ALCHEMY: The long sought after secret for turning base
metals into gold.
When people ask me what I do for a living I often reply by saying I am an
Alchemist. Usually that stops them in their tracks but the curious ones who
actually know what Alchemy means very often press me for more info.
OK: here is a little primer for the curious on what we really do for a
living. We handle damaged goods salvaged from fires, floods, earthquakes,
tornadoes, truck wrecks, shipwrecks and any other insured peril. Most of
our work is done directly for insurance companies through their appointed
Loss Adjusters or their appointed Surveyors.
We get a call from a client who then describes the product he or she is
dealing with, how it got damaged, where it is located, and its claimed
value. With the advent of the internet we can usually have pictures and an
inventory of the damaged goods within minutes of that initial call.
Once we accept an assignment we then go to the loss location for a firsthand
look at the inventory and to assess what the salvage prospects are for the
damaged inventory. We pass that information back to the Adjuster or
Surveyor and then take their instructions on what we will do.
Most often we are asked to either prepare a joint inventory with the insured
or, if an inventory is already available, we verify that inventory as to
quantity, description and value. When that is done we advise the Adjuster
or Surveyor what our best guess is on what we might expect to get for the
salvage should we be asked to sell the lot for the account of the loss.
Sometimes Adjusters and Surveyors use our salvage estimate and try and
negotiate a settlement with the insured and leave the damaged goods with the
insured and take a salvage credit against the loss.
Case in point: We were called by a very good client insurance company that
uses Staff Adjusters to handle their claims. He had a flood loss due to a
water main break in downtown Boston that needed to be looked at fast. I was
on site an hour after his initial call. The info he had over the phone was
that this insured had upwards of $270,000.00 in damaged inventory. And that
the inventory consisted of mostly high end shorts and shirts that were all
soaked and covered in mud.
Well part of the story was true: it was all wet and mostly covered in mud.
The alleged value however turned out to be incorrect as I quickly discovered
and informed him. The real value turned out to be closer to $75K after
being inventoried by one of our inventory specialists. You might say we
already earned our keep with that discovery!
And yes, that is mud that you are seeing. It ain’t pretty and it wasn’t
easy to move from the basement of a store in downtown Boston with a flooded
out non working elevator and about 30 stairs from the basement to the street
level and another 60 feet of hallway and out to the truck. Oh and did I
mention that we had to pass through a small variety store to get out to the
street?? Needless to say it wasn’t easy but our guys are used to this kind
of a deal and took it all in stride.
The obvious question in everybody’s mind is: Could we get this stuff washed,
dried and folded and then sell it for more money than it will cost to do
that work? But a faint heart never won a fair lady so we gave it a shot!
Preliminary results tell me that our gut instincts were right and it looks
like we will be able to produce a net recovery for the company. The
handling, wash, fold and dry costs look like they will come in at around
$3,000.00. And we now have an offer for $3.00 per unit.