Tuesday, August 24

Amount Due: $0.00

I got my gas bill on Saturday and (as usual) cringed at the thought of yet another bill to pay. Can you imagine the amazing feeling of opening it to see “Amount Due: $0.00”? 

Of course, it’s not that I didn’t use any gas in the past month. My water heater, stove, oven and furnace all run on gas. Out of those the furnace is the only thing I haven’t used lately. So, let me explain how I’m getting gas bills that say I owe nothing.

After moving in last August my first bill from ONG was for $17. In the following months they ranged from  $21 to $65--until January. When I unsuspectingly opened that bill I was aghast to see that I owed $346.07. Supposedly my gas usage went from less than 15 Dth to over 35 Dth in one month. In the month that I spent a week out of town and had a broken furnace for a few days.

Needless to say I called ONG to have someone to come check for a leak. I was told that my meter was checked twice since the gas usage seemed unusually high to them as well. They went ahead and billed me though. 

The technician who came explained my high bill as a result of the colder weather and the meter being under-read the previous month. He couldn't find a leak, but neither of his reasons explained the extreme jump in usage to my satisfaction. I thought about writing a letter, but to be honest I probably would have dropped the issue--if that had been the end of it.

Three days later we were completely out of hot water. The technician hadn't lit the pilot light on the hot water tank properly and I couldn't get it lit. I called ONG to have them send someone the following day. The representative I spoke to informed me the technician would come between 8 a.m. and midnight and couldn’t call before coming. Since my brother had work that afternoon I came home early. After four hours I called to check with ONG and was told when the technician came by no one was home. Since I missed the “appointment” I was going to be charged a $25 fee. Oh, and they could not get anyone out until Monday. I called a plumber and paid $85 for him to relight the pilot light.

As you might imagine, as someone who loathes being cold it made me extremely grouchy to not have hot water. What frustrated me most though was how unhelpful the customer service reps I spoke to were. I wanted to hear something more than, “so sorry for the inconvenience.” I wanted to talk to someone who could DO something. Of course, no hot water and bad customer service were minor problems compared to what I woke up to Monday morning.

 Look closely, you can see where the grass ends.
That hole was as deep as the men were tall.
When I woke up I noticed a group of men digging in my neighbor’s backyard with a small bulldozer and shovels. I thought it was a little strange, but the neighbor was remodeling so didn’t give it too much thought. However, when I realized they had moved to MY yard I was more concerned. I had no idea who they were or why they were digging up my yard so I went outside to find out. They said they were with ONG and (lucky me!) the gas main was in my yard. 

Now, while I realize ONG needs access to the gas main, I did NOT appreciate them digging up my yard without notifying me in advance. By lunchtime they were gone, leaving behind a giant mudpit where they had been digging.

Here comes the part that really pissed me off though. When I got home at 5:30 that evening my house was freezing. The heat wouldn’t come on, my gas stove wouldn’t light and, once again, I had no hot water. The men I had spoken to that morning not only didn't mention that the gas would be turned off, they failed to mention someone needed to be home for them to turn it back on (which was a moot point since my brother was home all morning and until well after they left). 

I understood that the gas needed to be turned off, but it made me very angry that I wasn't warned. The workers didn't even bother to check whether anyone was home before digging or to turn the gas back on. When I called customer service I was told a technician would be out sometime before midnight to turn the gas back on and relight the pilot lights (one of which I spent $85 to have lit just two days earlier). Meanwhile I hovered over a small space heater, eating something I warmed up in my toaster oven (I put both of these items on the must have list for any household).

Because my complaints spanned so many departments I ended up filing a complaint with the Corporate Commission. The Corporate Commission is the only organization that exists to keep monopolies like ONG or AEP in line. They recommended that I send a letter to the company I had a complaint with before filing the complaint with them. So I informed ONG that I would be complaining to the commission by the end of the month if they didn’t work to fix my yard, January bill and the “missed appointment” fee.

In fairness, here's the corner after it was sodded. Looks nice!
Let me finish by saying I don't go on rampages against utility companies (or other businesses) under normal circumstances. Maybe it was simply the fact that I was hit with one problem after another--all from the same source. Or maybe it was because it was winter so I was freezing instead of melting. Either way, the lesson I learned was not to give up when you know you're right. The day after I filed my complaint with the Corporate Commission I was contacted by two ONG employees. One to tell me they were coming to put sod down and the other to offer me a $125 credit to my account. That credit is why I'm still getting gas bills that say I don't owe anything. I haven't had one bill anywhere near $300 since either.

3 comments:

  1. OMG that this frustrating!! I hate dealing with companies, especially utility companies!

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  2. I think what I hate most is how little leverage you have with utility companies because it's not like you can take your business somewhere else. Glad you like the blog, I'll have to check yours out!

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