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People's Gas Journal: The Sequel

By Steve Rhodes

Previously:
* People's Gas Journal. In Russia, appointment schedules you.
* Reminder: Vaunted White House social secretary and Friend of Obama Desiree Rogers made $1.8 million as CEO of this stellar outfit for just the first half of 2008.

-

I'll call this one "In Russia, Meters Read You!"

On March 24, I discovered my gas was off. I called People's Gas and they treated it as an emergency call, sending out a technician - and an assistant - within a couple of hours.

The technician went down into the basement to check the meters. I was suspicious because the person in the apartment across from mine had recently closed her account. I figured mine had been closed instead.

Also bear in mind some history; at some point within the last year I called People's Gas to inquire about higher bills that didn't seem to coordinate with any changes in my personal use.

The technician discovered that indeed one meter had been shut off. But the technician also told me that it was the meter for my neighbor's apartment - where the gas was on. The accounts had been crossed.

Or was I just imagining the events I've just described? According to People's, I was. I must have been in a fever dream.

*

The technician - if he really existed - moved the lock to the proper meter and had me change the label on my meter from 3B to 3A.

I asked what to do about bills from the neighboring unit that I had apparently been paying for who knows how long.

He said he would file a report and any changes in the billing would be reflected in my next bill.

They weren't. Nor on the bill after that. I wanted a refund of the difference between the bills I had been getting for my neighbor's account and my actual usage.

I called People's Gas. Several times. The first time I was promised a supervisor would call me the next day. Still waiting for that call.

I called back on May 14 and spoke to a rep named Lisa. She put me on hold to be transferred to a supervisor and I gave up after about 45 minutes.

I tried to use the online contact form and found for days that it was down - the hard way. The only way you knew was once you had completed writing your message and tried to send. Only after going to the trouble would you find out the system wasn't working. You had to keep taking your chances.

An online customer service request I made on May 14 finally went through.

On May 26th, I received an e-mail apologizing for the delayed response and notifying me that an appointment had been scheduled for a technician to come out on the 28th between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Why? What would that prove? And how could they schedule an appointment without asking me?

I called the customer service line that day and gave up after having to hold for too long.

I received a recorded phone message on the 27th reminding me of the appointment I never made.

I called customer service on the afternoon of the 27th. First I spoke to Daphne. I explained the problem to her. She told me the technician would come out on the 28th to look at the meters. I asked her why. She said to make sure they weren't crossed. I explained to her that that problem had been fixed. Wasn't there a record of the technician who came out in March?

"So what you want me to do is cancel the appointment?" she asked.

I said, "Cancel the appointment and resolve my billing issue."

"The technicians will be there tomorrow between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m."

"They can come if they want, but I won't be here."

"They'll come out anyway."

"How will they get in?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, so you'll send technicians out to an appointment I didn't make and they won't be able to get in and nothing will have been resolved and then I'll have to call back and start all over again?"

"Do you want to cancel the appointment?"

"Yes! Haven't we been through that?"

"Yelling won't help."

"Being patient hasn't helped either!"

After going in circles like this and wondering how it compared to waterboarding, I asked to be transferred to a supervisor - a roll of the dice, I know - but told Daphne that I didn't want to be put on hold for 45 minutes.

"Well, I can't assure that. You're not the only person who wants to speak to a supervisor."

"Well why do you think that is?"

On hold I went. When a supervisor came on the line, I had been on the phone to People's for 30 minutes.

"This is Stephanie, can I help you?"

"Are you a supervisor?"

"I'm a solutions specialist."

Oy.

*

Stephanie informed me that, per my request, a technician was coming out the next day to see if my meter had been crossed with another.

I told her the meters had been crossed, but that had been resolved. I just wanted to fix my billing.

Stephanie informed me that, per my request, a technician was coming out the next day to see if my meter had been crossed with another.

I told her again that they would find the meters properly connected to the right account. And that I hadn't requested an appointment.

"The billing department generated that per your e-mail."

My e-mail said only this:

"I continue to make attempts to get my bill straightened out due to your own error billing me for the unit across the hall. Report supposed to be filed. Wasn't. Changes in bills supposed to be made. Weren't. Phone call back to me didn't happen. Now I tried again and was put on hold indefinitely. When you guys figured it out, let me know."

"So you want to cancel your appointment?"

*

I think you can see where this is going. Went on for another 30 minutes. Stephanie (ID# 351400) insisted that a technician had to come out verify that there wasn't a cross-meter issue.

I told her that I could verify that for her right over the phone! The meters were no longer crossed.

Later in the conversation she insisted that a technician had to come out to explain to me that there wasn't a cross-meter issue.

But I was the one explaining to her that there wasn't one, at least not anymore. It was now a billing issue.

I suppose I could have scheduled an appointment to go tell her in person!

But really, how hard is it to understand that the gas went out, a technician came to fix it, found the accounts had been crossed, and fixed it? Is that all that complicated?

"But your e-mail from the 26th [which was really from the 14th, but not on Planet People's] generated this appointment!" Stephanie insisted.

Well I've just generated an appointment for you! With the billing department! It's for right now!

"Your meters are not crossed."

"They aren't any longer. But why do you think my gas was shut off back in March? And how was it turned back on? Don't you have any record of that?"

Stephanie finally accessed "notes" from the technician who - according to her reading - said there was not a cross-meter issue.

Now, why would he write that? When I called People's Gas, I merely said my gas was off. I voiced suspicion to the technician when he was there to help him diagnose the problem, but there would be no need to mention anything in any notes if it wasn't an issue.

I have a service ticket myself with the tech's handwriting. It's nearly impossible to read. I'm almost certain that his notes say there was a cross-meter issue, but in any case it's not hard to figure out.

I told Stephanie what happened: The technician removed the lock from one meter and put it on another. Presto, my gas went on!

Please explain that, Stephanie.

"I'm not a technician."

*

Stephanie eventually did figure out one possible answer: Maybe they just turned the wrong gas off and it had nothing to do with crossed accounts.

Very plausible.

Except that the technician checked the meter numbers, the apartment numbers, and the account numbers and told me the accounts had been crossed.

"Your gas lines are not crossed, Mr. Rhodes," Stephanie told me with what I'm sure was a roll of the eyes.

"The gas line from your neighbor's meter is not going to your apartment."

Um, no. I never suspected so, though with People's I wouldn't put it past them. The accounts were crossed, not the gas lines.

"That's not what our tech says."

"Then why did he have me change the labels on the meters? I switched the one from 3A to 3B and vice versa. Are they labeled wrong now?"

"I'm not a technician."

"Should I go back and change the labels back? If they just turned the wrong meter off, I should go back and change those right, because they're wrong now."

"I'm not a technician."

"But are you advising me to 'correct' the labels now? Won't your meter-readers get it wrong from here on out?"

"I'm not advising you to do anything."

"So, under your scenario, I should just let the meters be wrongly labeled?"

"A technician will come out tomorrow and explain to you that the meters are not crossed."

*

Stephanie advised that I could write a letter of dispute. I asked her what the difference was between that and the phone calls and e-mails I had already made.

The letter of dispute will go the billing department, she said.

The same department that just generated the appointment I never made.

*

"Do you think I just imagined all of this? Do you think I'm making this up?"

"Your meters are not crossed."

Stephanie then had to advise me, like Daphne, that "yelling is not going to help."

No, but if I'm going to get stuck with someone else's bill because People's Gas employs the worst workforce this side of Comcast and ComEd, I'm going to get my money's worth.

And my bills? Those might just get crossed in their own way.

-

Comments and/or new People's Gas tales welcome.




Permalink

Posted on May 28, 2009


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