moral Hazard” Gomes In
WHILE it is not the misfortune of the average automobile insurance company to have cases like the above to contend with frequently, still it is a possibility which all of them have to take into consideration when issuing policies. On the whole, the reports from the policy-issuing concerns with regard to the integrity of the motorists is a flattering one, as the percentage of crooks who creep into the game and who make deliberate attempts to profit from the possession of the protective policy on a car is not high. Ask the average insurance man how high it runs, and he will probably say:
“Less than one per cent. A fraction of one per cent., and a small fraction at that. It is an unusual man who insures his car for anything other than the protection which the policy will give.”
But that fraction of one per cent, is an element which cannot be overlooked by the insurance company which has any aversion to being bitten, and there are certain periods when the eyes of the insurance adjusters whose duty it is to keep a lookout for this particular type of bandit-have to be the most keenly alert. The term which is gererally applied to cover such cases is called “the moral hazard,” and the moral hazard becomes most acute when the price of cars is on the drop.
“If a man insures his car when the cost is steadily on the increase,” the insurance expert explains, “there is never any fear that he will go in for .deliberate destruction. He could not afford it, for the nature of the policy protects against that. Ninety per cent, is the highest fraction of value which any company will insure for. But the time we start to do our thinking is when the price of cars drops. That is where the moral hazard begins. The moral temptation starts when a man finds himself face to face with a stark loss on a downward car market.”
It is because of this situation that the unusual car owner sometimes listens to the little whispering voice that perhaps, if he can only saddle the loss upon the shoulders of the insurance company, he can creep out himself. In the past decade, since the insuring of cars became popularized, men have answered to that lure in many ways, and tin 1 feet have been tripped up on many an unexpected obstacle.
The care which some men will take in their attempts at crookedness shows a resourcefulness which could not fail to bring success in lines of honest endeavor, but the surprise element which so often enters cases of this type has been a decided shock to many an amateur crook. Here is one illustration :
Reginald Roamer was of the type which prides itself upon thoroughness. Reggie was resident in a small town in
Western Ontario, and to al! appearances he v, as a respectable citizen. He was possessed of a five-year old car and a wife. Neither liked the other, doubtless on account of mutual contempt for age. At any rate. Reggie found that the only hope of domestic peace in this world lay in the purchase of a new car. lie discovered, as well, that the means were lacking, but like many another man who has found dishonesty more easy to face than the bickerings of
found dishonesty more easy to the hearth, ho decided to use— or misuse—his brains. There was that insurance policy on the car, which, if it could be collected, would be worth several hundred more than any dealer would allow him for the five-year-old ruin.
So Reggie spent a full week in sincere observation of the mechanical weaknesses of l.h&t;> ruin, and in casual conversa' ion with the garageman. At the end of that time, he was ready.
Being a thorough believer in proper stage settings, Reggie called around one afternoon
for the minister. For there must be some witness to his rigid honesty, and who could possibly be better than the minister?
"Doesn’t work well on the hills,” the minister observed casually, after the five-year-old ruin had failed to make creditable showings on certain hills of Reggie’s choice.
“Back-fires,” Reggie responded briefly, as he began to doubt the fidelity of the garageman.
For the garageman had informed him that, under the proper amount of mishandling on hills, any car can be made to back-fire with tremendous explosions. The garageman must have lied, for though he had mishandled the car to the extent of getting countless back-fires, there had not yet been one of them severe enough to set ablaze that piece of oil-soaked waste which Reggie had so carefully deposited in direct line with the escaping sparks. Evidently the garageman.....
Ripppety. . . rip. . . roar. . . That was a beauty, the best back-fire he had gotten yet. Perhaps he was just getting on to the hang of it. . . The next hill should do the
“Surely it must be dangerous,” the minister exclaimed uneasily, some third of the way up the next hill, when there came an explosion of such deafening intensity that Reggie Roamer smiled placidly to himself.
“Afraid it is,” Reggie returned. “I kind of smell smoke. We’d better stop.”
