The Illuminating Company, Or Was That… Illuminatus?

Dear Consumerist,

The last time I moved, I arranged to have all my utilities turned off the day after I moved, as you do; I completed arrangements with the phone company and gas company with no problem. The electric company — or Illuminating Company as it is known here in Cleveland — is where things started to get interesting. When I called to arrange my account be closed at one address and opened at the new address, I requested a “shut-off” date of April 29. I *know* I asked for this date because I wanted to move on April 28. Though I have never in my life moved into or out of an apartment where the electricity was actually, physically SHUT OFF — just transferred into another name — I figured that setting the date for the 29th would avoid any problems whatsoever.

Ha ha!

Hilarity ensues, after the jump…

MG writes:

    “On the evening of April 26th I returned home to find that my apartment had no electricity. At all. They had gone ahead and shut me down, three days early. I quickly got on the phone and spoke to a very kind woman, whose name I didn’t get. She looked up my account and explained that I’d requested a shut-off date of April 26. No, I calmly explained, that is impossible. I asked for the 29th because I am moving the 28th, and I planned on using electricity during the last two days of my residency in much the same way I would any other day. The CSR seemed to think that made perfect sense, we even sort of laughed about it, and she said she’d get someone right on the problem and get my electricity running again.

    This was at 6pm and by 11:30pm I still didn’t have electricity. In the meantime, I’d had to continue packing, since electricity or no I’d have 8 people and a truck showing up to help me move on April 28. I ran an extension cord from an outlet in the common hallway into my apartment, and packed by the light of one lamp. I went to sleep and got up the next morning — still no juice.

    I called customer service at the Illuminating Company again and spoke to Carmen. I explained what had happened the night before, the mistaken “shut-off” date, and the CSR who had promised to get me back up and running again.

    Carmen: You requested your electricity be turned off April 26.
    Me: No, I requested it be turned off the 29th. That was a mistake.
    Carmen: It says the 26th right here in my computer.
    Me: I understand that. It was a mistake.
    Carmen: Well, that’s what you said.
    Me: No, it isn’t. I am moving the 28th, why would I want to go without electricity for two days?
    Carmen: Well, you requested it be shut off the 26th. It says right here.
    Me: You need to get over the date. The date is wrong. I requested the 29th. I am packing boxes and moving furniture, which I can’t do in the dark.
    Carmen: I can’t help you.
    Me: I spoke to someone last night who said the electricity would be turned back on.
    Carmen: She shouldn’t have told you that. She had no right to do that. No one can help you.

    On and on she went. No one could help me. There were no crews out and there wouldn’t be any out until Monday morning. “So,” I said. “If a tree falls into some power lines and takes out a whole neighborhood, you would just leave it lay there? Until Monday?” She came back with her favorite line, “I can’t help you,” and for added emphasis, raised her voice and yelled, “There is nothing anyone can do for you!”

    I hung up on her and called back. This time I reached Fran, who started into the whole “You requested the 26th” thing again. I cut her off and asked that she just LISTEN. I explained — somewhat emotionally at this point — the whole situation. She put me on hold for a long time and finally came back, telling me that she couldn’t PROMISE me anything, and that she really wasn’t SUPPOSED to do this, but she’d see if she could get a crew out there. Sometime around 3 a.m., I got electricity, FINALLY.

    When I was settled into my new place, you better believe I sat down and wrote a long letter which was addressed to the customer service manager, the CEO, several vice presidents and PUCO. I got a stammering phone call a few weeks later from a customer service manager. I told her in no uncertain terms that Carmen was by far the most hateful, horrible person I’d ever had the displeasure of dealing with, and that if it were my employee she’d lose her job.

    I understand there is only so much a CSR, tethered to a computer and telephone, can do. But I don’t think it’s asking too much to listen to the human being at the other end of the phone, either. I wasn’t bitchy, I wasn’t unreasonable, I didn’t swear at someone because my pink pleather dog carrier was two weeks late. I didn’t have electricity due to THEIR mistake, and yet it took three phone calls to finally find someone with the wherewithall to put me on hold and ask some questions.

    Lesson learned: Double-check all dates and details, and if you run into trouble, bring PUCO into it, one way or another.”