I had one of those "the world is going to hell" experiences with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) last night. This is the company that has such faulty records and maintenance of their gas pipelines, that their old, ill-maintained gas pipelines blew up an entire subdivision in San Bruno, CA, in 2010, killing eight people and leveling 38 houses.
A house nearby in Carmel exploded recently, on March 3, 2014, due to PG&E's faulty pipeline records. "Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s faulty pipeline records, which the utility promised to fix after the deadly San Bruno disaster more than three years ago, are being blamed in a natural-gas explosion that destroyed a home last week in Carmel."
Well, PG&E is responding to these horrific accidents by being over-zealous, like most companies do when they screw up. I remember flying on United to Japan in November 2011. In the months after 9-11, airline passengers were treated like prisoners. A flight attendant came by at 2am to make sure we prisoners all had our seat belt buckled correctly. I was watching a movie with headphones, and grumbled when I finally understood why the flight attendant was flashing his light in my eyes and speaking something I could not hear. The guy leaned into me and said, "If you want to get arrested, just keep it up." Wow. I was going to get arrested just for grumbling for being disturbed?
A few months later, I got upgraded to first class on another flight. By then, United had realized that they were losing business by treating all of their passengers like prisoners. So, like PG&E, they overcompensated. The captain came out after takeoff and started shaking everyone's hands and introducing himself, saying "Thanks for flying United." Really? I just wish that these companies could keep things moderate, rather than letting their customer service pendulums swing so wildly, from zero customer service to overly gracious.
PG&E has overcompensated too. My wife works during the days like most of us. We had started to smell gas or some similar odor near our guest house when walking by. She made the mistake of calling at 8pm on a Sunday night to try to schedule an inspection by PG&E. She spoke to someone at PG&E, said that she'd like to schedule an inspection, and said the wrong thing -- "we smell gas and want to make sure that there is not a gas leak."
Whoa -- wrong words! The PG&E representative said "We have to send someone over immediately." My wife objected, saying she would like to schedule an inspection sometime reasonable, during the week and during the day. Nope. PG&E forced themselves upon us, and at 9PM, we found ourselves having to deal with a PG&E guy in our house, turning off all our gas appliances and roaming around with some kind of gas sniffer.
I was upset, but then the guy started bragging about how he was making overtime pay at night, that he was making $90 per hour, and then he said that he would have to turn our gas off and that he had no idea how long it would take to finish the inspection. We objected, strenuously, with this arrogant jerk in our kitchen at 9pm on a Sunday night. We repeatedly asked that PG&E come back at a reasonable time during the work week. Nope, he said. He had to turn off our gas immediately.
At this point, I had enough. I told the guy to get out of our house and off our property. After a great deal of loud discussion, we both ended up calling the police. More discussion with the police, and the guy finally agreed to get the heck off my property and to not turn off the gas.
This was unbelievable. We were put in a position where, late at night, a company basically forcibly entered our home and threatened to shut off our utilities so we could not cook or have any hot water. We were unable to ask this company to schedule a better time, even though we knew there was no danger. The leak, if there was one, had been going on for days with no ill effect. The company would not leave our property even though we repeatedly demanded them to. Thankfully, the police in this instance was able to mediate between PG&E and ask the company to come back at a better time.
NEVER ask PG&E to do an inspection. Get an independent contractor (a plumber) to test for leaks instead – it is worth paying him rather than dealing with horrific PG&E. It should be OK to ask PG&E to come turn on your pilot lights in the fall if you need this.
Avoid these words when speaking to any company: “gas leak” and “mold.” By uttering the word “gas leak” you will trigger the situation above, where PG&E basically will invade your house and turn off your gas (hot water, range, etc) immediately for an hour and probably longer in even the most innocuous of situations.
Never use the word "mold" if you are ever talking to an insurance agent about your house, a flood in your house, etc. The word “mold” will instantly invalidate any insurance claim you have, since mold indicates an ongoing rather than an emergency condition.