The Scientific Back-fire
BUT Reggie waited for a few more yards. That oilsoaked waste, he knew, was now well ablaze, but one could never be quite sure of the minister. There was just the chance that he might know how to put out an incipient fire of this nature. Reggie stopped, locked the brakes, bounded down lightly, then immediately threw up his hands in a fever of excitement.
“We’re on fire,” Reggie screamed, with as much excitement as though he had not known it all along. “We’re on fire. Do something. For heaven’s sake, do some-
Ordinarily the minister might have accomplished something to the ruin of Reggie’s plans, but excitement, being of infectious nature, hampered his efficiency. Reggie stamped and shouted and roared. He dashed here and there, and achieved his desire, which was to bring about the minimum of handicap to the natural progress of the fire.
“I’ll run for water. . . Farm house. . . Keep away from gas tank. . . Explosion. . .”
With these gasping words, Reggie Roamer was gone. He ran with such fever that he managed to trip and spill the first pail of water. Seeing no way to avoid arriving with the second, he arrived with it, in time. Upon arrival, he recalled the words of the garageman.
“Water, poured on burning oil, will spread a fire instead of putting it out. . . ”
So Reggie lifted the hood and found that the fire was burning most pleasantly in the drip pan which he had so thoughtfully supplied with oil and waste. Then Reggie slashed the water in, and the direct result was substantial proof of the garageman’s theory. At the same time, with the minister on the far side of the car, Reggie was able to loosen the gasoline overflow from the carburettor. The fire was assuredly a gratifying one, and there had not been a weak point in his reasoning.
Then Reggie ran for more water. When he returned, the car was the wreck which he desired it to be.
Reggie Roamer collected his insurance. The wife got the new car, and it was three years before Reggie’s pride in his unusual achievement burst its natural bonds. It burst in the form of a little quiet advice to a neighbor who likewise had a wife with a strong contempt for antique oars. But the neighbor had a tongue which wagged. In time the story reached the insurance people, but it never got to the courts. For Reggie Roamer had a certain amount of native caution, and he had not said quite enough
to convict him. Quiet pressure was all that was needed to induce him to refund the amount of which the insurance company had been defrauded, and after that the case was allowed to drop. Reggie Roamer is still regarded in the haunts of his Western Ontario town as a respectable and honorable citizen.
Often the wrecking of a motor car, in order to collect the insurance, is a simple thing, and the very simplicity makes
it difficult for the insurance companies to check the matter up and put the wrecker in any essential place of confinement. In view of that, there are some companies which feel that they have paid many a policy where the accident or the burning was a deliberate one, but where they had not the least backing to their suspicion upon which to work. That is often the case regarding thefts.
For instance, should John Jones’ limousine be stolen from a down-town street to-night, how could any company ever hope to prove that Jones deliberately left the ear on an unfrequented street where prowling bandits would be most apt to look, that he neglected to take the key with him, and that he did everything
which it was humanly possible for a goodnatured citizen to do to assist the thieves in making an easy get-away? How could they prove that he had been leaving the car down town every evening for a month, in the same unprotected manner, and with the same hope that the thieves would favor him with a visit? They might discover that the theft insurance upon the car was full protection for its value; they might recognize that John Jones had absolutely nothing to lose by such a
misfortune; but what could they prove? Absolutely nothing, unless Jones had been unwise enough to work openly. And that is where the moral hazard comes in again.
There have been a few John Joneses who did not play the lone hand in the theft of their own car.
For instance, take the case of the Jones who lived in Ottawa.
Jones, like Reggie Roamer, believed in the proper stage setting. So he invited some friend in for the evening. The time was to be spent at penny ante."
Jones had deliberately selected a friend who did not possess a car. That gave him the excuse to cross town for the friend, and when they arrived at the house they parked the car on the street beside the cars of the other penny ante fiends. Jones made a fuss about locking all cars. He made such a show of it that everybody could say afterwards that Jones had locked his car and taken the key inside.
