It's Not A Wonderful Life

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I have been avoiding blogging about this for the last few days.

Probably because I have been trying not to think of it, really.

Ever since I moved to Hoboken I have always been the "responsible roommate". I'm the guy who puts his name on the electric, phone and cable bills. I collect the money from the roommates and pay the bills myself. Heck, lots of times I even forget to ask my roommates to pay me and pay the bills anyhow. I have never been great at keeping track of my money, but I have always been fairly good at not overspending what I have and paying my bills on time.

One day, about a month ago I got an automated phone call. This time it wasn't from Corzine's Gubernatorial campaign, but from PSE&G. The automated response informed me that my electric meter hasn't been checked in...

87 months.

87 months? 7.25 years? That is about how long I have lived at this condo. I have been paying an estimate on my electric bills for 7 years?

I really hadn't noticed. I just get the bill, which is electric and gas, and pay it with a check. I tell my roommates each month what 1/3 of the bill was and they paid me in cash. I don't really care how much I was spending, but on average my electric costs were always very low. Now I know why.

The meter guy came to my house two weeks later, after I made arrangements with PSE&G to have someone check the meters. At first we had trouble finding the meters. Like many Hoboken brownstones, this was converted into 2 units - the downstairs (a basement and first floor) and an upstairs (the second and third floor). Unit 1 and Unit 2.

It turns out the electric meters, for both Unit 1 and Unit 2 were inside of Unit 2. Inside an electrical closet, the only way to gain access is hope that someone from Unit 2 was home to open the door. I never knew that. No wonder why they haven't been able to read my meters for 7 years - they have been unable to get access to the other apartment. The meter guy read the units and left saying I would get my bill in a few weeks with the current charges.

I started to do the math in my head. 87 months, and if they were off by, say $10 a month...$870...$20 a month...$1740...$100 a month? Oh, shit.

I got my bill last Friday and opened it up. My worst fears were realized, I owed PSE&G a boatload of money, about $8,000. They were incredibly wrong for the last 7 years estimating my electric bills. I never noticed it. My gas & electric were on the same bill, so I would see each month the full price and pay it, not realizing that electric was ridiculously cheap and an estimate.

I have a condo with 3 roommates. We split all the bills over the years. I have had about 9 roommates over the last 7 years. Some I haven't seen since they left. Others have gotten married and moved out of Hoboken. Some have bought their own condos in town. I really should owe 1/3 of that $8000 bill - $2,666. I can pay that. But 8 grand?

What the hell am I going to do? Call my roommates to pay me back?

"Uh, hi, Rose. Remember you lived with me for a year from 2002-2003? Yea, PSE&G was wrong about the electric bills and you need to pay me back." [click] "Hello? Hello?"

This isn't going to be a scene from "It's A Wonderful Life", 120605.gif
where all my friends and ex-roommates come storming over to my house giving me a basket full of cash to help with the mean-old Potter at PSE&G.

I'm sure Zuzu will show up when a bell tinkles from a tree just to say, "Look, Furey, everytime a bell rings you get kicked in the balls!"

I'm not George Bailey, i'm just Furey.

I called PSE&G their basic reponse was, "Didn't you notice how low your bills were? Do you have central air?" (we do) "Didn't you think that it was low? Sorry, but you have to pay us!"

I am fortunate that my roommate Jon has a friend who is a lawyer. She pulled some case files of similar situations and got me to call The Board Of Public Utilities (BPU). I'm working with them to figure out a solution, and to see if there is anything I can do. I also have the second apartment involved, they got a very expensive bill from PSE&G also (about half of mine, because they have been in the apartment only 3 years). Right now i'm waiting to hear from BPU, but my hopes aren't very high.

"Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence! Get me back! Get me back, I don't care what happens to me! Get me back to my wife and kids! Help me Clarence, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again. Please, God, let me live again."

That only happens in the movies, not Hoboken.

I have been dreading the realization that i'm going to get stuck with the bill here. My ex-roommates won't lift a finger to help me. My friends and family will be sympathetic. And like the mantra of my life - I have always been alone and I will deal with it on my own.

11 Comments

That sucks. It's what we both got tagged with for not reading/paying attention to the bill and/or not wanting to stay at home/otherwise arrange for the PSEG guy to read the meters.

