Tag Archives: Utility bills

Only Child on why so angry – sometimes

This scary miserable little person is making another appearance this week because the snafus coming from others continue to happen, leaving me to deal with the aftermath.  People ask me why I am so angry? This is why and I’m going on the record that I am not angry all the time, but would like less cause to be angry so I’m angry just a minuscule part of my time.

Since last week the following has happened – so far. If some sound weird, they are all true. As a former journalist, I still try to stick to the truth, although the telling is “as I see it” as a late Toronto radio personality used to say.

Here we go:

1. My current phone and Internet bill which I get mailed (yes, regular mail) to me, didn’t arrive. Fortunately I also have online access to my bills so could check it so I can pay it. But I still decided to phone Bell Canada to find out what was going on. They did send it out. So, it could be Canada Post messing up. I’ve had mail addressed properly to me go elsewhere, including to someone also in Toronto with the same address except the extension (road, street) is different than mine. I also get his mail occasionally. If the postal carrier dropped it in the wrong mail box in my neighbourhood, unless the person knows me they might just have dumped it back in the mail.  From experience, I know that can take weeks for it to be re-delivered to the correct address. The Bell customer service rep checked to make sure there was no funny business going on with my account – he couldn’t find any. When I asked if there was any discounts offered for seniors, he went into a long explanation about a new way to get Internet which I’m not interested in at this point. So I told him. So far I was polite but when he started pitching this service again, I gritted my teeth and said I just told you I don’t want it and thanked him for checking on the other and the conversation was ended.

But he never said he would get my bill resent, although future bills will also still be sent by regular mail – as long as Bell and/or Canada Post don’t screw up.

And if you think I’m being a Luddite here, I have good reason. A few years ago I changed my method of receipt for my heating bill and the Gas company screwed it up – mixing it up with that guy at the similar address and closing my account. Somebody got you know what from me, but it was fixed. And I returned to bills by regular mail.

2. This is the one that really upsets. me because it hits at my book Beyond Faith and book sales. Beyond Faith is available in print and e-copy to order online at the usual suspects – Amazon, Barnes and Nobel – but in Canada also through Chapters Indigo – the big bookstore chain here. The book can be ordered online at their sitet and usually the print version can be ordered through the bricks and mortar stores – from the actual stores. Well, there is a note under available online that says “unavailable in stores” which is not the package my publisher has with the distributor, Ingram. I found this out  (I had thought it meant there were no copies in the stores yet) on Saturday when I visited one of the book chains small Coles stores. The manager was very enthusiastic about getting copies of both Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith and having me do a book signing in the store one Saturday afternoon. While I was there, she went into the system to order the books – no problem with Beyond Blood, but she couldn’t order Beyond Faith. She said to contact my publisher and when it was fixed she would be happy to order in copies and have me do a book signing session.

I emailed my publisher as soon as I got home, explaining the situation and also that small independent bookstores have ordered the book in at my request and it is in the store (I checked in person). He got on it right away – said it was probably a glitch when Ingram, the distributor put it into Indigo-Chapters online. The publisher got on it right away, emailing Ingraham and re-iterating the contract contents he has with them and asked them to fix it. He ccd me.

That was three days ago. I checked BF on Indigo-chapters website. Still saying not available in stores. It better get fixed this week because April 18 I’m supposed to be part of a Crime Writers’ Canada presentation at one of the mid-town bigger Indigo bookstores and they need to order in copies of Beyond Faith for that.

And I still haven’t received my corrected CARP membership card as mentioned in last week’s post.  The old one expired February 28 and it’s March and I can’t get my benefits. I decided to go above customer ?service? – yes there are names for all the board, including Director of Communicaitons, but no email address.

With this widespread seemingly endless list of sanfus, i can’t help wondering if someone out there or up there (word beginning with “G”) has something to do with it. Call me crazy, but i don’t think it’s in the water, as the saying goes.

No wonder I get angry sometimes. I think I have the right to feel this way. At least it get me going to get it fixed.

What is the most recent snafu you have had to deal with? Or are you lucky and get little or none?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Beyond Faith book cover

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Beyond Faith, Books, Life demands, Only child, Utiiities

Only Child condemns high utility bills

Only Child  digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Only Child digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Like many other individuals I am going broke just keeping up with paying all the high utility bills. And only one utility service has a legitimate reason to raise the rates. Two of the others are penalizing the consumers for their (the company, not the consumer) mistakes. A few, like the phone company, cable TV service and property taxes are just normal rates tied into inflation. This latter I may grumble about but it is acceptable.

So, who are the two companies “stealing” from the consumers – why Enbridge Gas (and other gas companies) and all the municipal hydro companies as well as Big Daddy in Ontario – Hydro One.

