Insurance agent's mistaken identity nightmare | Insurance Business America
An insurance agency based in Damariscotta, Maine, is being inundated with offensive calls and messages from people who think it is responsible for a racist sign that appeared more than 150 miles away at another, unrelated, business on Juneteenth.
An employee of Millinocket-based Harry E Reed, reportedly the daughter of the agency’s owner Karen Hansen, took responsibility for the sign – which called on people to “enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens” – in a Facebook post last Wednesday. Carriers, including Progressive and Allstate, have cut ties with Harry E Reed over the incident.
Read more: Insurance agency employee apologizes for racist Juneteenth sign
However, Reed Family Insurance Advisors, which has no affiliation with Harry E Reed and is based a three-hour drive away, has continued to receive “awful” calls.
In one short telephone message heard by Insurance Business, received by Reed Family Insurance Advisors over this weekend, the caller wished “the worst” on the business. The message included the words “f***ing” or “f**k” at least five times.
Reed Family Insurance Advisors founder Nate Reed (pictured), who described the sign at the other agency as “appalling”, told Insurance Business that he and his team of four had been inundated with “vulgar” messages, numbering in the hundreds.
“It’s been a very big stress load, it’s been discouraging, it’s been exhausting, because we’re trying to get this information out,” Reed said.
He told Insurance Business that he first became aware of the incident at the Harry E Reed agency when he was called by a reporter asking for a statement, despite having no connection to the business in question.
“I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Reed said.
Since then, the business has been proactive in getting the message out about the case of mistaken identity to the local community, and Reed said he has been sharing a statement with local news outlets, on social media, and with clients.
However, calls and social media messages from across the country have continued. Reed, who runs the healthcare broker’s team of four, said he was forced to turn his phone off last week. He has since turned it back on, but he and the business’s insurance advisors have continued to receive messages.
“The local people here in Maine are understanding - they know because they know where Millinocket is and they know where Damariscotta is, so they know where I am and where the other agency is,” Reed said.
“It’s everybody else across the country that’s been calling that has been blasting me, and it’s been awful.”
Reed said he has been recognized in the grocery store, where people from the local community have approached him to say they were sorry for what he is going through. While Damariscotta locals have been supportive and are “in shock and awe”, Reed said he has fears for his safety.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you almost don’t want to go out in public, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know, you know, people are crazy,” Reed said.
The business owner said he suspected his insurance agency was top of the list for people searching for ‘Reed insurance Maine’ because he has invested in his website and making sure his business has good search engine visibility – this means that his firm could be appearing in searches ahead of the Harry E Reed agency where the sign was placed.
Read more: Progressive cuts ties with insurance agency over racist Juneteenth sign
Reed is no longer accepting calls from outside the state, in a bid to stem the tide of “hatred”.
While clients have been receptive to the insurance agency getting in touch to dispel any misunderstanding, Reed, who is one of the primary writers in the business, has had to cancel meetings to focus on “damage control”.
He said that he was concerned the impact might continue into the “busy season” in the fall, when the business typically services many of its clients and picks up new business.
Reed urged people considering getting in touch with him and his colleagues to “do their research”.
“People react quickly when they’re upset, but you need to take five seconds to stop and respond and [not just] react,” Reed said.
“Think about the consequences of what your words are doing, because you can tear somebody down quickly with words. And [people are doing this to someone who is not] the guilty party.”