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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Help Me Howard

This would be funny if it were not true.

It has to do with an FPL bill at my warehouse. I have had this warehouse for over ten years. It is hidden in a commercial and industrial district in Fort Lauderdale. It stores old files, and stuff, lots of stuff on its way to the junkyard, probably. It is a necessary expense.

One thing I do is keep it virtually free of electricity. One neon bulb. An A/C unit I run so rarely that the landlord gets pissed off that I jeopardize its efficiency by not running it often enough. For this past decade, my bill has varied from $11 to 14 a month, sometimes pushing $20 in the summer if I go there to move some files around, or run the generator, or start up Dad's antique 1963 Oldsmobile . No problem. For over ten years, the bill was de minimis.

Last summer, something weird happened. I changed nothing, installed nothing, moved nothing. But the meter went into Zombieland, and the bill jumped to over $200 a month. It was almost humorous. Except for the fact that I had to deal with FPL operatives to put an end to six months of extravagant bills shooting through the roof.

I called up the FPL gurus who stepped in with meter checkers, meter alerts, fraud investigations, and anything they could find out to determine why the costs spiked. They too were intrigued after running my history of the unit. Nothing made sense to them either. The lines were not trespassed, no one was stealing electricity, the meter supposedly worked, and all their extrinsic and intrinsic investigative tools could not figure out how the bill shot through the sky. In fact, arguably, no one ever figured out, even with the new meter. And this went right to its top supervisors.

After a tortured five months, and a bill over $1200, FPL relented, agreed I could not have been wrong or responsible, and reluctantly redacted the bill. Just as I was about to lose it all.

A year has gone by since by horrible experience over the mythical FPL charges no one could figure out or compute. The last guy I dealt with at FPL was so helpful I sent him a thank you letter. Now a year has past. Alas, the story does not have a good ending. I can't find this guy's number or email address or the correspondence (maybe I left it in the warehouse?) and the nightmare is happening again.

I have not been to the warehouse since last Christmas. No one has. Been locked up. In fact, after the last experience, I had the landlord shut down the meter. Don't even think I turned it on. Put a lock on it in fact. Faithfully, the bill has been $14 a month. Until September. Got a bill for $251.89. Have no idea why. This month, another $235.00 Oh boy, here we go again. And I still have not been to the warehouse. I am afraid to run into the ghost of electricity past.

Of course, I am not paying the bill. I told FPL there is a screw up. They are telling me it is my problem this time. Not going to help. "There's a new meter. Leave us alone." So here come the warning notices. Today, the Final Notice. Tomorrow, I lose all sanity. You know what it is. It's the vision of being put on hold, of delayed, waylayed, and postponed, spindled and emotionally mutilated.

I just cannot deal with this again. An electric bill for a place where I am using no electricity. Like on top of everything else in this economic climate, I have to add this. Not to mention that the City of Fort Lauderdale just told me that my water bill tripled this past month, and I probably have a leak somewhere in my 25 year old townhouse. Great.

The time. The stress. The hassle. This is unreal.

This time, I really have to call Howard. Help me Howard, help me.
Patrick Frazier, where are you?

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