It’s a gas

I’m so glad I worked in education and not in big business. Today, I had to deal with the corporate sector, something I always dread.

Last week, I received an email from our gas company informing me that they are changing to a different computer system. To continue my autopay payments, I was instructed to go into my gas company account, unenroll from autopay, then re-enroll in it so that my account will be switched to the new system. What a pain, but ok, I went into my account to do that, but I was unable to re-enroll. Error message: We were unable to enroll your account in paperless billing at this time. Please try again later. I did. Same result.

I called to speak with a live person and was told to call back during regular business hours–which were not specified. Before calling back the next day, I tried to set up an account myself once more. Still no luck after 20 minutes. I was becoming frustrated, so Ted suggested I try scr** you as a password to see if that works. I tried calling again instead.

Luckily, early afternoon apparently falls within the regular (but unspecified) business hours, and I was able to speak with Keith. According to him, there is no record of my autopay account in the company’s system. Since I’ve been using autopay for years and have not had the gas shut off, I find it hard to believe that there is no record of my account. Keith, however, insisted it doesn’t exist in the records and advised me to set up a new account. I tried, but I couldn’t get past the “enter your password” screen.

Switch to Rob. Rob informed me that he is working from home, sitting on the sofa in his pjs beside his wife and petting his cat. (Professional? I think not.) Rob told me I’m having trouble because there’s a dot in the first part of my email address and the system doesn’t recognize that format. I’ve been getting emails from the gas company at that address for years, but . . . . After working with me for a few minutes, Rob decided to contact an IT specialist, so he put me on hold while he sent a message. The voice on the wait-time recording asked, “Have you signed up for paperless billing? It’s easy! Just go to to see how effortless this is.” We English majors call this “irony.”

For twenty-five minutes, while Rob and I–and his wife and cat–waited to hear back from the IT guy, Rob and I chatted about places we’ve been and how good the beignets are at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. His wife and I both played clarinet in school, yet she never heard of Pete Fountain, a reknowned Dixieland clarinetist. After more trivial exchanges, the IT guy finally sent Rob a message saying he had set up the account for me and there was nothing else I needed to do. If my May gas bill gets paid automatically, he’s right.

This process was so “easy” and so “effortless,” it only took 45 minutes of unsuccessful attempts on my part and a little more than an hour of phone time with Keith and Rob to set this up! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!