Consumer ensnared in corporate incompetence

By Kenneth Kowald

Two years ago, or so, an unsuccessful candidate for high office reminded me that you are never too old to learn something — or relearn it.

His name escapes me, but he said something along the lines of “corporations are people, too.”

I’ve thought about that recently because of an experience I had with a corporation and a New York state agency.

I know — having worked for a large corporation, served in the Army, worked in a city agency, served on state and city panels, worked and volunteered in many non-profit organizations and done reporting and editing in my salad days — that people are people, wherever they are.

People are good, bad, indifferent. They are competent or not. They are effective or not.

I know that may sound strange to some people, especially those who believe that the problems in our country may be traced to government activity. I leave that idea for readers to chew upon.

In olden days, you had one company for your electricity, one for your gas (natural or otherwise), one for your telephone. Today, thanks to deregulation (which is another story) we seem to be able to pick and choose what we want. Sounds good, but it isn’t always, is it?

Just before Thanksgiving, the company (which shall remain nameless) which supplies our computer, TV and telephone sent us our monthly bill. It contained an item for $49.99 for three hours of paid TV, at 4 p.m., on Veteran’s Day. It appeared this was a prize fight or a wrestling match.

Elaine and I have never watched a paid TV item and I am certain we would not know how to get such an item if we tried. Maybe for “Tosca,” but not for a prize fight or wrestling.

I called the company, which has given us good service and to which we have paid our bills on time and completely. Three different people, over the course of a long call, told me, in no uncertain — and, indeed, rude — terms that we did this and we had to pay for it. No way, they said, was this their fault.

This was the day before Thanksgiving. They said someone would call me back — after I repeatedly asked to speak with a “higher up”— on Friday. No one called that day. Surprise!

On the bill is a number for a complaint call to the New York State Public Service Commission, which regulates such companies. I called and immediately got a human being. Bright, articulate, courteous. He would get on the case right away.

On Monday morning, the company called me. Still no admission of a problem on their end, but, I should pay the whole current bill and I would get credit on the next bill, which I await while I write this.

On Tuesday, the mail contained a letter from the Public Services Commission, dated the day before Thanksgiving, informing me they were on the case. I leave it to you to decide why the company assented, not graciously I should add, but then I wrote to the PSC to thank them. I called to thank them. Yes, corporations are people and so are so many others.

What is that fellow’s name? He said something about 47 percent of the population being moochers. He is a dog lover, too, I understand. I seem to remember his initials are W.M.R., but he goes by his middle name, which has something to do with a baseball glove.

I read somewhere that he is thinking of running again for the high office he sought. If he wins, he might find out that government is people, too.

You are never too old to learn, W.M.R., or be reminded.

Happy New Year to all People!

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