Posts Tagged ‘scam’

PG&E – Another Reason to Hate Them

August 4, 2009

PG&E is an evil company. So are Haliburton and Enron, but they don’t directly fuck me the way PG&E does, so I would have to say that I hate my gas company more. There are several reasons why I don’t approve of a company like this hording a monopoly over services as basic as electricity and gas, but today I would like to share a horror story that only recently got resolved. Prior to this, the mere thought of wasting additional breath on such a horrible subject left me sick to my stomach, but now that things are back to “normal” I think I can muster up the energy to explain what happened without nosediving into a hateful rant.

I pay the energy bill for my apartment. I collect the money from 3 other impossibly unconcerned roommates who may or may not feel like paying their bills every month. I’ve been royally screwed in the past (one ex-roommate still owes me $120), and I hate doing this. Unfortunately, I am the only person capable of actually performing such a task semi-reliably, and thus take the burden on with a grudge.

Initially, it was easy enough for me to pay the bill by credit card, because even though I would probably receive finance charges, it’s a lot simpler than hunting down my roommates for the money every month. Unfortunately, credit card companies stopped allowing people to pay their bills this way, probably because they were leaving behind bad debt. I would like to blame PG&E for this, but I guess it isn’t their fault that electricity prices are so ridiculous. Or is it?

When I was reduced to sending checks I had to use a different strategy. I began paying my bill every other month in order to buy enough time to collect the money from my roommates. This became extremely difficult to cover, because there is one in particular who is known to leave his heater and iron on then leave for work and doesn’t believe in turning off lights ever. He turns on his heater with the windows wide open from time to time. He also likes to decorate our house with hundreds of electrically-powered pieces of tchotchke. For instance, there is the Coors beer sign in the front window, the 500 christmas lights on the outside of the house, the glowing pumpkin, the glowing garden elf, and the glowing grapes, just to name but a few. Also, he has an entire light show in his room that is hooked up to about 3 remote controls. It’s ridiculous, and I tolerate this because he is a friend. Sometimes I long for better friends.

He is not the only contributor, but is definitely the prime reason why our bill tends to be about $200 a month for 4 people. Since I was only paying the bill every month, I would owe around $400 at a time, and I work part time. So you can imagine that things got cut a little close every month. I would often get late notices that said things like, “you have until tomorrow to pay your bill or your service will be shut off”. Naturally, I would always scrape the cash together at the last minute so my precious roomies wouldn’t have to go without electricity and I wouldn’t be stuck with a $40 “re-activation fee”. We all know what that is. It’s a charge so when the meter guy comes he sticks a key in the meter and turns the gas back to “on”. It takes about 1 minute.

But I digress, because I thought I could make it all work well enough so our utilities never got shut off. For three years I successfully employed this method, until this spring, when I got a letter in the mail demanding a $400 deposit because of “too many late payment notices”. I promptly ignored this for several weeks hoping it would magically disappear, until April came around and I got several calls from PG&E telling me that I had to pay up or they would shut off the energy. Of course, this occured when I happened to be on a two-month tour around the US with no money to spare. When I tried to explain that I didn’t have $400 to just give to them, they told me I could get a cosigner on the account. That  could be anyone who had a PG&E account of their own that would vouch for me in case I ran off and didn’t pay the bill. “Aha!”, I thought, “Problem solved! I’ll ask my dad to do it.” Not so fast – this turned out to be much more troublesome than expected.

First of all, they told me it was too late to get a cosigner so I still had to pay the deposit anyway. So I figured out how to borrow $400 and paid them their stupid money to buy myself time. But when my dad called to cosign, they told him that I had already paid the deposit and now he was unable to cosign! This was a blatant lie, and is the first evidence I present of PG&E being a horrible company. The second thing that happened was that I called back a day later to make sure my payment was received, obviously very stressed out by the situation. The person on the line told me not to worry, because my service wasn’t set to be shut off for another couple weeks! That’s not what they told me when they had me on the phone before. Liars! Two strikes for PG&E. The third strike came when I returned home several weeks later to request that the deposit be dropped as long as I agreed to pay every bill on time. They wouldn’t budge. They said, “I’m sorry, but this deposit cannot be reversed”. This, we all know is a lie, but not such a horrible one. The fourth lie came when I was one week late in paying my bill once. I decided not to pay and see if they would use my deposit money towards payment. Unfortunately, PG&E doesn’t do things this way. They said, “we need payment immediately or we will disconnect your service.” I coyly replied that they had my money and that they were welcome to take it and use it to pay their bills. They blankly replied that this was not possible. There it is – lie number four – if they wanted my money so bad, they could have had it. What other company does this?

Finally, I put in another call to my dad, who I don’t like to ask for things, mainly because I am 100% financially independent from my family and never ask them for money, and secondly because my dad is not a person I would ever want to owe money to. He would make my life a living hell. It took 30 minutes to convince him that I didn’t really care if he cosigned on the account with me or not. I repeatedly explained to him that I always pay my bills in a semi-timely manner, and that I wasn’t asking him for any money, and that this was a favor he could do for me if he felt like it, but was in no way obligated to do so if he had doubts. The situation forced me to grovel before my father for a simple favor. I hate them most of all for doing this to me. After finally convincing him to cosign, he called PG&E and got the paper work sent to him. He filled it out and submitted it and now my deposit has been “credited” to my account.

Credited. That one really pissed me off. I have to pay them cash up front, and now I only get “credited” the amount back to me. That’s what PG&E thinks of me as a customer. A customer that has generated around $2,500 of revenue for them anually for the past four years, and this is how I get treated? Well, I would just love to go with another company. But the thing that pisses me off is that there is no other company. If there was, PG&E could never get away with misleading their customers and bullying them into paying deposits of such astronomical proportions. They have mismanaged California’s power for years, ripped off their customers, and no one can do anything about it. But I can’t blame them. I mean, anybody who wants to can go into the utility business, I guess. I just don’t think anyone else wants to do it. Now I do know there was a ballot measure in the last election for San Francisco that stated the public should take over utilities, and I think it’s something to look forward to, but I also think that this is a recipe for disaster without severe planning and support from the community. Could you imagine if our communities tried to control such a mess? It would probably leave us all without power more often than not. Wait, PG&E already has power outages all the time. I forgot about that.

In the future I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for news regarding plans to usurp this nasty beast of a company. I hate them, I hate their policies, and I hate their business. I will support any realistic effort to create an alternative to these bastards, but the fact of the matter remains – they do the dirty work and as a result, get to stick it to everyone else. Until someone or something comes along that wants to replace it, we’ll all have to deal with PG&E.

There are now three things you can’ t avoid in life – Death, Taxes, and PG&E, but you can still spit in all their faces. It doesn’t change things, but it certainly makes one feel a bit better.