A few weeks ago I got a water bill from the City of Redmond. The bill listed the “Previous” meter reading at 191,800, the “Current Read” as 192,000, and “Consumption” as 1,000. Hmmm…. A calculator verified my hunch that the math was somewhat fuzzy. And an examination of earlier bills showed that, previously, the computer had always done the math correctly.
Last year, during the same two-month billing period, we had used about 1,000 cubic feet of water, but we had had a houseful of guests for an extended stay over the holidays. This year our normal two-person household had been reduced to a one-person household for the billing period and was even reduced to a zero person household for about 1/3 of that time while I was visiting the second person on the east coast.
When I called the water company they had a very simple explanation for their fuzzy math. The reading just seemed too low to them. So they figured the meter was stuck and “estimated” I used 1,000 cubic feet based on last year’s consumption.
“What! The! Fuck?” I was thinking as I politely explained the largely empty house during the billing period. I felt like I had just been pick-pocketed by my friendly city government and water provider. I suggested to the person on the phone that they should at least denote on the bill whenever they’ve entered an “estimated” amount. I mean, who the hell sits down and does the math from the raw meter readings every bill? “But…but…but” they had sent a meter reader out twice, she protested, as if that could somehow differentiate between a stuck water meter and an empty house.
In any case, I got the extra 800 cubic feet knocked off of my bill—all $11.68 of it. (Hey…it was the principle.)
A week later…a maintenance crew shows up and replaced the meter in front of my house. Uggggh!
The whole episode seemed like a big waste of time and resources—if they had simply called to ask about water usage in that billing period they’d have saved the expense of the second meter reading, the costs of sending a two-man crew to replace the meter, and the cost of the replacement meter.
I suppose one could use this as an example of the government being both inefficient and incompetent—you know…the way certain uninformed and hypocritical Wingnuts do in the comment threads all the time. In the big scheme of things my Redmond Water Utility experience is a drop of water in an ocean of government inefficiency and incompetence. Here’s the big picture version of my little story….