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Rant.... - Random babblings of a fiber-obsessed nutcase — LiveJournal

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Previous Entry Rant.... Apr. 23rd, 2008 @ 09:21 am Next Entry
I'm so Pissed.Off at the electric company, I can't stand it (I had all night to stew over this).....the BS they gave me yesterday? Doesn't make any sense. Oh, but seriously - No.Sense.At.All. Let me show you my train of thought:



OK, I work in accounting. We're a SMALL O&G company (don't blame *me* for the high prices - we have nothing to do with them, and frankly, I am scared to death. I *KNOW* what's coming, but no one listens to me.....never mind. That's a totally different rant for a different day), and we keep an Eagle Eye on Income and Expenses. If *we* can do it, with (at one point) over 1,500 checks coming thru the door Each Month, why can't my electric company (I should note here - we did it with only *2* employees. *2*!) So.....here's my thoughts on this "situation".

1) The Accounting Department should run a Financial Statement EVERY MONTH. You can see at a glance if your income is down, and should immediatly try to figure out WHY. We have (at the moment) 20 TX Gas Wells. We pull the production volumes from the State of TX site, plug them into a spreadsheet with the approximate average price for that month, and get an estimate of what *that* check should be. When the check comes in, we see how close we were - when we're off (and we HAVE been) we call the producer and find out WHY. (We do this with *every* check...it doesn't take that long, since the spreadsheets are set up, and we have a pretty good handle on our estimated monthly income)

SO. I did some rough calculations. There are 16 houses on my street - I can walk the entire street in 10 minutes, tops. I figure, if I had to go up to each house, it might - MIGHT - take a little under an hour. Let's use *easy* numbers...and say the meter reader can read 20 meters an hour. If we estimate a 5 hour work-day (or...5 hours to read all the meters *that* day..giving him 3 hours for lunch/driving/whatever) we get 20 x 5 = 100 meters read per day. Let's also assume that he only reads meters 2 weeks out of the month (or, 10 working days) which gives us 100 x 10 = 1,000 meters read per month PER reader (I'm only concerned with the 1 reader, here...but you get the idea)

OK....1,000 meters read a month. Now, let's talk money. According to my bill, I was undercharged approximately $743 over the 6 months the man "didn't read the meters correctly". $743 / 6 = $123.84 - let's round that up to $125 (easy numbers, remember?). Going with the assumption that he did the same thing to *everyone* on his route...let's call it $100 per meter (to account for some overcharges, and some under charges LESS than mine, just to be fair - and $100 is an "easier" number than $125).....1,000 x $100 = $100,000.00 PER MONTH undercharged.

No one noticed a $100,000 DECREASE in income? What kind of racket are they running here? (Calm down. Deep breath. Happy thoughts)

2) No one noticed a monthly decrease of $100,000 - even though the rates just went up a bit. Bit of a stretch..but OK, I'll buy it. However, WE run Quarterly Reports, and we do Y/E forcasting, based on the previous quarter. (In the sense of full disclosure, I must say that right now our projections aren't worth the paper they're printed on - Oil prices are flucuating so much that we just can't get any realistic numbers...so we do the best we can. Also - the Oil Prices as being reported right now are FUTURE prices - prices for Oil sold 2 months from now. Just so you know.) We take the average price of the previous 3 months, assume the same volumes, and run with it. IF the numbers look down - WE FIND OUT WHY. We don't wait for mid-year reports...we keep on top of this stuff.

So......energy prices went up. I think it was a whopping $0.03/KWH - not that bloody much. Assuming the same KWH usage, SOMEONE should have noticed that projected income =/= actual income. Why didn't they???? (Unless they don't do projections......in which case, I wanna work for Them. Less work, for the same pay - whee!)

In 6 months, we have an estimated LOSS of income at $600,000.....and yet, no one noticed until "a customer called to complain he hadn't seen a meter reader in 6 months". R-I-G-H-T. Anyone else smell something fishy, here?

And another thing - I watch my bills. I knew prices had gone up, so I expected my bills to go up. My electric bill has been running about normal - except for *1* month, where it was $90 LESS than I anticipated. No big deal - it was for a month that had been (in my opinion) rather mild - I remember we opened the windows a couple of days there, because it wasn't cold enough for the heater to kick in, yet wasn't hot enough for the A/C to switch on, either. The other months? Right at the level I expected....so....I have no clue what they're doing.