Enbridge apparently can’t learn from past mistakes. For winter 2012 into 2013, gas consumption for heating homes rose. Enbridge didn’t factor this possibility into their equal monthly billing. Most of us got hit with an extremely high bill to pay off the difference at the end of the company’s fiscal year. That’s what I found out when I called to complain. Apparently they no longer raise the equal billing rates mid-winter season if necessary. Guess they received too many complaints about that set-up, but my guess is that not as many complaints as the number who complained of the year-end monstrous bills. Consumer advocate here (me) pushed for a deal and got the okay to pay half one month and half the next month.

So, the equal billing amounts were raised only a smidgeon for this 2013-2014 inter and we consumers thought we were getting a good deal – at least compared to what the hydro company was doing. Hah? Now the gas companies, including Enbridge, are raising the rates starting with April’s bill. Enbridge’s rate increase is 40 per cent while Union Gas (southern Ontario) is 28 per cent. Enbridge claims that it had to buy “more spot market gas” and that costs more. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/27/enbridge_gets_hefty_interim_rate_increase.html

My first question is the obvious one: why didn’t these companies factor in that we might just get another bad winter, if not worse and just maybe they might have to purchase more gas elsewhere? Hello consumer company big whigs – severe weather is now the norm – everywhere and every season. Tunnel vision doesn’t work.
The second question is – why should we consumers have to pay for their costly mistake – or at least to the tunes of 40 per cent and 28 percent, which the Ontario Energy Board okayed? This same energy board is investigating ways to make it not so bad for consumers to pay. Why couldn’t they hold off payment until they found a way? Talk about doing something ass over backwards. So, as usual, consumers are stuck. Those who have gas stoves and gas fireplaces will get hit even harder. Fortunately, I have just the gas furnace and water heater. And here I thought I was “lucky.”
To make matters worse, the head of the Industrial Gas Users Association, Shahrzad Rahbar compares it to getting a root canal and do you blame the dentist for that? Bad comparison. The dental patient may be responsible for dental problems requiring a root canal. But consumers responsible for a gas company’s mishandling of  their bad choices and lack of foresight? I think not – at least not to 40 per cent and 28 per cent all-at-once increases. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/28/natural_gas_rate_increase_angers_consumers.

I know – you have to turn on the gas furnace with an electrical switch and thermostat. Apparently that wasn’t always so. Back in what I’m now more and more realizing were the “good old days” you could get your gas furnace going without electricity.

And now for the other utility money-grabber and that situation is even worse. The gas companies are merely guilty of stupidity but Hydro One and all the Ontario municipalities (the latter have to base at least some of their costs on those of Hydro One) rate increases are for the wrong reason.

In a nutshell, we consumers are paying off Hydro One’s debts.

There is also another shady going-on with Ontario Hydro customers – some smart meters giving excessively high readings, causing some users to go bankrupt from over $2000 monthly hydro bills. Smart meters? Stupid meters. Stupid idea Hydro One and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuilty (McGinty). There are 600 plus complaints about this one to the Ontario Ombudsman so he has launched an investigation into these dealings. Some people say it should go much farther into a fraud investigation. See http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ontario-ombudsman-launches-hydro-one-investigation-1.1670529

I can’t remember how hydro and gas bills were set up when I was a child (my parents had oil heating, not gas in our little bungalow) but we were billed for water at a flat rate. I’m not saying we should be billed a flat rate today. And water rates are going up on a continuing but scheduled basis. However, Toronto Water and Waste is doing something with this money. They are upgrading all the old sewers pipes, water pipes – the infrastructure that goes back 50 plus years, and doing extra on their part to stop basement flooding in Toronto areas prone to that. So, while I may complain about the high water rates, at least I know my money is being put to good and necessary use.
Unlike hydro rates, which despite the mess-up with some “smart” meters, has gone up three times in seven months.
Something is really wrong here. We can conserve energy (heating, etc. not our own personal energy) until the proverbial cows come home, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
Come to think of it, with this situation, do the cows really want to come home anyway?
What do readers think? Are you experiencing similar utility hikes where you live?
Please comment.
Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Consumerism, Extreme Weather, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Weather

Only Child asks: Is $26,793 the new poverty line cut-off for singles?

Me in 1950 - up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for all the consumer issues

The Ontario Energy Board may think so. Just read on.

I’m on another rampage about getting overcharged for services – this time it’s Toronto Hydro. Rates went up twice this year and although I know with another person in the house (the boarder), consumption goes up somewhat. But the amount seems a little high for just one more person, especially as both of us try to do energy-hogging jobs (like laundry and we wash with cold water and hang up a lot of our laundry) during the so-called cheapest off-peak time periods. And there are no new electrical appliances and the like in the house since February 2011. I don’t think a small dehumidifier counts as a big hydro user, especially as it hasn’t been used for a few months. And I also know I need some new energy-conservation windows but can’t afford them. But that’s been the situation since I moved here 15 years ago. Still the consumption has gone up – or so the latest bill says.

With the last bill two months ago (and it was up too) I tried to get Toronto Hydro – who is my municipal hydro utility – to send someone to come here and check my hydro electric meter to see if that was working okay. All I got from that was “it looks fine from here.” Excuse me, but when did call centre people become hydro tech experts?

