New York City: Where Manholes Explode And Destroy Radio Shack (With Video!)

New York City: Where Manholes Explode And Destroy Radio Shack (With Video!)

Manholes have been exploding more than usual in NYC lately. For those of you who have never lived in NYC, the street randomly explodes at pretty frequent intervals. Sometimes it’s a steam pipe, sometimes it’s electrical. Right now firefighters are putting out a Radio Shack that was a little too close to an exploding manhole/transformer situation. We have video of that, plus three other recent explosions. [More]

ConEd Hikes Rates, But Consumers Could Still See Lower Bills

ConEd Hikes Rates, But Consumers Could Still See Lower Bills

ConEd has just what you need in the middle of recession: a rate hike! Monthly bills are set to rise between $6-$8 as the energy monster tries to recoup a half a billion dollars to cover the cost of higher property taxes and the usual infrastructure maintenance that utilities never budget for in advance. The perennial optimists at the New York Post still somehow think you’ll still end up with a lower bill…

Ben Popken's "Beat The Cheat" Reader's Digest Article Online

Ben Popken's "Beat The Cheat" Reader's Digest Article Online

I’ve got a new article in Reader’s Digest about 9 scams that exploit national trends and how to avoid them. Flimflammers use the same basic scams over and over again, they just use the strips newspaper headlines to layer on like papermache on their chickenwire schemes. My article points out nine recent iterations and how to avoid them. Thanks to all the readers who sent in their stories to help out with the article. Loyal blog readers will enjoy that we splashed longstanding Consumerist nemesis IDT Energy‘s skanky sales practices in national print. Gotcha, suckers.

http://consumerist.com/2008/10/20/energy-scammers-are-still-stalking/

Energy scammers are still stalking the good people of Brooklyn, according to the Gowanus Lounge. Not only are they going door-to-door, but now they’re calling, too. Remember: if some stranger calls claiming that they are from a company you do business with and asks you to “confirm you account information,” tell them you’ll call them back at their usual number and hang up. [Gowanus Lounge] (Thanks, Chris!)

ConEd Asks You To Report Your Power Outages Online

ConEd Asks You To Report Your Power Outages Online

Graham says:

I heard a Con Ed commercial today on the radio, in the NY area. Thankfully, you may now report that you have no electricity, online.

ConEd's Manhole Sweatshops: "Taking It Seriously"

ConEd's Manhole Sweatshops: "Taking It Seriously"

New York state law requires that requires that the energy company ConEd accept the lowest bids possible for its manhole covers, which probably explains why they’re made by nearly naked men in India paid only a handful of dollars a day. When ConEd officials were shown images of the shirtless workers toiling with molten metal, they said (emphasis added):

We were disturbed by the photos…We take worker safety very seriously.

This is as good a time as any to introduce you folks to the phrase, “taking it seriously.” You will note, as we have, that in statements by company spokesmen made to newspapers regarding their employer’s wrongdoing, the phrase, “taking it seriously” appears again and again, so often, in fact, that we have trouble taking seriously that all these companies are really taking their ne’er-do-welling as seriously as they would have us think. To this end, The Consumerist has begun documenting the utterances of the phrase with eye towards a roundup post some day cataloging sightings of this well-polished piece of public relation glibbery. Keep an eye out.

New York Regulators Approve Unprecedented ConEd Rate Hike

New York Regulators Approve Unprecedented ConEd Rate Hike

Staffers at the New York State Public Service Commission have signed off on ConEd’s plan to impose the largest rate hike in the company’s history. ConEd asked for $1.2 billion, but PSC staffers think the utility is entitled to only $618 million. New Yorkers already pay some of the highest electricity bills in the nation.

“This is all part of the sham that goes on with every rate hike request,” said Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who sits on the Assembly’s power committee and who has criticized the utility for its response to the 2006 power failure in his borough. “Con Edison asks for more than it expects to get,” he said. “The P.S.C. rides in on its white horse and takes credit for slashing the request. But the end result is still what Con Edison wanted all along.”

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Table Of Contents

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Table Of Contents

In case you missed any of 7-part undercover report on IDT-Energy, Midtown Promotions, and the fabulous worlds of energy resale and multi-level-marketing, here’s a recap:

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Confession

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Confession

After only three days with Midtown Promotions, I could already tell that I’d wait weeks, maybe months or a full year before coming upon hard evidence of fraud, if I found any evidence at all. After leaving James and Doreen in the Bronx, I took the afternoon off and went to work on these diaries.

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Meltdown

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Meltdown

From the moment I met up with James, and Doreen, who was going our way, things began to fall apart. Eric told me to follow James, not Carl, who was going solo. I was to listen to James’ instructions, follow his example, and go to wherever he decided we should spend the day. Today was Mt. Vernon, NY, almost 90 minutes from the offices of Midtown Promotions.

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Status Report

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Status Report

If you’re just now tuning in, we’ve been doling out daily pieces of our multi-part investigation into IDT-Energy. They’re an energy reseller in the New York area and we’ve received multiple complaints about their salesperson’s dressing as ConEd workers and doing other funny stuff at the door to get people to sign over. So we sent in Brian Fairbanks undercover to get hired at Midtown Promotions, a direct-sales marketing company IDT-Energy contracted to get subscribers.

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Meeting

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Meeting

Before the morning meeting started, I left my man-purse on a set of boxes right by the blackboard, with the microphone discreetly poking out of the pocket.

Questions To Ask Before Switching To An Energy Reseller

Questions To Ask Before Switching To An Energy Reseller

A guy may come to your door pitching the fabulous savings you’ll get by switching to an energy reseller. But before you sign on the line which is dotted, ask these questions:

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Let's Get Juiced

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: Let's Get Juiced

I staggered into Midtown Promotions at 10am on Wednesday. Seeing as how people were only trickling in for the morning meeting, the receptionist and another office assistant gave me some papers to fill out and sign. (Note: all spelling errors/typos are as they appeared…)

Door To Door Energy Resellers Fail To Deliver Promised Savings

The NY Post ran a good article looking into whether the savings promised by door-to-door energy resale reps like IDT Energy ever really materialize for subscribers:

“I’ve had complaints from residents, as well as small businesses, who have unwittingly switched to a different energy provider and seen their bills go through the roof,” said City Councilman John Liu (D-Queens).

One Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, IDT customer – a bartender who gave her name as Carmel – said her electric bill jumped from $40 to $70, and she is anxious to cancel.

IDT Energy Starts At 7% Discount, Switches To Variable After 2 Months

IDT Energy Starts At 7% Discount, Switches To Variable After 2 Months

While scanning the collateral Brian picked up in his investigation, we nearly choked on this gem buried in their terms and conditions: it says that you’ll get 7% savings for the first two months, but after that, there’s no telling whether your bill will be higher or lower than what it would be with ConEd (click to enlarge image).

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Day Of O

Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Day Of O

I sat in the offices of Midtown Promotions, watching the receptionist field calls from job prospects, still surprised at having been one of those callers not even twenty-four hours prior.

How ESCos Are Supposed To Work

How ESCos Are Supposed To Work

While we’re talking about IDT Energy and Con Ed and Midtown Promotions and DS-MAX, let’s learn about another acronym, ESCos, which stands for “energy service companies” (the kind of company IDT Energy is).