Monday, August 25, 2008

The Problem with Monopolies

Here in HomeProvince we have a Gas Company and an Electricity Company. One of each so you really have no choice in terms of where to get your gas and electricity from - unless you plan on producing your own. Gas Company and Electricity Company each have meters on your house so that they can charge you for the amount of gas and electricity that you use. Simple enough right? Every other month or whatever time interval they choose, they (Gas & Electricity Company) come to my house and read the meters, then they send me a bill for the amount I owe. Except in June and July the Gas Company sent me a bill for an exorbitant amount because they couldn't access the meter. The logic being (as much as I can understand) is if they don't know how much you used, they assume you used as much as you did over the last six months. Which makes complete sense, as I would use the same amount of gas to heat my home in the winter and early spring months of Jan - May (when its is COLD) as I would in the hot summer months of June and July when the heat is not on because its 30 + degrees Celsius outside. To say I was surprised at the amount of the bill is an understatement. No biggy, I did what any normal human being does and called the customer service department (CSD) to find out what was going on. It was at that point that I learned about the inability to access the meter. Great we know what part of the problem is lets investigate further.
SM - Why weren't they able to access the meter?
CSD - the gate to the yard was locked.
SM - OK, the gate is always locked, you have key to the gate.
CSD - well a different person checks the meters every month, you can't expect us to give a copy of your key to every person.
SM - Of course not, that would be unsafe for me to have all your employees having access to my yard. I am not sure what system is employed for distributing keys, but Gas Company has not had a problem accessing the meter during the >2.5 years I have been living here.
CSD - I can't help you other than to tell you they couldn't access your yard. I am not in charge of Field Operations.
SM - Can you connect me to someone who can tell me what happed to the key to my yard?
CSD - I can connect you to a supervisor
SM - great.
CSD - a supervisor will call you back in the next couple days (24 - 48 hours I was told).
SM - thanks

Naively, I thought I would get a call from Supervisor of Field Operations since they would be the ones able to tell me what happened to my key.
Nope, Supervisor of Customer Service called 4 days later. Supervisor of Customer Service was surprised that she was asked to call me and as it should havve been Supervisor of Field Operations (as I expected) No worries she said, I will put in a request but it may take a bit longer then 2 days as the long weekend is coming up.

I should have recognized what a gong show this process was going to be at this point. But, ever the optimist I figured I would get a call in the week after the long weekend (at some point during the first week of August). No call. I followed up the next week, on Thursday of the 2nd week of August. I spoke to the same Supervisor of Customer Service
SVofCSD - Oh yes the request just got processed on Wednesday, so you should get a call in the next couple days
SM - I'm sorry why did the request only get processed yesterday when I called 2 weeks ago?
SVofCSD - I was away when I spoke to you on the phone the first time, and then because of the holiday there has been a bit of a delay but you will get a call in the next 24-48 hours

It is now the last week of August and I have heard NOTHING. So I called the CSD again, and asked to speak to the Supervisor of Field Operations.

I was connected to the Supervisor of Customer Service, after listening to the sequence of events, she replied:

SVofCSD - I am sorry I do not know why they didn't call you but I can put in another request.
SM - that is unacceptable. I would like to speak to someone now.
SVofCSD - I am sorry I do not have any phone numbers that I can connect you too. All I can do is put in a request.
SM - I am sorry, perhaps you do not understand, as far as I am concerned putting in a request gets me nowhere. I would like to speak to someone who can provide me with some answers now.
SVofCSD - I have no-one to connect you to. I can send an email requesting a priority be put into to call you back.
SM - What part of I would like to speak to someone now is not clear? I recognized that you have limited options, but it is not my job to be following up with you every week because the department responsible for reading meters can not do their job.
SVofCSD - I am really sorry but there is nothing I can do. I will have my supervisor call you and I will send an email to the Supervisor of Field Operations in addition to putting in another request.

At this point, I realized resistance was futile and agreed. Then I called Gas Company's main line. Not the Customer Service Department but the switchboard at Gas Company HQ. It is amazing what switchboard operators know. I very calmly explained my situation and why I was not willing to speak to customer service. She connected me to Person in charge of Complaints. I left him a very very irate message. He just called back and apologized. I explained that I do not mean to be irate but I would like to know WTF happened to the key to my yard. He apparently has put the boots to the people in charge. Lets see what happens.

FYI - I know its just a key to the yard but we have a pool and I really don't want to someone getting access to it. There are lots and lots of liability issues with it. Also it is much easier to get into the house from the secluded backyard then the front.


Amanda said...

I would be livid. If they haven't had a problem for the past 2.5 years, then why would they now?!? Good idea on calling the switchboard. I'll have to keep that in mind when dealing with our own monopolies.

Mrs. Spit said...

Argh. That totally sucks. I think we have the same power and gas companies.

Mandy said...

Gee, do you live in BC?

We have had similar problems with Shaw. Funny that.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Incompetence is directly proportional to company size. Good luck though - sounds like you finally got hold of someone who can help!