Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Check That Bill: Dittos Lee Hansen

Here's Lee Hansen's story:

A story of mine that makes the same point was published on Yahoo, years ago, as "How to Minimize Your Water Bill." Although I like to take at least one and usually more long, warm baths every day, at one point the city water people wanted to come out and check the meter because they couldn't believe our household water consumption was really as low as it seemed to be. So they deliberately sent out an inflated bill, in order to get an invitation to check the meter. The meter was working properly and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission cheerfully adjusted the bill.

However, although this part didn't seem pertinent to an article about reducing your city water consumption, I was told by neighbors that our ethnically mixed neighborhood was often "scammed" by the W.S.S.C. Many residents who were still trying to become U.S. citizens were intimidated by inflated bills and would pay the bills without question.

Then there's a story that properly belongs to Grandma Bonnie Peters, but explains why I've never done much to publicize Columbia Union College, the small church-sponsored school where my parents thought I'd be adequately chaperoned as a seventeen-year-old college freshman. Although Grandma Bonnie was my mentor and supervisor in home health care, she took some "external degree" courses through Columbia Union College. And paid. And continued to receive bills. And she checked those bills carefully, and eventually went to court...and collected a settlement that more than repaid the amount she'd paid for the courses, as well as the cost of her trip.

During her visit to suburban Maryland, Grandma Bonnie stayed with me, and I went to court with her. (She didn't look or act especially "old" or frail, but was recovering from a nasty injury.) That same morning, the judge who awarded her the settlement heard similar claims that other senior citizens had never paid for their "external degree" courses, ignored the statute of limitations, and ruled in favor of C.U.C. because those other people had ignored C.U.C.'s demand for a court hearing.

So, check your bills carefully...and, if you have friends who are elderly, or who have language or citizenship problems, you may want to help them check their bills too. As long as there are people who just pay an inflated bill to avoid hassles, people who seem vulnerable will go on being specifically targeted with inflated or inaccurate bills.