That's Entertainment!

Anybody familar with the term "process improvement"? 
I just spent more than an hour of my valuable time on the phone with PG&E because their system tried to charge me more than $1100 two weeks ago and then tried to charge me another $902 (plus change) today. As a result, I have now had my checking account dinged $25 for 'return' fees - TWICE. And no one at PG&E sees the logic in my argument that there's no way I would have made a $250 payment at the same time as I made a $900 one. Because, as I assured them repeatedly, "If I had a spare $900 to pay the entire balance, I would simply have done that and not felt the need to trouble us both by setting up a payment plan." 
Have you dealt with California's delightful energy mega-monstrosity lately? (Remember when there was something called a "mono" something or other? And that was illegal? Anybody? No? Ask your grandparents. They might have seen one while walking a mile through the snow without shoes to get to school.) After you get past the heartless robot doorperson (just keep pressing '0'!), you have to talk to one person for customer service, one person for an outage, one person to pay over the phone, one person about online payments, one person for payment plans (Our summer electric bills were obscene. Thank you Smart Meter! More on that adventure soon.), and on and on, "etcetera etcetera." And apparently, none of them communicate - despite the fact that they claim to be one big happy (and very hungry) family. However, from my experience today, it looks like the computers in the division you're talking to aren't even speaking to the people who work there. (Maybe somebody insulted somebody else's potato salad at the last reunion.) 
So it should be obvious to all but the very obtuse that there's definite room for process improvement here. And since my default state when doing any task is to find a way to make it take less time and be more efficient (because I'm lazy - honest, but that's a whooole other post) and it's been part of my job description on more than one occasion, I'm in the mood to help them with this little problem. Silly me.
First I speak with a delightful and very helpful young man who listens patiently, makes some notes and sends up a flare for a supervisor.  He also politely offers to stay on the line because this is, in fact, the second time I have tried to sort out this mess today. The first time I was cut off while in that charming ante-room of Hades known as "hold."
(Later, at the Hall of Justice...)
I'm now told by the supervisor who answers the Bat Signal that "the system doesn't do anything, the customer does it all." Really? Can we talk about the frequent rate increases then? I think I'm being unfair to myself. So let's roll back several of those, shall we? I was also informed that PGE's return charge is $11.50, not $25. So this means that I'm going to eventually be out not an extra $50, but $73 sometime in the hazy future - because "it can take up to 14 days for the system to proccess things." Like the hapless fool I am, I ask, "What then, is the point of paying online?" Ready for this? "It makes it more convenient for the customer." Indeed. Ahh, progress - thy name is SHITE.

(Meanwhile, at Legion of Doom headquarters...)
Although it is physically impossible for me to have made two payments at exactly the same time, even if I was doing it from two computers, the lovely supervisor (and I'm serious about that, she did her best and I acknowledge that) informs me that it HAS to have been me. Again she assures me, "We don't do anything." Tongue bleeding (because I almost bit it in half while trying not to respond with what we're all thinking right now), I thank her for her patience and ask "Tho whea do we doh from hea?" Why on to another supervisor of course!

BUT, I've had enough for one day. I must retreat to the trenches to fortify myself for another round of "it's not my fault it's yours" ping pong. So I ask if someone can call ME so that I can go use the needle-nosed pliers in the garage to remove the phone that has now become embedded in my ear. (And feed the cat who has collapsed from hunger at my feet.) "Yes," my new BFF tells me, she'd be happy to make that happen and takes my phone number - which should be on her screen and which I have now given to PGE employees 6 times today. (Caller ID is apparently a technological mystery to the ol' power company honchos.)

So now I wait. And gird my loins in preparation for a battle that has begun to make me feel like Stephen Hawking trying to explain Twitter to an amoeba.

Join me next time for "That's Entertainment II: Experiencing Heavy Call Volume."



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