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Screwed Over

To all of my readers, followers, and people who happen upon this blog in random ways:  I know it really sucks to not post for a while and then come back with some heavy negativity.  But, I am very tired of people trying to screw me and many others out of money.  And I’m tired of just sitting back and doing nothing about it.  So I am attempting to cause a stir with the only voice I have right now – this blog.  In that spirit, please forward this link or verbiage to anyone and everyone you think is also sick and tired of being screwed out of their hard-earned money.  Let’s go viral and send a message to providers such as Gas South and Atlanta Gas and Light that we will no longer quietly sit by and allow them to rake in profits at our expense.

The following is a letter to Atlanta Gas and Light that explains the story and the questions I would like to have them answer.  By the way, have you heard that though six years ago, Atlanta Gas and Light (AGL) “acquired some gas utilities on the East Coast and created efficiencies that cut the Georgia utility’s costs” yet they did not pass these savings on to their customers?  They continued to charge their customers the same amount as always in order to pull a profit.  And if that isn’t enough, they just asked the Public Service Commission to approve a rate increase!  Specifically, a $54 MILLION rate increase – which includes $3.2 million to cover “executive performance bonuses.”  This is bullshit.  Sorry for the language, but it seems appropriate in this situation.    You can find this information and the quotes I pulled on the AJC website: http://www.ajc.com/business/phantom-costs-bonuses-part-612820.html

Also, a quick note about “pass through fees” – a quick definition is a fee that AGL charges all natural gas companies, which they then pass down to their customers.  You can find a description of what AGL says they use the pass-through fees for here: http://www.scanaenergy.com/en/faq/manage-my-energy-costs/what-is-the-agl-pass-through-charge-on-my-bill.htm 

Without further ado, the letter:

To Whom It May Concern:
 
I would like for someone to comment upon the fact that following the termination of my account with Gas South while I lived at the residence of 136 Milner Avenue, Griffin, Georgia, 30224,  I received three bills:  the first for the previous month’s gas consumption in the amount of $35.37 (with the gas charges being at $9.86 and AGL pass through fees totaling a whopping $17.25); the second for the gas consumption from that point until the date of termination in the amount of $3.23; and a third, with no gas charges totaling $24.05, merely an AGL pass-through fee for the month of August in the amount of $16.54 along with Gas South’s customer service fee plus taxes.  I terminated my account with Gas South on July 21, 2010.  I had no gas service at the residence of 136 Milner Avenue for the month of August.
 
When I called Gas South to dispute the AGL pass through fee for the month of August, they informed me that their hands were tied, and they could not waive the fee.  Since I canceled my service a mere two days after AGL had checked the meters, I was stuck paying the pass-through fee for the entire month of August.  No where does it appear on Gas South’s bills that these fees will apply for the following month even if you terminate service past a certain date.  This is highway robbery.  Any other utility company offers pro-rates on services provided for partial months. 
 
Furthermore, AGL’s “pass-through” fees are an outrage!  You are charging gas providers more for using your pipes than for the gas that flows through them.  These fees are then passed along to the gas provider’s customers.  I will not quietly pay my bill and no longer ask questions.  What exactly do you mean when you say that AGL uses the pass through fee for “an Environmental Recovery Fee (ERF): A fee that covers expenses related to AGL’s cleanup of former manufactured gas plant sites” or “Customer Education Fee: A fee to cover the costs for AGL to provide non-biased consumer education pertaining to natural gas deregulation.”  I want REAL answers to these questions.  I have a blog with many readers and I plan to post not only this letter, but also your answer to this letter.
 
And it is absolutely despicable that for the last six years you have charged people for costs that AGL no longer incurred in order to turn a profit.  You offer a service to communities My husband and I sit at home and wonder how we’re going to pay bills, especially bills from a company for a month in which we DID NOT HAVE SERVICE!  Bills that, when I try to call Gas South and get them to waive the fee, they say “Our hands are tied” basically because AGL SCREWS us and therefore we HAVE to SCREW you to pass the cost on down; when I try to dispute the amount owed, I get sent to collections and $30 gets tacked on to the total.  

