There’s a right way and a wrong way…9/5/11

Posted Sep 5 2011, 8:00 am in , , , , ,

If you’ve been wondering about my blog silence last week, blame it on Irene. The hurricane, that is. She swept through Long Island early Sunday morning, uprooting trees and power lines as she went. My cable cut out at about 3 AM. The power followed shortly before 4 AM.

It stayed off for the next seven days.

We all knew the storm was coming and prepared for it. I had plenty of candles, batteries, flashlights, and ice. I prepared to lose power. I made sure all the laundry was done. We battened down all the outdoor furniture, taped up the windows, and even filled the bathtub.

That got us through Tuesday.

Still no power.

Here’s where I get mad. The Long Island Power Authority – LIPA – has a website where I expected to find the latest news and power restoration estimates. They even started a twitter account – @LIPAnews, which I followed hoping to get actual useful news.

All I got were statistics. Things like “We just restored another 2000 customers.”

Okay. That’s really nice. But useful? No, sorry. That’s cheerleading. PR stuff. It’s not customer service. Customer service is┬átelling me how much longer I’ll have to wait. Customer service is telling me why it’s taking so long and why I’m not seeing any crews working in my neighborhood. Customer service is assuring me I have not been forgotten.

I did not get customer service.

You know who did provide outstanding customer service? Local radio stations – especially WBAB. Thank goodness for them! From the radio, I learned my neighborhood would likely not see power back until Friday – six days after the storm. Crews from other states were helping LIPA repair the damage and working around the clock. From the radio, I learned more about the intricacies of the power system and how problems miles away could be impacting me. And, from the radio, I learned I should be examining my house to search for problems that may be my responsibility to repair, not LIPA’s. I also learned I should unplug major appliances to protect them as well as my house from power surges, once we do come back online.

I discovered an 800 hot line. I call. Naturally, it’s an automated system that tells me nothing. It records my address and phone number to report my outage, and promises a call back with a restoration estimate.

I got that call Saturday – seven days after the power went off. When the call came, the recording said my power would be restored possibly by 6:30 that evening. I cheered. I ran out to tell my neighbors. One said, “That’s not what I was told. I just talked to a crew who said it might take a few more days.”

Our power lines are all underground so downed trees should NOT be causing this much trouble. Turns out the problem may have been a fuse right on the edge of my property. This is not a tiny thumbnail fuse. This fuse is about a foot long and took the crew all of five minutes to change. Makes me seriously question why it took seven days to figure that out.

All the food in my freezer and refrigerator had to be thrown out. Neighbors all tell me LIPA will reimburse us for grocery costs. Guess what? No information on their website about this, either.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give LIPA a 10 for mounting a staggering repair effort but a big fat 0 for customer service and communication.

We’re still in hurricane season. I hope LIPA improves the website with information people can use. Repair statistics are nice for them to have, but those of us without power only care about one thing – when will we be one of the ones who do? If that information cannot be provided, tell us why not. Help us understand the scope of the work ahead of you. You have an automated call-back system – use it to tell us what’s happening.



5 responses to “There’s a right way and a wrong way…9/5/11”

  1. Linda G. says:

    Ugh. So frustrating.

    Glad you finally have power again, and I hope you do get reimbursed for those groceries. With the cost of food these days, that’s not an insignificant loss.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Thanks, Linda! I can’t fault the utility on the groceries; storms are beyond their control.

  2. I hadn’t realised that there were places without power for so long, that must have been terrible.

    It seems to me that some companies are so scared of giving bad news that they’d rather give no news at all. When will they realise that people just want the truth?

  3. Patty Blount says:

    There are still a few homes without power. I still don’t have a thorough understanding as to why it’s taking so long.

  4. Tuere Morton says:

    Wow *gaping* I think 7 days is the longest I’ve heard someone’s gone without power. Sorry to hear it but glad to know they eventually restored it :)