I got tagged with a $2600 adjustment. After I stopped rocking myself back and forth in the corner like the Rain Man, I called up PSE&G and asked them to put me on an Equal Payment Plan. That way they spread it out over a long time. http://www.pseg.com/customer/home/bill/equal.jsp

Fortunately, I live(d) alone. You have no stick to go after former roommates (I think), but I don't think it hurts to ask for their fair share, which you should be able to calculate. I would think that out of a sense of fairness at least some would pay their share, but then again, I am a socialist!

It has been another year since I've had my meter read; I'm never home when the meter man comes. I got the automated call last month too. I'm dreading my next read.

Good luck with BPU. I hadn't even thought about that.

Agreed. I never really read the bill, I just open it, read what I owe, write a check and mail it.

But I asked them in 7 years - 7! - PSE&G couldn't have written a seperate letter saying something a bit clearer rather than the small text on the side of the bill?

My only hope is that BPU is able to do something here. Other cases like these don't even make it to small claims court, they get settled early, from what my lawyer friend tells me.

Feel your pain on this. Who really reads there bill anyway, I see what I owe and I write the check.
Paying for other people's oversights seem to be more and more common.
7 Years....it is almost like something out of Goodfellas...
It took us 7 years to realize we hadn't read your meter...Fuck You Pay Me.

It didn't occur to OUR meterman to have someone contact you after a month of unsuccessful attempts...Fuck You Pay Me.

7 years...thats obscene!

I was wondering when you'd blog about this.

It surprised me that PSE&G doesn't have a policy in place. PECO, in Philly, has a rule that 6 months estimated readings = automatic shutoff. This is AWESOME until your apartment building (real apt, not brownstone) has their meters pulled, PECO fires the employee who pulled them, doesn't realize that the building never got new meters and you're the first person listed under the address. Yea, I had my power shutoff for 36 hours through no fault of my own. Luckily I resolved my dispute with them. And it was totally their fault and we all got new meters.

Anyway, good luck recouping from former roommates, if my ex-roommate called asking for a nickel I'd laugh after I hung up on her. But hey, that's just me.

Oh BTW, every month in work I have an automated call from ConEd that my meter is estimated and they need to do a reading. Since it's a recording I don't hear the name on the message, but I think it's classic. Someone in NYC is going to be living without electricity and gas very soon! :D

Yikes! I think that it's total BS that there's no statute of limitations on this. I had no idea that this kind of situation was even possible.

Seriously, the only thing I can think of is to call "Shame on You" or "Seven on Your Side" or one of those evening news investigative segments and get them to air it. The real angle is your being punished for being the responsible roommate for all those years. You've been put in an impossible situation. $8,000 is a SHITLOAD of money.

To me, PSE&G not checking a meter in 7 years and billing you, borders on criminal. The meter is in someone else's apartment, to boot. There's no way you would ever really be in a position to grant access to someone else's apartment.

When I first moved into Hoboken I heard about the estimated reading vs. actual. Now I'll make sure to double check!

Furey -
Place a donation link on here...a buck or two. I bet you will be surprised how many people donate.

Derek - if BPU isn't able to assist me, I will probably look to something like that. Good idea.

Shorts - That's an interesting idea. I was also thinking of a "Fureypalooza" night at the bar - to help those afflicted by poor meter readings.

furey, I think you should get a 2nd part-time job. the eagles need a runningback and quarterback and many other players- I am sure they could pay you by the game.

Here's a better idea than Kathleen's: (And less chance of serious injury)Bet $4000 on the Giants this week. Chances are they're gonna cover (this just in, the spread went up another point to 8). It's a win/win situation for you. You make double your bet back or an Eagle victory. Of course, they could cover but not win. In that case, you're totally screwed. However, you could take the tease bet. Giants would be giving 2 and drop the under to 27 or so, then you would obviously take the Over. The Giants will probably score that on their own. Think about it.......

I just told my gas company their meter was defective and had not moved in 5 months. I reported it 4 months ago and the meter man said it was not broken.
In 7 years, it is possible your meter went around several times, and so the correction would not be more than one cycle. Demand an explanation of their method of estimating your underpayment and argue it down to the wire. Don't make it easy on them. Also, in some states 3 years is as far back as billing can go.

What happened to the person who posted "It's Not A Wonderful Life" on December 6, 2005? If you are still out there somewhere, email me at cpabobxx on aol

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on December 6, 2005 12:26 AM.

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