The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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Lights Out

Posted by thedarwinexception on October 21, 2008


So I had a most wonderful fucking Monday and Tuesday. Spent mostly arguing with the light company since, you know, they turned off my lights and all. Yup – just turned them off. No real reason, as far as anyone could tell, but they turned them off. In the dark, no hot water, no way to cook, food spoiling in the fridge, no “Dancing With The Stars”, no sewing machine – shut them off. 

When the “Field technician:” came on Monday, out of the blue like and knocked on the door, I was rather puzzled. You know, why is a field technician knocking on my door? I knew I had paid my bill, all $81.04 of it, in September. And I knew that my current bill of $91.00 was due on the 17th, but, you know, this was the 20th. I’ve been LOADS later than that, just through sheer laziness, you know? 

So, the field technician knocks and he says “Hi – I’m here to turn off your electricity.” And I’m like “You’re here to WHAT???”  He says “Yeah, I’m here to turn off your electricity.” And now I’m panicking, and I’m like “Dude, you’ve got the wrong house. My bill isn’t even late. Did someone tell you to turn off my lights?” Because I’m thinking someone got pissed off about the whole “Redneck Games” thing and is like having my utilities shut off. That’s one way to shut down my blog, right? 

He’s like “No, you have a past due balance and I’m here to turn off your electricity.” Now, dude, I don’t HAVE a past due balance. Is three days “past due” – and aren’t they supposed to like TELL YOU when you are going to get shut off? They can’t just show up the day after your bill is due and turn off your shit – there’s like laws against that and stuff. Right? Or am I living in fucking bizarro world?

So I tell the guy “look, wait a fucking minute” – and I go in the house and get my current light bill – it says right on it “Due October 17th” and it says “Payment Received -$81.04 THANK YOU” “Balance Forward – $0.00”. Now how the fuck do I have a “past due” balance? I show this to the guy and he like shrugs his shoulders and says “Your on my list – I have to shut you off. You’ll need to call the office.” So he shuts my fucking lights off. 

And you know what happens when you have no electricity? Your cordless fucking phone doesn’t work. So now I have no lights, I have no hot water, I have no fucking sewing machine, I have no fucking computer, and I have no fucking phone. And “Dancing With the Fucking Stars is on that night. So, now I’m REALLY pissed. They’re doing the fucking hustle and jitterbug for the first time!!

So I go and get dressed, thinking “OK, who is home and who has a fucking phone?” I go to Paul’s friends around the block – preemie baby’s grandparents house. 

By the time I get there I’m so mad I’m crying – not tears of sadness – just rage tears. So I know this is NOT going to be good for anyone who happens to answer the phone at the light company. 

I finally get though their phone tree and I say – as nicely as I can – “Excuse me – what the fuck just happened?” The girl looks up my account, goes over the fact that I owe them $91 and some change, and that this was due on the 17th, and she says “Your electricity was disconnected” – you know, just in case I hadn’t fucking noticed. I said yes, that I realized my lights were cut off, and that I was calling to ask WHY they were cut off. 

She looks at my account some more and then says “Hmmmm…..I’m not seeing why that order was generated.” So I say “OK, well can you call that field technician and tell him to come BACK and turn the electricity back ON?? If you do this right fucking now, he shouldn’t be too far away. And if you do this right fucking now, I’ll just forget about the whole fucking thing and call it an oopsie, and we can all go back to our regular fucking scheduled broadcast. 

Only there’s a slight hitch to this. 

AS IT WAS EXPLAINED TO ME – once you are cut off from services – you are no longer a “customer” – and the company no longer has the same rights and responsibilities to you, and they are no longer obligated to treat you like a human fucking being. You are in the “dead zone”. You are dead to them. Persona non grata. Oh -and the kicker is, once your lights are turned off, they are now able to extort money from you in the form of a “deposit” to turn your services back on. This deposit is calculated by taking the average amount of services you’ve used for the previous 6 months. My deposit would be $680. As soon as they received this (“We take Visa or Mastercard or you can pay with a check by phone”) they would be more than happy to restore my power. Thank you very much, persona non grata. 

Are you fucking kidding me???

THEY make a mistake – they have no Earthly idea in the world why they turned my power off, but they want fucking money from me to turn it back on??

This can’t be legal. Can’t be. And I tell her so. 

“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? Do you do this often?? Do you make a QUOTE UNQUOTE MISTAKE and turn people’s electricity off and then EXTORT money from them to restore their power? How often does this scam fucking work? Is it only here in Malone with the uneducated fucking population you can bully or is this fucking state wide? Are you serious? You can’t get away with this shit! Who the fuck do I have to blow to stay off this fucking list? Was my name and address just pulled from your fucking ass? Is is a true random number fucking generator?” 

