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5 Quirky Things You Can Insure

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Think quickly about what types of insurance you have. Health (if you're lucky), renter's/homeowner's, car, and maybe a few other policies, right? If you think you've got as much coverage as you could ever need, think again. What happens if you get bitten by a werewolf? In fact, there are many other facets of your life you could be insuring. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Body Parts

Celebrities are often known for a single physical feature, so it seems natural that they would want to protect their livelihoods by insuring these innate gifts. Enter the world of body part insurance. In this market, insurers, most notably Lloyd's of London, offer policies that pay out if something mars the precious body part. Keith Richards' fingers, Mariah Carey's legs, silent film star Ben Turpin's crossed eyes, and Dolly Parton's breasts were all rumored to have been covered by hefty policies at one time.


So are these policies worth it? After all, how often do peoples' eyes uncross? A 2006 piece on Slate's always-terrific Explainer says no. While these policies are great for building up publicity and media buzz (after all, who wouldn't want to talk about Mariah Carey's billion-dollar legs?), the policyholders would be just as well off with general disability insurance. These traditional policies would also pay off if an injury or other misfortune ruined the body part and kept the star from being able to work, but the rates would be lower. As a publicity stunt, though, it's hard to beat affixing a price tag to your famous appendages.

2. A Hole in One

25000.jpgIf you've ever played in or attended a golf tournament, you've probably seen a hole-in-one prize glittering at the front of a course. Anyone who scores a hole in one during his or her tournament round will score a new car, a boat, or some other fancy toy. Lots of these amateur tournaments are sponsored by charities, though, so is the Red Cross actually risking a $45,000 car each time it has a tournament? Nope. It insures against the possibility of any weekend hacker stumbling into a hole in one and winning the new wheels.


A hole-in-one insurance policy is part of a broader class known as prize indemnification insurance, a type of coverage that also covers top prizes on game shows and in other contests. The event sponsor pays a premium to an insurer, and if someone manages to find the cup on his first swing, the policy picks up the price of the prize. The premium is based on a number of factors, including the length of the holes (since it's easier to get a hole-in-one on a short par three; it's nearly impossible for even a pro to hole one on a long par five.) The value of the prize, the number of golfers playing in the tournament, and their respective skill levels also affect the premium. These type of policies can be affordable even for expensive prizes because the odds of an amateur golfer scoring a hole in one are so slim. A 2000 article in Golf Digest pegged the odds of a player scoring an ace on any given round at roughly 5,000 to 1, while a 2006 USA Today article offers the less optimistic estimate of 12,500 to 1.

3. Your Wedding

wedding-cake-topper.jpgAs wedding costs keep skyrocketing, brides and grooms have started to realize that planning their big day entails taking on quite a bit of financial risk. With all of the logistics and separate vendors required to get the wedding party dressed, the reception catered, and a church booked, there are dozens of places where any hitch could lead to a serious setback, like if your reception venue explodes the night before your wedding. Instead of blindly sinking thousands upon thousands of dollars into these risks, couples have the option of insuring their weddings through companies like WedSafe.


Such a policy will cover all sorts of unforeseen problems that could derail a wedding, like a serious illness or injury in the family, military deployment, inclement weather, or vendors not showing up. If any of these events lead to a cancellation or postponement of your wedding, the policy will cover your costs. One thing these policies definitely don't cover, though, is a bad case of cold feet. A change of heart is considered a circumstance within the control of the couple and doesn't warrant any reimbursement. [Image courtesy of WeddingAccessories.net.]

4. Your Ransom

Let's say you're working for a multinational firm that dispatches you to some fairly risky areas. What if you get kidnapped and held for ransom? Ugh, having to pay all that loot to the kidnappers would ruin your day. If you have a ransom insurance policy, though, you don't have to worry any longer. (Well, you still have to worry about being held by kidnappers. Most of the financial burden's gone, though.) These policies, which are typically held by businessmen working in iffy areas, offer indemnity coverage for any loss incurred by whoever pays the ransom, whether it's the kidnapping victim or the captive's company. Such losses can include the ransom itself, any ransom money lost in transit, expenses for the response team to deliver the ransom, the hiring of negotiators, and rewards offered for the safe return of the kidnapped. Of course, since paying the ransom doesn't always guarantee the safe return of the victim, these policies also indemnify the holder against death, dismemberment, disablement, and blindness as a result of the kidnapping.

5. The Paranormal

alien-abduction-lamp.jpgSimon Burgess, a former underwriter at Lloyd's of London, has parlayed his quirky sense of humor into a niche in the insurance industry. Over the years his companies have provided coverage against all sorts of unlikely events. He's sold over 40,000 policies that insure against alien abduction; he'll pay off more than a million pounds to any policyholder who can pass a lie detector test, has video or photographic evidence of his abduction, and has a reliable third-party witness. Worried about being eaten by the Loch Ness Monster? Burgess has written policies for people like you. He's also sold policies covering vampire and werewolf transformations, temporary impotence on Valentine's Day, and Yeti attacks. His policies covering virgin births were especially popular as the millennium approached, just in case a young woman be blessed with the Second Coming via immaculate conception.