Yet, at midnight, when the guests poked their noses outside the door, there was a general gasp of astonishment. “Jonesy, ycur car has gone for a run.”
But Fate Queered his Pitch
TT WAS a fact. Jones’ car, out of the line-up of four, was the one to be taken. Jones, having been able to foresee such an event, knew the exact amount of indignation and excitement to display, and he did it so well that no one could possibly have suspected collusion with the thieves, except for a little flip of misfortune which flew into the face of the thief. For the thief was John Jones’ brother, who had been provided with a duplicate key, and who, through the kindess of his heart, had agreed to steal the car upon this particular night and leave it stranded just outside the city of Hull with the maximum of damage. That policy, if carried through, would have meant a new car for John Jones; but Fate, being a nosey person, stepped in.
Fate stepped in twice, as a matter of fact. The first time was when a neighbor of John Jones happened to look through the window and recognize the brother as he drove away. The second time was just beyond the city of Hull when the volunteer thief, in loyalty to his brother and in total disregard for the insurance company, got out of the car, aimed it at a telegraph pole, and then suddenly turned on the gas. That act achieved a maximum of ruin which would have delighted the heart of John Jones. . . under
other conditions. But in this case the brother was likewise observed, by a French-Canadian who was so interfering as to communicate the fact to the police. The result was Jones lost both car and insurance, and he gained in return a valuable lesson.
Down on Pearl street in the city of Toronto there is a garage run by Henri Montgrain, and up on the
Don Mills Road there is a home which Mr. Montgrain occupies. From time to time, as happens to most garagemen, Mr. Montgrain has had to rebuild cars which came through wrecks or fires with some semblance of value left in them. In the past year and a half, he says there have been seven automobile fires along a rather secluded strip of the Don Mills Road, and even before the happening
of the story which he tells, he had lost a certain amount
of his faith in the bona fides of those fires.
Seven Fires Along One Strip of Road
“CEVEN fires along one strip of road, even if it is an ^ out-of-the-way place at midnight, is a pretty fair record,” Mr. Montgrain remarked, “but even at that I was not trying to catch anybody burning their car. It was just chance. I had come home late at night, when I heard a car stop down the road a-ways. Soon another car came along, and it stopped too. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw that the men got out of both cars. So I slipped down the road a distance, and suddenly I saw flames pouring out of one of the cars which had been run in the ditch. Shortly after that, everybody got into the one car and drove away, leaving the second car burning by the roadside.” When Mr. Montgrain got to the car, it was blazing merrily enough, but he could see that waste had been placed around in various positions to encourage the flames. On the face of it, the incident was a deliberate burning, the owner of the car even having taken the precaution to have another car along in order to avoid the walk back to the city. Naturally, one would expect to see a case like that end in the police court, but doubtless owing to premature publicity given the incident, there was no court proceeding. At any rate, Mr. Montgrain notified the insurance company, some of the bare details got into the newspapers in advance, and though the insurance company sat down and waited long and patiently for the firebug to come and claim his insurance, he never made the claim. He lost his car, but whether or not he learned his lesson is another matter, for Mr. Montgrain has more to say about it.
“There was another case on the Don Mills Road very much the same,” he went on, “except that this time it was my assistant who saw it. The two happenings were only a few months apart, and the places where the cars were burned were only a few hundred yards apart. There seems to be a fine spot on the Don Mills Road for wrecking cars. My assistant who lives up that way too, saw the fire in much the same way
that I saw the one I have told about.”
In this second case, the car had evidently been prepared in advance, as oil-soaked waste was found about it in the morning. But no one seems quite to know what was the ending to that firebug’s activities, for the wreck of the car was left lying by the roadway for several days.
Why Aren’t More Cases Taken to Court?
' I 'O THE public, the strange part of it will be to know -* why there are not more of these cases appearing in the courts of the country. One must admit that it does seem to be unusual, but, from what can be learned, the insurance companies are not anxious to take their clients to court unless they are absolutely forced to do so by circumstances.
