Friday, January 04, 2008

Dante vs. The Army of Darkness

So here's a fun little story of my quest to restore goodness (well, light at least) to my kingdom (a nice 1.2 acre lot with a 3Br/3Ba house in NE GA). Some time in mid-December we noticed our street light wasn't on. It was dark so I couldn't see what was wrong with it. We decided we should call the power company but never got around to it due to our family's travel schedule this year. Two days ago, I was out walking the dog when I noticed something strange. The street light wasn't just off. It wasn't there. My first thought was, "Who steals a street light?!" I wouldn't find out until the next morning.

Yesterday morning I call the power company and find out that they took down the pole because I wasn't paying for it. This is pretty surprising to me. In our subdivision the developers were paying for the lights until some time in 2004. At that point, the power company sent us letters telling us to call a number and give them our light's id number or it would be turned off. We followed the form and lo and behold when the deadline came, many lights in our subdivision went dark but not ours. When our bill has higher by the amount they said it would be, we assumed we were good to go. Apparently, they left the light on but didn't charge us for it. I'll go ahead and foreshadow a bit and tell you that they never did have a consistent answer for why exactly the light was on but nobody was paying for it.

Back to the call, the first person I talked to on the phone said they would put it back and all we'd have to pay would be the monthly fee for the light. Then the guy in charge of installation called me later that day and told me they were ready to do the installation... for $280. This was war. If we haven't been paying for the pole, I have no problem starting to pay for it now but taking it down without notifying us or giving us the chance to make things right and then asking $280 to put it back up? That's not going to happen. I had to work my way up the chain of people to get to someone who could do something about this. I'll spare you entire conversations and leave it to the knock out punches that got the person I was talking to to pass me on. Keep in mind these are mostly-accurate paraphrases.

Dante vs. Installation Guy
Me: Is there someone I can talk to about this? I'm not paying you $280 for a pole you took down without even telling me.
Installation Guy: Well, I'm in charge of new installation and if we're putting a pole in that's a new install. If I put that pole in, I have to get the $280. I don't know who else you'd talk to.
Me: So you just pocket that installation money?
IG: Uh... No.
Me: Great. Then the person I need to talk to would be whoever you give that money to. Can you tell me who that is?
IG: Just a second and I'll get you in touch with Office Lady [real name redacted] from our office. She can probably help you.
(Dante wins by knockout.)

Dante vs. Office Lady
OL: Well, if you were paying for the light this whole time, you'd have paid over $300 by now. $280 is coming out ahead.
Dante: If you had told me about it before you took it down and given me a chance to make things right then, I'd be a lot more ahead.
OL: We make every effort to inform customers about the status of their lights. It cost a lot to take them down and put them back up.
Dante: Every effort? You sent me a letter 4 years ago! How is that every effort?
OL: Let me talk to the District Manager.
(Dante wins by decision.)

To take a step back for a moment, it's pretty safe to say that if you've ever sent me a bill/invoice/tax form/important letter/etc, I have it in a box in my basement sorted by year and type of letter. Trust me, that's not my idea. My wife insists on that sort of thing and while I was hammering through to the district manager, she was busy collecting all information we had about that light pole. She then called the District Manager herself at about 5PM. The receptionist said he had gone home for the day. My wife asked for voicemail and when it rang over, someone picked up. It was the District Manager. Uh-oh for him.

Dante's Wife vs. District Manager
DM: Well, I don't see the pole on your account. We might've put it under your old account number and forgot to carry it over to the new one. We changed billing systems around then.
DW: No, you changed the account number back in late 2002. My account number on my October 2004 bill is the same as the one on my current bill.
DM: Oh... [realizing we probably had better records than they did on our account]
DW: We did everything you told us to. We followed the instructions on the paper, called the number, and left a voicemail with the information you requested. When our light stayed on and the others went dark, we had every reason to believe that you put that light pole on our account.
DM: The Operations Manager has left for the day. Let me get in touch with him and I'll call you back tomorrow before 11:30AM. [I think once he heard the word voicemail, he realized that we probably did call and whoever was supposed to be handling the request just didn't do what they were supposed to about it.]

At 8:15AM this morning, the power company called and told us that they would install the pole and all we would have to pay is the ongoing cost of running the light. The Operations Manager would get in touch with us to set up a date and time for the installation.
(Dante's Wife wins by knockout)

There's still no pole in our yard so I'm not declaring victory just yet. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

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