My Electricity Saga

Yesterday was definitely a “rant” day. A little more sunshine for a change had cheered me up when I woke and saw the golden rays pouring through the bedroom curtains, but once up and about I received a most unpleasant shock.

My electric meter had malfunctioned! I have a pre-pay electric meter key to avoid huge bills. My pensioner’s money just won’t cope with them. At least when paying up front in this way I can keep control of it. When I went to put my usual money in the meter it registered “error 50” and wouldn’t accept my payment. Shock! Horror! There was only £8.00 left on the meter which induced immediate anxiety. I have had previous dealings with the electric company so know only too well that problems for folks like me are never quickly solved! My £8.00 would not last until the issue was sorted.

Feeling very pessimistic about the whole situation I picked up the phone and with a heavy heart rang the electric company. After waiting a resigned twenty five minutes listening to the usual extremely boring and repetitive music interspersed with an automated voice cutting in with great frequency; to tell me they were abnormally busy and my call was very important to them and to keep holding the line; as they would speak to me as soon as possible….. I finally got connected.

A woman with a rather bored tone of voice asked for the usual identifying details and then invited me to explain what my problem was. (No apologies for the long wait which will cost me about £5.00 plus on my phone bill at the end of the month of course) I don’t for one minute believe the long delay is due to a high call rate. It is a shortage of staff. Goodness knows why, as they charge more than enough for supplying electricity.

I gave her all the details and after another wait while she went away to consulted some higher authority, she returned and in an equally bored tone reported to me that the “error 50” meant a malfunction; I would need a new meter. Apparently the first appointment when an engineer could come and do this was the 29th of June.

“What!” I replied, totally taken aback by this news.”My electricity supply will run out in about five days and the twenty first is thirteen days away!” This woman was by now really bugging me with her patronising and completely uninterested tone. She came over as someone who was trying to explain to an addle-witted old dear who didn’t understand plain English! I’m far from addle-witted and fully understood what was going on as the conversation progressed!

She repeatedly told me that until my meter was registering under 50 pence there was nothing they could do. She suggested I ring again when this was so and they would then attempt to arrive at my home the same day; but couldn’t guarantee this. I demanded to know just HOW long it might take. Now there’s a surprise! She admitted that she couldn’t really say and that I had to try to understand how the system works! I understand only too well how it works – very inefficiently! The system is crap!

With a definite rise in my own irritation I pointed out that 50p would not last 24 hours so if they did not come in time; I would definitely be without any electric in my home. I explained that I live alone, a registered disabled pensioner, with three cats and no central heating, no microwave, no washer and more importantly…no lights.

In her continuing flat and uninterested tone and with an audible sigh; she told me I had to understand that their engineers might not be in the area on that day. She added triumphantly that there might well be other people ringing at the last minute with NO electricity at all and they would obviously have to be given priority even if I had rung first. I ended the call feeling extremely frustrated and worried too. Nobody seems to care a toss anymore!

As an elderly widow living on a pension who uses a key to put money in a prepayment meter; I’m obviously classed as of very low importance in our modern society.

I was going to ring again later today but decided against this. It can take up to half an hour before your call is answered; thus adding a fair amount of money to my phone bill. Instead I rang my brother and told him the whole sorry tale. To say he was incensed would be putting it mildly. He immediately told me to leave it to him and he would ring them back himself.

“They may well just say the same as they told me” I pointed out….. Prepayment customers must wait until the meter registers 50p” He was not going to be put off though. Ten minutes later he was back on the phone to tell me an engineer would be with me in roughly three hours (it was actually only one hour later when he arrived” “Halleluiah” I thought in great delight. I could hardly believe I was so lucky after all the original hassle. It is amazing how a man instead of an elderly female pensioner can succeed where I could not!

I repeated all the information he needed to know and in half an hour a new meter was fitted with £25.00 put on it in advance until they send me a new key through the post. I’m back in business again….the washer is on, the central heating is getting my water hot and I’m using my PC and Xbox with gay abandon (if you will pardon the risqué adjectives)

So if you are female and elderly, my advice would be not to waste your time “banging your head against a brick wall” when things go wrong. Find a male friend, a husband, a brother, the next door neighbour or a son to do it for you. That way your phone bill will remain reasonably static and you will be spared the inevitable hassle from some of the supercilious and incredibly rude customer service personnel that we are so often blessed with when we are finally successful in actually reaching a real voice on the end of the line after a succession of menus to be got through first.

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