To Tallahassee Utilities,

I am writing to protest the 56 dollars of connection fees that I am being charged on my utility account that I have had connected with no interruptions for over three years.

Let me take time to explain the situation.  When I moved to Tallahassee four years ago my father was kind enough to activate my utilities in his name and social security number so that the deposit would be waved due to his good credit with his utility company.  But since that day I have received and paid the utility bills with my own money.

Three years ago I moved across town to a new house.  At that point I decided it would be logical to change the name on the account from my father’s to my name.  I called and inquired and was told that I would have to pay a deposit (approximately $250) in order to do that.  That of course was unsatisfactory to me.   So I asked about what would be done if someone had died or gotten a divorce or sublet a house and needed to change a name on an account.  The customer service representative told me that I could add my name to the account and then after two years of good history I could remove my father’s name from the account.  To do this we had to both (my father who lives out of town and I) appear in person at the Renaissance Center.  So we did that and in June of 2005 my name and social security number were added to the account so that in two years I could remove my father’s name.

Earlier this month I happened to be in the Renaissance Center to meet with Gwen Lightfoot about affordable housing issues on behalf of Tallahassee Equality Action Ministry.  I remembered that it had been plenty of time now and I was in the building I could stop by the Customer Service desk and remove my father’s name from my account.   I got to the front of the line and told the representative what I wanted to do I was first told that had to pay a deposit.  But I explained that I had been on the account for over two years had been told that I could now just remove his name outright.  She looked up my account and told me that was okay and she had me fill out a form and show my ID.  I asked “So now my father is off my account?” and was told yes.  At no time during this meeting or during any of the other conversations and meetings three years ago was I told that there would be any charge if I followed the procedure proscribed.  So that is what I did.

Three days ago I received a bill in my name that included 56 dollars combined of “connection fees” for gas, water, and electricity.  Since my utilities had never been disconnected and I was not expecting any charges I called the customer service line and spoke to a representative.  I asked about the charges and she said, “it says that you had one account that was closed and another that was opened.”  So I explained the situation to her and the steps that I had taken.  She then told me that the way I had handled the situation forced them to send a meter reader to my house and that is what the fees were for and that I was lucky because I only had to pay 56 dollars instead of the $250 deposit.

There are two major problems I have with this.  One, I was never told that I would be charged anything.  The bill I received was the first indication. Had I been told about the charges I would not have done it this way.  And second a deposit would be potentially refundable; where as these “connection fees” I will never see again.  And again, nothing was ever disconnected.

I have over four years of good history with Tallahassee Utilities, three of which are under my own name.  I feel like I am being taken advantage of by an unfair and unclear policy that now I see little way out of.   I hope that I will receive satisfaction by getting a bill that reflects the removal of these unfair fees.

Thank you,
Erin K. Thompson

I’m not a economist or a business theorist so I don’t know if this is inevitable or not. All I know is I am sad.

That flood on Lake Ella? Well on the other side of the lake from our church are these cute like shops. One of them is the best local shoe store ever. They had the best stuff, trendy but not super expensive. But it got flooded last Saturday, along with 6 other stores. Everyone’s saying that it is the highest that Lake Ella has ever been. Stupid tropical cyclones.

I got an email from them today saying that they will not reopen; that they are selling off all of their stock. I think that it’s sad that we can’t support a local business. Too many chains. And I’m as much to blame with my Payless shoe buying. If business was booming, a flood wouldn’t end the whole thing. She must have been in trouble already.

Do I have to live in big city to have a boutique shoe store? I guess so.

Here’s the background information… I got into the blogging thing from reading Christian blogs. Most of these blogs were written by men in full time ministry. Most of the commenters on the blogs that I read are women. Then I started writing my own blog and got introduced to the crazy world of stat tracking and authority, and my favorite… google reader. This allows me look at as many blogs as I want in just one place. It allows me to be much less picky about the blogs I read and I have found many new ones that I like to read.

Among these new blogs that I’ve been reading are the previously mentioned commenters. I have also since found out that something like 75 percent of blogs are written by women. And many of these are mothers who usually write about there kids (among other things.) I think that it’s kind of like the scrapbooking craze… Mom’s just like to document stuff their kids do and stuff that they do for their kids.

