BOFH: Zen and the art of battery replacement

With a spot of insurance fraud

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 16 "Farewell old girl."








… The next day …

"And so it, uh, fell out the window?" our claims investigator asks.

"Out the window, and onto my assistant's new e-bike."

"New?" the claims guy asks, dubiously.

"New to him. I believe it was a couple of years old but had recently been retrofitted with a new motor and electronics."

"It had a 2kWh battery and 1,000W grid stacked core wound motor on it," the PFY says.

I think I can safely say that no one in the room knows what a "grid stacked core wound motor" is – if it even exists – but it sounds expensive.

"I'm sure that we'll be able to determine what it was once we look at the debris," he says, dryly.

"Sadly …" I say, before I'm interrupted.

"It was burnt up in the fire?" he asks expectantly.

"It was burnt up in the fires. The UPS caught fire, then the bike battery likely caught fire."

"Yes. How is it that you came to be moving a 100kg UPS through the building in the first place?"

"500kg UPS," I point out. "You're looking at the dry weight – without batteries."

"I stand corrected. How is it that you were moving a 500kg UPS through the building?"

"We needed to get it to the freight elevator to take it to the loading ramp where we could perform the battery change."

"Because we're not allowed to do battery changes in the building anymore," the PFY adds, "because YOU guys won't let us."

"Firstly, I'm an independent claims adjuster and have no say in your insurer's policy conditions; and secondly, there is likely a clause covering permissible battery activities."

"There's no clause," I say. "But there is a whole new section in our policy covering batteries, their age and condition, maintenance requirements, service checking and history. And, as it turns out, it's cheaper to change the batteries every 2.5 years than to try and get a company in to re-certify the UPS and batteries together."

And it's even cheaper to push the UPS out the window onto a pushbike with a stack of dodgy LiPo batteries cable-tied to it …

"How did this window come to be open in the first place? From your insurer's notes I see that all of the large pivot windows had been secured against opening?"

"They had, but unfortunately the momentum of the UPS was something we'd not accounted for, so it broke the two screws which locked the pivot shut. It's a miracle it didn't break the glass."

"Yes, a miracle. Which screws did they break?"

"Ahhhhhhmm … these ones," the PFY says, handing over a couple of sheared screw heads. "No doubt you can run some stress test to determine what the shear strength was?"

"As I mentioned, I'm an independent claims adjuster – I don't have access to that sort of forensic equipment."

"What equipment do you have access to?"

"None. Your claim is below the threshold for forensic investigation methods – and, for that matter, a more senior claims adjuster."

"Really? What's the threshold?"

"Twenty thousand British pounds."

"And our final claim?"

"Nineteen thousand, nine hundred and seventy-eight pounds."

"What are the odds?" the PFY asks.

"What are the odds indeed. While I don't have access to forensic investigation equipment, I can, however, make recommendations to reassign this to a more senior claims adjuster – who would."

"Fair enough, and point taken. As an independent contractor, I assume you contract to various insurers."

"I do."

"And as a result you operate a private consultancy?"


"And cover your own expenses."


"And in these trying times, in the long shadow of COVID and with new types of claims coming from climate change and with parts of the world at war I'm sure that insurers are looking at ways of reducing costs as well as limiting claims."

"It would seem a sensible practice."

"And no doubt some of those costs are your expense claims – your travel budget and meal allowances?"

"I don't have a travel budget or meals allowance."

"What about overtime?"

"It's a flat rate based on the tier of the claim."

"Is it a good rate?"

"Not particularly – though if I can process eight claims in a day …"

"Tell me, how did you get here today?"

"On the tube."

"Are you sure you didn't ride your e-bike?"

"I don't have an e-bike."

"Sorry, let me rephrase that while I show you our second UPS unit – which urgently needs a battery replacement."

"I think what you're proposing would push you over the threshold for …"

"PER CLAIM threshold," I say. "PER CLAIM. Now, perhaps my assistant can take you down the street to a budget bike seller while I pop into the storeroom and find a box of dodgy laptop batteries."

"You shouldn't be storing those in the building," our claims guy points out.

"THAT'S THE SPIRIT! And don't forget to pick up a bike lock and some cable ties. I'll see you back here in 20, once I've broken the heads off these screws …"

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