“We insure a man. His car burns or is wrecked. What right have we to infer that it was anything other than straight accident?” That is the way one insurance representative put it, when asked why the courts are not filled with such cases. “It would be unfair to the class.of clients we insure to suspect them of anything crooked. Of course we have an insurance adjuster, and if there is any inference that the accident or the fire was a deliberate one, we get to the bottom of it, but it would not be fair to the average man to go about with a suspicious mind, wondering if every fire was planned to get the insurance.”
Further, in the bulk of such happenings there appears to be a definite amount of uncertainty which the ordinary juryman would have difficulty in solving. Here is an example where the insurance officials were absolutely satisfied in their own minds that there had been attempted fraud, but where, one must admit, fraud could not be proved.
A young gentleman, Frank Fairfield by name, lived down at St. John, New Brunswick. He purchased a brand-new car, paid for it outright, and went buzzing along his way. He took out his insurance in the ordinary way, and everything went along smoothly for three months. Then the car got into a mix-up, which was a combination fire and wreck.
“Straight case of accident,” the adjuster reported to the higher officials. “Pay at once.”
The company did pay at onep.
It was by chance only that the official, whose name happened to be Baxter, began to chat about accidents with another insurance man in St. John.
“Let me tell you about the Fairfield case,” he remarked, and immediately he told about the accident to the Fairfield car. But before he had finished his story, he noticed a look of consternation upon the features of his fellow insurance man.
“What’s wrong, Bob?” Baxter demanded.
“You paid Fairfield?” Bob asked anxiously.
“We did,” Baxter informed. “Straight case of accident.” Continued on page 49
Continued from page 10
`That is what we thought," friend Bob informed. "We paid him too."
And He Didn't Go to Jail A LITTLE investigation brought out Ti~fact that still a third company had paid Fairfield, and it showed, as well, that he was arranging for the purchase of an other car. On the face of it, one might expect that such an incident would carry with it the plain brand of trickery and fraud, but when cases get to court there are many things which may happen. Fairfield did end up in the courts, but his defence went along this line: - -
"I didn't go after the insurance. The agents of the three companies came to me, and I took out the insurance. I didn't know a car could not be insured with more than one company, and nobody told me there was anything wrong about it. I had the policies and I thought I was entitled to collect on them. The accident was a genuine one, and I was nearly caught in it myself
That line of argument, in the hands of a capable lawyer, added to the fact that Fairfield was a mere youth, rather puts it up to any dozen jurors to do a bit of think ing. This time, they thought there was just a bare chance that Fairfield really had believed what he said, and that if they erred at all, it should be on the side of leniency. The fraud charge was dropped, though Fairfield paid back the money. But there was that case down in Lower Quebec where Monti Beaubien went just a step too far.
Monti, it had been known for some time among his neighbors, was rather up against the financial wall. But he was still fight ing. His battle took the form of a cam paign through the district of the habitants, where he purchased two or three brokendown automobiles formerly owned by the farmers. He bought them on time, with small payments. Next, he toured the city of Sherbrooke where he picked up a few wrecks of trucks and a few more passenger cars. Then he stored the whole lot in a garage which he rented for the purpose, and he sent out the word that he was going into the business of rebuilding broken-down cars. Monti even went to the length of bring ing a mechanic down from Quebec City, and he placed rather more than adequate insurance upon the lot. It doss not take a wise person to predict that Monti Beaubien had a fire. "Extent of damages?" the insurance adjuster asked. "Twenty-five thousand dollars," Monti returned promptly, and he furnished the adjuster with a list of the cars which the garage had contained. By this time, there was not enough left of the premises for the adjuster even to discover whether or not the number of cars was correct. For Monti's gasoline tank had gone up at the same time.
