When Did Monty Python Start Working for the Gas Company?

And now for something completely different!

Well, okay... not entirely different.

Well, different in that it's a new post. Which is freshly baked and tasty! But similar and, in fact, somewhat non-different because it's a post about me still battling the Comedy Troupe some laymen like to call The Gas Company.

So, not very different. It's the same illogical bureaucracy you might recall from... oh... just last week or so.

Just more of it. And in such large portions.

When last I left you, Friends o' Cabbages, I had been-- under threat of having my gas shut off-- trying to schedule the gas man to come and read my inside meter. This apparently needed to be on a day where:
  • The planets aligned
  • The shui was feng
  • The moon was in Uranus
  • And the gas company didn't have a headache
When it was convenient for me, the customer?... Not so much.

So this took three phone calls (and one threatening letter, tucked-in for fun, telling me I had neglected to contact them at all). And my brain imploded and I was dead for a while due to my body's inability to process the Hulk-like rage.

Then I got better.

So during the last phone call, I pointed out to them that in this Age of Reason, and Technology, and Not Making the Customer Take Off Work in Four Hour Windows Every Six Months, all other utilities seemed to have remote reading capabilities.

And that's when the female Eric Idle in customer service said, "Oh, we have remote reading capabilities. But you have to pay $116 to have it installed."

"What? You have remote reading capabilities?! But for years you guys have been telling me I have to spend:
  • "Several thousand dollars to put the meter outside, or
  • "To give you a copy of my house key for keepsies no tradesbacksies...
"...No one has ever mentioned, in the many years of charming Utility Harassment I've been enjoying, that there was remote reading capabilities for $116. Let's do that!"

"Oh, but it's $116," Erica Idle insisted.

"But it is not $3,000. Which is more."

"And if they find something wrong with your line," continued Erica Idle in a nervous fear of remote reading, (perhaps she was scared by a remote reading meter as a child) "they'll shut your gas off entirely and then you'll have to call a plumber to get it fixed. And then pay a fee to get it back on again."

We left it that I was free on Monday morning to set it up.

Or so I thought.

Monday morning, in my Four Hour Window, that's when the Gas Man-- let's make him Michael Palin-- came in. He was friendly. He was cheerful. He popped down and read the meter. And then I asked him the question.

"Um, what about installing the remote reader?"

"Remote reader? I don't have anything here about a remote reader."

"I'd asked to have a remote reader installed so we wouldn't have to go through this every six months and have my head implode and die, and then it take days for me to get better."

"Why, I don't know anything about installing a remote reader. Are you sure you asked about having a remote reader installed?"

No, I called the Gas Company to ask whether the donuts were fresh this morning. "Yes, I was pretty enthused once I finally found out there was this option."

And I explained the situation.

"Well, from what you say there," Michael Palin told me, "it sounds like you might not have made it clear you wanted a remote reader installed."

I was on allergy meds and looked at him blankly. I had vague flashes of waxing joyous on the phone about the remote capabilities. I recalled making an appointment for something-- which had to have been real, since the gas man was, in fact, here.

Given I arrange many, many details successfully for my own clients each week, I didn't imagine I hadn't articulated my needs properly. But could it be I had a complete and utter Gas Company Mental Block?

"And you know," continued the Gas Man, "if they find anything wrong with your line, they'll shut off your gas and then you'll have to call a plumber to have it fixed, and pay to have everything turned back on again."

"So I've heard."

"So we have this insurance you can get for just $3 extra a month, and that would mean if they find anything, the insurance would cover it. So what I would do is get that insurance first, and then have the remote reader installed and..."

I never expected to feel Shook Down by the Gas Man.

He also explained to me that even with the remote readers, they will still want to get into my house every year or so to check the remote meter is still working properly. Meaning one time less a year than before. Meaning I will still have to take off a half-day a year to wait for the Gas Man.

And there we left it. I have, with three phone calls, and two personal explosions, managed only to put off this saga until the next six months. So, I ask you, Readers:

  • Do I succumb to the shake-down, pay for the insurance and try having the remote reading installed again?
  • Do I have the remote reading installed without insurance, with the implied threat that something is almost destined to happen to my lines in the process, (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) so they get to shut it off and make me pay?
  • Or do I decide to go Amish, and heat my hot water the old fashioned way-- y'know, sitting it in a pan in front of a Heat Surge electric heater?

18 comments:

Mark said...

Maybe pay the "protection money", get the remote reader installed, and after a few months drop the protection money?

In the meantime, write the PUC and ask their opinion of the whole hash. You could point to you blog posts too. Never miss a chance to promote... oh, I HAVE been working at a marketing firm too long.

JD at I Do Things said...

At least they didn't try to sell you a dead parrot.

I'm sorry, I've got no advice for you. This is a foreign area to me. But the Amish plan sounds appealing. It would be so satisfying to "stick it to the man" by not accepting ANY of their "options."

madtexter (corey james) said...

I quite agree. The biggest oxymoron of our time is Customer Service. It's so frustrating that companies make the customer work to get good service. And it's a shame we have to get nasty just to get people to do their job.

I'm frustrated just reading this, and I feel your pain.

Dave White said...

Maybe it's time to consider electric heating.

Sweet Violet said...