All she says is “I can’t override the computer and it’s saying I have to get a deposit before I can restore your power.” 

I tell her “You can’t override the fucking computer? Pull the fucking plug!”

I was obviously NOT going to get anywhere with this moron – all she knew to do was to fall back on the “this is what the computer says” line. So, of course, I ask for her supervisor, who ALSO couldn’t give me any explanations. But she did give me one interesting tidbit. Apparently there’s some rule – either written or unwritten, I don’t know, that they don’t cut off people’s power in the winter months when it could be a detriment to the resident’s health – so JUST before it snows, and gets cold enough where their conscience would bother them, they make a “sweep”, and they turn off the power of ANYONE who is deemed “past due”. She supposes that THIS could be why my power got cut off. Only by MY calculations, I’m only TECHNICALLY overdue. I hadn’t even received a “past due” or “disconnect” notice. And this is where it got even more bizarre – because this bitch says “Yes, a disconnect notice was sent to you.” I say “No – you didn’t send me a disconnect notice” and she says “Yes, that notice was mailed on the 20th of October.” Huh? So I say to her “Do you have  fucking calendar? TODAY is the 20th – how did you send that notice – by fucking laser beam?” So, that answers the question of why I was shut off – a disconnect was generated THAT DAY – then the list of “People who ignored their past due notices” was generated – and I fell right into that category. 

And now the computer said that I couldn’t get my lights restored until I paid them $680. Which there was no fucking way in hell I was going to pay them. Even if I HAD the money to give them, I wouldn’t give it to them. No fucking way. 

But her whole “detriment to the resident’s health” thing got me thinking. Hey! Wouldn’t this be a detriment to MY health? I mean, come on, I don’t play the “I’m sooooo sick” card very often. Mostly because it irritates the fuck out of me when other people (Paul) do it, but I’m entitled every ONCE in a while. So I say to her, “Well, I hope you realize that this is a detriment to my health. I’m disabled. If I die, I will instruct my husband to sue the fucking life out of your ass – the company as well as you personally – what was your name and employee number again? And while you are at it, what is the regulating agency that oversees you – I think they should hear about this fucking scam.” 

She tells me “Well, if you are disabled, you can give us your doctor’s  fax number and we can fax him a form to fill out – this will put your account on hold for 30 days and restore your power. But you’ll still have to pay the deposit within 30 days.” Yeah, not likely lady. 

So I call my doctor. I tell him “HEY!! They shut my power off! Is this likely to be detrimental to my health?” He says “Ummm…yeah, here’s my fax number – I’ll sign the paper right away – have them send it over.” 

So I call the light company back – argue with them some more, give them the doctor’s fax number and she tells me “It may take up to 24 hours to restore your power.” Oh fucking great. It sure as hell didn’t take them 24 hours to shut the power OFF now, did it? It wasn’t even 24 hours from the time they generated the disconnect notice that they were at my fucking house, right? And you know these people are not very happy with me right now – not only have I thwarted their fucking scheme to get $680 before they turned the power on, but I’ve yelled and screamed and argued with every person I’ve gotten on the phone. Probably not the smartest fucking thing to do. 

So I wait for them to come back and turn the power on. And I wait, and I wait. And in the meantime, I can’t call them because I have no fucking phone and I don’t want to leave to go back to my friend’s and call them, because you KNOW that’s when they’ll come and all they need is a tiny excuse to NOT turn the power back on and “No one was there” seems like as good an excuse as any. 

Luckily, Malone Leslie comes by after work and I explain what’s going on to her and she says “Well, I have a brand new corded phone that will work!” And she brings it over to me, so at least I have a phone. And if we get hungry we can at least call the pizza place that delivers – because I can’t fucking cook anything (ahhhhh…..too bad.) 

But it was a boring fucking night Monday night – because no, the lights didn’t get turned back on – you know they are going to wait until 23 hours 59 minutes before they pull into MY driveway. And in the meantime, I’m getting more and more pissed, and when I woke up Tuesday, I was a pissed off bitch with a phone and no TV or sewing machine or  computer and lots of time on my hands. And I took advantage of that. 

