At the end of last year, tornadoes in north Texas destroyed homes, killed twelve people, and caused as much destruction as you might expect of a tornado. One family near Dallas was fortunate that they were out of the country and not in their house when it was destroyed, but in the aftermath had to deal with a frustration that they didn’t need: their electric company kept sending them bills for power in their non-existent house.
The company, Reliant, sent the family text message updates about their power usage, which somehow increased after the tornado. Again, the family of four wasn’t just out of town, but the house was no longer there. One would think this could all be straightened out with a simple phone call to the power company pointing out that a house that isn’t there in a neighborhood that had lost power when the tornado hit doesn’t need electricity, but that wasn’t enough.
A Reliant representative told them that they should have called earlier: the power was back on to their nonexistent house, and they were responsible for the bill. Instead, the family turned to their local CBS affiliate’s consumer reporter. Suddenly, they received a refund and an apology.
In a statement to the station, Reliant explained what happened: apparently, none of the four people the call was transferred to knew what was supposed to happen. The company waived the erroneous bills and apologized. In a statement to the TV station, they explained in part:
In anticipating the needs of Reliant customers there, we proactively reached out to hundreds of them with offers of assistance.
We placed notes on the accounts of thousands of others who we could not reach to ensure that our agents were aware that special assistance is available. Unfortunately, the call center agents who talked with Ms. Kashif did not follow these procedures or offer this planned assistance.
Reliant also said that they have informed other call center representatives what they’re supposed to do, and clarified that they’re not complete jerks toward tornado victims, having donated $50,000 to Red Cross relief efforts, and helping victims with items like solar-powered flashlights.