The Other I

September 10, 2010

Gesture of good will

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 8:50 pm

Sometimes to maintain my sanity I need to concentrate on very very small things.  So this post is not about Pastor Jones or American intolerance.

It’s about a phone call I got from the electricity company who has not been supplying our electricity since last November when we switched to a cheaper supplier.  The company representative,  whose name was “Steve,” called at dinner time to say that we owed the company a back payment that was “seriously overdue,” and that if I didn’t pay it immediately the bailiff would be called in to collect it.

Since this was the first I’d heard of it, I said I did hope the company would first have the courtesy to send us a bill for the amount they thought was due.  “You owe,” the caller said “£20.02” (about $35).

The precise amount rang a bell.  Is it possible, I asked, that the company had charged that amount to my bank account in April under a different name?  Because not recognizing the name, I’d queried it with my bank who after six weeks of investigation, said the charge had been an error and they’d refunded the money.

Long silence from Steve.  In the meantime, I was keeping a distant eye on the lamb chops in the kitchen that were threatening to burn.

Finally, he said “I think there’s been an error on our part.”  He then apologized profusely and promised I would not be bothered with this again.

Two days later I got a letter from the same electricity company saying I owed them £20.02 and that the matter was scheduled to be turned over to a debt collection agency, etc.  So I phoned.

They insisted no error had been made and that I owed this amount.

By this point, I had no idea whether this was a legitimate charge or not.  But what I was sure about was that this was bullying behavior.  So I told them I was willing to pay the bill if they would send me a letter telling me that this amount was owed.  But that personally I thought as a gesture of good will they should forgive the debt.

No, the electricity company woman said, because the company had not make a mistake.  Then your representative was mistaken when we talked to me two nights ago, I asked?

I don’t have any record of that call, she said.

Oh, well, I said, then they do have a problem.  Someone was making calls in their company’s name who had access to the company’s records.

I’ll talk to the manager and get back to you, she said.

Thirty minutes later she called back and said that her manager did remember the call, and that in a gesture of good will they were forgiving the debt.  I said I very much appreciated it, and we hung up on mutually gracious terms.

But you know, I will now never know whether I actually owed them that £20.02, or whether they had made an error but decided that rather than admitting it, they would get credit instead for a “gesture of good will.”

To tell the truth, on reflection, I think I might have owed them the money.  But that somehow their records got messed up, and I didn’t have a record of it.

Still, it was a gesture of good will.

I wish Pastor Jones could come up with something half as good.

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