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Descend the Vultures

Note:  This is part 3 in my ongoing FIRE SAGA.

At the stroke of eight on the morning of the fire, which had started close to 5:30am, I called Farm Bureau Insurance to alert them to the situation.  My agent, Jeff Danuloff, arrived at the house before 8:30!  That’s what I call customer service.  Standing on the lawn chatting with Jeff, I was still in shock as the fire continued to smolder.  As is my custom under stress, I prattled on without interruption.  As Jeff compassionately listened to my distressed rambling, another man approached the scene.  He had a clear-plastic credential holder that dangled from a multi-colored rope around his neck.  He looked out of place against the backdrop of firemen and the friends of mine who had started to assemble.  I noticed he had pulled up in a shiny red Mustang.  He had a thin face, short, black hair and a finely-trimmed moustache.  He wore jeans, Nike high tops, and an orange pullover with a beige CarHartt, or workman’s, sort of jacket.  Espying his credential holder from across the yard, I made the snap assumption that he was a newspaper reporter coming to get the scoop.  I excused myself from Jeff and bee-lined to this man, eager, I suppose, to retell my story, not to mention the fact that I crave media attention.

“I’m the one you’re looking for,” I greeted him.  “Are you here to interview me?”

“Are you the homeowner?” he asked.

I fancy myself a good and relatively quick judge of character, and I am pretty sensitive to voice quality.  With the first four words out of this man’s mouth, I knew my first impression had been wildly incorrect.  He delivered this question with lazy diction, barely getting out the “r” of homeowner.  I looked down at his credentials:  DAVE GRIBBEL, GOOD NEIGHBOR FIRE RESTORATION.  My friendly demeanor switched on a dime:  “Why are you here?” I confronted him.

“I gotta call that there was a fire and my job is to help the homeowner,” he spit out the seemingly well-rehearsed line.

“Well, I didn’t call you,” I replied, with a hint of contempt, irritation starting to build.

“This is what I do.  People have fires and I show up to help them.”

Not wanting to spend another second with this man, I asked for his card and told him I would call him if I needed him.  This was not enough to get him to leave.

“Sir, I know you are stressed out, but if you don’t do the right thing…”

“I think the man said he would call you,” my friend Doug, who had been close by, decisively interrupted.  “We’ve got your card and we’ll call you if we need you.”

Gribbel looked down at the ground and I am pretty sure he was trying to concoct a potent retort. He seemed frustrated, almost angry.   But he controlled himself, and left my property without incident.  There was a desperation about him, and he not only seemed mad when he left but I also detected what I would describe as dejection, which one would think a true professional would be more adept at concealing.

By late morning, I had started to understand the game in which I was an unwitting player:  fires means money to people like Gribbel.  People like him listen to police scanners and try to arrive first on the scene of catastrophe, hoping to guarantee they are chosen to head up repairs, which can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Any hint of smoke still takes me back to the devastation of that morning, but to Gribbel, and the numerous others who showed up after him, my devastation had the seductive smell of money.

So powerful was the allure of my devastation that Gribbel showed up again in the early afternoon.  “What are you doing back here?” I barked with a menacing scowl.

“I’m not talking to you,” he said with resolve.  “I am here to talk to the homeowner.”

“I am the homeowner, as I already told you.”

“You work for Belfor,” he insisted, like a detective who had uncovered a clever ruse.  “I’m not going for your B.S. anymore.  I need to talk to the homeowner.”

Deep in my entrails I felt a rumbling, like a wild dog who wanted to attack.  I kept my cool, though, focusing on my breath and reflecting before reacting.

“Read the number on that mailbox,” I calmly instructed him.  “6-9-4-8 Beachside Ct.  That’s where I live.”  I pulled out my license, and pointed out the address.  Gribbel paused to take in this new information.  Rather than prudently leaving, he picked up where he had left off after his first visit to my property.

“That Belfor guy was standing right next to you.  I thought you were with Belfor.  You don’t want to go with those guys.  They’ll screw you.  They screw everybody.”

My intentional breathing and self-reflection were not enough to overcome this new onslaught.  “You get the f*** off my property now,” I exploded.  He looked down and I could see that he was close to exploding back at me.  I wanted him to.  Subconsciously, I wanted the opportunity to focus all the rage and negativity that had built up in me that day.  He said nothing, though, and began to walk back to his car.  But every few steps, he would stop, look down to his right, with an indignant pensiveness on his face, just dying to give me a piece of his mind.  He got back to his car, opened the door, but then just stood there, propping himself up with his left arm on top of the open door.

“You’re making a big mistake,” he said, finally finding the courage to point out my apparent stupidity.  “You’re going to regret this.”

Open the floodgates.  When I am really mad, a poetic streak often emerges.  My friend, Doug, found my reaction hilarious and wrote down what I said.  I am grateful he did that.

“You come to my home on a day of destruction and have not one drop of empathy.  You’re not here to help me; you’re here because you want to profit off my suffering.  And you know what, dipshit, with your pathetic people skills, there is zero chance, no, a negative chance, that I would ever let you on my property, let alone allow you in to restore my home.  The next time I see you, or your I’m-a-special-boy red Mustang, I will call the police and have you forcibly removed.  Now get the f*** out of here before I get really mad.”

