Getting our natural gas turned back on by Christmas?
December 20, 2007 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Do I have any options as far as getting our natural gas turned back on by Christmas?

Due to a billing error that has been going on for months without my knowledge, the gas company shut off the gas to my townhouse two days ago. They couldn't possibly get a technician to come turn it back on until the 26th, despite the fact that the error was their fault, meaning it's looking like we'll be spending Christmas in a hotel room. We have no heat, hot water, stove, oven, or clothes dryer. Yet we have small children and company supposed to come over.

I would like to avoid having to host Christmas at the Holiday Inn.

I've tried everything with the customer service reps, supervisors, etc. Short of a life-threatening, documented health condition, they will not turn it back on before then.

I fully intend to write a letter to their corporate office voicing my opinion about their failures and even requesting reimbursement for our temporary displacement if need be, but I'd like to deny them the opportunity to ruin our Christmas first.

It's a long shot and I'm grasping at straws, but does anybody know what other options I might pursue as far as getting it turned back on? From what I understand it would be illegal for me to tamper with the meter myself, even though I could probably drill the bolt lock they installed with little fuss. I'd even be willing to give a small Christmas bonus to any technician willing to come out before then (since I'd end up spending at least that much on a room anyway), but I don't know how to get in contact with one directly. They don't exactly come by often, so I can't just flag one down.

posted by Ziggy Zaga to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Best answer: Maybe you could try contacting someone at your state's public utilities commission?
posted by demiurge at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2007

Have you tried calling Clark Howard or some other consumer advocate person who could put the fear of Bad Publicity about the Evil Company That Ruined A Child's Christmas into them?
posted by pointystick at 12:21 PM on December 20, 2007

Talk to the local news media about your predicament. Doubtlessly the natural gas company will be embarrassed by a local newscast or newspaper article about how they shut off a family's gas for Christmas and reverse their policy post-haste... and if they don't, there will likely be support from the community.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 12:22 PM on December 20, 2007

Best answer: nthing local news and state or county or city public utilities liason. also, there are often laws about turning off heat during the winter season. as in, its illegal.
posted by raconteur at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2007

Well, if begging didn't help, perhaps you could try threatening.

You should call up your local television station and see if they have a consumers affairs reporter--you know that guy whose job is to run exposes on this sort of thing. They should love this kind of thing: Gas Company destroys one family's Christmas! News at 6!.

Also, email your story to the Consumerist and see if they are interested in putting it up.

Then, call up customer service and inform them that news reporters will be in contact with them shortly about your case. Also inform them that your side of this debacle will be featured on a major consumer-advocacy website (readership of over a million/day, I'd imagine). You might get some results.
posted by Chrischris at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2007

Forgot Clark Howard link: Clark Howard's Consumer Action Center
posted by pointystick at 12:31 PM on December 20, 2007

Best answer: Thanks for the suggestions concerning the public utilities commission. I dug around and found this out:

We were never served notice of disconnection. I will be taking this fight back to the company.

posted by Ziggy Zaga at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2007

Are the "small children" you posted about yours, or are they coming to visit? If they are yours, don't most states have rules about shutting off utilities if kids or elderly folks live in the residence? Does your state have a consumer advocate or something like that?

But completely nthing everyone's suggestions of calling your local news media. They should hop right on this and motivate the gas company to act.
posted by sutel at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2007

Have you tried calling their Corporate headquarters directly? This is advocated by Consumerist as a good, effective consumer strategy when everything else has failed. Their How-To on the subject.
posted by minervous at 12:40 PM on December 20, 2007

You might also check with the local Health department, as there are some areas that are not allowed to disconnect heating utilities during typical freeze months. Many years ago I got a landlord to fix the heat he'd not been fixing by CCing the local authorities on a paper letter.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2007

Nth-nthing calling the public utilities commission, your local elected officials all the way up and down the food chain, the corporate office, legal counsel for the gas company, and anyone else you can think of. Be prepared with a detailed list of your negotiations and billing history so far.
posted by desuetude at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2007

Call in a gas leak. "Hmmn I was just in the hall and noticed a gas smell. Not sure where it is coming from". Then when the tech comes corner him until he fixes it. if you have a good neighbor you may want to get them to call. A gas leak is something they will come out for. Of couse they may also send the fire department, so you have some choices to make...
posted by Gungho at 1:59 PM on December 20, 2007

Call your homeowners insurance co. Tell them the situation. They aren't going to be too happy to have to pay for the bill that arises from burst pipes over a holiday weekend. And they have nice lawyers on staff/call for just these kinds of things.
posted by sandra_s at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2007

Public officials are always helpful - you may need to go to state or federal level, but it would be worth the call to try. If the power company gets a call from your Senator, you can bet that butts will be moving. Especially as it is Christmas. Call now - before they all leave town.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 2:12 PM on December 20, 2007

call your city councilman and your congressman. tell them you're going to call the media. they will adore the opportunity to publicly save christmas for a family in an election year.

oh, and do call the media.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:02 PM on December 20, 2007

Look up the CEO's name and email him. Use the standards -,, etc.

When I've been really desperate to get action on something, I've tried this and it's always worked. You probably won't actually reach the CEO, but his administrative person will funnel it off to the appropriate VP or Director. That person will deal with it pronto, because he boss just told him to get it fixed.
posted by 26.2 at 7:53 PM on December 20, 2007

But did you get it fixed?
posted by happyturtle at 5:00 PM on December 21, 2007

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