On Friday week I received my first electricity bill from Eon. On it was the ‘estimate’ from its super computer telling me how much power it thinks I ought to have used for the first three months of my tenancy in my new lovepad in Crouch End.
Now, here’s a thing. Unless my flat was the venue for an impromptu night-time Olympic Games for a week, I would suggest that the Eon computer has, how shall we say, ‘over-estimated’.
Power companies have a tried-and-failed way of calculating your bill. Every three months your address appears on a computer that prints out a random selection of digits based on a very precise set of factors. Then they hand the printout to a Capuchin monkey who eats all that information with the help of an overripe banana and then it is invited to randomly poke at a Casio calculator for a few minutes. The figure that ends up on the calculator screen is recorded, and a bill is sent to your home.
Then you, assuming the Capuchin monkey knows what it is doing, agree to pay a stupidly ridiculous sum of money simply to avoid an hour-long conversation with an Eon telephone ‘advisor’ called Michael.
Notionally, the power company accepts there are a few flaws associated with this method so, having bankrupted you once, it will then Capuchin monkey-adjust, and then send you another hopelessly it’s-not-even-in-the-same-vicinity-of-realistic electricity bill. Dejected, you’ll phone Michael for an explanation and, in his soft Irish tone, he will tell you that you are, indeed, a moron.
He will then spout, from a pre-rehearsed cribsheet, that there is a more accurate figure based on previous Capuchin estimates on its way and, as a result, you will be a satisfied customer. A week later another account-emptying bill with a stratospheric number of digits on it will drop through your letterbox.
Within hours you’ll get a Facebook friend request from Michael.
I never trusted any of this, even before I had left my family home. I saw my parents weeping when a brown envelope marked Southern Electric popped through the door. I realised that this was wrong and asked my parents: ‘Why don’t you just pay for what you use?’
The orphanage wasn’t too bad and soon I learned to take care of myself, but during that time I still couldn’t quite grasp why electricity companies employ this monstrously arcane billing system.
Now I am older I realised it’s because it’s too sensible and it’ll also call time on a technique that gives power companies licence to continue sending unreasonable demands for cash. I don’t believe that the recent riots are the result of an marginalised underclass, or a societal breakdown, I think unreasonable electricity bills are the cause. The bills arrived two weeks ago so, for me, this isn’t a coincidence. For too long the need for a quiet life has dictated this process so, sadly, the more aggressive, 32-inch flatscreen, trainer-seeking types took to the streets.
I know I am not alone in my pain. Everyone I know just pays up, knowing full well that if they do take the trouble to phone NPower, Eon or whoever it is, they’ll waste large amounts of time arguing fruitlessly with an underpaid individual whose main task is to get you off the phone.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though: after a period of 10 years of constant adjustment and a total accrued payment of around £4 million of your hard-earned money, the power company you have selected will get your monthly usage just about right. At that point it’ll be time to move and the whole frustrating thing will start all over again.
Molotov cocktail anyone?