Hawaii Medical Service Association

With 670,000 members and $1.6 billion in revenues, not-for-profit Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) is Hawaii's largest health insurance company. Headquarters is a white 11-story box-like structure built in the early 1990's. It's about a mile from the beaches of Waikiki, several miles from downtown Honolulu and only a few blocks from Ala Moana shopping center, Hawaii's largest shopping center. If you look at the picture of HMSA's building in the photo accompanying this story you'll see part of a building across the street. That's the parking garage structure of an adjacent Wal-Mart with a Sam's Club warehouse store stacked on top of it.

Besides visitors to the head office, the reception desk also handles members dropping in with questions about their policies, bills and so on. I explain who I am and how I mailed a letter of introduction along with news clippings a month earlier to CEO Robert Hiam. I'm told to take a seat while the receptionist calls around.

After 15 minutes of waiting I'm handed a phone with Chuck Marshall, Public Information Coordinator, on the other end. After telling Marshall what I do he suggests e-mailing my questions and he'll email the answers back. I explain how I could be back in San Diego doing all this via phone or e-mail and that my physically visiting a company's headquarters via bicycle is the novelty of what I do. Marshall is currently busy and agrees to an appointment (2 PM) later in the day where he'll give me 10 minutes. Since Marshall says he hadn't seen the advance material sent to CEO Hiam I suggest he visits my website (www.corporatetrivia.com) for background material on what I do.

Returning at 2PM I meet Marshall in the lobby and after a few minutes of small talk I hand him a copy of the questions I'll be asking. Marshall then asks, "Why would our members be interested in participating in this?" I spend the next five minutes explaining why HMSA should join the over 3,800 companies I visited over the past 19 years. Evidently I don't do a very persuasive job as Marshall says he isn't interested in participating. Marshall goes on to say that this is a "secure building" and visitors aren't allowed because member's files are on computers and have to be protected. Jeez, I can't believe he's giving me this lame excuse. I tell Marshall I'm interested in seeing the company cafeteria, CEO's office and boardroom, not rooms full of computers. I've probably visited more than 200 insurance companies around the world and it's never been problem. Things go from bad to worse as Marshall tries to pacify my disappointment by spending five minutes thumbing through an in-house magazine sent out to members-specifically going over a section on eating healthy.

So, Marshall essentially wastes 15 minutes telling why he can't spend 10 minutes answering my questions. Marshall also says he asked around and no one seems to know anything about my letter of introduction mailed a month earlier to CEO Hiam. Hmm, funny how this is the only company in Honolulu not to receive the letter. Which, by the way, was deposited in a mailbox right here in Honolulu (not from San Diego). From my many years of experience, I've found it's usually the result of a company's sloppy in-house mailroom.

Company website: www.hmsa.com