ANY accounting unit worth their pay should have been looking at this - spot checking a few houses on each route, even, just to keep the readers honest. I mean, if the reader says client A's current reading is 1234 on the first, and when the Auditor goes out to check on the 5th it's 1250, that's probably correct. If it's 1520...then we might have a problem here, and this needs to be looked into more carefully. (And I don't mean just now - I mean this should have been in place from the get-go. You HAVE to keep your employees accountable, and the easiest way to do that is to spot-check their work on a random schedule. Which is why we keep track of the production volumes ourselves. It's saved us NUMEROUS times - we have 1 vendor that...well, they don't like letting go of the revenue. At one point, they owed us $150,000.....and WE had to prove it. With our spreadsheets, it was easy...but I feel for the companies that DIDN'T keep track of this stuff.)

This isn't rocket science, here - it's basic accounting with good management pricipals. Which my electric company is apparantly lacking. Sweet Geek is reporting it to the State Board...and I've talked to a few people. Their side of the conversation includes words like "class", "action", and "lawsuit". My side of the conversation includes words like "Off", "Grid", "Solar" and "Wind" .:sigh:

I don't know what they're doing...but I don't like it. I'd like them to provide a full report, done by outside auditors...but I don't know that they'll do that. I do know that, if I get notice of the "other side" conversation, it's going to take a LOT of thought before I DON'T sign in....on the one hand, I'd be paying twice - once in the higher charges on my monthly bill (they do, after all, have to recoup the expenses, yes?) and once again in the cut the attorneys will take of the proceeds. :sigh: Not an easy decision to make, now is it?
Current Location: office
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
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spin a yarn
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From:apis_mellifera
Date:April 23rd, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
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I used to work in a meter reading department. You'd be amazed at what some readers will try to pull (most of the ones I knew were good, hardworking people, but there were a couple of lazy bums). Also, there are likely a certain number of months per calendar year that the electric company is allowed to estimate usage--I usually have 2-3 estimated months per year (they are never consecutive months, though).

Your bills from the last six months should say if the readings were actual or estimated. That'd be the first place I'd start--because if they're telling you that your reading's been estimated for the last six consecutive months but the bill indicates that the meter was read, well, there's something hinky going on there.
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From:fiberaddict
Date:April 23rd, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
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According to my bills, they've all been from actual *readings* - the co-op has never, to my knowledge put "estimated" on *any* of my bills (not saying they haven't, just that I haven't noticed)

Supposedly, the guy *claimed* he was reading the meter, but wasn't really...or that's what I was told. I just - I can't see HOW that would be possible...just by my estimated numbers, SOMEONE should have noticed somthing wasn't right. :grumble:

Thanks for the comment, though - did my numbers look feasible?
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From:apis_mellifera
Date:April 23rd, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
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My electric company very clearly indicates whether a reading is actual or estimated on the bill.

It seems to me that for a reader to estimate six months' worth of bills and not set off any bells, that there would have to be a lot of preparatory work. S/He'd have to know what the average usage for each meter was and know what the starting meter reading was. A meter reading route can have a wide variety of meters on it, depending on whether it's urban, suburban, or rural. A rural route's going to have fewer meters than an urban one because they'll be further apart. And each reader is going to have 20-ish different routes each month, one for each working day--they'll all likely be in close geographic proximity to each other, so if he needs to pick up the last two meters from route 1 on day 2, he can. So if this reader was blowing off your route for 6 months, there's likely 19 other routes being blown off as well, so there should be a lot of unhappy people.

In theory, your numbers look okay but in reality, corporate accounting is nightmarish in a lot of ways. You'd be surprised at all the weird adjustments you can make and the ways you can legitimately move dollars around. So depending on how big your co-op is, they may not have registered it except as a slight blip--I know that in the numbers I deal with on a daily basis that $100,000 a month? Is practically nothing.
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From:fiberaddict
Date:April 23rd, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
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The co-op is pretty big - it covers at *least* 3 counties; my county has....I dunno, my *city* has over 6K people in it. And it's a large county....we're not the largest city by any means. My city is rural..but the next town over has become a suburb of a large Dallas county city (over 12K, 3 years ago, and growing rapidly).

I know most of the ways to...erm....move money around. :grin: My late boss was a *master* at taking from Peter to pay Paul, all "legal" but not necessarily "moral"...and I understand large number accounting. Still...there *should* be some sort of accountability process in effect..and apparantly there's not.