The Biter Bit B UT Monti had overlooked the fact that twenty-five thousand dollars is a big slice to ask any insurance company to pay. Eventually he found himself in the courts, trying to collect that twenty-five thousand from the company. In that respect, Monti made his second mistake. By carrying the war to the insurance com pany, he speedily found himself in the posi tion where he had to prove the value of the cars. Long before the case was over, Monti was ready to drop it, hut once the avalanche of law has been started, it is a hard thing to stop. One after another, the sellers of the cars appeared in court and quoted the prices which Monti Beaubien had paid. The result was disastrous. "You tripled your claim," the Judge decided. "Claim against the company disallowed. Now, Mr. Beaubien, the Crown is going to have something to say about this." The Crown had so much to say about it that Monti Beaubien spent two years undergoing the corrective influences of the provincial penitentiary. As has been pointed out, it is frequently a difficult matter to pin direct conspiracy down to the man who deliberately wrecks his own car. The insurance adjuster may think a lot, but mere thinking will not do him much good if he takes the company's
client to court and has nothing more definite than vague suspicion to back him up.
In the words of the insurance man, “There is no use taking a man to court unless you know absolutely you have the goods on him, and that he can’t squeeze out in any way.”
“Getting the goods,” on the insurance company trimmer, like many another thing, is largely a matter of chance. Often the “goods” come out when the conspirators decide to do their private washing in
An illustration in point carries one out
Francis Gimel was a fairly well-to-do citizen. He was so prosperous that he could afford to hire a chauffeur, therefore it must have been some queer streak of parsimony in his nature which induced him to try to “do” the insurance company. But try he did, with the assistance of his chauffeur.
The arrangement he made was this.
“Dan, I’m tired of the limousine. Want a new one, but that model is so old I couldn’t get much on it. I’m not suggesting anything, but if. . . I say if y ou should happen to be out with the car some night, and if it should accidentally stop in front of an approaching train down on the C.N.R. tracks, I wouldn’t be heart-broken. The car is insured, you know. . . I rather fancy you know a crossing where such an accident like that could happen. . . ”
Dan Jumps for his Life
NATURALLY, Dan, having an eye upon the future, did know of exactly the right crossing. He knew the exact hour at which a C.N.R. train slipped into Winnipeg every night, and knowing such essential things, he yielded to temptation.
In due time, the story of the midnight wreck of Francis Gimel’s car appeared in the Winnipeg newspapers. Added to one of the stories was the explanation:
“Fortunately Mr. Gimel was not in the car at the time, as the chauffeur was out alone. Dan Merker, the chauffeur, had a narrow escape. He saw the train just in time, and so was able to leap out of the limousine before the crash came. He says he never wants to have another close shave like that. ...”
If Dan had accepted this modest notoriety with philosophy, all might have been well. But instead, Dan Merker made the mistake which many another man has made. He began to think. And thinking brought to him the conviction that he was entitled to a little rake-off for the danger he had run. He insisted upon such a bulky sum that eventually the private washing of Francis Gimel and Dan Merker was done in public.
Gimel insisted that he had been but joking. So, since he was a rather important man, the upshot of it was that he withdrew his claim from the insurance company, and Dan Merker went out to look for another job.
The Frozen Flivver
WHILE the bulk of the unpleasantry, which is the reward of the insurance companies for placing risks on motor cars, is of the deliberate type, there is also the accidental crook who occasionally sits in and plays a hand in the big game known as “stab the company in the back.” There are many ways in which the accidental sharp may be forced into a sudden determination to look out strictly for number one, regardless of character, but an incident credited to the foreign quarter of Toronto may serve as an illustration.
Jensen owned a flivver. It was a fair flivver, but a certain disposition—the owner’s, not the flivver’s—induced him to park it at night in the back alley instead of in one of those garages where they collect the fee at the door. Late fall came along, and Jensen overlooked the tricks which frost is apt to play with water, even when it is hidden away in the coils of a flivver radiator.
He stepped out into the crisp morning, and for some time thereafter he flung his hands into the air in despair. But eventually he was resourceful. The radiator was ruined, but there was insurance on the
He had an acquaintance in the garage business, who was not above making an honest dollar and keeping his mouth shut about it. So friend Bernie came down with his towing car, carted the flivver out of Jensen’s back alley, and deposited it some twenty blocks distant on a thinlypopulated street. It was rather crude
work, but it was the best the owner could1 think of on the spur of the moment. His car was insured against theft, which meant that he could collect from the insurance company the amount of any damage done to the car while it was stolen, though he could not collect for a frozen radiator when the freezing was done in his own back alley. Following the daylight stealing of his car at his own suggestion, Jensen called up the police department with a certain amount of agitation, and reported his car as stolen through the night.