I’m going after that end again –when I can find the time with all the other crap going on. In the meantime I’ve checked out other options online at Toronto Hydro – you can get your payments equalized to monthly coming out of your bank account. How that works for rate hikes and consumption which is never the same beats me. The other option is if you are low income (and depending on how many people in your household) you can get some financial assistance (this is Ontario Energy Board) – but it goes through a social service agency.

And that’s where that $26,793 comes in – according to Toronto Hydro, I suppose, as the information says “…in Toronto” a single person whose income is below $26,793 annually could qualify for this help. More specifics are at http://www.torontohydro.com/sites/electricsystem/corporateresponsibility/communityoutreach/pages/lowincome.aspx

So, my question is: Is the new poverty level for a single person living alone now $26,793? Last time I checked it was $19,000 (rounded off). And that’s before you pay taxes but after you take off deductions. With those criteria, I fall below the $19,000.

It’s a sad micro statement of the macro situation in the world today. The so-called middle class is fast disappearing – today you are either rich or poor. The Toronto Star is doing a series on Canadians Me, You, Us by Michael Valpy – and the current stories deal with just this.  Here’s a link to one such story http://www.thestar.com/news/atkinsonseries/2013/12/13/the_incredible_disappearing_middle_class.html

On a happier note – I got some justice from Rogers Cable TV – a voice-mail message from them notifying me the problem had been fixed and if there were any more problems to give them a call. Previously I had been informed that we customers aren’t told when a street problem is fixed and we just had to watch the TV to find out.

If you remember from my post last week I, a non-techie- had figured out what the cause was but it took a lot of shrieking phone calls to get someone to hear me.

Which makes me wonder what will happen with Toronto Hydro when I phone again (now a few months later) to get someone to check the hydro meter – in person, not remote.

And I’m still waiting for my Day-timers to arrive – 2015 perhaps for 2014 Day-timers?

No wonder I’m cranky 24/7. I’m choking on cherry pits.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Consumer action, finances, Life demands, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child robbed of time etc. by poverty

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities - again

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities – again

Living around the poverty level has another bad effect on people. Not only does it kill you but before you die your cognitive functions will nose dive and your time management will fly out the window. I’m living (so far) proof as my poor (pun intended) brain is drowning in trying to get around living like this.

This year seems to be the worst as work has dried up since early July, although there are lots of promises of work to come from next week – writing and editing plus I’m teaching a memoir writing workshop Oct. 1. Hopefully all those readings with other writers (which I’ve been helping plan) will boost book sales or I will be going way Beyond the Tripping Point (the title of my mystery short story collection, Blue Denim Press, 2012). I even have a boarder, temporarily, a friend who needed a place to stay until she gets into public housing (long story and it’s her business). She is paying room and board and helping with buying groceries beyond that. For this I am grateful.

It’s the lacks that are eating away at my brain and my psyche. And I never had that as a child. I’ve blogged about that recently. This year I couldn’t even afford to go to the Canadian National Exhibition, which I usually attend annually. And it’s only $12 for seniors to get in.

A recent study published in the journal Science backs this up. Among other things the study says that poverty uses so much brain power that people living in poverty don’t have enough mind juice to deal with other areas of life, such as good steps to get out of poverty because they are too busy with poverty-induced issues such as finding ways to cut-costs, borrowing etc. to try to pay bills. All this steals from your time, time better spent trying to improve your situation – education, job training, or in my case, marketing my skills. As a result, they make bad decisions which can keep them living longer in poverty. The study was conducted by researchers at Harvard and Princeton Universities (USA) the University of Columbia (Canada) and the University of Warwick (UK).

You can read more about these studies at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265501.php and http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/health/2013-08/30/c_132676023.htm

I have only two more points to add to this poverty situation – house repairs and continually spiralling utility bills. This month, for the first time I have all utility bills (and property taxes too) to pay and two have their rates gone up. To add insult to this injury, I’m paying the gas bill in two parts – the regular leftover year-end bill and the sort-of –last bill of the year – the one which bills for the difference in the monthly equal billing and the actual usage. Unfortunately, the winter was harsher and we had a long cold spring, so usage was higher. I phoned Enbridge Gas and complained. Apparently they were too stupid to gauge that winter just might be harsher than the one for 2012 and they no longer automatically adjust your equal billing to reflect higher amounts used. I pulled the senior’s card. That got me a division of payment – but I’m not sure it makes much difference if I had paid it all last month or part then and part now. I still have to steal from so-called senior savings (RRSPs and the like) to pay for basic food and some of the bills again this month. It would help if the promised work would come in.

Are you listening God, Universe? Sometimes I have to shout very loud to be heard. So do many others I’m finding out.

It would be interesting to discover if those not being heard are predominantly those living around the poverty level.

Next study on poverty please?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under finances, Life demands, Only child, Poverty, Seniors, Time management, Uncategorized