Friday, August 4, 2017

I Finally Cut The Cord, Fought With My Water Utility Company in Oceanside, CA

I'm a stubborn Gen X'er.  I grew up watching television since the days of He-Man: Masters of The Universe.  Back then, we had but 13 lowly channels, one was called, "U."  Then came the greatest invention of all time: cable!  It's taken me almost to my 41st birthday, but I've finally cut the cord.  (Clapping in the background).  I had cable because I liked watching the occasional football, soccer, or basketball game.  My wife liked some shows on network TV and the kids were into Disney and Nick, Jr.  But as of late, no one is watching television.    

Image result for old tv with 13 channels

My kids now prefer YoutTube videos, and neither my wife or I have time anymore to channel surf.  So I called DirectTV/A T & T and had my service terminated.  I'll be saving $77 a month from now on.  Yes!

Now onto my fight with my water utility company who I shall refrain from naming out of respect, and only say I live in the city of (cough, cough) Oceanside.

After my week long vacation with my family in the central coast of this great state of CA, I came home to find my water bill in the mailbox.  The previous month (June) had been brutal.  I'd paid $293 for my bill and was reported to have used 31 units of water.  Each unit is 748 gallons!  Wow...I thought to myself, I better stop watering the grass or something.  With gusto I tore open the envelope expecting a lower bill because after all we'd been on vacation, so how much damage could we have made in three weeks?

Gasp!  My bill was $425.  I almost had a heart attack.  The reported meter reading was 55 units!  Folks, that's a whopping 41,140 gallons of water.  The average 21-foot, 48-inch deep round pool holds between 13,000 and 15,000 gallons of water for comparisons sake.  I didn't come home to find our house completely underwater so for sure something must be wrong, I thought.  I called my public utility water company.  The nice lady asked if I wanted a re-check on my meter to which of course I agreed to have.  She also asked me to check around my home for any leaks, look for saturated areas, etc.  That was it.  So I had to sit back and wait for the meter person to show and then I'd get an answer.

1,285 gallons a day! Is there a basketball team showering at my house? So ridiculous.

You know, these public utility companies have us all by the cojones, excuse my Spanish.  If we don't pay, even when we're in the middle of a dispute with them, they can shut off our service.  Pay first, answers later.  I'm not the type of person to wait around for things to happen so I went outside, screwdriver in hand.  I opened the meter cover and low and behold, a dead meter staring back at me.  I cleared the dirt off the little window panel to see if maybe I wasn't seeing the numbers clearly.  Nope.  Dead meter.  I moved the wires around to see if there was a faulty connection.  Nada.  I went to my neighbor's house and checked his meter.  His meter shone brightly lit numbers, obviously a sign of functionality.

No reading. Even after I cleared the mud off the panel, and wiggled the wires.  The cap was off btw.
Remember this post on the drip irrigation system I put all around my house to conserve water?
These days meter readers don't even have to open the cover.  There's this plastic sensor on top of cover and the readers swipe their Star Trek contraption to get a "reading."  So I asked myself...How does one arrive at a reading of 55 units when the meter isn't even working?  I called the utility company the next day to report my findings and asked them this same exact question.  The guy I was talking to, horrible people skills mind you, had no answers.  He kept deflecting, and saying over and over that there was nothing he could do.  (Clearly he had been trained in the art of deniability and non-admittance).  That I had to wait for the meter reader to come by and do the re-check.  He had no authority to order the reading any sooner.  Apparently the meter department is off limits to anyone in the billing office.

I informed him I needed this matter resolved soon because my bill is due and I didn't want to have to pay the entire amount.  It seemed ridiculous to me that no one would think there was something wrong with my bill.  Oh, but the guy was quick to point out that I had to pay my bill.  All he had to do was tell me he'd see what he could do about getting someone out here to my house.  Nope, he got testier with me, upset about my own discontent.  He put me on hold in mid sentence too!  Just bad customer service.


I called the City of Oceanside, yeah...I'm over this respect thing with them after the phone call I had again with my man in that office.  I asked about the outcome of the meter re-check.  He tells me..."Yeah, the check was completed and there is a new digital meter there, it is working, and there are no leaks."  He was in essence telling me the initial meter reading was accurate and the meter is working.

Me: But I have a picture of it off, I shook the wires, tapped it, stared at it for over a minute and it was dead.  My family and I were gone for a whole week, we've never even gone over 40 units.  Does this not seem completely illogical to you? 

Man at City of O: Uh, I can't answer that.

Me: Who do I talk to about the meter reading?

Man: I can give you the number to the meter department.

Me: Okay give it to me.

Man: Okay, hold on (proceeds to put me on hold for 7 minutes!).  Okay, I called the meter department and the supervisors aren't in today.  I also talked to the person who read your meter and he said the reading was accurate.  These are some of the best meters in the market today...they are very (emphasis added) accurate.

Of course I was livid now.  How very convenient to be able to say that no errors were made, and you, the consumer, still have to pay your bill no matter how ridiculous it happens to be.

Me: The supervisors aren't in today.  Give me their number anyway, I'll call them on Monday.

Man: What I can do is email them, and give them your information.  They'll call you.

I'm stuck paying this bill.  Up until this past month, I didn't think too much about the service I was receiving from the City of Oceanside (water utility).  But now, after the inferior service I received from their phone rep, and the information I gleaned about their inner workings (meter readers are protected and infallible), I am going to be ever more vigilant about my water consumption and the reports I get in the mail.  I don't think I'll ever be able to trust them again.  You should be leery too if you live in Oceanside, CA!

My next stop may be a visit to the public utility commission office in San Diego because this isn't right and I'm not okay with it.

Until next time!       

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