So far, so good. He had things fairly well lined up. But at this point he kicked aside his own work by committing an unpardonable blunder. He was rash enough to go out later in the day and find the car himself. He was so rash that he reported the finding to the police. Had he been possessed with sufficient patience to allow the police to find the car, and stage a proper fit of excitement in their presence, all might have been well. But he was not the only man of his race with whom the police have had to deal, and those officials are strangely suspicious people. It took them but a few minutes to worm out the real facts, and the first thing he did after he escaped from their embarrassing presence was to hire a taxicab, rush to the insurance office, and withdraw his claim on the stolen car. He was out one taxi fare, one towing bill and one fractured radiator. He was in to the extent of so much added wisdom.
Respectable—Outwardly /"A RDINARILY when the crooked motor AA owner gets in some professional trickery upon an insurance company and the original hue and cry of the accident dies out, he has reason to believe that the future is secure, but experience has shown that the patience of a “stung” company is apt to be just as long as is the arm of the law itself. To prove it, Frederick Williams, of the Motor Union Insurance Company, tells this one:
An individual, whom we will term Mr. Blank, lived in an Eastern Ontario town. He had a car easily valued at $1,500 and was quite content with a $1,200 policy. Outwardly he was well polished with respectability, so it was quite the natural thing for him to start out on a motor tour in July. He went alone, and his friends were informed well in advance that he was going to Ottawa to make his headquarters in that city. He registered at the Château and actually spent a portion of his week in Ottawa.
Then, at the end of the week, a great fuss was raised. Mr. Blank’s car had been stolen from Sparks street late at night. The police did their best, but their best was futile. Eventually the insurance company which carried his policy made their own inquiries, found that Mr. Blank had been registered for the whole week in Ottawa, so they paid. To them, it was a bona fide claim. Mr. Blank had not come under the faintest suggestion of suspicion.
After that, the company’s patience manifested itself. At the end of the year, when new licenses would have to be issued, they decided that, having paid out $1,200 on the policy, they would spend a few cents more in trying to locate the man who had robbed Mr. Blank. They went about it by sending out notices to the central license departments in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, giving the serial number of the engine in the stolen car, and asking that, should such engine be registered in the new year, they should be informed.
Was There Collusion?
IT WAS well into spring before the answer came back from the Quebec Department. A checker in the license offices had discovered that a 1920 license had been issued in Montreal for a car of the same type as Mr. Blank’s, and bearing the serial number of the engine. The license had been taken out by a man whom we will call Mr. Lafonte; and at first glance it looked as though Lafonte were the guilty party. A casual survey showed that it would have been quite easy for Lafonte to steal Blank’s car in Ottawa, run it over the bridge into Hull and get a Quebec license plate to shield him from suspicion in 1919.
It was only when Lafonte was pressed into a corner and was accused of stealing the car, that his indignation broke down the barrier which Mr. Blank had built about himself. He had known Blank, it seemed, for some months, just casually. To cut the story short, it was discovered in
time that during the week when Blank was supposed to be staying in Ottawa, he was really in Montreal and his name on the register of the Château had been his alibi. He had sold the car to Lafonte for a thousand dollars, and Lafonte had the ■cashed check to show as his receipt. Whether or not there had been collusion between the two was never discovered, but Mr. Blank promptly disappeared. Then it developed that the Eastern Ontario
town which had harboredjhim for a time was but a side station which he had favored with his passing attention. His outward polish of respectability has long since vanished.
For, having flitted, Mr. Blank tried it again in Michigan. There he was caught, was welcomed as an old offender, and now it will be rather more than two years before he will have another real opportunity to be clever again.