Gordon Robinson | No water, useless regulation, merciless monopoly
It appears No Water Commission (NWC) and Office of Useless Regulation (OUR) co-produce a great comedy routine. Last Tuesday's wail about their many discourtesies to The Old Ball and Chain attracted immediate reaction: a letter from an equally frustrated NWC customer, a Mona Heights resident, who wrote:
"After reading your column, I realised the experiences I've had recently with NWC were similar to that of your family.
"I'm now wondering if there are other [Jamaican] consumers experiencing difficulties with NWC and just can't be bothered ... ."
She enclosed copied correspondence among herself, NWC and OUR, of which any staff writer for Saturday Night Live would be proud to claim ownership.
I found myself repeatedly shaking my head while reading through her travails, which seemed identical to Old BC's. She experienced a sudden visit (August 15) from two NWC technicians, who told her the meter was recording excessive amounts (turns out triple to quadruple the norm). They inspected and cleared the meter on the spot. So she wrote to the customer service manager a letter she scanned and emailed that same day:
"I appreciate very much the concern NWC is showing; however, there appears to be a problem with this meter, which needs corrective action (replacing the meter if necessary) for the following reasons.
I was off the island between June 29 to July 15; ... the apartment was unoccupied and the water supply was turned off in my absence ... .
There are no leaks in the apartment, and no taps have been left running or toilet leaking.
The water-consumption history for the last seven months (January to July 2016) has shown a consumption of an average of 4.29 thousand gallons per month.
I invite NWC to conduct some further checks on this meter before the exorbitant bill is sent to me."
She received an email reply on August 18:
"We acknowledge receipt of your email. The account was review (sic) and it's confirmed the current bill has shown an increase to that of previous bills (WOW! Talk about insight!). A recent inspection was done on August 15 and the meter ... was found to be in good working condition and indicated no leak on the premises ... .
"Based from (sic) the findings, the bill is payable ... .
"We appreciate your business and thank you for allowing us the opportunity of serving you. (DWL)
Your Customer Service Representative"
Well, 'Your Customer Service Representative' with no name and no care for customers, all I can say is piss on you from a lofty height. Your spineless regurgitation has taken the matter NO FURTHER. The very least the nameless, uncaring 'Your Customer Service Representative' could do is to honour your customer's request to have the meter tested.
So, my correspondent replied by email (August 19):
"I'm very disappointed with your response. I feel as if I'm summarily dismissed by NWC without any further investigation ... .
"Did you read my letter? Is this how you treat a good customer who has a history of paying bills in a timely manner ... ? Is there a possibility the meter could have MALFUNCTIONED TEMPORARILY ... ? Can you investigate further?
"There's no way I could've consumed the amount of water the meter reading shows ... . I'm the only resident. I conserve water diligently and there are no leaks ... . I'm also requesting proof this meter is certified by Bureau of Standards ... ."
In frustration, she copied her email to OUR and Consumers Affairs League asking for "consideration" and "further investigation". OUR replied. Guess who? Yep, Old BC's pal Liana Haffenden, head of Department of Doing Nothing. Liana wrote:
"OUR acknowledges receipt of your email.
We've noted your concerns (well, goody, goody gumdrops) and wish to advise you OUR was mandated to provide an avenue of appeals for consumers. As such, if you're dissatisfied with the FINAL RESPONSE from NWC, you can appeal to us for further investigation ... .
We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and look forward to assisting you in the event our services are required in the future.
WTH does she mean "if you're dissatisfied"? Did she read the email beginning, "I'm very disappointed ... I feel as if I'm summarily dismissed?" How does a customer know which response from NWC is "FINAL"? Should she ask Regis to find out? Imagine policemen telling a battered wife they can't take action because she just spoke to her husband.
Good God Almighty, is there no balm in Gilead offered to victims of this merciless monopoly by bumbling, bungling, boring bureaucrats?
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.