Ameren, the Used Car Salesmen of Energy

Reader Bill is moving, and called local atom mill Ameren to get his electric service hooked up. All well and good, until they transferred him over to another outfit for his “confirmation.”

Packaged with the confirmation number, Bill was subjected to a series of sales pitches, one by one. Lowe’s. Cable TV. Phone service. Security system. Coupons for something or another. When would the madness stop? Maybe with a timeshare opportunity in Las Vegas?

Maybe Bill is just a little too nice, but he should have asked for the confirmation and left it at that. No e-mailing of coupons, no sales pitches, just a goddamn confirmation number.

Companies are obviously desperate to work the phone for sales, since the Do-Not-Call List makes cold-calling harder. But this is excessive.

And remember, you can always say no. Toughen up, Bill!

Bill’s e-mail, after the jump…

OK, so I’m not 100% sure what’s going on here, but I figured I’d write and hopefully gain some insight into this…

I’m in the process of buying a house. Closing is in a few weeks, but I figured I’d get a jump on things to try and make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

I called my “local” electric company, AmerenIP, and spoke to a woman who knew her job pretty well and got me taken care of. She then said she’d transfer me to another company – I can’t quite remember the name – for my “confirmation number.”

I thought this was a little odd – I mean, why can’t she give me a confirmation number herself? Still, who am I to say what might be happening, so I just said sure and waited.

Another lady picked up and said she would email me my confirmation number and a 10% off coupon for Lowe’s if she could have my email address. Erm, okay. What – she can’t just tell me the number? I’m pretty paranoid about my real email address so I gave her my spamtastic account. I plan to fish it out later. Maybe.

Then she starts in with a new offer – that she’ll help transfer over all of my other services. Free of charge, of course. I was getting a little on the paranoid side so hesitantly said “sure” (more out of curiosity than anything else) and she starts going through possible services I might have.

I let her know the cable’s taken care of, along with high-speed internet. Check.

She asked about my local phone service. I told her I don’t have or need local service. “Why?” “My girlfriend and I both have good cell service and don’t need a land line.” Her pitch basically amounted to, “Sir, we recommend basic phone service for 911 emergency calls so the police could locate you more quickly than they could with a cell phone.” Having worked for the phone company before, I already know this is a line of crap – you can dial 911 on any phone that has a dial tone. Still, she continues her sales pitch more or less trying to scare me into signing up for basic phone service.. I make sure she knows we need no such thing.

Next on the menu of marketing offers was a “free home security consultation.” By this point, I knew that Ameren had basically connected me with a telemarketer and told her that I really would not be needing this. I informed her I’d take care of the gas bill myself, and that I was going to disconnect.

Not to be distracted, she asked at the end if she could email me “$100 worth of coupons”. Whatever. It’s a junk account, and I was just ready to get off the phone by that point. I said okay, thnaked her for her time (old habits die hard) and got off the phone.

So seriously – what the hell? Since when did my service call become an opportunity for some third-party to make some money with dubious “services”?


Edit Your Comment

  1. aka Cat says:

    Sure, you can dial 911 from any phone with a dial-tone.

    But a year after I disconnected my land line, the line went dead. I called the phone company (from my cell phone) and was told that they always do that a year or so after service is stopped.

  2. magic8ball says:

    This sounds like a sweet deal for somebody – or possibly several somebodies. Once you’ve agreed to let them spam you and send coupons and whatever else, they can claim a business relationship with you and make sales calls to your phone even if your number is on the DNC list.

  3. andresb says:

    In Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) when I cancelled my landline they cut the dial tone right away. No 911, not toll-free, nothin’!

  4. +++Since when did my service call become an opportunity for some third-party to make some money with dubious “services”?+++

    Since Ameren is the 9th level of consumer hell. (I’m with CILCO.) Have they told you about how they’re taking advantage of Illinois’s ill-considered deregulation scheme to put forth the biggest electricity price increases in the state (55% for my area, not counting the increase in “cost of delivery” charges they do every year, which could add up to 150%+ increases in some areas!) despite making excellent profits over the last 5 years? Or about how the State AG has singled out Ameren for monopolistic practices?

    Plus, those jerks still owe me wood chip mulch.

  5. dwarf74 says:

    Yeah, I probably should have been a lot more of a dick. The thing is, I’ve worked in a few different customer service gigs for the past few years (from telephone to insurance), and over time it just became impossible for me to be rude on the phone.

    Hell, I still can’t stop asking my friends if I can do anything else for them near the end of a “Hey, what are you up to?” phone call. Customer service broke my brain.


  6. bndocksnt says:

    Wow, that is some sort of scheme they are running. Still, in this day of sales pitches around every corner (I’d like to order a latte without being asked if I want a pastry with it. If I wanted a pastry, I’d order one myself), I can’t say I am surprised to see this approach taken. I would heed magic8ball’s advice and get off their list quickly. Telemarketers are the worst kind of cancer, and once they sink their teeth in, the worst will continue to get worse.