Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? No, It’s Zen-perman!

Yes, it most certainly is! Not only is Zenperman able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, but he also wears his underpants outside his trousers.  I had a situation recently that had me scurrying for the nearest telephone box in order to change into my secret identity; the aforementioned super-hero, Zenperman.  I’m sharing it here because I know it’s a situation that so many of you will be able to relate to.  I was left angry, violated, indignant, frustrated; in fact, so miffed was I that my dainty little fingers were on the verge of writing a “stiff letter” to The Times and signing it, “Mr Angry, Tetbury”.  But thankfully, Zenperman came to the rescue and I’m about to tell you how…

It all started when my energy provider, Bristol Energy (BE), hiked their prices for the second time in 12 months.  Now, before I go any further, I should mention for the benefit of overseas readers, that here in the UK we have been able to switch between energy providers for some years now.  So, if we think that we are getting a rough deal, we simply switch to another company (subject to the terms and conditions that we signed up for).  You also may be wondering, given the usual subject matter of my posts, why I’m sharing this?  The thing is, we are all human (sort of), especially when we are experiencing the physical existence, and sometimes our human weaknesses take over and cause us all sorts of problems.  So, I thought it might be a good idea to share a bit of my own humanness with you, whilst introducing you to Zenperman at the same time.  The full boring details are as follows…

I get a letter from BE informing me of the price hike.  “What”?  I say to myself, in the most indignant manner I can muster.  The upshot is, that over the next few days, I work out my annual usage and compare prices with other energy providers.  Realising that I can get a better deal with a particular company, I instigate the switching process, which normally takes a few weeks to go through.

I’m aware that you might fall asleep before I get to the point, but it’s important that you have all the fine details so that you fully understand what was going on.  So, hang in there; your country needs you!

In due course, I get an email from my new provider asking me to supply meter readings (which I do), I also get an email from BE asking me to keep my Direct Debit open so they can transfer any credit into my bank account once my final bill is produced.  Then I get another email from BE asking me to provide meter readings.  By this time my switch date (22 October 2018) has passed, so even though I’m no longer a customer of BE, I supply two more readings, because you can never have too many meter readings…

I then receive another email from BE informing me that my latest statement is ready to view online.  I check, and to my delight, I notice that my account is in credit by just over £40.00.  I also notice that my electricity reading has not been entered as a final reading, but at this stage no rats could be smelled!  On 1 November I check my bank account online, and to my utter disgust, not only have BE not issued my refund, but they have taken another Direct Debit payment from my account.  In a very rational and reasonable way I proceeded to contact BE customer services, and in synonymy with my Britishness, I kept the most impeccable “stiff upper lip” as I enquired what the *@#? was going on.  I was informed by a customer service rep that they had not yet received my final electricity reading from my new supplier.  I pointed out that this wasn’t true, as not only had they sent it, but BE had entered it onto my account to produce my latest statement. The young girl I was talking to informed me that the reading was from an “unverified source” so it could not yet be considered as a final reading.  I was also informed that it can take up to six weeks for BE to produce a final bill and then any refund can take up to 10 working days to be processed.  With regard to the extra payment being taken, even though I was no longer their customer, she informed that, “the payment must have already been requested prior to my switch date, and because the Direct Debit was still open, the payment was duly processed.  I was not happy; and I’m not making reference to one of the seven dwarfs!

Back in the days when it was just the good old (or bad old) Electricity Board and Gas Board, you had only one supplier of each utility.  But what you also had was local branches, so if you had a beef, you could go somewhere local in person, and sort it out.  These days you have the advantage of multiple choice, but if something goes wrong, you have to do battle with people who hide behind the safety of a computer screen and who are also miles away.  Enter Zenperman…

Thanks to how I’ve evolved over the years; and been “found” by Zen, I now understand that getting angry achieves nothing.  I also understand the truth in statements such as, “energy flows where attention goes”, and “what you resist will persist”.  But my ego had all its lights flashing and all its bells and whistles going flat-out.  It was the sheer indignation of being bullied by a corporation who were completely, totally and utterly in the wrong and not being able to do anything about it.  Thanks to Zenperman I was able to tell myself that the best course of action would be no action, that “this too will pass”.  However…

I found BE’s twitter account and made my feelings felt.  I messaged them demanding, yes demanding, that they sort it out!  I also went onto Trustpilot and wrote a scathing one-star review, which I shared on my twitter feed.  Zenperman had his work cut out because Mr Angry was a stubborn old geezer and wasn’t going to go into transcendental meditation without a fight!  But Zenperman persisted…

I received a reply from BE on twitter, simply reiterating what their customer service rep had told me.  So I sent another message, “how dare you”?  “I want my money”; “I’m British”!!!!!!  The annoying thing also, was that BE were telling me that my reading was from an unverified source, but it was the same source from which they’d received ALL of my meter readings (i.e. me) ever since I first switched to them.  Now all of a sudden the source is unverified.  They also said that the reads sent to them by my new supplier, which they entered onto my energy account, were entered by me at 18:01 in the evening on 18/10/18; which was an absolute load of rubbish.  I felt truly violated and further frustrated because I wanted to complain to the energy regulator, but the regulator can only get involved in disputes if they have been ongoing for at least eight weeks.  So, I decided to listen to Zenperman and just let things happen naturally.

Every now and then I would wake up in the morning and my ego would start playing the story out in my head.  “Don’t you realise what they have done to you?  Thanks to them taking an extra payment from you, your account is now in credit by over £70.00.  That’s YOUR money and they are taking liberties with you; SIX WEEKS to issue a final bill”!  Thankfully, Zenperman would step in and calm things down.

But over seven weeks passed and still there was no sign of my final bill and refund.  I decided enough was enough.  I would contact BE one last time via social media requesting my bill.  If it was not forthcoming I would be getting in touch with the regulator.  To my surprise, I received a reply the next day apologising for the delay and within 24 hours my final bill was issued.  It still wasn’t perfect, and I’m not going to offer any more fine detail as I think you may have had enough, but it had always been my intention to write a follow-up, scathing one-star review on Trustpilot and also to contact the regulator anyway, as I felt that BE surely had service standards and targets that would have fallen short in this case, entitling me to compensation.  But doing that would only have prolonged the agony of an already tired situation.  The refund hit my bank account on Christmas Eve, and I decided that I was just going to let the whole thing go and move on.

Yes, BE were in the wrong.  Yes, utility companies have been getting away with bullying their customers for far too long.  But there is always a bigger picture; a grander scheme.  I am not a refugee in a flimsy, overcrowded boat in the middle of the sea that is in danger of capsizing.  I’m just a geezer who experienced a bit of inconvenience, and thanks to Zenperman I’m able to see the situation as such.

Thanks again Zenperman; it’s because of you that the city can sleep safely tonight!


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