Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Fun with Detroit Edison

WARNING: Whining post ahead:

Sometime when it's dark, very, very early Sunday morning: We wake up to a beeping sound from our carbon monoxide alarm. I mumble to D that he should check that out. As he stumbles down the hall, I notice that M has been very thorough in turning out the lights when she'd returned home from seeing friends on Saturday night. Then I realize that she couldn't be thorough enough to shut off all our clocks, too.

Power outage number four for this summer.

We've already lost the contents of our refrigerator twice this summer.

I trip into the living room, find my cell phone, find out it's 4:58 a.m. and call Detroit Edison (known from now on as DTE).

I go through the automated system, hear the estimate is 8 hours. Call back again, because usually the first estimate is bogus. During the second call, DTE is terribly sorry and realizes we have a problem but there are NO estimates at this time.

Uh oh. Not good.

However, I've just reported it, so I try to go back to sleep.

6:36: Call back DTE for a real estimate. Find out there's no estimates. Stay on the line for six minutes to talk to a customer service representative (known as CSR):

CSR (answering the phone in an angry voice before I have a chance to say anything): We're not giving estimates. Yes?!!!

Jen: Hi, I just wanted to know what you know about the problem. How widespread it is? We have animals that have medical issues and this might interfere with their medicines, etc.

CSR: You're in a pocket of 90, there's another pocket of 85. There are 3100 customers out of power altogether.

Jen: Have the crews said anything? It's been an hour and a half already. (I am counting down, too, whether I'm going to have restock my fridge for the THIRD time this summer).

CSR: There are no crews out. We don't know anything yet. As I told you the first time, there are no estimates.

Jen: Why are there no crews out?

CSR: We are a BUSINESS. We follow all the regulations we need to and we sure don't have crews working 24/7. They'll come in at 8:00 and we'll start assigning them then.

Jen: But according to the FDA and the Red Cross, our fridge will not be good any more by 5:00 a.m. Do you mean to tell me that NOTHING is done until regular business hours, even with 3100 people out of power?

CSR: Yes, yes, yes. We are a BUSINESS. We don't send crews out at night on the weekends. Why would we do that?

Jen: But your recording says you're doing everything you can to get the power back on. Are you doing anything to get the power back on?

CSR: Look, what about this don't you understand? Do you understand how hard our jobs are? Do you get it that we just don't know, and no, we're not going to even start fixing this until 8:00 a.m. I've been fielding calls like yours all night, and it's not going to change. We are a business, we follow federal guidelines and we don't have to send out crews until 8:00 a.m.

Jen: I'm sorry your job is so hard. I'm sorry I have medical issues that I have to look into every time DTE screws up. I'm sorry we're going to lose the more expensive contents of our fridge for the THIRD time this summer. Maybe if you hate your job so much, since we have the highest unemployment rate in the country, you could move to another job and give your job to someone who would be ever so grateful to have any job ? (I say this thinking of my many friends who have looked for something, anything, to hold onto their houses. I think of friends who've been foreclosed this year. I think of friends who've had to move from Michigan, even though their family is all there and they've lived here for generations because there's just. no. work.)

CSR: I hear your frustration, but you have to understand how hard my job is.

Jen: No, at the moment, I don't. I'd like to speak to a supervisor, please.

CSR: Give me your name and number and I'll have one call you back. They've been getting calls like this all night.

Jen: Yes, I'm sure they have. The problem is that whenever someone has "taken my number" from DTE the other five times our power has been out since the first of the year (yes, folks the three times were just over the summer), no one has ever called me back.

CSR: So?

I hang up. I'm getting way too po'd to handle this even as appropriately as I've handled it so far.

I wake D up and grouch at him. We go to Kroger's and get some supplies that the piggies will need to have first thing in the morning. We don't want to open the fridge in case by some miracle the power comes back on.

9:30 - We decided to wait to call DTE until they've had a chance to send out crews, etc. Still no estimate. D calls CSR this time.

