I have a pattern to my life. There are certain things I do at certain times on certain days. One of those things is to pay my bills between the 21st and 27th of every month. I have had all of the due dates on my bills changed to fall in the first week of the month, so that every bill will arrive on time even though I pay them all on the same day. I also take each bill as it comes in and stack them, unopened, neatly in my kitchen by the garage door. This is for two reasons really. First, it looks neater, and second, I don't freak out each day I receive a bill. I only have to freak out one day a month this way. Much better. If it is an odd bill, I will usually open it but the general bills like electric, gas, credit card, cell phone, mortgage, car...those all remain unopened until the last week of the month.
Then one day, I sit down with my stack, hop online and pay everything on my bank's bill pay system, secretly excited that I am effectively stiffing the USPS for approximately $60 each year in stamp sales.
I do this every month. It works for me. I am never late with bills, I can see exactly what damage I am doing to my bank account. If the electric bill is particularly high one month, I can compensate by paying $50 less on the credit card bill...It works...
Or so I thought. My gas was turned off. My God. How embarrassing is that statement? I cannot believe it. I have paid on time and in full for every month since I moved to my house...Until last month, apparently. I missed a bill. Honest to goodness missed a bill. And apparently, Atmos sent me a termination notice 10 days after the bill was due. TEN DAYS. I didn't open it, because I just figured it was the next bill. I didn't even think about the timing when it arrived. Why would I? I always pay my bills. So it sat there, neatly stacked, until the 26th. On the 26th, I paid my bills. I found the notice, freaked, and subsequently called Atmos. The automated system told me my account was paid in full. Ok, good. No problem then right? Uh, no. This morning, the water ran cold. Not a drop of hot left. Remember how I said the water was unusually chilly yesterday? Yeah, this is apparently why. I don't understand why the automated system thought I was paid up, though.
I called this morning and was told my gas was turned off on the 25th. ONE day before I called. Unbelievable. But ok, just get it back on. I expected to pay the overdue bill, and a fee. Yup, I was right. PLUS a deposit and taxes, making my $123 late bill a whopping $404. For a bill that was ONE MONTH LATE. On an account that has never been late. I cannot believe how much they are charging. It's ludicrous. And didn't I pay a deposit way back when I opened the account???? Isn't that what a deposit is for?? To cover instances just like this??? So my next step is to contact my bank and see if I can get a copy of my statements for the first two months I was in my house to see if in fact I did pay a deposit. Because you know if I did, then all holy hell is about to break loose...
At 8:49 AM, April 28, 2006,
That is pretty ridiculous, especially when you've had a track record of on-time payments. I'm so sorry for you!
At 9:15 AM, April 28, 2006,
first of all, internet banking is the one of those best online thingies around these days. I'm using it for years now, perfect for late bills.
secondly, that charge is completely out of line. Aren't there any protective laws for this? Like a max late fee %, I know we have them around here in holland. They even are obliged to send you 2 warnings, until termination.
thirdly, Always open your bills when they arrive! never wait till the expected due date, prevents you from crazy stuff like this. I bet you learnt from it :-)
But overall, crazy gas company, cant you change companies?
At 9:32 AM, April 28, 2006,
I'd bust out A.H.H. immediately. BofA did a similar thing to me with my Credit Card recently to the tune of cranking up my interest rate from 9% to 31% because I went over my limit 2 times in a 6 month period (I'd like to think it's thanks to their creative way of delaying payment posts and expediting charge posts but that's just petty). After multiple attempts to find a resonable solution they were BigUnmovableCorporateEntity, so I was like ok, you've lost a customer and some revenue have a nice day. Signed up for a Discover card the next day and transfered my whole balance onto a nice 0% APR for life on balance transfers to Discover. For them it will be an even bigger loss when I move my checking and savings as well (got to get through the current bill cycle) all because they took a short sighted policy stance and refused to negotiate. Ok, this little story about me to segue into advice for you. :)
You should be able to appeal what the gas company is doing to you with them directly (escalate to managers and/or managers of managers as needed), or alternatively through your local/state utilities commission. Utilities like Gas, Electric, Phone (less so now days), etc all figure they have you over a barrel because they're usually a monopoly in your area but they really don't. You just have to have the time and desire to stand up and push back when they're being unreasonable.
Personally, I've been late from a missed now and then as well and never had anything turned off. The worst is the sticker shock on the double bill that shows up the next month. Clearly, your milage may vary.
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