Are these policyholders serious? Not all of them. In a 2001 interview with The Scotsman, Burgess admitted that around half of his customers were probably buying his policies, which usually run around 100 pounds, as jokes or gifts. However, that doesn't seem to bother him a bit. In a 2006 interview with Money Marketing, he quipped, "Let's face it—insurance is so tedious that if I can enlighten my dreary life with a bit of humor every now and again, I will." Even if you're buying coverage on a lark, though, it must be nice to know you're totally financially protected in the unlikely event of a vampire attack.

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Supermarket Introduces 'Quiet Hour' to Help Customers With Autism Feel at Ease
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For some people on the autism spectrum, a routine trip to the supermarket can quickly morph into a nightmare. It’s not just the crowds and commotion that trigger feelings of panic—sounds that many shoppers have learned to tune out, like intercom announcements or beeps from the checkout scanner, can all add up to cause sensory overload. But grocery stores don’t have to be a source of dread for people with such sensitivities. By turning down the volume for one hour each day, one supermarket is making itself more inclusive to a greater number of customers.

As Mashable reports, Australian grocery store chain Coles is partnering with the Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) organization to roll out "quiet hour" in two of its stores. From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., the lights will be dimmed by 50 percent, the radio and register sounds will be turned down to their lowest volumes, and cart collection and non-emergency PA announcements will be put on hold. The changes are meant to accommodate shoppers with autism and their families, but all shoppers are welcome.

The initiative is based on research conducted by Aspect on people on the autism spectrum and those who care for them. In addition to modifying the atmosphere, Coles has taken steps to educate its staff. If someone does start to feel overwhelmed in a Coles stores, employees trained in understanding and dealing with autism symptoms will be on hand to assist them.

Coles is following the lead of several chains that have made themselves more inviting to shoppers on the spectrum. Last year, British supermarket chain Asda introduced its own quiet hour, and Toys "R" US implemented something similar in its UK stores for the holiday season.

The Coles initiative is just a trial run for now, but if the customer reaction is positive enough it may be here to stay. Visitors to their Ringwood and Balwyn East stores in Victoria will have a chance to experience it now through the end of October.

[h/t Mashable]

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10 of the Worst Jobs in the Victorian Era
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Next time you complain about your boring desk job, think back to Victorian times—an era before the concept of occupational health and safety rules—and count yourself lucky. Back then, people were forced to think of some imaginative ways to earn a living, from seeking out treasure in the sewers to literally selling excrement.

1. LEECH COLLECTOR

Leeches were once a useful commodity, with both doctors and quacks using the blood-sucking creatures to treat a number of ailments, ranging from headaches to "hysteria." But pity the poor leech collector who had to use themselves as a human trap. The job usually fell to poor country women, who would wade into dirty ponds in the hope of attracting a host of leeches. Once the critters attached to the leech collector’s legs, the individual would prise them off and collect them in a box or pot. Leeches can survive for up to a year with no food, so they could be stored at the pharmacy to be dished out as required. Unsurprisingly, leech collectors were in danger of suffering from excess blood loss and infectious diseases.

2. PURE FINDER

Despite the clean-sounding name, this job actually involved collecting dog feces from the streets of London to sell to tanners, who used it in the leather-making process. Dog poop was known as "pure" because it was used to purify the leather and make it more flexible [PDF]. Leather was in great demand in Victorian times, as it was used not only as tack for horses but for shoes, boots, bags, and in bookbinding. Pure collectors haunted the streets where stray dogs amassed, scooping up the poop and keeping it in a covered bucket before selling it on to the tanners. Some collectors wore a black glove to protect their scooping hand, but others considered it harder to keep a glove clean than a hand and eschewed the protection altogether.

3. TOSHER

A Victorian illustration of a tosher, or sewer collector
An 1851 illustration of a sewer-hunter or "tosher."
Wikimedia // Public Domain

Victorian London had a huge network of over-worked sewers under the city, washing away the effluence of the crowded metropolis. Toshers made their living down in the dark sewers, sifting through raw sewage to find any valuables that had fallen down the drain. It was extremely dangerous work: Noxious fumes formed deadly pockets, the tunnels frequently crumbled, there were swarms of rats, and at any moment the sluices might be opened and a tide of filthy water might wash the toshers away. As a result of these dangers, toshers generally worked in groups, instantly recognizable in their canvas trousers, aprons with many large pockets (in which to stash their booty), and lanterns strapped to their chests. Most toshers also carried a long pole with a hoe at the end to investigate piles of human waste for dropped treasures, or with which to steady themselves if they stumbled in the gloom. After 1840 it became illegal to enter the sewers without permission and so toshers began working late at night or early in the morning to avoid detection. Despite the stinking and dangerous conditions, it was a lucrative business for the working classes, with many a coin or silver spoon sloshing about in the quagmire.

