This past Saturday, I decided to get some air and take a leisurely stroll out to the mailbox at dusk to see if any goodies had come in the mail. However, I was very unpleasantly surprised to find that I had somehow missed a payment on our water bill and received a $15 penalty.
Our city’s water billing system is run by a tiny 2-person department that seems to send bills out when they can instead of on a set schedule. Our water billing cycles are 2-month periods, so logically we would have a bill due every 2 months. But our water department being so small, with more and more people moving into the area, those 2 poor ladies are swamped from 8-5. I tried all day yesterday to call them but always got a voicemail, and finally left a message around noon today and was surprised to get a call back in the afternoon (a first with this department.)
Anyways, this means that our bills come very irregularly and we sometimes don’t get a bill for 3 or 4 months, and then sometimes we receive a bill a month for 3 months in a row. It isn’t unusual for us to be paying a bill for services from fall of the previous year in the spring (i.e. paying for water used Oct 2007 – Dec 2007 in March 2008). Needless to say, this can get confusing and I often have little panics where I think I’ve missed a payment when I haven’t.
This week was one such instance. I had made a water payment on the due date of March 12, 2009 and so wasn’t expecting to have another bill due until mid-May. It turns out that they had sent out another bill some time in March or April, which I don’t recall receiving, and that I had a payment due April 24th. I honestly don’t know what happened with that bill but obviously somehow messed up.
When I spoke to one of the ladies from the water department today to ask about it, she told me that, yes, bills are due once every 2 months, but no, I did miss a payment on April 24th. I think because she saw the illogic of it, she was nice enough to waive the $15 penalty for me. I didn’t even have to ask (though I had been planning to) for this one-time courtesy.
So, it never hurts to call in and inquire when you have a billing discrepancy such as this. If the late fee is just $1 or $2, it might not be so bad, but a $15 late charge on a $68 bill not even a month overdue was a little too much for me to let slide by.
Just remember when you call in to be polite, don’t demand but ask nicely, and you will most likely have a positive result.