Tonight, for the 8th time (at least) since we’ve moved in last August, I had to call British Gas about billing issues. The first several times were about getting a direct debit set up. They don’t do monthly meter readings here, as in Dallas, so there is no reason not to spread your bills out with a flat monthly rate. Plus you get discounts for going that route. First call to set everything up. Normal stuff, pretty easy. The next four calls followed this exact same scenario–get a bill, call (20 minutes on hold) and say why b/c should be direct debit, reply: there are no dd details in the system, give the details–1 month later repeat process. So I finally got a letter confirming the dd and I see money leaving my account, so I started to think its smooth sailing.

But you say, you know better than to open the basement door when you hear that music… or better, you know what happens when you assume things… You were right. Last month I start receiving letters that I’m not paying my bills, so fines are being charged, warrants being signed to have my electricity cut off, my credit history will be besmirched… So the process starts again–get letter, call (30 minutes on hold) and say why b/c should be dd, reply: oh, i see the dd here so just ignore the letter b/c it was sent out in error, ok–repeat process. After the letter that says we’re coming to shut off your electricity: now my eighth call (30 minutes on hold), and it finally gets discovered by BG that they have two accounts under my name set up for electricity: one is getting paid by dd, the other not. They are mailing a key so I can open my meter to get the serial number to see which account is the correct one, so there will be at least a ninth call to resolve the whole issue.

Solution? Switch to Scottish Power: cheaper rates and all online. I’ve already gotten the gas switched and electricity will automatically be switched once BG figures out which account to switch.

I’m sure crazy things happen like this in the US, but it does seem that business practices here are a few years behind what I was used to in the states. (For instance, with my online banking here I can’t get any historical info past 42 days ago. And I don’t get any paper statements–trying to save the planet–so where do you get it?) Even worse is that you call a toll number to speak to BG (and 95% of all other company customer service lines), so for every minute on hold and retelling the story it’s not only a hassel but it costs me money. The guy I spoke to tonight said I would get a credit of some sort to make up for it, but I’m not holding my breath.

But I guess I can’t complain too much. This and the 5 (or was it 6?) different iterations of council tax bills for the 2 months before school started have been the most challenging part of moving here.

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