“What Goes Around Goes Around Again”

Ken Brownlee writes about voice stress analysis for Claims magazine. Excerpt:

My wife came back from shopping yesterday and told me she had been listening to Clark Howard, the nation’s Number One Cheapskate, on WSB, an Atlanta radio station. She told me that he had said that Lloyd’s of London had decided to take statements from insureds and run them through a truth machine, and if the machine said the insured was telling the truth, they’d pay the claim. “Great idea!” she said. “Why didn’t you think of that?”

It sounded a bit like a deal millionaire Clark Howard, who showed up a few months ago for his New York morning television show debut in a $15 suit after spending the night in a $29 hotel room, might endorse. As Atlanta’s own Consumer’s Superman (I wonder if his middle name is Kent), Howard has some great ideas and bargains, but I suspect that even he might choke up a little on this one.

I said to my wife, “Wait here.” I ran upstairs and copied my Iconoclast column from April 1980 (in what was then called Insurance Adjuster Magazine, the predecessor of Claims), titled “The CIA Syndrome.” It was about this very subject, the little black box, voice stress analysis machine, which operated on the principles of psychological stress evaluators (PSE). “Don’t tell me that old gig is coming back into fashion,” I remarked. “I thought we’d killed that monster twenty years ago.”

Now I don’t know exactly what Clark Howard did say, or what the good underwriters at Lloyd’s are up to, but I do know what I learned back in 1979, when voice stress analysis machines were being advertised in practically every business magazine, and insurers were attempting to use them to screen claims for fraud. Our company undertook a research project, which I spearheaded, contacting every state attorney general and insurance commissioner in the nation. The answers were almost universal: “You’d better not get caught playing with one of those gizmos in our state!”

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