CSR has no information. Crews have been assigned. Not sure what cities they'll get to. Not sure when they'll get to which jobs. Not sure whether it will be today or not. D asks for a supervisor to call back. Leaves his name and number. CSR assures D that supervisor will call back shortly.

11:30 - still no estimate. Still no call back from supervisor. I call vet, find out what to do if power is out for several days. We all feel better. (Due to temperature fluctuations, this can actually be life or death for our piggies, given medical conditions).

1:30 - still no estimate. D calls back again. New information: no information. Apparently the crews haven't called in at all; they have no idea what's going on anywhere. D brings up supervisor call, says it's been four hours. CSR says she'll "look into it."

4:30 - still no estimate. D calls again. Apparently, no crews have called in yet (they were sent out at 8 am). Nice CSR this time. She's going to try to connect D directly to the supervisor. D waits.

and waits.

and waits.

CSR comes back on, says supervisor is trying to contact crews to give us information. While talking to CSR, power comes back on. D says that obviously, he'd called the right CSR this time because now, look, the power is back on!

CSR is confused - the power shouldn't be back on.

But it is.


D and I clean out the fridge for the third time this summer and count our blessings that our freezers haven't been affected. I remind myself that I really, really, really need to learn canning.

DTE is a monopoly for this area. Can you tell?


Jan said...

I'm so sorry this happened and yes it is so frustrating. We have a good company here. They go out anytime. day, night, week-ends.

Charity Tahmaseb said...

Oh, man. So sorry. Every house on our block has buried power lines except ... ours. Ours are above ground and go through a wooded area.

So, I feel your pain. Luckily, we haven't had too many high-wind storms this summer.

Jen said...

Well, Jan, it's par for the course, but man, it's frustrating!

Charity - I know what you're talking about, although we don't have that with our power lines (ours hang through trees - good planning, no?), we have our comcast cable above ground. Glad you haven't had many high wind storms.

anno said...

My FIL -- a former Consumers exec -- said that there was no way you should have had that kind of experience with anybody from DTE: they are supposed to have at least a skeleton crew in place 24/7, with others scheduled to be available if needed during off hours. Your experience sounds outrageous. Glad to hear things are back to normal...

Anonymous said...

We live in a telephone zone that is monopolized by a company that most folks even in our area are unfamiliar with. We have cell phones and no landlines anymore because their service was so pitiful. I do understand although it isn't like losing a fridge full of food.

Jen said...

Anno, I forgot to write in how many COMCAST trucks we saw out yesterday (they were trying to fix the issues without knowing there was no power, lol) and these crews were running regularly. When Comcast is giving better service, you know you're in trouble, lol.

Jerri Ann that sounds outrageous to me. Basically, we just need more controls on our utilities. So much for free enterprise. ;-) Thanks for stopping by, too!

Sister Sassy said...

Why on earth does the power go on so much? You should move here :)

I never EVER liked DTE. We have a coop electric place here and I really love them.

April said...

Oh, Jen, that really really sucks! I feel completely small for having bitched about my internet and flight problems which were NOTHING compared to what you've had to deal with. DTE sounds horrible. I think you need to notify Michael Moore :)

Sun Runner said...

I'm so glad Chelsea's electricity comes from some other grid. I pay the City of Chelsea for my power. During the big blackout of 2003 we never even lost power since our juice came from a different grid. It's takes a lot to lose power here. OTOH when we lived in Waterloo Twp. and were served by Consumers Energy in a heavily wooded area our power went out constantly and always at the WORST times (raging winter blizzard, oppressive heat wave). During the blizzard we drove into Chelsea and went bowling. During the heat wave we fled to the Holiday Inn Express in Chelsea.

I know DTE has a stranglehold on everyone in A2. I was under their thumb for many years. My personal form of rebellion is to refuse to call DTE Energy Music Theater as's PINE KNOB, darn it! Take that, DTE.

painted maypole said...

my FIL worked for DTE and they treated him TERRIBLY in the end

Anonymous said...

