Update: As several readers have pointed out, there’s a simpler explanation for the confusion: both the OP and I were misreading the meter. The first digit should be rounded “down” to 9, so the meter in the photo actually reads 997.4 MCF—which is more in line with the previous bill. Thanks to everyone who caught this and wrote in or commented! We hope this helps you out, Michael.
Paul wants to know how his gas company can get away with estimated meter readings instead of actual numbers, especially since they lead to much higher bills. “This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of,” he writes, “And we are hoping that The Consumerist will be able to help us out.” It’s pretty common practice, actually, and the solution is to call the company and request a real reading as soon as possible.