I called the Public Service Commission, I called ComLinks, I called the Office of Temporary Assistance, I called Social Services, I called the Office on Aging, I called the Governor’s Hotline, I called anyone and everyone that I thought had “authority” or “power”. I really wanted to know how widespread this practice was – and what if I had kids? What if I was old? What if I wasn’t disabled and could get a doctor’s notice to turn my power back on? Where do people around here get this “deposit” money from and how do they get restored? Are there agencies that pay this money? Why do they pay it? That just gives the light company incentive to keep doing this shit. Is this a line item in the light company’s budget “Scammed deposit money”? Do they rely on this money and therefore need to turn off people for no reason to get it? It’s a scam. A huge, big scam.

My doctor authorized a special “tag” on my meter that says “don’t turn the power off”. So they can bite my big fat ass for their $680 deposit. But I’d still like to know what everyone else in this town does when the electric company decides they need some more deposit money.


13 Responses to “Lights Out”

  1. IndyGena said

    This same thing happened to me with, but it was for my gas bill. I was on the “budget plan” and decided I didn’t want to be on it anymore (too much every month). So I paid my last payment and waited for my newly revised bill. Never did get one, but came home one day to find I had no gas. So I called them and they said I had to pay the difference between what my budget payment was and what was actually owed, which I didn’t do, so they shut me off. I had to pay what I owed them, plus a $500 deposit, which they told me I would get back in six months. Well, six months went by, I called and asked for my deposit back, and they told me I was late one month making a payment (I didn’t get the payment to them on the actual due date) so I could not get back my deposit for another year! I was pissed, to say the least. And, I cannot be one day late during this time, or they will probably hold it hostage forever. But, on the upside of all of this, they told me my $500 is earning interest, which they will pay me when I finally get it back. I think I have another six months or so to go. It’s all just bullshit if you ask me.

  2. emagineer said

    Maybe ZL was right about the “grid”.

  3. A.D.A. said

    That is appalling. Good for your for calling everyone in the world. And good for your doctor for coming through.
    I am SO SORRY that this indignity was inflicted on you. Horrifying.


  4. Kay said

    Absolutely bizarre! What happened to the common sense of the employees at your power service company? Even the supervisor was cs lacking. I support your anger and frustration in trying to deal with these undereducated beotian people…..insensitive and ill-equipped employees of the Malone Electric Company.

  5. Kay said

    Oops….mispelled boeotian in my last post. It is an apt description either way!

  6. kaydaver said

    Kim, the next phone call you make should be to a local media outlet (television, newspaper). Are there any investigative journalists or consumer affairs watchdogs in your area? They would have a field day with this one! You could hopefully rectify what happened to you as well as stop this from happening to anyone else.

    Warm thoughts to you…

  7. Gail said

    Kim, that was abominable! I hope they haven’t heard the last of you. You need to talk to someone there that has some brains and authority.

    Tip, buy an old phone which plugs into a jack.

  8. west coast said

    I also immediately thought of ZL. She tried to tell you those people at the electric co. were nothing but trouble!

    I have had my electricity cut off and it is restored after you pay the bill, no questions asked. I am still their customer when it is off and when restored, I have the same account numbeer.

  9. Charles said

    Hey, watch your derogatory language.

  10. Veronique said

    This definitely merits some sort of investigative reporting. Wow.


  11. Caroline said

    What a racket…Are they a Public Utility? If so, it seems to me that this is illegal and they have a legal obligation to give you written notice at least 24 hours in advance. So sorry that this happened to you!

    Why don’t you ask your friend at the Chamber of Commerce? I would definitly pursue this. In the past 2 months I have spaced on paying my electric bill, and the company has sent me at least 3 notices advising me of potential shut-off, which forces me to get in gear!

  12. your bro said

    If something fucked up ias going to happen in that town, it’s going to happen to you. isn’t it crazy,you never really go to far, but the shit just seems to find you. glad you stuck it to them though sis. not that i had to worry about that. kudos hun.

  13. Sedonia Sunset said

    I long ago started set up the electric company for automatic payments. Same for phone and even credit cards. I use on-line banking to set up recurring payments so that they at least get SOMETHING each month in case I forget. Because I DO forget and just plain procrastinate.

    I also have a little cheapo phone that I keep in a specific spot in case the electricity goes out for one reason or another. And I have the number of PG&E written on a lable slapped on that same phone, because pretty much the only time I ever use that phone is to find out when the lights will be back on or to test to see if a phone line is working.

    I agree that you should contact the media — that was OUTRAGEOUS!!! I HAS to be illegal!

    Power companies have quite a racket going. I’m still royally pissed off at the BLATANT manipulation of prices and absurd power-lay games they managed to get away with back around 2000 in CA. They pretty much held the entire state of CA HOSTAGE over electricity! To this day I firmly believe that what they did had a long-reaching effect not only on CA’s economy but that of the entire U.S.

    And they get away with this shit time after time after time.

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