This may just turn into a ranting post. I apologise in advance. To those of you who have just joined, this happens more often than not.
Sit yourselves down, class. Today, the subject is ‘paying your gas/electric bills in a timely fashion, never missing one and always being a good customer will get you shafted. Discuss.’
Write that down in your copy books now.
I, which is to say me, consider myself to be a good consumer. I pay my bills the day I receive them. In all the time I have been a home owner, which is… more years than I have fingers and nearly as many toes, I have never defaulted on any utility bill. Ever. I am also one of a dying breed when it comes to gas/electric. I don’t subscribe to direct debit. I like to see how much I’ve spent in a quarter.
So, when I received my notification just after Christmas that this utility company (let’s call them ‘Idiots plc’) wanted meter readings, I provided them with what they wanted. I checked my last bill and it said “your next bill is due on or around 6/1/11”, so I sorted out my household budget (because yes, I AM that anal) and set aside the money. It’s a horror that the bills come right after Christmas, but provision is made.
6th January came.
6th January went.
There was no bill. I didn’t worry about it too much. It sometimes turns up a week or so after the billing date.
13th January came.
13th January went.
There was still no bill. I sent an email to Idiots, plc, which went ignored. Seriously. How many people are actually as honest (note: for honest, clearly I mean ‘stupid’) as to ask for their bill?
At the beginning of February, a letter arrived from np… oops, nearly gave them away then. A letter arrive from Idiots, plc. ‘Hi there, valued customer,’ it chirped, although probably not, thinking about it. It was probably more like ‘Dear Customer’. Although I doubt that they even bothered with ‘Dear’, either, thinking about it still more. So here, in essence, and very, very heavily paraphrased is the letter.
We, your providers of gas and electricity, have randomly and for no explicable reason decided that we’re going to change our billing date. As such, we will be sending out your next bill before the 4th February so that it falls into line with the rest of our billing dates. Which we’ve changed for no explicable reason. Did we mention this?’
Well, that’s annoying, thinks I. But seriously, at this point, what can you do? Suck it up. Deal with it. Yes, it means that now we’ll be getting a bill for four-point-five months instead of three. That’s really fething annoying, especially just after Christmas. But… they’ll send me a new bill on 4th February.
4th February came.
4th February went.
You may be able to guess the next line.
So yesterday, I left them a query on their website saying ‘Hi. I’m a bit concerned that I STILL have no bill, perhaps you could contact me and let me know when it will turn up?’
A poor woman rang me this afternoon, all chipper and cheery and full of ‘thanks for your email’-ness. Then she told me all the above.
‘I know this,’ I replied. ‘But you promised me a bill on 4th February. It’s already going to be 4 weeks longer than it should have been. I’m a quarterly customer. And I mean, I know that makes me all archaic, and you probably keep my file in the darkest depths of npow… Idiots, plc Towers, but – and this is on the understanding that I was always crap at maths – a quarter is three months, right? Three months. Twelve weeks. Not sixteen weeks. Am I wrong?’
‘No, but we’ll be sending you out a bill up to next week to fall in line with our new billing system. We need you to send us new readings so we can vastly overcharge you.’
‘Can’t you just send me the bill you owed me on 6th January? The one I provided you with when you asked me for it? Then send me out an interim bill for the difference? Have you not clicked that it’s just past Christmas?’ Seriously, thinks I, what sadistic, over-paid executive sitting in the office he can afford to heat thought hey! Let’s fuck our quarterly payment customers over royally for shits and giggles?
I may not just have thought it. I might have said it. Without the swearing bit, though.
There was a silence.
‘We’ll be sending you out a bill up to next week to fall in line with our new billing system. We need you to send us new readings so we can vastly overcharge you.’
Fab. I’m on the phone to R2 sodding D2.
‘This is completely unacceptable. You should have given me notice about this before you made the wild and crazy decision to do this, not tell me as an afterthought.’
There was another silence. Then R2-D2 chirped up again.
“We’ll be sending you out a bill up to next week to fall in line with our new billing system. We need you to send us new readings so we can vastly overcharge you.’
For the love of all that’s good and holy, let me speak to a human being, please. “I’m really very angry about this.”
“Would you like to speak to Complaints?”
No, I’d rather bang my head repeatedly against the desk… oh, hang on, I’m doing that already. “Yes, that’d be lovely. Thank you so much.”
So they put me through to Complaints where I actually engaged with a real human being, with a sense of morals and who sheepishly admitted that npowe… Idiots, inc were wrong to have done what they did. Now, you see, I got what I wanted. I wanted someone to acknowledge that they have screwed me over. And he did. Almost in those words. He offered me a small, but thoughtful amount of money off the bill, which I accepted. I told him that all I wanted to do was pay my gas and electric bill.
So great. Now I have to pay for nearly five months of the most expensive part of the heating year all in one slug. “It’ll be the last one, mind, because next quarter – three months, you might want to write that down – I’ll be with a new provider.”
“Wait, cherished customer, oh, wait!”
This’ll be good.
“We can make arrangements so you can pay it in as many parts as you need to. We can break it down for you.”
“So I could… like pay the cost of the bill up to 6th January in one payment and an interim payment to bring it up to date the month after?” That sounds familiar to me. Why is that, I wonder? Oh yes! It was the original suggestion.
“Yes, in these circumstances and because we are obviously a bit stupid, we will accommodate your wishes.”
So ultimately, it still sucks that they’ve done this, because not only is it just past Christmas, it’s also Small Son’s birthday on Sunday, I have to book flights, hotel, car hire and all that palaver for a wedding in July… and all my spare money is going into Idiots, plc’s back pocket. I will be living on jacket potatoes and pasta until June.
But I won the moral high ground, at least. They openly acknowledged they had made an error and made a genuine attempt to show remorse. I won’t let them off, but I will be superior to them until the end of time.
Feel better now.