The most important questions I want answered:  Why do you think it is legitimate to increase your rates though your costs are going due to recent mergers and acquisitions?  Why can you not pro-rate two days worth of “pass-through” fees? 
Sincerely,
Jessica Gregory

If this outrages you as much as it does me, or even makes you the teensiest bit angry, take the time to write a letter and let AGL know that you won’t stand for this either.  Send your emails to: aglcustomercare@aglresources.com for now.  I’ll see what kind of response I get and we’ll go up the chain.  I also plan to send a letter to the Public Services Commission, whose mission is to: “exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.”  Their website is http://www.psc.state.ga.us/index.asp.  They can be reached at: (404) 656-4501 or gapsc@psc.state.ga.us

Also, there will be a meeting for the public to voice their opinion on the rate increases proposed by both Atanta Gas and Light as well as Georgia Power.  The information can be found on the homepage of the Public Service Commission, which is the link I included above.  If you live in or around Rome, be sure to attend and LET ATLANTA, GAS AND LIGHT AND GEORGIA POWER KNOW THAT IT IS NOT ALRIGHT TO MAKE A PROFIT FROM PROVIDING THEIR CUSTOMERS WITH A SERVICE!  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Not Sweating the Small Stuff – But wait, it’s 104 degrees!

Alright, after a decently-lengthed hiatus, I am going to try to get back on the wagon and post something everyday.  Life got hard there for a minute, and it was hard to find the humor in anything.  But then I read a bunch of grandma’s cliché needlework about how “laughter is the best medicine” and “don’t sweat the small stuff: it’s all small stuff,” etc… and decided to get over myself.

I’m going to try to wrap up the drama of the last three weeks into as few, sarcastic sentences as possible. 

We decided to move from Griffin to Williamson, and even after selling $300 worth of our crap, we still have incredibly too much stuff.  Come take a look around the new house and make us offers for stuff.  We’ll probably take it. 

In the last three weeks we’ve purchased two new cars (well, actually one was pre-owned and the other was brand new).  We kept the “brand new” one (a 2010 Nissan Rogue) and returned the pre-owned Mazda CX-7 to CarMax (an extremely pleasant experience, I may add;  I spent more time returning duplicated wedding gifts to Belk than returning that car to CarMax). 

Now, you notice that I emphasized that the Rogue was brand new.  That it was, until my husband backed it into our “new” mailbox at our new house. 

The story goes a little something like this:
The sink at the new house was completely rusted out and leaking badly, so my brother and grandfather were over trying to fix it.  Adam had to run into town and I wasn’t feeling good, so he asked to use my car.  “Sure,” I said, already half asleep through my nausea.  I wake up after he comes back from his Lowes and Wal-Mart run and we sit on the couch together, watching my brother work.  We laugh, watch our new tv, and talk about dinner – seemingly perfectly normal.  As soon as Tana (brother) and Paw-Paw (grandfather) leave to get another part, Adam suddenly turns to me, with the gravest of grave faces.

I think I may have been in the middle of a sentence, but as Tana and Paw-Paw reach the other side of the threshold and his face drops, I trail off.  Adam says very quickly “Baby, I kinda backed into the mailbox in your car.”  I can feel my face drop from a smile as my mouth forms an “O.”  In addition to a few explicatives sprinkled in, I think I said something like, “You’re kidding me.  Please tell me this is a bad joke,” as I swiftly walk out the front door to inspect this bad joke. 

Jagged black gashes in my baby that doesn’t even have her honest-to-goodness tag on.  My two-week-old-baby.  I begin to bawl.  Adam tries to hold back that awkward laughter as he holds me. (You know that weird laughter that you can’t really hold back when something unexpected or awkward happens? – It was that type of laughter.) “Why are you laughing?!” I ask? “Because I expected to get yelled at, not for you to cry! Why are you crying?” And I think my voice became inaudible from there. 

I think I was crying because I knew that at some point, that car wasn’t going to be new anymore.  I just didn’t expect that point to come so quickly. 

I know this sounds extremely bazaar, but as disappointed as I am about the jagged scratches on the back quarter panel (the damage is relatively light, but will nevertheless cost roughly $500 to be fixed), I’m just kinda glad that it was someone else who “broke in” the “brand newness” of the car.  (Sorry it was you, honey…)

The Haunting of Jury Doody

I may have gotten through the crappiness of jury doody, but the scent is still lingering…

My 13-year-old niece, Morgan, texts me yesterday with this message: “hey haha omg, kacey’s mom had jury duty and she said they were talking about some woman that didn’t come back until 1:30 last week and was wearing booty shorts bahahahaah! (YOU!)”