4. MATCHSTICK MAKERS

Matchsticks are made by cutting wood into thin sticks and then dipping the ends into white phosphorus—a highly toxic chemical. In the Victorian era, this work was mainly performed by teenage girls who worked in terrible conditions, often for between 12 and 16 hours a day with few breaks. The girls were forced to eat at their work stations, meaning the toxic phosphorus got into their food, leading to some developing the dreadful condition known as “phossy jaw”—whereby the jawbone becomes infected, leading to severe disfigurement.

5. MUDLARK

Like the toshers, these workers made their meagre money from dredging through the gloop looking for items of value to sell, although in this case they were plying their messy trade on the shores of the Thames instead of mostly in the sewers. Seen as a step down from a tosher, the mudlarks were usually children, who collected anything that could be sold, including rags (for making paper), driftwood (dried out for firewood) and any coins or treasure that might find its way into the river. Not only was it a filthy job, but it was also very dangerous, since the tidal nature of the Thames meant it was easy for children to be washed away or become stuck in the soft mud.

6. CHIMNEY SWEEP

A photograph of a very happy chimney sweep
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Tiny children as young as four years old were employed as chimney sweeps, their small stature making them the perfect size to scale up the brick chimneys. All the climbing in the claustrophobic space of a chimney meant many sweeps’ elbows and knees were scraped raw, until repeated climbing covered them with calluses. Inhaling the dust and smoke from chimneys meant many chimney sweeps suffered irreversible lung damage. Smaller sweeps were the most sought-after, so many were deliberately underfed to stunt their growth and most had outgrown the profession by the age of 10. Some poor children became stuck in the chimneys or were unwilling to make the climb, and anecdotal evidence suggests their bosses might light a fire underneath to inspire the poor mite to find their way out at the top of the chimney. Fortunately, an 1840 law made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to climb and clean a chimney, though some unscrupulous fellows still continued the practice.

7. FUNERAL MUTE

Anyone familiar with Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist will remember that one of the orphan’s hated early jobs was as a mute for undertaker Mr. Sowerberry. A component of the extremely complex (and lucrative) Victorian funeral practices, mutes were required to dress all in black with a sash (usually also black, but white for children), while carrying a long cloth-covered stick and standing mournfully and silently at the door of the deceased’s house before leading the coffin on its processional route to the graveyard.

8. RAT CATCHER

An illustration of a group of Victorian men watching rat-baiting.
Getty Images/Rischgitz

Rat catchers usually employed a small dog or ferret to search out the rats that infested the streets and houses of Victorian Britain. They frequently caught the rats alive, as they could sell the animal to “ratters,” who put the rats into a pit and set a terrier loose upon them while onlookers made bets about how long it would take for the dog to kill them all. Catching rats was a dangerous business—not only did the vermin harbor disease, but their bites could cause terrible infections. One of the most famous Victorian rat catchers was Jack Black, who worked for Queen Victoria herself. Black was interviewed for Henry Mayhew’s seminal tome on Britain’s working classes, London Labour and the London Poor (1851) in which he revealed that he used a cage which could store up to 1000 live rats at a time. The rats could be stored like this for days as long as Black fed them—if he forgot, the rats would begin fighting and eating each other, ruining his spoils.

9. CROSSING SWEEPER

The “job” of crossing sweeper reveals the entrepreneurial spirit of the Victorian poor. These children would claim an area of the street as their patch, and when a rich man or woman wished to exit their carriage and walk across the filth-strewn street, the sweeper would walk before them clearing the detritus from their path, ensuring their patron’s clothes and shoes stayed clean. Crossing sweepers were regarded as just a step up from beggars, and worked in the hopes of receiving a tip. Their services were no doubt sometimes appreciated: The streets during this period were mud-soaked and piled with horse manure. The poor sweepers not only had to endure the dismal conditions whatever the weather, but were also constantly dodging speeding horse-drawn cabs and omnibuses.

10. RESURRECTIONISTS

An 1840 drawing of a group of resurrectionists at work
Getty Images/Hulton Archive

In the early 19th century the only cadavers available to medical schools and anatomists were those of criminals who had been sentenced to death, leading to a severe shortage of bodies to dissect. Medical schools paid a handsome fee to those delivering a body in good condition, and as a result many wily Victorians saw an opportunity to make some money by robbing recently dug graves. The problem became so severe that family members took to guarding the graves of the recently deceased to prevent the resurrectionists sneaking in and unearthing their dearly departed.

The "profession" was taken to an extreme by William Burke and William Hare who were thought to have murdered 16 unfortunates between 1827 and 1828. The pair enticed victims to their boarding house, plied them with alcohol and then suffocated them, ensuring the body stayed in good enough condition to earn the fee paid by Edinburgh University medical school for corpses. After the crimes of Burke and Hare were discovered, the Anatomy Act of 1832 finally helped bring an end to the grisly resurrectionist trade by giving doctors and anatomists greater access to cadavers and allowing people to leave their bodies to medical science.

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