LESLIE: Jim in Texas is dealing with an electrical mystery. Tell us what’s going on?
JIM: Oh, yeah. Very interesting here. We got a high bill and the usage was, according to TXU, was up. However, we were gone for 18 days and we had turned the electricity – excuse me, the temperature down to 55 degrees. Nobody was using the water. There was no one staying at the house. But yet when we got our bill for December it was the highest bill that we’d ever had.
TOM: Wow. Do you think there’s an electricity thief there in your neighborhood, Jim?
JIM: Right, yeah. We really don’t know what’s going on. But the second part of it is that the water bill was also up …
TOM and LESLIE: Hmm.
JIM: … and there was no reason for that; nobody’s using the water.
TOM: There was a party at your house when you were away, man. (Leslie chuckles)
JIM: That happened to be it, I’m sure. We’re going to get the names of those people and charge them appropriately.
TOM: (chuckling) Exactly.
JIM: You know, when this did happen of course we called the electric company and all that and they sent someone on out and they checked the meter and the meter looked good to them, as it always does. So we weren’t satisfied with that and then we talked to some people who are in the contracting business and all that. We didn’t really – they’re kind of scratching their heads, too. They didn’t have anything to offer us. But I said, “Well, let’s just see how the neighbors are doing.” So checked on the left, checked on the right. They also had the same type of things happen to them for, actually, a two-month period of time.
TOM: Are these bills actual usage, Jim, or are they average bills?
JIM: Oh, actual usage.
TOM: They’re actual usage? Alright, and you’ve contacted the utility company and they just scratch their head and say, “You’ve just got to pay us whatever the meter says,” right?
JIM: Yeah, they were accepting the money in all forms.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) (chuckling) They happily cashed your check.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, happily. Happy to take it, right? Yeah.
JIM: (chuckling) Yep.
TOM: Well, couple of things. First of all, if you have an electrician come in, you can put an Amprobe on your main wire and figure out exactly how much electricity you’re using with everything turned off. Secondly, if you still want to dispute the bill and the utility company is not helping you, you can contact the Board of Public Utilities and you can file a complaint and that sort of elevates this from the customer service level of the utility company to the people-that-like-to-keep-all-the-regulators-happy level, if you know what I mean. And you may get a more serious investigation; especially if you can alert them to the fact that it was not only you but it was your neighbors as well.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) But your neighbors.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
TOM: Alright, Jim, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.