HOME ARCHIVE 2018

The power company’s power of runaround imagination

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

The electric bill was over $100, but there was nobody at the house. The only thing left on for the entire month were a freezer, refrigerator and security lights.
The voice at the other end of the line was trying to be helpful, or maybe just wanted to talk long enough so that we would hang up and call back another time. It is hard to tell the difference sometimes.
“That water heater can draw a lot of electricity,” the voice explained.
It is not faulty and was turned off.
“Maybe you left the heater on.”
The heater was turned off. Maybe your people didn’t read the meter because it is behind a gate and just made up the numbers.
“It says here that the meter was read,” replied the voice. It was a very kind voice, but there was a hint that the call was not getting anywhere.
I paid less in the house I lived in for that same month, where I used the heater, and the water heater was on all the time. The rate is just about the same. Why is this kind voice looking for a way out of the call?
“The meter sends out a radio signal, and our trucks are equipped to pick it up. They don’t have to go to the meter to read it,” the voice continued.
Well, they must have picked up the wrong radio signal, because there is no way that the house used up all this electricity without anyone being there.
As it turned out, there was no such thing as the meter sending out a radio signal. Where the heck did the voice come up with that?
Maybe the meter is wrong. “We show that it is functioning properly.”
Then we only have one option left, since the power company is conducting itself perfectly and its employees didn’t just make up numbers based on previous years when people were living there full-time.
Perhaps the electricity was being stolen.
But the neighbor said that if ours is being stolen, then hers is also, because her bill is also much higher than it should be. And, there are no physical signs of theft, like a several hundred-foot-long extension cord.
Maybe your meter readers are not meter-reading.
“Our records show that the meter was read,” repeated the voice.
Maybe your records are wrong.
The voice was very imaginative. It even performed a mathematical equation to prove that the reading is correct. The math didn’t make any sense, since there was nobody at the house for the month.
I wondered what the ultimate purpose of these calls was other than creating utter frustration.
The best way to resolve this issue is by installing a smart meter that doesn’t have to be read.
“We can do that. Let me schedule an appointment.”
Why didn’t we think of this first? Why didn’t they think of this before making up the story about radio signals?
The big day came when we were supposed to get the new meter. The installation was supposed to be in the morning. The technician finally showed up mid-afternoon. It took 10 minutes.
Whatever happened to good customer service, of solving problems rather than just picking up a paycheck?
We’ll see how close the previous estimates – or just picking numbers out of thin air – were when the smart meter numbers start rolling in. We may just be in line for a nice refund.
Or, maybe some more run-around. It seems to be their expertise, rather than checking out a caller’s complaint.
Radio signals? Really?