Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Worst customer service ever: gas bill

I had a comical customer service experience this afternoon. I had contacted our gas company, Washington Gas, 12 days ago (and I know because I kept the email, of course) regarding an exceptionally high gas bill issued in mid-April for the month of March. I knew it was high because it was almost $100 higher than our bill that covered the month of February, and I knew that right on March 15 we turned off our heat, therefore thinking we'd save some money (and be green) because our heat is gas-powered.

Twelve days later, I hadn't heard back from the gas people (shocking, I know), so I made today my time to call.

I reach this lady, after having already entered my account number into the phone:

Incompetent lady: Washington Gas, how may I help you?

Me: Hi, I was calling because I entered a request on your website 12 days ago regarding an exceptionally high bill, and I never received a response, and I was hoping you could help me out.

Incompetent lady: Could you give me your full name?

Me: [name]

Incompetent lady: [silence, for more than a minute, to the point that I say...]

Me: Hello?

Incompetent lady: Yes. [more silence for another minute] What was your question?

Me: My bill was really high for the month of March, especially as compared to the month of February, and I don't know how that's possible because had our heat on for all of February but we only had the heat on for half of March.

Incompetent lady: [more silence, another minute]

Me: Hello?

Incompetent lady: Could you give me your full name?

Me: [this time I spell it, realllly slooooowwwly]

Incompetent lady: It shows you owe $218.07. Will that be all?

Me: I'm sorry, did you not hear me before? I'm calling because I want to dispute this high bill.

Incompetent lady: Could you give me your full name?

Me: You know what, can I please speak to a manager?

Incompetent lady: One moment please, I will see if anyone is available. [comes back a minute later] I'm sorry, no one is available. Can I have your phone number and someone will call you?

Me: I don't believe that anyone's going to call me, but here's my number anyway...

I wish I was making this up, but I think Washington Gas just won a special award for the worst customer service I've ever experienced.

So, of course, I waited a few minutes and called back again. I work by the philosophy that in the world of customer service, after you deal with incompetence, you must be blessed with someone who has some idea what he or she is doing. Fortunately, that happened, and the new guy said to me, "Yeah, apparently your January and February bills were estimates, but your March bill is supposed to be an actual reading. But I have a hard time believing that actual reading actually happened, so I am going to send someone over tomorrow to do a real reading of your meter, and then we'll adjust your bill accordingly." I found his honesty and problem-solving ability a breath of fresh air.

Then, I was probably pressing my luck, but I asked if Washington Gas could send me those old-fashioned meter-reading cards so I could do the meter reading myself every month (here's some info on reading your own meter from the Ohio Public Utilities Commission if you have no idea what I'm talking about). I remember when I was a kid my mom would do a meter reading every month, probably because she wanted to save money and she has trust issues when it comes to people who take her money, so that's something we have in common. The Washington Gas guy said no, they don't do this anyone. Personally, I find this hard to believe, so I will ask again when I call again.

After tomorrow's reading I have to call back on Friday to find out the results and get a readjusted bill issued. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, do any of you read your own meters?


  1. My gas company lets me submit reads on their website. It's pretty convenient.

  2. If the January and February estimates were too low, they would charge you more for March to "make up" for it. Can you read your meter yourself- what's the card for? I just read my own meter and pay the gas company the number of units used since the last reading times the $ amount per unit.