Friday, February 17, 2006


You would not believe the junk mail that comes to our mailbox at The Clanton Hacienda. Or maybe you would. A long time ago I made the commitment to conduct as much business electronically as possible, thus making my own contribution to the Green efforts to save trees, decrease alleged global warming, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

Anyway, I pay as many bills on line as possible.
House payment, gasoline, utilities.
I love it.
A book of stamps can last me at least a half a year.
But there are some drawbacks, when, for example, the online billing doesn’t match the e-mail notice you receive from the company.

I speak from recent experience.

Reliant Energy is our electricity provider, and for years we have been on the balanced billing plan. It’s pretty nice to know that my electric bill is always going to be the same amount, month after month. That figure is determined by looking at the past 12-months’ usage, and figuring the average usage and cost.

This is great in theory…unless the average estimate is mis-calculated. That’s what happened to us. You may recall we moved to the present Clanton Hacienda almost a year ago. Since the house is fairly new, with better insulation factors, and fewer rooms, we figured it would be safe to assume our power usage would remain static at best.
It didn’t.

The problem is that when you receive electronic billing statements by e-mail, you don’t always see the detail that’s included in hard copy statements. Reliant Energy does post in small print a very vital piece of information: The difference between the balanced billing amount and what the power we used actually cost.

It’s there, alright, but not that easy to see--and even easier to miss when you’re paying bills on line. Which is why I was shocked to learn my power bill jumped from a low three-digit figure to an enormous three-digit figure. By the time I got it all straightened out, I ended up dropping a four-digit figure to get back on track.

There’s got to be a better way of notifying consumers they’re way-underpaying on their utilities…like LARGER TYPE, for starters.

I can throw darts…and pass out bouquets.

Kudos to the Supervisor of Reliant Energy’s Web Support Division, Jeff Ceynor, who called me during the day to walk through this issue. While I was not happy with the revelation I owed over $1,000 for electricity, nor was I pleased about being shuffled off to a voice mail box when I first contacted Reliant about this earlier in the week, Jeff’s efficiency in calling me back, and his professionalism in walking through the issue were very much appreciated.

Now, about that small-print issue…

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