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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

You can't change a tiger's stripes

The name's changed but the attitude's the same. You may call yourself NSTAR, but you're still The Edison.

And you still think customers are an annoyance.

The latest thing from our beloved electrical company -- "service upgrades." Ever since the program started (or at least since we learned about it in February) I've been running around the house resetting the clocks on a regular basis (and you know how much fun that is!) We've had more power failures in the last two two weeks than in the previous five years.

Next up, a scheduled outage between midnight and 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. You know, the time people are sleeping -- and the electric alarm clocks are scheduled to go off at a specific time so they can get up and go to work?

The Edison's arrogance was immense -- power of another kind. It's appropriate their most famous former employee is John Connolly, who found a home there after leaving the FBI following a career protecting Whitey Bulger as a snitch.

My fun started when they would send you an oversized bill and come up with a grand excuse when you called ("It must be the air conditioning," they'd say. "In December?" I'd respond). Invariably a complaint to the Department of Public Utilities would be resolved in my favor.

I once had a "customer service representative" chew me out on the phone. I can't remember the exact exchange any more but I believe he accused me of lying about what was printed on my bill, by The Edison.

Then there was the neighborhood where the power went out in a regular basis -- for 1 1/2 hours at a time (measured like clock work on battery-powered watches). They claimed up, down and sideways that they didn't know what was the cause and they were hard at work to find it.

Something like five years later, they announce a "service improvement plan" to deal with the problem they knew about all along but didn't think important enough to come up with a long-term solution for.

So I may be late tomorrow. I'll be running around the house changing all those annoying flashing digital clocks -- and wondering why The Edison doesn't figure out a way to have them flash their name -- you know, "this power failure brought to you by NSTAR."

Maybe that's why they changed the name -- to make it fit better in a digital display?

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Blogger Paul Levy said...

If you want to pay the archive fee on boston.com, you can read about this order issued by the DPU in 1987, where we found that service problems on Crowninshield Road in Brookline had been systematically ignored by Boston Edison for years. Even though the street's circuit was often listed on the company's trouble reports, it consistently fell off the list of the top 40 worst circuits and was ignored because other circuits got worse and bumped it down the priority repair list!

Resistance To Change Hurt Boston Edison (Archive fee)
...serious to ignore.Boston Edison Co. Chairman...She and her Brookline neighbors lived...holes" of the Edison system -- places...neighborhood lost power 23 times. Schmalensee...causes during one outage and then had...following week. Boston Edison has a...suburbs, where outages occur far more...
Source: Boston Globe|Date: Jun 7, 1987|By: Charles Stein, Globe Staff

April 03, 2008 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still dream of a class action lawsuit. Several years ago, after sky high bills (to which I objected as a single person never home), NSTAR revealed that they don't actually come out to certain Boston neighborhoods to actually read meters, so they estimated my usage. Well, I know why they don't come to my neighborhood, but their estimates were WILD. I went from having a bill of several hundred dollars to a bill for mere dollars for my actual usage(all attributable to my old refrigerator). Oddly, I had to go to the nicest office suites in a Boston high rise to sort this out.
The kicker: first they sent me a postcard to read my own meter and mail it to them (which I did)-- but they rounded UP on the meter numbers (which I had copied precisely), dramatically increasing my bill (to over 1,000/month)per my own hand!
It took months to sort this out and get an actual reading, and I was ultimately left with a tiny bill, and with utter sadness over the scores of families that were working 2 jobs to pay their "estimated" bill, probably completely unaware that they were being robbed by NSTAR - literally.

April 03, 2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

You're lucky. My NStar letter says the service outage could continue to 9am. Not just screwing up alarm clocks but adding the fun of taking cold showers in the dark.

April 03, 2008 11:47 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Paul -- you would have thought that there was enough clout on Crowninshield to get something done. So I guess we can say they're not corrupt (Connolly excepted) but just incompetent.

Anon -- ah yes, the cards with dials. I forgot why I had all those problems. Meter readers who show up Monday-Friday 9-5 and leave you to do the reading -- subject to their inscrutable interpretation.

Brian -- A perverse thank you for cheering me up. Maybe we should talk to Anon about that class action suit.:-)

April 03, 2008 7:22 PM  

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