Sunday, April 13, 2008

Past Due

Photo by Drawings of Light-Paul
On Friday I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and proceeded to go through our bills. Phone, check. Cable (geez, it's gone up?), check. Gas, check. Hydro, check.

I know that I'm probably one of the very few people in the world that pays my bills by writing checks rather then having automatic withdrawal or the Internet, but after a bad experience with an ATM I'm not too trusting of electronics and my money. With a check, they can't accidentally withdraw something twice, you know? Checks can't be hacked and have PIN numbers stolen.

Anyway. So I was happily getting them all ready to send off until I got to the hydro bill and actually read the thing. Do you read your bills, besides just looking at the bottom line that tells you what you owe? I usually don't unless the owing line is really off what it is normally.

PAST DUE...blah blah blah Collection could mean your power will be shut off if we don't get the cash today, sucker. Well, not quite like that, but you get the idea.

To put it mildly, I freaked out and pretty much ran around the kitchen like Chicken Little. What?! Past due? Today? No power?! There were visions of us cooking by camp stove, shivering in the dark by the fireplace at night and showering in cold water.

Finally I calmed down enough to notice the phone number where I could call and beg for forgiveness.

"For power problems and outages, press one. For account information, press two. To report a payment, press three."

Why don't they ever have "if you need to talk to someone other then a computer NOW, press 1?" I detest voice mail-it takes forever to navigate and I always end up in the wrong spot anyhow.

After three calls and about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get a human to talk to, I was ready to offer over my firstborn child in order to secure our electricity. Oh, wait. We only have one. Maybe that's a bad idea. The clerk answered, and in a rush everything just spilled out.

"I just looked at my bill and it says that it's past due and due today, but I just opened it today you know how sometimes bills get all mixed up and you don't look at them and then when you do you realize that you should have sooner and the day that you are going to pay them is the day they're due but you're really a good customer and have never had anything turned off on you from collections in your life and anyway I really want to pay it and I'm putting it in the mail right this second so please please please don't turn off my electricity from now on I'll pay everything immediately as soon as I get it."

I was gasping for air at this point, and at the other end there was complete silence.

"You do realize that the amount that is over due is only ten cents, don't you?"

I was too dumbfounded to say anything, and instead stood there with my mouth hanging open.

"Ten. Cents. Just pop the payment in the mail and it will be fine. Your electricity won't be turned off, don't worry."

"Um...so why did the bill say it would?" my voice came out in a squeak.

"Oh, that's just a computer thing. Don't worry, you're okay."

A computer thing. So in reality, the computers print that message on every bill that has anything overdue, even it's a measly TEN CENTS. Just to, you know, keep us on our toes because reading the entire bill through is just too time consuming.

Too bad I couldn't reach through the phone and throw the 10 cents at them....entirely in pennies.

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