Bring Me Some Water

A call from a friend of mine got me thinking about the Water Department, how it works, and why it might be time for Philadelphians to revolt.

If you’re a frequent Philadelphia Hall Monitor listener or viewer, chances are you’ve heard a report on the Philadelphia Water Department and what’s been going on with it.

From a rate hike that has led to folks getting the kinds of bills that might make you want to stop using water altogether to being told that this might not be the last not be the last rate hike, Philadelphians are crying the blues over water.

If that isn’t enough, the pandemic moratorium on shut offs that the city’s utilities were kind enough to issue back when we acknowledged as a country that viruses mutate, and we might want to act accordingly has come to an end.

Which is where this column comes in.

What I’ve always wondered when it comes to utilities, people who take extra bill money out of your checking account before realizing that they made a mistake, and other people who are in charge of the automated bill collecting that we’ve all become so used to is why customer service for these entities is so, well, crappy.

For example, I had a friend of mine call me earlier this week regarding her water bill. She and her husband have both been going through health issues and they got behind, so, because the water department can do this, they shut her water off.

Once she paid the bill, or enough of it to get her water cut back on, she reached out to the water department to make an appointment to get her service restored.

To say that the experience was Kafka-esque was an understatement.

She called the department, got an automated voice message, followed the prompts, and, well, got hung up on a couple of times. She kept trying and kept getting the same result, so she called me.

I’m not sure what the process is over there. Do you have to physically go the municipal building, something that might be difficult if you’re dealing with health issues? How do you get your service restored?

Obviously, the rate hike isn’t being used to hire folks to improve customer service.

If you’re going to ask the residents of the poorest big city in America to give you more money to use your service, the least that you can do is provide that service in a way that gives the people you’re allegedly serving the dignity they deserve. When people are handing you large sums of money — and when you’re poor, $40 is a large sum of money — the least that you can do is have someone available to answer the phone. While the customer isn’t necessarily always right, they are still the customer. You should at least pretend that you care about their needs and acknowledge their existence.

Or at the very least, restore their service as quickly as you cut it off.

As I’m writing this column, I haven’t heard back from my friend about her water situation. But I’m hoping that her situation got resolved.

Because if it didn’t, it might be something we have to talk about here on Hall Monitor…

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