So… now I get down to what I really was going to say. I have this aversion to reading about family theme nights. Not a blogging mom, mommy blog reader, husband of a blogging mom, or perhaps just a woman who was ahead of her time? Let me just fill you in. A family theme night is pretty much what it sounds like. Once a month the mom comes up with a theme that she can plan a whole evening of family entertainment for her husband and small children around. Absolutely imperative is themed food, decorations, and at least three games. Extra points if costumes are involved. And you also must spend less than thirty dollars on it. Then in you write your blog post about it including lots of pictures of your dinosaur shaped sandwiches and digging for dinosaur bones in the sand box. That way the other moms can read about it and have ideas for next month’s family theme night.

So join me on my self diagnosis couch. Erin what is your deal? Why does reading about these things make you mad? Here’s what I know about myself. If I had a husband and young children I would be all over family theme nights. I love themes and uber-coordination, and I do a lot of stuff that’s like the cousin of family theme night. Those who have seen my office can attest. And I love a good theme party. Heck, I just finished doing a brochure that has all these cute little ducklings on it for the church children’s ministry because of the imagery of the mother ducks and also our church is right on a lake. It’s like coordinating/theme nirvana. So maybe it’s jealousy? Definitely could be.

But also, you know how they say often the faults you see in others are ones that you possess yourself. So before I say this I know it’s my issue first. Doesn’t it all seem a little self obsessed? Who’s it for? The husbands I’m sure could care less and the preschoolers are not even going to remember. It’s like a way to be in control. I find it easy to critique these women and say can’t they find something better to do with their time. So maybe I need to address my control freak issues? Definitely could be.

And finally even if these things are absolutely free they are like the definition of ostentation. I think we in the US (me too like I said it’s my issues) need to learn to live more simply. The same people who write about humanitarian disaster, turn around write about their laptop. Do I need to give more and take less? Definately could be.

Time to pay-up

July 25, 2008

I’m saving the planet, folks. I got my electric bill yesterday… Drum roll… Here’s the verdict.

July 2007… 1028 KWH

June 2008… 696 KWH

July 2008… 396 KWH!!!

Savings over last month ~$45, over last year ~$100 wow how

It’s getting harder to do though, who’ve thought it’d be hot in Florida in July. I think come August I’m turning the AC back on at least during the day and paying closer attention to the real temperature. It’s been an interesting experience, maybe a little stinky, but defiantly money saving.

I don’t know what it is about going to the grocery store with a short list. I always end up buying extra frivolous things. So I think that Oreo Cakesters have been around about a year. I haven’t had them until a few days ago. They were on sale, which is like my Kryptonite. So I sprung for a package, but I needed some milk to go with them. And then I would have extra milk so I got the bag of powdered doughnuts that were right there on the end cap.

Now it is not often that I am repulsed enough to throw food away. But those Oreo things and the doughnuts both went in the trash; I am obviously not a good impulse buyer. And this after the gross perogies. Plus to add insult to injury the cheese packet from the Light Deluxe M&C (that was actually on my list) was separated into orange chunks in oil.

Could it be that I am being sent a message?

Tales of a cheap girl

July 2, 2008

Speaking of Regency fashion… I’ve been going around looking a bit like a character out of an Austen novel with curls all around my face. That’s what 98 percent humidity will do to you I guess. It’s been raining nearly every day and looks to continue for at least the next week. No drought this year.

So since it’s been exquisitely comfortable at night (in the 60s and 70s,) and since my thermostat is tragically inaccurate and useless (I alternate between sweating and freezing) I have decided to go without AC for as long as I can stand it. I think I’m on day ten with a high temp for the week of 95 degrees. I know that it will get trying when we reach the 100s during the day and the nights get hotter. And I have definitely been getting the full use out of the box fan I bought when my AC was out in my old apartment. It really makes a huge difference. When we had a power outage last week during a major lightning storm I really missed it. And Sunday I woke up so cold that I had to turn it off… It’s a magical thing.

In other money saving news, I am shocked to realize that Albertson’s is more expensive than Publix. I always just assumed that since Publix is such a superior shopping experience that it must be more expensive. But I compared 7 separate items all of which were more expensive at Albertson’s. Now Albertson’s has a better selection of beverages than Publix and their cookies are the best but in all other ways including overall selection, Publix wins. The news is that Publix has bought Albertson’s so we’ll have to see how that pans out here in Tallahassee where we have both, many of which are just blocks away from each other. I say the more Publix’s the better.

Buy Homemade

July 1, 2008

I was looking for a tea cozy that was made of camouflage material (It’s a long story.) But as you can imagine it was a hard thing to come by. I found it at etsy.com. Really. There are all sorts of things on etsy. Check it out. It’s a great place to buy gifts and you can usually get an excellent bargain.

I even opened a store. So shameless self promotion time.