Home warranties for the dead

Bring out your dead, and extend their home warranties!

Pretty much everybody has experienced the Extended Car Warranty scam, carried out largely via phone spam — and now widely derided, entertainingly (examples to come). And many have experienced the mail solicitation of the dead, the result of the automated winnowing and combining of databases, iteratively: for instance, my wife Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, who died (in Columbus OH) over 36 years ago, every so often gets a mail solicitation at the address of my condo in downtown Palo Alto CA (bought the year after Ann died). Ah, in the mail just moments ago, from Essence Healthcare in Maryland Heights MO: important information Ann needs before the Medicare annual enrollment period begins on October 15. Grotesque.

Now, by U.S. mail (yesterday in Palo Alto) comes the cousin of Extended Car Warranty: Extended Home Warranty (no doubt this scam has been around for a while, and I just haven’t noticed; I haven’t been very attentive to the world). But addressed not to me or to my husband-equivalent Jacques (though he, too, is dead, 18 years now), but to Ann:


(#1) Yes, my dears: an Extended Home Warranty for the dead! Get them while they’re hot! (A long time ago, the mortgage on this property was indeed held by Washington Mutual — which, I believe, is in in bankruptcy — but has been held by a different large national bank for some time; meanwhile, the property has never had home warranty insurance, though I’m now in the second cycle of replacements: replacements for the replacements Jacques and I bought for the original appliances — washer/dryer, refrigerator, water heater so far; I fear for the garbage disposal, stove, and microwave)

Crucial fact: this mail comes, not from Washington Mutual or its successors, but from a company not involved in the property or the mortgage at all, something called Home Warranty Direct. There are legitimate home warranty companies, some well regarded, but this company appears to be known only through its scam Final Notice letters.

Extended Car Warranties. From the CarTalk site, “How To Stop Extended Car Warranty Phone Calls” by John Goreham on 8/4/21:


(#2) Fortune cookie photo from the CarTalk site (widely available on the net)

Extended Car Warranty companies are quickly earning a reputation as one of the most irritating industries in America due to their annoying business practice of phoning us to solicit business. The pitch usually goes something like, “We are contacting you because your vehicle warranty will soon expire and want you to know you can extend your coverage.”

The four lies in this call are:

— 1.The company has no idea if you have a car warranty expiring and doesn’t care.

— 2. The company doesn’t even know if you own a car.

— 3. The company calling you is not your actual brand of Honda, Toyota, or GM, but a third-party with which you have no relationship.

— 4. They are not going to actually extend your factory warranty, but try to sell you a new one of questionable value.

These calls are annoying to those of us who receive them. While driving. While at work. During your child’s piano recital. While hospitalized. And they also drive us nuts because they call our aging parents or young adult children who then call us and ask what they should do.

As a Car Talk contributor, I’ve written a number of stories about the best and worst extended car warranty companies. It’s with mixed feelings that I do so, because I despise the robocalls and other types of despicable marketing practices some of these companies employ. I was robocalled by just such a company today. While writing this story.

Note on fortune cookies, from a surprisingly thorough Wikipedia entry:

A fortune cookie is a crisp and sugary cookie usually made from flour, sugar, vanilla, and sesame seed oil with a piece of paper inside, a “fortune”, usually an aphorism, or a vague prophecy. The message inside may also include a Chinese phrase with translation and/or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers

… Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and other countries, but they are not Chinese in origin. The exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century. They most likely originated from cookies made by Japanese immigrants to the United States in the late 19th or early 20th century.

… Globally, the cookies are generally called by the English term fortune cookies, being American in origin.

From a great many, three more mockeries — which I’m tentatively identifying as burlesques — of the Extended Car Warranty scam, the theme being that They Will Come for You Anywhere:


(#3) Even on a (cartoon) Desert Island


(#4) Even in the mensroom, defying the conventions for the use of urinals (see my 1/1/16 posting “On urinals and the conventions of the men’s room”)


(#5) Even on a stele at a remote archaeological site (NOAD: noun stela [AZ: also stele]: Archaeology an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone.)

3 Responses to “Home warranties for the dead”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I believe I have mentioned before (although perhaps not on this blog) that sometime in the last 15 years, my husband received a piece of mail forwarded from his mother’s last address (she died in 1997), containing a credit-card solicitation – addressed to his father, who died in 1962 and never lived at that address.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Wow. That certainly looks like the current winner in the competition for dead-solicitation time depth — on the order of 50 years between death and the mail, if I understand the situation correctly. (Ah, who will write the string quartet, to be known as “Death and the Mailman”?)

  2. Bill Stewart Says:

    In 1982 I moved into a rental house in Winston-Salem where a Mary C. Stewart once lived. AARP mailings for her followed me for 26 years all the way to El Cerrito, when I actually did join as myself, finally laying the ghost of Mary C. to rest.

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