I'm trying to calm down before I call them.....don't want to piss 'em off when I'm trying to gather info.

Oh - I have another question...how do they know that their starting reading was good...I mean, how do they know that (6 months ago would have been....Oct-ish, I think) Oct. ended with a correct reading? And not an estimate? How do they know that he didn't read, say, MY route correctly, except for the 1 month my bill was down? :seethes:


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From:apis_mellifera
Date:April 23rd, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
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My experience with meter reading is in more dense urban areas--think Grand Rapids, Michigan. *grin*

I don't think they have any way of knowing one way or another if the starting reading was good--which is the bitch of the thing.

Hm. It's been years since I worked at CP, but I do have a vague recollection that when they loaded the handheld computers with each day's routes, each meter to be read did have the prior month's reading in it. I think.

Another thing you can do is find out what day each month your meter is supposed to be read--should be about the same day each month, like the 11th working day or whatever--and take a picture of the meter on that day so you have proof of what the meter reading should be on your bill (probably not to the exact number depending on when the reader reads the meter) and compare it to your bill when you get it.

Are utilities regulated or deregulated in Texas? They just deregulated ours a couple of years ago and we got hit with a 57% rate increase which BLEW CHUNKS. There's talk of re-regulating our utilities and there's also agood deal of serios talk about putting in a windfarm offshore, too. I think wind power's pretty rad.
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From:fiberaddict
Date:April 23rd, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Yes, we're deregulated, but it hasn't really affected me - we're Co-op, not Utility company, so we haven't seen a lot of BS. Until now.

I like the photo idea - and I'll be implementing that. Looks like my meter is read on the 9th..so, I'll start a photo log. The website has a spot where *I* can list my meter reading....so I think I'm gonna do *that*, too. :evil grin:

And, according to the website, they have "over 50,000 meters" . :snerk:
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From:magnoliamoon
Date:April 23rd, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
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So wait, even though you -got- bills for the months not being read you still owe money? How precisely does that work?
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From:fiberaddict
Date:April 23rd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
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Yeah - that's what has me pissed off. Supposedly, the $750 I owe is from what I paid subtracted from what I *should* have paid. :scratches head:

I got the last 24 months billing/payment record from them. Looking at the usage, it's not too strange - except for Jan. & Feb. '08. The usage there is WAY down...but the other 4 months are not. And those 2? Wouldn't have cost me $700, which is the under paid amount (according to the bill).

I ran the numbers (pesky accounting tendancies! :grin: *Actual* usage (per the report...I have my doubts) is only up 1116 KWH. Using the Dollar amounts given me, it's only up $500....again, NOT $700. Even if I go with the extra $0.03/KWH, I can't come up with $700.....and my co-worker even tried.

The other weird thing? My usage for Aug 07 was LESS than Aug 06....explain *that* (Tx + Aug = Hell) :sigh:
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From:magnoliamoon
Date:April 23rd, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)
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see this is where I would be throwing a big ole hissy fit. I mean for the love of Sam you're being asked to pay -twice- basically because of a screw up with their employees? I don't think so.

I would be on the phone pushing my way to the president of the company over this shit.

God don't remind me of Tx in Aug..I'll be prego during it this year *whimper8
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From:fiberaddict
Date:April 23rd, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC)
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Oh, Lordy - I feel for you! I was never *hugely* preggo in Aug...but it was bad enough.

Good luck with this one :sending pink vibes: :grin:
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From:magnoliamoon
Date:April 25th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
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It won't be as bad this time, since I'm due in Dec..last time I was due in sept and lordy

*G* thanks for the pink vibes..I just want someone in the house who is -not- obsessed with Batman
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 23rd, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)

Another thing to note on your bill

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There is another thing that needs to be taken into account here that you have not mentioned. Typically, a monthly power bill has a base amount for which they charge you the lowest rate per KWH, then another range above that for which they charge you a higher rate, then another range for an even higher rate, and so on. By making up 6 MONTHS worth of undercharges in one bill, an awful lot of that bill will be being charged to you at the highest rate possible. Since this was their error, this should not be allowed, but I bet if you look at your bill, that is how they charged you. You should figure the average per month that they failed to charge you, and look at each month's bill and figure out which rate they would have been charging for that additional amount had they billed it in the proper month and compare it to what you are being charged on this bill. Otherwise, you could be paying a premium penalty for their mistake.
(spin a yarn)
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