Electrifying experience

Everyone I know has had the experience. Maybe it wasn’t with the electric company. But the cable company, phone company, water company.

So I went in early to a little business I accidentally acquired a few years ago to pay bills. Normally, I set the computer to remind me of bills on the day they need to be mailed. But this month I messed up. I entered the actual due date — today — as the day for the reminder.

As I ran the check, I glanced at the statement and realized that by mailing it today, it would be late. Not wanting a late charge or even one of those demeaning letters about how my electricity would be turned off and I would be subjected to public humiliation, I called customer service.

Of course, I had to do the requisite “shout every number that is remotely connected with you, the account, and the obscure prophecies of Nostradamus” until the machine finally gave up and connected me to a human.

She was a nice human. Very soft voice, though. I kept turning the volume up on my receiver. Eventually, I had given her enough numbers to satisfy her, told her my problem and asked if I could pay the bill locally today — on the due date — so that I wouldn’t be late. Several minutes later she gave me a string of places that would accept my payment.

“Of course,” she explained, “if you pay in person today it will still be late.”

It took her a couple of more minutes to enlighten me why, if I paid on time to her representative, my payment would still be late. “You know,” she said, “you can pay online and it won’t be late.”

“Great, now we’re getting somewhere!”

“BUT, after you transfer the money into our account, you’ll need to call us and give us the confirmation number so that we can manually make a note that you’re not late.”

“So,” I began slowly, “if I put money in your account directly on the due date so that I’m not late, I still have to call you to tell you that I’m not late.”

“You’ve got it!” she said cheerily.

So I made the payment online. Then dialed the number on the screen. Went back through the shout all the numbers through the phone again and finally reached a customer service representative. I provided account numbers, gave my name three times, and finally, after revealing my zip code, heard, “Oh, you’re not in my service area — let me transfer you.”

Went through the same pattern with the man who answered and then heard, “Oh, this is a business account — let me transfer you.”

The last customer service rep seemed nice enough. Gave her all of the numbers, plus some the others hadn’t thought of and she finally took the payment confirmation number.

“Don’t worry if you get any notices — we have a record that you’ve paid now,” she informed me brightly.

“But that’s why I called. I don’t want notices or late charges or anything like that.”

“Well we can’t guarantee that.”

Well, usually when I write I try to come up with some wonderful thought and teaching moment. Sorry, I’m empty. And I won’t stoop to identifying the electric company. Of course, you know that I live in
TeXas and it is a Utility company. Maybe you can “capitalize” on those hints and figure out who it is.

Bet I still get a notice and a late charge.

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