Thursday, February 16, 2006

An Expensive Lesson in Futility

I made the most expensive local phone call in my life today, $8.20 for a 22 minute call which didn't even get me a resolution. The call only concluded because my phone credits ran out. In my haste to ensure that my electricity connection comes on tomorrow when I get the keys to my new apartment, I forgot my mental reminder to myself that I made earlier, to use a public phone to call the electric company. Expensive mistake. I was put on hold most of that time as my online application, which triggered an acknowledgement email 2 days ago to me, cannot be found in their database. So I waited while the girl checks the address, my name and then tells me that perhaps in their system, they indicate a different address especially if the building was at a corner of 2 streets, and what other street is my building on? Gee, I really don't know - all I know is that I've given the official street address of this apartment. How would I know how their internal system categorises addresses? The girl offers to call my real estate agent on the other line while I wait. So I do, and then after more waiting, I get cut off.

End of call 1, an expensive lesson in futility.

I knew I had a right to be sceptical. I didn't expect the electricity connection to go as smoothly as the impression the online application gave. And yes, the application had fallen into the big blackhole of the bureaucratic churn. But for the email acknowledgement I had received, it never existed in their system...

After recovering from the shock of how much that call had cost me, I made a beeline for the nearest public phone. I get another customer service person and we go through the whole rigmarole again. Another 20 minutes of holding, but this time, on $0.40 only. Finally, the big conclusion - the application cannot be traced. But wait, this girl offers some useful advice. Apparently, the electric company doesn't cut of the power supply even after the previous tenant closes his account at the premises and before the new tenant opens his. There is just a lacuna where no one gets billed, but power stays on. Now that was a piece of good news indeed. So I will be able to test that the electric appliances work tomorrow, I won't be stranded without power when I move on Saturday, all I have to do now, is to go check the meter number and call the electric company again and re-apply. I may even get free electricity for a day.


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