Consumer Alert: An Irondequoit man’s big RG&E bill spurs a call to News10NBC

[anvplayer video=”5132410″ station=”998131″]

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. Today’s Consumer Alert concerns customer service and one man’s really frustrating experience.

Everybody has a story about bad customer service. Mike Moore’s taxing tale began when RG&E installed a new gas meter at his home last fall. 

Crews hired by the company had to dig up his yard, use a jackhammer to break up the sidewalk, and it went on for weeks because all his neighbors got new meters as well. 

That’s something you’d likely remember, right? But when he called customer service, they told him he was mistaken.

Moore remembers well the day last September when crews hired by RG&E showed up at his door.

“They dug a trench right from the base of the house all the way through the sidewalk to the street,” Moore said, pointing at an area that extended the length of his yard, from the meter on the house to the newly replaced sidewalk square.

They installed a new gas meter outside his home that’s accessible to RG&E workers. His old meter was in his basement so Moore had to read the meter himself and call in his usage. He had always kept meticulous records. 

But in October, he stopped calling in because now RG&E crews could check his meter. But no one came. Instead the company estimated his usage in the month. 

On his bill, beside his meter reading was always the letter “E,” indicating the reading was an estimate. Finally, an RG&E worker visited his home in March.

And in June, an “A” finally appeared on his bill, indicating this was an actual reading. And the bill was a whopping $447.

He immediately called customer service.

“Their explanation was that the meter was installed in March, and the end of May they read the meter and it said 392 so …” his voice trailed off as he shrugged.

Remember crews dug up his yard and jack hammered the concrete in his neighborhood all last fall. It was hard to forget. But when he repeatedly told them his meter was actually installed in September, he says the customer service agents were dismissive.

“We’re sorry Mr. Moore,” he recalled an agent saying. “You’re wrong. I’m looking at the computer screen. Your meter was installed in March.”

Agents insisted his big bill in June was for three months of usage. He explained that he’d been faithfully paying bills with an estimated reading since October, eight months. But he said agents didn’t believe him.

“A lot of people think that they haven’t used that much, Mr. Moore,” he remembers an agent telling him. “But people do. And we’re sorry that you’re upset, but that’s just the way it is”

But that was not the way it was. I contacted RG&E, and they sent me a statement that reads, “There were a small number of isolated errors in the installation dates we received from the contractor that did some gas meter installations for us. We are correcting these in our system to reflect the correct dates of installation and are contacting any customers impacted by this isolated issue.

When we use estimates to bill a customer, their account is adjusted if needed when an actual reading is obtained. If we estimated too high and the bill they paid was higher than it needed to be, they get a credit in that amount towards their account. If we estimated too low and the actual usage was higher, that can result in a higher bill the following month to make up the amount the customer owes”.

And that’s what happened in Moore’s case. After I contacted RG&E, they gave Moore a refund of $403.35. 

Moore’s experience with customer service was pretty frustrating. You’ve probably had similar experiences. I recently interviewed a customer service expert. Annette Franz is the CEO of CX Journey, based in California. She literally wrote the book on customer service.

With her assistance, here’s Deanna’s Do List for dealing with customer service:

  • Keep good records. It was easy for me to plead his case because I had evidence that GM Financing never informed him about the missed payment.
  • Take notes during the call including the name of the agent. If they give you a first name, ask for a last initial. If the agent can’t help, ask to speak to a supervisor. And don’t give up until they make one available.
  • Try reaching out to corporate leadership. The non-profit Elliott Advocacy provides a list of corporate contacts
  • When all else fails, take your case to social media