What everyone else said. I am so, so sorry!! :(

Marianne Arkins said...

Dear dog... "we're a business"... URGH. Why do people never put themselves in your shoes? That stupid CSR should...

... okay, shutting up. I'm just glad you got your power back.

P.S. canning is easy peasy

Goofball said...

what the crap do they mean they follow regulations and can't send teams out at night? Wouldn't there be regulations that power is a base utility with a mandatory minimum service?????? Dugh, even if they don't care about regular families I am sure there are companies, hospital and strategic points that do need power and that should put more pressure out on DTE?

this is tooo absurd for words. Ghent had a lot of power outages last years as well (trend seems to ahve stopped) but they did have crews working at night! the outages were usually about an hour and that got into a parliament investigation!

thailandchani said...

It seems to be the same everywhere. The power company here is just as disinterested when customers call during a power outage. In their defense, the CSRs are given absolutely no information to pass along. They're just the front line for getting the griping.

I've given up calling when the power takes a dump here. We just wait it out.


Alex Elliot said...

First of all that is not a whining post at all. I would be pretty upset, too. I'm sorry you had that experience. Glad to hear that all the meds were okay and at least your freezer was. How frustrating! That must be so expensive to have to replace your contents on the fridge.

Brittany | the Home Ground said...

That is total crap that they said they didn't have any crews out until 8:00 am. Yeah, that's when the regularly scheduled crews come in... My dad works as a lineman for Consumers Energy in GR and he's on call a lot. Get's called in in the middle of the night, works 16 hour shifts and gets sent to other cities when they have outages. He was just in Chicago for 4 days. There are a lot of crews on call for emergencies, esp. such a big outage. What jerks.

Also, I canceled me tv because Comcast had such HORRIBLE service. Too bad we can't cancel our power!

Korie said...

Oh, this is AWFUL. I got frustrated just reading it! Can you report them to the better business bureau or your mayor or town hall or something?

Shayne said...

yes I am well aware of how DTE is so efficient. I would be nice to have choices or more regulations.

Anonymous said...

Oh I hear your pain. FPL has outages all the time. They say that the system is over strained because of the heat. Hello! We're in Florida. You'd think they'd realize that it's hot all year round and maybe do something about it. Of course we also lose our power every time there's a thunderstorm.... yet again, something that happens daily in Miami.

I'm sorry you've had such a crappy time with CSRs. I really can't believe that the person was complaining to you about how hard her job is. Pul-ease.

Dru said...

oh my gosh, how inept can a person be?

I'm glad you got your power back.

glamah16 said...

AH that sucks. Im glad the frrezer wasnt affected. On the canning note,be careful. Im starting to read a lot about improper canning and botchulism. That tempers my intial enthuasiam. But Im sure you will take a course. Buracracy is bitch. To the employee on the other end, I realize that many in those positions are not empowered with information or decision making powers. So we just have to learn to be patient with them I guess.And you were grace under pressure.

Jen said...

Okay, so this is one of the first times I'm not going to try to comment individually. I'm sad, (although sadly not surprised) that so many of you have gone through similar experiences. I DO feel for the CSRs, but the first CSR (who was male, btw), just shouldn't have been doing that job.

We used to have great customer service in the U.S.A. We also used to have things that worked. We need to take pride in our work again. All of us.

Oh, well. And huge hugs to those who have gone through similar things.

I'm just so grateful that I'm not living paycheck to paycheck and that we're able to replenish our fridge.

I still don't think we should have to keep doing it just because DTE has decided to be incredibly sloppy and cheap.

Momisodes said...

Wow. What a disaster! I don't blame you for being furious. That timeline and the fact that they have bankers hours is outrageous.

I'm so sorry this happened....again. I hope this is the last time.

Jen said...

Hey Sandy! It could have been a lot worse. The last time we had an outage it was 36 hours. It's just getting frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable! This is just outrageous. And it sounds like it's the norm in many places. I'm just appalled. I never realized how lucky we are. Our power company here is pretty good.