This morning, I get yet another text message about that horrible Tuesday, this time from my husband:  “You were the talk of the courthouse, apparently last Tuesday, a couple of guys have heard about it up here.”  (Adam works at the UGA Griffin campus).  He continues:  “It’s funny how bad the story changes through hearsay.”  “How bad has it changed?!?!?” I reply, thinking of the worst – like a rumor that I was thrown in jail for contempt of court, or that my shorts were so short that you could see my booty cheeks hanging out.  “That you had to borrow a cardigan from one of the secretaries,” Adam writes.  (Check the post Jury Doody: Day 2 – I explain that I took my own cardigan…)

Now isn’t that just SOOOOOO Griffin?  I love Griffin, the town, but sometimes the people are just enough to drive you crazy with their gossiping.  Those little old ladies at the courthouse should know better than to talk about someone to a room of 100 people.  It’s Griffin.  There’s at least one person out of that 100 that is bound to recognize who they’re talking about. 

You may be asking yourself why I’m so mad that these people are talking about this incident, when I myself am sitting here, blogging to the world about it.  I haven’t really figured out my feelings of righteous indignation, unless it’s because I do not enjoy being talked about/poked fun at when I’m not around (who does?)

Maybe I should be flattered, though, that if Griffin continues to talk about me, I just may become the subject of a local color story… Maybe in 25 or 50 years, there will still be little old ladies and old deputy sheriffs sitting around the courthouse saying, “Remember that half-nekked woman that the sheriff had to go fetch because she didn’t come back to jury duty?  She got uppity and he had to use his taser.  He almost had ‘er inside his car when she broke free and ran half-nekked all da way down Hill Street.  She was picked up, and the judge ordered her in contempt of the court.  She spent the night in jail an’ her poor ol’ husband, he didn’t have nothing to eat that night ’cause, ya see, she didn’t put nothing in the crock pot for him.”

New Car v. Old Clunker

It seems this week’s woes shall never end.

I don’t mean to be overdramatic or even a Debbie Downer.  But come on, how many things can go wrong this week?  Somewhere in the middle of performing my civic doody, my car began making a horrible rattling sound when put into gear.  This sound brought to mind the image of a kettle of popcorn being popped under my hood.  Not good.

I should pause for a moment to explain the condition of my car.  (Please excuse any misnomers or blatantly wrong statements, for I’m repeating mechanic-speak, which might as well be Latin to me) I’ve known for the last year that my intake gaskets for my oil line were “spewing oil like crazy;” I’ve lost 10 pounds of water weight every summer for the last three years because I have no A\C , and apparently sometime this week my fly wheel lost its wings or decided to stop flying.

The grand total to fix these three problems (if no more are found during the various surgeries) will be somewhere in the ballpark of $1800 ($660 fly wheel; roughly $400 for the oil stuff; and around $800 for a completely new A\C system.)  Being realistic here, the truck itself would probably be considered a “rough trade-in” by NADA standards, which means it’s worth a whopping $1800.   

Dilemmas, dilemmas. I was hoping that my car would hold out at least a year or two longer so that we could have our credit cards and Adam’s truck paid off before I got a new car.  Now, especially since the repairs could easily cost more than the car’s worth, I am struggling with the choice of whether to dump that much money into it. 

I welcome any advice and/or thoughts.

Jury Doody: Day 3

I was hoping to be able to blog, “Day 3 of jury duty was blissfully uneventful,” but I can’t really claim that. 

While it certainly wasn’t as eventful as yesterday’s sheriff escort, day 3 began in a way that seemed like it may rival day 2.  After showing up to the holding cell (on time and dressed more “conservatively”) and having a seat, the fire alarm begins to ring.  The deputy sheriff gets up and runs out the door, saying, “Y’all come on!”

But the bell stops as abruptly as it began and the 80-something jurors in the room just stay put.  After the deputy sheriff returns, we settle in and wait to be called upon.

Most of us are called pretty quickly to return to the fourth floor, myself included.  Sigh.  I have to face the same judge as yesterday.  Today’s process went much more quickly than yesterday’s, and by 10:55 the counsel is ready to choose the jury.   The judge announces a recess. 

 “Now I’m going to make myself very clear,” he says, and I inwardly groan because I know what’s coming.  “The counsel usually gets 15 minutes.Yesterday we had some confusion about what time to return, so I’m going to make this very easy and give the counsel 20 minutes.  Everyone in the jury is to return at 11:15.  We had some people come back late yesterday, and I don’t want to send the sheriff after you, but I do what I have to do to protect all of our time. Please be back in the courtroom at 11:15.”

I return, as commanded, at 11:15 and was thus selected to serve as an alternate juror. This meant I was charged with the lovely task of listening to the entire trial (which wasn’t much, only one witness and honestly not much effort on the part of the assistant district attorney) and sitting out in the hallway while the other 12 jurors made the decision.

