"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy" - The Gospel of MatthewSince my mom died, I've had to make a lot of phone calls. Most of the phone calls are the type where I am tying up loose ends. Paying bills, correcting, notifying, getting information, etc. I've made countless phone calls. Interestingly they either go really well or go badly. I suppose that's just a built-in expectation when dealing with this kind of thing.
I am far beyond it being an emotionally charged subject. Most of the time I just want to get it over with so I can go back to the other million things I have going on, both at work and at home. The last phone call I have had to make was to the utility company.
When the house was sold, the power company apparently had the wrong notification date so they continued to bill well after perfect strangers were in my mom's house rearranging furniture and eyeballing picture frames to make sure they were level. No problem, I'll give them a call.
The first call I made to them went well. I explained the date that it was sold and got it straightened out with them. They thanked me for calling and I hung up while crossing it off my list. Over the next two weeks they continued to send bill and notices. I figured there may be some gap until their system would catch up after my phone call so I decided to let it go a couple more weeks until I called them again. In that time two more bills and a threatening letter followed. I laughed at the threatening letter because they explained impatiently that they were willing to move forward with steps that would result in ruining the credit rating of my two dead parents. I called again.
This time it went badly. I say this because this is obviously a mistake on their part and there really was no attempt to solve the problem. I gave a briefing on the first call I had made and what I thought had been straightened out and asked them what they were going to do about it. The representative explained that the balance was still due, and wanted to know how I was going to make arrangements to satisfy the balance. I was out of time during my lunch at work so I just assured them that they'd be wise to take care of it since they are not going to be paid. They threatened to turn off the power. I countered with offering what was left of my ham sandwich. We were obviously at an impasse.
Collection notices now began showing up at my house and I let them pile up. It wasn't that many days before I came home and the pile of communications from Puget Sound Energy was two inches thick. This is just what I received since I was assured that it was all taken care of. I gave them a call.
Obviously my patience with the situation was wearing thin but it was tempered by the fact that I had no real skin in the game. It wasn't like I owed them money. It wasn't like I was stressed with keeping the lights on while juggling a host of bills and creditors. I just wanted them to have things in order and stop wasting their resources.
The representative informed me this time that unless I gave them personal information about myself I could not discuss the account. I decided to decline and proceed without mercy to the unvarnished truth of the matter.
She then went over the account with me (ya know, the one she said she wouldn't unless she knew who I was?) and explained that she would make a notification in the account and it would be taken care of. I recognized this dismissive gesture and explained that this was my third call for such a resolution and I was skeptical that it would be resolved. She conceded that their system may send fewer bills after it goes to a collection agency."You are sending bills to my father under this account number and I want to let you know that he has been dead for sixteen years. The house is owned by someone else and nobody is going to pay you. You need to stop sending bills."
She assured me that there wasn't anything more she could do. At no time during the call did she break out of the customer service role and agree with me that this was stupid. Well, not yet."Look, I'm just trying to be nice. I can easily throw away the bills. I just think it's wasteful for you to pursue this. I don't want any more bills being sent to my house on this."
"Could I at least verify the account with you and then change the billing address?" (They were using mine due to the mail being forwarded)
I gave them a new address for the billing address. I recited the Post Office box number to where the bills needed to be sent. Her ears finally perked up.
Is the matter taken care of? For mercy's sake I hope so.PSE: "Sir, what PO Box address is this?"
ME: "It is yours."
PSE: "Why would we send the bill to ourselves?"
ME: "Why would you deliberately send bills to a dead person?"