Glad your power is back on, but sorry about the fridge. If we lost what was in ours, it'd be a scramble to afford to replace it because money is that tight.

Anonymous said...

The thing that really infuriates me about ordeals like this is being powerless (no pun intended). You can't threaten to take your business elsewhere, you can write to the higher ups to no avail, nothing you do will make a difference in the customer service or the quality of service. It's infuriating.

I'm glad you were able to save your freezer food. Food is incredibly expensive these days and to have to replace fridge contents three times is ludicrous! Is DTE sending out vouchers?

Jen said...

Leslie, I'd just written above how lucky we were to be able to replace the contents. I hear you - on all of it. We have a lot of Seniors living in our neighborhood and I ran into one of them during the power outage and she said they're just keeping their fridge fairly empty because they never know what will happen.

Dingo - no, there are no vouchers. I'm planning to attach my receipts to the bills and refuse to pay that amount of my bill this time. (plus prorating the hours we were without power).

Unknown said...

What an ordeal! The "we're a business" explanation said a lot--namely, that an outage will cost the company money, and so they have little incentive to fix it. I've often thought utilities, so necessary, should not be businesses. More importantly, I'm glad that everyone in your household is okay.

Jen said...

I agree, Greg. I really think the U.S. needs to have certain industries out of the profit sector entirely.

Meg said...

Dang! You'd think with those twin power plants dotting the lakeshore they'd get it together.

Remember way back when -- we were told nuclear power was cheap and effective?

Sorry about your food. One more reason for me not to cook.

Ben said...

Ugh! I remember stories like this when I was living in Mexico. But for some reason it never sounded so horrible down there. That is SAD!


Jami said...

I have a neighbor who is a power company lineman supervisor whom I know has gone out at all hours with crews to get power back on. I realize that's here in southeast Texas but it's the same everywhere. Electric companies don't just work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. I used to work for a company that supplied and installed the massive control systems used by electric utilities to oversee their whole grid. I won't say if DTE was one of their customers (Remember back when I was up in AA a few years ago?) but I know FOR A FACT that they have crews in the field 24/7. You were just being handed the corporate line.

Jen said...

Jami - that's the thing - I know for a fact they have crews out 24/7 - they have for every major outage. It's clear they just had massive screw-ups this time. The last outage we had was part of a bigger outage that was so bad that DTE had to hire crews from Indiana and Ohio to help them clean up their messes - I think they went so in the hole over that one that now they're seeing what they can get away with. M is here visiting now (more on her tomorrow) but as soon as the dust clears, I plan to write the BBB, my state Rep, my State Sen., our governor, my House Rep, Senators, etc. This was just wrong. DTE has wayyyyyy too much power (no pun intended).

Ben, yeah, well, part of it is these mammoth American fridges that we have, too.

Meg... hmmm.... I'll have to think about that. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Jenn, Detroit Edison is notorious!
I am so sorry!having had relatives in Howell and Lapeer that depended on things like milking machines for their living...
well let's just say I understand!

Thistlemoon said...

I am so sorry about this! I can relate though, but I am sure that it doesn't help. Having no power just sucks the big one and the worst thing about it is that the only people you can talk to about the problem don't care! Hope the piggies are okay!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Thunder! You handled that discussion much better than I ever would have! Don't you just want to shake those people sometimes! I'm sorry about the frustration, but glad you didn't lose the stuff in the freezer!

BusyDad said...

3 times?? That's nuts. It's like the cable companies. The last square on the CSR flowchart is always, "well, what can you do?"

Jen said...

Marye, I didn't know you had MI relatives! And yes, that would be a total disaster... much worse if you're running a business.

Jenn - I'm sorry you've been through this, too - and it sounds like several times!

Eclectic - thanks for stopping by! As for how I handled it, that's why D took over, so I'd continue to handle it appropriately, lol.

Busy Dad - the ironic thing is that the Comcast crews were out and in plenty of sight as early as 6:45 a.m. It's bad news when the power company is worse than the cable company!