I feel your pain. Last week my 4-year-old refrigerator died...for the fourth time. I called the service centre at 8 am and, after abasing myself repeatedly, was finally granted a visit from a service tech later in the day...I specifically remember asking if she could give me a rough estimate of what time and she said he would be there when he got there. When it came to 4 pm and no sign of a tech, I called back, only to be told that service calls are always booked a day in advance and that I had not been told that I would get a tech that day...in other words, the call centre person lied. In fact, she lied twice: once when she said I would get a tech that afternoon and later when she denied telling me that.

What part of "urgent" does the call centre not understand when a customer calls in a dead freezer? What part of "triage" do they not comprehend when they give a dryer with a "funny rattling noise" priority over several thousand bucks worth of rapidly defrosting food? What part of "I will never EVER buy your crappy, unreliable, cost-me-50%-of-its-original-purchase-price-in-repairs-in-only-four-years brand of merchandise again if I live to be 250 and neither will my friends and their friends too" do they not comprehend?

The only service customers get these days is the kind that a stallion gives a mare.

Surfie said...

I have an even better solution! Move to Hawaii where you will not need heat, and can use solar power for your water heater. (And maybe plant a teeny tiny bomb on your gas meter so that the gas people can finally understand that you are Not Happy with them after you are gone.)

Maybe you should file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I'm sure you aren't the only one having these issues with them.

Surfie said...

Oh, and Sweet Violet, what brand refrigerator do you have that is so crappy? If I can ever afford a new one in the future, I want to be sure to stay away from that one!

Jenn Thorson said...

Mark- That's what I'm leaning toward. (Option one with a side of PUC. Not necessarily blog promotion. Anyone who reads this blog regularly may believe a humor blogger doesn't have, oh, credibility. :) )

JD- But I did feel a bit like I couldn't purchase any cheese. :)

Corey- Thank you for the kind empathy. Knowing I frustrated an innocent person by-proxy is somewhat soothing. :)

Dave- Ah, but getting it installed... now, that could be something completely different.

Violet- Agggghhh! That's just absolutely infuriating! Makes you want to stuff that customer service person IN your freezer.

Surfie- Now Hawaii, THAT sounds good! Problem solved! It would do a lot to smooth over my Hulk Rage, too. You can't be ragey in Hawaii.

LF said...

Protection money, install, cancel protection money.

And honestly, they don't really have to check your equipment each year if the meter reading device is linked outside. They never pulled that schtick in Philly.

Kevin said...

This sounds like the most backwards utility company ever.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm expecting the coal delivery man any moment, and I have to feel his horse while he pours coal into my basement.

Tiffany said...

For some reason, the words "class action lawsuit" keep tumbling around in my brain...

Jenn Thorson said...

Lil- Ya'd think, right? The meter man made it out like these remote readers were really flukey and needed to be checked all the time.

Kevin- Don't forget to wipe the horse down. They get sweaty after going through the whole neighborhood. :)

Tiffany- Heh, once a lawyer... :)

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Yeah, and you know what? I'll bet if you call them to say that your heater is broken or something, you'll get the old, "It's not broken...it's STUNNED!"

Seriously (yeah right), I think you should fight fire with fire. Call Tony Soprano to take care of these guys. That is, unless Tony died at the end of the final episode, which some viewers claim he did. I myself have no idea, because it was the WORST FRIGGIN' SERIES FINALE IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION!

I've digressed.

Anyway, good luck with the gas guys.

Jenn Thorson said...

Chris- Heh, well, you have a point for sure-- there is a need to go totally Jersey on them. I've held back. :)

NZMoores said...

I had no idea that BP had purchased your gas company. Be thrilled at their epic customer service and the FREE GAS that will soon pour into your home. This is now their policy. They deliver all combustibles (oil, gas, pelicans that have ingested oil and gas) free to the consumer, in vast quantities. Their subsidiary cleaning company will be in contact soon to organize your clean up. The crack team at the EPA will ensure they do it right. No need to buy insurance. BP is happy to let you pay off your debt working for their horrible chemical cleaning company. Workers have a very high rate of cancer, but they get to wear spiffy new yellow waders and frequently appear on the national news...

Sweet Violet said...

Surfie---unless you move to Southern Africa, you have nothing to worry about. My fridge is a South African brand (I live in South Africa) called DEFY. Their slogan is "You can rely on DEFY" which is a lie. They not only don't understand reasonable reliability, they don't understand irony either...while I am on hold with a multitude of other customers trying to book an urgent service call, instead of some kind of quasi-soothing music playing in my ears, I am hearing the plummy tones of an upper crust gent advising me that I can rely on Defy...as I wait to book my fourth hideously expensive service call in the four year life of my Defy appliance.

Thank goodness I had the good sense to buy a Bosch washer and dryer (the household equivalent of a Mercedes truck), else I'd certainly have Defy's service centre on my speed dial.

nonamedufus said...

Switch to oil, Jenn. Or electrictiy. That way you don't have to worry about the moon in Uranus! I'm on electricity and the meter's in the back yard. I'll bet after dealing with Idle and Palin (Michael) you wanted to scream "MY BRAIN HURTS". ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

NZMoores- Thank you for the, um, positive spin on my own personal gas crisis. :)

Sweet Violet- "Defy," eh? Wouldn't you want to have been in on the brainstorming session which came up with that name? Sort of like when Ford had the car, the "Aspire." "Aspire: Try really hard to attain something but possibly not make it." Yup. Irony again.

Nonamedufus- Yes, and the "my brain hurts" really would have been the ideal way to end my post, too. I had been leaning toward a "beautiful plumage" joke, but couldn't work it in. :)