Oh, for goodness sake. A letter from Benenden. From their 'Member Loyalty Manager'.
Readers must remember my posts about leaving them early this year, and the subscription chaos that ensued. That's all sorted out now. It didn't kill me, but don't want to go through it again, ever.
The ongoing situation for the future is that (a) I left Benenden in February; (b) I have never changed my mind about it; and (c) I confirmed that in writing as recently as 18th June. I am no longer a member. That's my clearly expressed wish, baldly stated in black and white on paper, with my signature set to it.
But what does this letter now say?
Your membership number: 78XXXXX [Hey, I am not a member any more!]
Dear Miss Melford
We recently contacted you about your Benenden membership. [Yes, only last month - a letter exactly like this one] We wanted to let you know that you are always welcome to come back to us no matter how your circumstances may have changed. So you always have the option to come back, because we believe in looking after our members for life. [Death, where is thy sting?]
For just £8.71 per person per month you can be reassured that when things don't go to plan you can ask us for help if you become unwell or need any healthcare advice - from 24 hour advice lines to quick local consultations and the very best treatment at a range of approved hospitals and clinics. Please see the enclosed leaflet for all the great discretionary services that we offer. [Sigh. I saw it last month, and many times before that...]
It goes without saying we'd love to have you back. [I'm sure you do] So if you don't want to miss the peace of mind of having our health care services available should you really need them, then simply call us on 0800 970 6507 quoting RETURN or complete the enclosed application form. If you've already been in touch, simply recycle this letter.
Member Loyalty Manager
Perhaps I scorn Mr Duffy's letter too much. Benenden offer genuine services that might be useful for some people in some circumstances. So far as I understand it, this is the deal - what the subscription of £8.71 a month secures:
# I would get a way of bypassing long or unreasonable NHS waiting times, where the delay in making a diagnosis and providing treatment would cause me distress or great inconvenience. But I'd still have to begin with my local GP practice.
# If I never fall seriously ill, I won’t need to call on them.
# If I do fall ill, but the NHS responds quickly and effectively, then again I won’t need them.
# The monthly charge is kept low because Beneden are not insuring me for anything, and their intervention is on a discretionary basis. They aim to supplement what the NHS can do, to give me advice, to put me in touch with private consultants - and thereby fast-track my road to treatment. But not necessarily give me treatment themselves, nor indeed pay for anything.
Chest infections were their original concern, and their hospital at Benenden in Kent was - and remains - a place they can refer you to, if they agree you have a serious chest complaint. But their medical ambit has widened considerably in recent years. (It's still not getting BUPA on the cheap, though)
I joined Benenden in May 1978, and paid the cash equivalent of £8.71 monthly for nearly thirty-seven years. So they got from me - in today's money - about £3,850 altogether. And I never once called on them for assistance. Eventually I considered the risks of not carrying on. The likelihood of needing their services had always been low, and it was still low. Meanwhile I was throwing away £8.71 a month. Money that could instead be saved, or spent differently. So I did the sensible, rational thing.
And having come to a sensible, rational decision I do rather resent being chivvied by them. I know my own mind, and I've gone - probably for good, as I'm annoyed with being bombarded with their marketing letters. I shall be positively angry if they keep it up.
I suppose it's a sign of the times. A business with an income-generation model that requires them to nag at target customers - making those customers feel uncertain and insecure, and fearful of not having a safety net. And regularly repeating the message until it has the desired effect. Classic techniques. I don't expect I have heard the last of Benenden.