He looked down again and appeared to be gathering his strength for another round with me.  I preempted him:  “One more word out of your mouth and I lodge a complaint with the Better Business Bureau!”

This induced him to get in his car, where he seemed to sulk for 2-3 minutes, and then burned rubber as he sped out of my subdivision.  I felt as if I had just ended a standoff with a psychopath.  Unfortunately, Gribbel was not even the worst of the lot.  By day’s end, a cast of seventeen shady contractors, repair charlatans, and unscrupulous “public adjusters” had invaded my misery.  Dealing with these vultures was my second baptism by fire that day.

38 Responses to “Descend the Vultures”

  1. Sue Wiers says:

    Wow, that is awful. I am so sorry about the devastation that you have gone through. It seems like these things bring out both the worst and the best in people. I hope that the latter outweighed the former.

  2. HockeyAdvice says:

    Hey Kevin, I wrote you an email on Youtube. Please read that email & write me back. And please do it now, and don’t be ADD & totally believe you’ll do it later.

    I got a quote for any ADD person. “Better Now than Never!” You know better late than never? Nope, better NOW! Cause for me anyway, around 90 something percent of the things I put off for later, I never do. Even super important things. But I totally have the Energy & enthusiasm to do them on the spot! What I do now, Is I keep a pen & pad on me, so when I’m about to impulsively take care of something on the spot. I write down whatever it was I was doing, so that as soon as I’m done “doing it now.” I get right back to what I was doing.

    For me, the reason I don’t “do it now.” is usually cause I feel I will get distracted from what I was doing. But yeah, for me I think if I “do it now.” Pretty soon I’ll have a perfect record of doing everything I’m supposed to do, and I’d be rated like 10 stars cause I do it right away. Vs. everything I do being super duper late.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    I am surprised to hear of your experience with “smoke chasers.” I don’t think that sort of thing goes on up here in Canada. I have a client who is in the process of overseeing the reconstruction of his house after a fire. He has mentioned issues with the insurance adjuster but nothing about being hounded by salesmen/contractors. I am going to ask him specifically about this issue and report back to you.

    • Kevin says:

      Peter, I would appreciate his comments. Your friend is OK? Any injuries? Please ask him to read the blogs. I would appreciate some comments from him.

  4. Mary Antonelli says:

    Thank you Kevin. When I read a post written by you, I always end up learning something new. God bless you. I will keep you inm yprayers.

  5. Zoya says:

    Oh my darling Kevin, i’m so sorry to hear about this terrible accident, but i am filled with happiness to hear that you are writing again!!! Hang in there. Things are always meant to happen for a reason.

  6. Heather says:

    Wow, that is crazy! My friend works in the restoration industry and we’ve talked about “ambulance chasers” and “smoke sniffers”…..I always thought he was kidding, didn’t know that actually happened. Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Van Ostaede Erna says:

    Hello Kevin,it’s terrible wat happend to you.I wish you all the best.

  8. Pam Glidden says:

    Yikes, I had NO idea! That should be against the law, Kevin!

  9. A cautionary tale of the predators you could encounter if you have a house fire or other disaster. I’m reminded that Kevin Roberts is a compelling storyteller.

  10. Van Ostaede Erna says:

    Hello Kevin,I regret very much what happened to you.I can not write well in English, sorry but,it’s terrible what happened to you.
    I was the victim of a fire twice but,not as bad as this.
    It’s terrible How people can do in such a situation.
    I wish you strength and courage to go on.

  11. Joel Katz says:

    Kevin,
    I like Eva was expecting a turn around to the story and this was a good samaritan organization. But, alas, in the American spirit of ambulance chasing lawyers he represents the bottom of the slime pit. But at least you gave him something to tell his ferret at dinner that night because no one else would have him.
    Joel

  12. Sheena says:

    Never heard of such a thing in this country ! Sounds like a nightmare for you Kevin ! Looking forward to part 4 and wishing you well on your journey xx

  13. kris says:

    Well written account of what happens nowadays. I have been marketing for a restoration contractor for 4 and a half years. I tried “chasing” a fire one time when a friend called me about a fire down the street from their house. It felt weird driving there like I was going somewhere I shouldn’t be. Felt stranger when I got there and the fire was out, but lots of on-lookers. No feeling was worse than when I discovered the homeowner was injured and being taken away in an ambulance. Let these people be. When they are ready for help they will call a trusted company they find through their insurance agent, adjuster, or trusted friend/family member. Being there with out being called upon is not helping. It’s being opportunistic and self-serving.

  14. Eva says:

    I was really drawn in by this story, and I guess it is just my naive brain, but I was waiting for the story to turn around to a positive spin. Like the guy (Gribbel) just presented like a jerk (because later he disclosed he has poor people skills…because of ADHD…etc) I guess it was possible that this guy was affected, but not to make you feel bad, you did the right thing. Besides isn’t “Gribble” the character that Dan Folger plays in the movie “Mars Needs Moms” ? lol

    • Kevin says:

      Yes, they are the same character. There are some great positives coming in upcoming posts. I hope your family has weathered the storm. Are things OK by you?

  15. Brandon Mooradian says:

    Wow really powerful stuff Kevin!!! So sorry for your loss, I remember many times hanging out in that garage!!! I had no idea that contractors came around like that immediately after a fire!! Terrible just terrible.

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