Remember the good ol’ days post- Hurricane Andrew or even Katrina and Wilma, when FPL trucks were applauded by scores of citizens as they convoyed their way toward the next lucky area to be re-powered? Or prior days when hurricanes seemed to be a football team that we all cheered as they took the field at the old Orange Bowl? A time when, if your lights went out, you called some friendly person at FPL who had a truck in front of your house within an hour to get your lights back on? You’re dreaming! Those days are gone, my friends. The other day when my lights went out with a loud bang shortly after mid-day, I walked out into the back yard and, sure enough, the fuse over the FPL transformer had blown. Right there over the edge of the transformer, I could see the tail and twitching hind legs of a poor electrocuted squirrel that had obviously caused the sudden outage. I quickly realized that all that was necessary was for somebody to show up with one of those long extension poles, change the fuse and snap it back in place. So, I made the call to FPL.
Well, I immediately bumped into their automated customer “service” telephone system: “Press one for residential; Press two for your FPL account number; press one if your power is out, press one for a downed power line; press two if you have a dog. Your problem has been reported, we’ll have a specialist out there ASAP to determine what is wrong.”
When I realized that I was being electronically placed in a queue with much more complicated problems, I called back to try to get a human being on the phone so I could tell them that this was a simple fix and all we needed was the guy with the pole. I finally got through to a live person, told them about the squirrel and they thanked me. I was happy. The power would be back on in no time. Yeah, sure!
Soon, the wait started to get long, so I called FPL again. The automated system told me my estimated time of completion was 4:45 p.m. When 4:45 rolled by without the appearance of a truck, the estimated time got pushed back to 9:45 p.m. After 9:45, there was no new estimated time of completion in the system. I called FPL, and called again.
Every time I called, I got more of those fake “corporate-speak” apologies: “We DO apologize, sir.” You know, the ones who are not really apologizing to you, they’re really just trying to get your hot and hopelessly agitated butt off the phone at one o’clock in the morning so the computer records will show that their El Paso, Texas call center “successfully handled” one more complaint. After that, it was time to call it a day and I put my steaming body to rest, safely assuming that no-one would come until the following day, anyway.
When I got up the following morning, I discovered that my cell phone had recorded a call at 2:36 a.m. from an FPL field supervisor telling me that somebody had been at my door “and couldn’t wake anybody up.” None of us — not my wife, my two grownup kids or I heard a thing. What did the guy do, stand there and attempt to ring my nonworking doorbell? Did he determine from seeing my pitch black house that we must no longer need his services? Did he think that it would be too dangerous to walk through the gate into my back yard because he or the company feared an attack from my 14-year-old Golden Retriever? He could not possibly have heard my dog because the dog was inside the house. Right now I’m thinking: big mistake to answer yes to the “Do you have a dog?” question on the automated system.
After eight o’clock, I started calling again and only got a few more of the “We DO Apologize” apologies thrown my way, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to randomly hunt for an FPL crew in the area. When I happened upon one that was on the side of a nearby road, I asked them to please come to my house, only 18 blocks away. They called their dispatcher to get authority to do so and the guy refused to give them the go-ahead. He advised them that there was already a truck on its way to my house. I left disappointed and discouraged, but when I turned the corner on my block, lo and behold, there it was — a precious FPL truck sitting in front of my house!
“Good morning,” I said to the driver with glee and appreciation.
Then he proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t do it, that the transformer that we had was too small for my house and my neighbor’s, and that he was calling for another crew to come by in a couple of hours to install a bigger transformer.
“Can’t you connect us until they get here? I asked. “Our food is going to spoil and, frankly, I don’t trust another crew to show up in two hours. I don’t care that the transformer is too small. It has worked fine for eight years. I’ll call and have them look at it some other time. Don’t go away! Just reconnect me!”
“Alright,” he says with a bit of irony in his voice. “You want me to reconnect you, I’ll reconnect you.”
It was almost as if he was telling me that, after that, I was on my own. So, in a matter of three minutes, the guy put on his helmet, grabbed his pole, replaced the fuse and bingo, we had power. The old adage: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is alive and well. I’m just sorry I can’t say the same thing for good ol’ FPL’s previously outstanding customer service.
And now, here I sit at my computer a day later, writing this column, small, underpowered transformer and all. I’ve called FPL about trying to get a bigger one. I wonder how long it will take them to replace it, but I’m not gonna worry about it. I don’t want to hear “We DO apologize” anymore.