Thankfully they didn’t deliberate long and it gave me a chance to get a little further in the book I’m supposed to have read by tomorrow for a book club meeting.  Which, coincidently, we’re reading Confederacy of the Dunces.  What an appropriate read for a week spent sitting around, hurrying up to be on time to wait for our legal system.  (Not to mention how big of a dunce I felt myself yesterday.)

Anywho, with jury duty finally behind me and my pocket a whole $75 heavier (the judge advised us not to spend it all in one place), I’m ready to face the rest of my week.  Trying to finish as much of the book as I can for the meeting that snuck up on me, getting our air conditioner fixed, and trying to get a yard sale organized for Saturday. 

This yard sale has turned into a neighborhood yard sale, with little things coming from a variety of families and homes around the third ward district.  I think there are at least 6 different people/families contributing.  There will be large furniture (two upholstered chairs, bed frames, end tables, coffee tables, etc) large kitchen appliances (dishwasher, stove, and I think two washer and dryer sets) as well as small kitchen appliances and gear, dishes, books, lamps and name-brand clothing, and jewelry.

Of course, everyone wants to get paid for their respective items included in this yard sale, so I’ll have to spend my Saturday making sure every last sale gets recorded so that I can get the right people the right amount of money.  Who knows, the day may end with me longing to be sitting around the courthouse waiting for more jury doody…………..Nah.

Jury Doody: Day 2

Sorry this much-anticipated post comes so late in the evening.  It has been one LOOOOOONG day.  So I’ll just jump in to day 2 of jury duty:

Waking up at 8:36 to be at the courthouse at 9 a.m. because we got little to no sleep due to our air conditioning running constantly but not cooling the house below 80 degrees.  This makes for a miserable night in the Gregory household.  It was so hot yesterday in the holding cell and miserably hot in bed last night that I decided to wear the least amount of clothes possible – shorts, tank top and cardigan – very preppy college chic. (This is relevant later.)

Moving on, after about an hour in the holding cell my name gets called today, yay!  Up to the court room to wait some more while listening to the attorneys ask all 36 jurors the same exact questions.  Finally my panel’s turn, and it’s creeping up on lunchtime.  Quarter to 12 and the defense attorney gets up to ask his last few questions.  “I promise not to keep you long because I know you’re all ready to go eat lunch,” he says with a friendly smile. 

He finishes as promised, by 12, at which time the judge looks at the clock and says, “Alright, I’m going to dismiss the court and give the counsel time to select the jury.  Report back to the courtroom by 1:15.”  Or so I thought.

I meet Adam at home for lunch and we watch our normal 12 o’clock news – I look at the clock and something clicks.  “Did the judge say to be back at 12:15?” I ask Adam.  “I don’t know, I wasn’t there,” he says in an exasperated tone.  “I better call the courthouse.  He couldn’t have meant 12:15, that’s only a 15-minute lunch break!” 

I call the courthouse. It’s around 12:27 or so. A nice woman answers the phone and I explain my predicament.  I was just released from court but can’t remember what time the judge said to report back.  Is there anyone there you could ask?  “No ma’am, there’s no one here, so I can’t help you.”  “Oh,” I said, “If Judge _____ isn’t there, that must mean that he really did say 1:15 and I’m worried for nothing.  Thanks for your help!”

Thirty minutes later, I’m about to start cleaning up lunch and head back up to the courthouse when my dog begins to growl.  I look out the window, and there is a sheriff’s deputy walking up my drive.  Oh crap.  Yep, they sent one of those “taxis with the star on the side that the doors don’t open from the inside” after me.  (This has to be karma from me cracking a joke about this in yesterday’s blog…)

He explains to me that while the gracious judge hasn’t issued a warrant for my arrest, he’s been instructed to escort me back to the courthouse because I was supposed to be back at 12:15.  “Are you free to go now?” he very nicely asks me.  “Yes, of course, I am sooooo sorry; I am so embarrassed!”  He offers to follow me in my car instead of making me ride with him so I wouldn’t be stuck at the courthouse when we finish.

I get back to the courthouse a little before 1 and am seated in the front entrance, in the corner no less, and told to wait.  I don’t know for whom I am waiting.  I wait, and wait, and wait.  Finally I hear enough clues to figure out what has happened.  Everyone else was released for lunch until 2:30, and I’m waiting on the judge. 

