Powergen’s negative energy

How can one company do so many simple things wrong:

  • Powergen sent me a gas bill a while back, estimating that I’d used 246 units of gas over three months. I gave them a corrected reading, showing I’d used only 48 units, over the phone. In the future, computers will be so clever they won’t over-estimate usage by a factor of five. Can you imagine!?
  • A week later, Powergen sent me an updated bill, ignoring my reading and billing me for 269 units. I’ve now taken a reading that shows this should be 67.
  • It’s taken me half-a-dozen attempts to get Powergen’s automated phone line to work and acknowledge that, yes, I have actually pressed the star button twice.
  • Between calls I tried using Powergen’s website to give the reading. First I couldn’t access the site because I’m using Firefox, which the site declares is Netscape 0.8. Unlike most other web developers, Powergen’s seem unable to create a site usable by most browsers and feel the need to completely shut out the unfavoured. One might think they could at least then write a decent browser detection script to enforce their foolish policy.
  • If you ever need an argument to keep a website free of frames, head over to Powergen’s site. Not only is it painfully slow (which we could charitably put down to the Internet taking it easy on a Sunday), but it’s full of bugs that end up with nested sets of menus and frames. After switching to Safari, and attempting to enter my customer number I had three identical menus before I was thrown back to the start again.
  • It appears to be impossible to enter your customer number on the site.
  • Naturally, I wanted to send Powergen some useful feedback. While many sites get by with simple mailto links or a single form, Powergen requires users to go through four pages of forms to send in a comment. Now, however, I can’t even reach the multi-page form again, as the nested menu malarkey keeps chucking me back to a ‘Login’ page.

Ahh, customer service.

28 Mar 2004 in Writing

Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World by Kevin Kelly
Reading this for the first time, ten years after publication, it’s a mix of comfortingly out-of-date technologies and amazingly ahead-of-their-time thoughts (eg, peer-to-peer file sharing among private groups). Covers a vast amount of ground, from ecosystems to 3D graphics to…

On this day I was reading