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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Lights Still On February 20, 2006 9:39 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life
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It’s 5° C outside. I know this because the little number in the task bar tells me so. And since I can read the number in the task bar the computer is on which implies we still have electricity. And since we have electricity, we have heat. Granted, meals may be thin this month but that is one of the trade-offs of working from home and getting to be ultra involved in my children’s lives. Hopefully they won’t curse me too badly for being called "poor white trash" instead of "snotty, rich brats with a dad they never see" not to imply that working hard either produces snotty brats nor riches nor absentee dads (those are all choices). Of course, when I’m dead, they will stomp my grave and grouse over the lack of fortune left behind but at least their relationships won’t be torn apart in estate court.

I learned today that I’m not alone in my struggles against the heartless utility companies on which we so rely. And there I left this comment:

I find it funny in not a so haha way that the people that are inspiring the proverbial “you” to come up with money that “you” may not have take away the very thing (at least in my case) that “you” use to make the money. With ALL of my income generated from the Internet, to cut off cable or electricity is cutting off my life blood, my oxygen. Cutting off my cell phone is like depriving me of water (not as fast a death but it will come).

My dialog with the electric company today was something made for the comics. “You do know that this is a banking holiday?” “Yes sir. You still need to have your payment to us by 5pm.” “But I can’t do banking to get you the money.” “Then you’ll have to pay us cash sir.” “Can’t you give me one more day? You have picked a banking holiday and one of the coldest days of the year to cut off our power.” “Sorry sir. Your bill was due ___. It’s your responsibiliity..” “Don’t talk to me about responsibility. You know nothing of my situation so do not preach to me. Now let’s assume the money is in a money market account. I can’t get to that until tomorrow.” “Sir, the trucks don’t run at night. They’ll start running at 8am tomorrow. If you can get us payment first thing and call, we might be able to stop the cutoff.” “You do know my phone run off your electricity?” Thank goodness this month’s issue of MAKE tells us how to make our own power with the wind!

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1. LissaKay - February 20, 2006

I can almost one-up you on tales of stupid, evil utility companies. I’m in the west county so I am *cough* served by LCUB.

A little over three years ago, I was dealing with a very ill teen-ager with bipolar disorder. ‘Nuff said as far as ya’ll go, eh? Anyway, I was on auto-pilot, paying bills was done every payday … schedule the online bill pay, click, done. I wasn’t looking closely at the paper bills, and I was on the even-pay plan with LCUB. So, I missed where they missed one of my payments, and I had a rolling unpaid balance due from August until they called in December.

So they call … I say WTF? I paid all my bills. They say no I didn’t, must pay $65 overdue plus $65 regular monthly plus $110 even-pay catch-up or my power would be cut off. This was on Dec 18. I told them to put it in dispute, have their billing department call and I would review my records.

On Dec 23, I called them, I told them I had proof of monthly payments every month for the last year. No one was available to talk to me about it, it being the day before Christmas Eve and all. I asked them to have someone call on the 26th. Guess what? No call. I call them on the 29th. No one there that can help me.

I came home from work at 6:30 on Dec 30 to find a cut-off notice on my door … pay up or the power gets cut at noon the next day. The next day being New Years Eve and I had to work. I called the after-hours number, the witch that answered said there was nothing she could do, but if I would pay my bill like I am supPOSED to, this wouldn’t happen. *snarl*

I had to be at work at 8, first break wasn’t until 10:30. I called then, no one in billing … it being a holiday and all. By this time I am nearly screaming at the snotty bitch because she refuses to cancel the cut-off, despite the fact that I asked the bill to be put into dispute, and despite the fact that I had called several times offering proof that I had indeed paid my bill, AND that I had a child alone in the house who would be needing the lights and heat. I only got the same snotty, “Well if you paid like you’re supPOSED to …” and I couldn’t pay just a portion to keep the lights on, all or nothing because it was more than 3 months overdue, and it had to be cash or certified check. Finally, I called my parents and they went down there and paid the damn $240.

On my next day off, I went down there with the online bill pay print outs from my account. I demanded to speak to someone that would straighten this out. Some woman took a look at my print outs and said not good enough, it has to come directly from the bank. I asked if they had an internet connected computer, I would log in to my account in front of them and show the same information on the bank’s web site. Nope, has to be faxed in from the bank.

So, I whip out my cell phone right there in the lobby of their office and get the bill pay resolution rep on the line. I had already spoken to her several times, she had said she would help any way she could. (BTW, this was First Tennessee … excellent customer service, but sucky loan department). I asked her to fax the proof. She said she’d be glad to but their machine was having issues, but it would be done that day even if she had to go down to the library or Kinkos to do it herself. So I left. A couple hours later, the rep called and said the fax was sent. I called LCUB … they said they didn’t get it. I called their Lenoir City office, they didn’t have it either. I went back down to the office. Again, from their lobby, I called the FTB rep and asked her to fax again. I could see the machine on the other side of the counter. While she was still on the line, the fax came through. The clerk looked at it and said that the billing manager would have to approve the credit to my account. She then faxed it to the main office in Lenoir City. I called the billing manager, and she FINALLY conceded that I did pay my bill, that the missed payment was the cause for about 2/3 of the even-pay adjustment and that made me overpaid by $140. Mind you now, my parents paid that. So I asked that they cut me a check so I could pay that back to them. Nope … it would be credited on future bills.

Not once did they ever say, imply or even hint at an apology during any part of this. I was seriously tempted to move inside the city limits just to get away from LCUB, but I imagine that dealing with KUB is no better.

2. djuggler - February 21, 2006

Absolutely dumbfounding! These things make me want to work to become a little less dependent on the monopolies. Wind and solar power come to mind. I’ve toyed with thoughts of collecting rainwater for toilet flushing and digging a well for watering the lawn and plants. But those are mostly flights of fancy.

3. Dean - February 21, 2006

FYI … about the phones. If you have a landline the phone lines exist on a grid older than our current electric grid, which is why they continue to work when the power goes out. The five 9s of reliability means the 99.999% of the time, when you pick up the phone you will get a dialtone. This is the debate with voice over IP versus landlines.

Anyhow … glad your power’s on.

4. djuggler - February 21, 2006

I could dig a phone out of storage that would work. These modern phones we have in the house all require supplemental electricity. More plumbing; easier to screw up.

In the same way that I’m not ready to lose the land line in favor of the cell phones, I am not ready to lose it for voip for the reason you meantion above plus many more. Although I find voip very exciting!


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