“Sometimes An Appropriate Response”

This is worthy of a headline: CON EDISON ADMITS TO MISTAKE, APOLOGIZES! Since moving back to the city, with my tail firmly book-ended between my legs, I was aware of the high cost of living here. I had been given an opportunity to re-trench and collect my thoughts, wonder where it all went wrong. It seemed the first mistake was to trust a real estate broker. I’m sure if you’ve listened to some of my podcasts (namely “Year In Hell”), you know the story so jumping forward, we close accounts upstate and open accounts down here in the Big Apple.

We knew Con Edison would be pricey. We didn’t delude ourselves, but it was worth it, in our minds, to be closer to work, to remove a couple of costly inconveniences, and seek out brighter opportunities than previously offered in Putnam County. I start to pay the bills, but they get bigger and bigger as the days grow darker and colder. This doesn’t make sense. Bills are supposed to go down in the colder months. We don’t use space heaters. We rely on the oil, which while suspiciously cheaper here than upstate this Winter, is still a costly impracticality.

The electric bills keep getting bigger, finally topping out at a whopping $642.01 (basically about a month-and-a-half’s service). Bear in mind, this is essentially a 3-room railroad job, maybe 500 square feet. It’s probably the nicest apartment I’ve ever had in New York; hardwood floors, nice fixtures, a dream kitchen, but it is mad-small. All we run on a regular basis is a noisy refrigerator and a television/stereo thing, and a computer.

Huh? The appropriate response.



I’m thinking, “this bill is a little high, huh?”

This is not what we needed at this juncture. Coming back to the city meant taking stock, saving money again (perhaps to blow it in yet another fruitless endeavor), and refreshing my bizarre instinct to bitch and moan in short-story form. My landlord tells me Con Edison doesn’t read the meter. They estimate the usage because they can’t get in. The meters are located in the basement under lock and key. Our building is over 90 years old. Newer buildings keep the meters outside of the house to make it easier for the readers to pick up the numbers.

I went to the basement to write down the numbers on the meter. I brought up the numbers, compared them to the numbers on the bill. Admittedly I don’t know how to compare these numbers based on the kilowatt usage billing, they do look vastly different. So I call Con Edison. It was a 20-minute wait time before I could speak to a customer service representative. I was getting angry but also nervous because, what if I was wrong and just wasting time because I didn’t want to pay such a high bill?

After 20 minutes, I spoke to a nice young man, told him the numbers, the difference between my reading and the number on the bill. He lets out a big sigh, tells me, “Okay, that’s uh … that’s a huge difference, if it’s correct.” He asks me if I can take a picture of the meter and send it to a special email address and he’ll call me back. I say okay and hang up. I go downstairs with this terrible digital camera, take a series of pictures. I’m trying to sexualize or objectify the meter.

“Okay, wet your lips, perfect! [click] Give me that sly grin again. [click] You sexy bitch!”

Hard to take pictures with this camera. The flash is useless because it bounces off the glass shield, and what we need to see are the little clock-like gauges, and the identification number on the meter, so I have to use an external light pointing away from the subject. This is a small dark room, where you would store the bodies of your enemies. I must’ve taken 30 pictures of this sexy bitch. I run upstairs and check the pictures on the computer. The last one is pay-dirt!

You sexy bitch!

I send the picture off to the mysterious email address. Five minutes later, I get a call.
“Uh … yeah, so I got the picture, and yes, it appears we over-billed you, substantially …”
“You moved in and started your new account August of this year?”
“Well we’re gonna wipe those previous bills and you’ll be getting a sizable credit in your next statement.”

The low-down is that estimated readings are based on the previous occupant’s usage, not your usage. What little I know of the “previous occupant” is that he apparently had some very high bills. The wiring in the front of the apartment had been blown out. An inspection of a receptacle revealed melting and scorching as though the thing had caught fire at some point. Now my wife and I are speculating as to what electrical contraption could cause such a violent electrical fire. We speculate in our spare time. Well, she speculates. I invent insane stories and theories.

This story has a happy ending, but it should also be considered cautionary. Don’t just assume you’re paying the appropriate rate for your electrical usage. In fact, I suspect no attempt had ever been made to get to the meter. I suspect people are lazy. I suspect if a monopoly can figure out how to extract money from your wallet, it will. In the future I will be armed with my digital camera and I will continue to take sexy pictures of my electric usage meter. You should too. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

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