My husband’s text messages are not soothing my fears:  “I hope you put something in the crock pot in case you’re in jail tonight.” 

The judge shows up and I try to profusely apologize, but he ushers me into the elevator and simply tells me to go to the fourth floor and wait in the court room.  At this point I feel like I’m the one on trial.  Oh, and I forgot the best part of waiting in the lobby of the courthouse – not only does my cousin and his wife show up, spot me and ask the dreaded question, “What are you doing here?!” but after they leave, who walks in but my father-in-law!  So I have to explain the embarrassing story twice during my wait.

Back in the court room, I wait, and wait, and wait.  All the parties show up and take their places – counsel at their tables, jury in the holding room. Finally, the judge comes in and the trail begins.  Thankfully, it’s short because the defense pleads out.  The judge calls the jury out, thanks them for their service but they’re dismissed and no longer needed. 

“Now, Mrs. Gregory, would you like to come up and explain to the court why you were late?” About to pee in my pants, I approach the podium.  “I am so very sorry.  I thought that when you released us you told us to return at 1:15. I am normally a very prompt person.”  Now, thankfully, there was another juror that thought the same thing and we had whisperingly commiserated before the trial began.  (Misery loves company, and I also didn’t feel quite as stupid since someone had made similar assumptions as I had.)  He had explained himself earlier, though, and was allowed to leave shortly after the other jurors. 

In answer to my apology, the judge says, as he rubs his face disapprovingly, “Apparently I didn’t make myself clear, but it seems the other 34 jurors understood me. Please return tomorrow at 9 a.m. sharp and be dressed a little more conservatively.” 

Adding insult to injury, I had been chastised for wearing shorts to court with a word that made it sound as if I was wearing a leggy, low-cut clubbing dress.  And I can tell you, from my hour waiting in the lobby, that I was definitely dressed much more conservatively than some of the characters walking in through those doors.

Needless to say, I walked out of those courthouse doors and went straight down the road to Slices to get a swig of beer as long as my day had been. 

Stay tuned for Jury Doody day 3, though I doubt it could be anywhere as interesting as today.

Jury Doody: Day 1

I don’t want to be that girl who complains about jury duty, because I know that it’s my civic responsibility and everyone has to do their part.  But I really think that if we had a brainstorming session, we could come up with a better way than making 96 people wait around all day in a 20′ x 20′ box in airplane-spaced chairs.  I thank whoever sprang for the semi-comfortable padded chairs, but sitting that squished up with that many people, you’re bound to get a few whiffs of other people’s various bodily functions.  Not good.

Day one of jury duty went something like this:  waking up at 8 o’clock not feeling all that well, getting ready by performing just the essentials – jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops, teeth brushing and a leftover slice of pizza for breakfast, snagged while running out the door to make it to the courthouse by 8:30.  Thank goodness we live only 3 blocks away.  Parking was ridiculous, tried the parking garage for the first time ever (I’ve lived in Griffin all my life and have never parked in there).  And of course the first thing mentioned when I got to the jury holding room (after taking the elevator to the basement and weaving around through what looked like the garage of the courthouse) was the fact that where I was parked was a tow-zone for everyone except bank customers.  Great. 

After calling roll and making several well-rehearsed jokes about no-shows getting picked up by a taxi with a star on the side whose doors don’t open from the inside, they allowed us move our vehicles.  Back in the room by 9:15ish, earplugs go in, Pandora gets turned on and I zonk out.  Though I can’t hear her begin to call names, I somehow wake up in the middle of another roll call, this time they’re calling people into court.  My panel, of course, doesn’t get called.  Back to Pandora. 

At 11:11 they come back in and tell us lunch til 1:30.  I walk out and I feel like I’ve been on an airplane, except the part where I land in a cool destination is skipped.  Bleh.  Lunch and Desperate Housewives re-runs (hey, it’s all that’s on during the day) and then back in the holding cell, I mean room, until 3:30 when a woman walks in, promising that they’ve been working hard all day but they just didn’t get to us.  Sorry for the inconvenience for sitting around all day but we need you to report back tomorrow at 9 a.m., most likely doing much of the same.

Maybe there’s something I’m not considering here, but why are lawyers given the option of striking x number of jurors?  Why can’t we make a system where they have to take a random sample of 12 people, whether they’re prejudice, previous victims, blonde, brunette, and whatever else they judge on?  That would definitely cut down on the waste of paying so many people as well as the opportunity cost for the potential jurors of their time and missed paychecks. 

More tomorrow after fulfilling more of my civic doody.